Tulum is located along Mexico’s Caribbean coast (the “Mayan Riveira”) a couple of hours from Cancun. It is within reach of, but well away from, the mega-resorts of Playa del Carmen. However, until recently Tulum was relatively inaccessible. That inaccessibility, along with a lack of public infrastructure (the hotel zone has neither public water nor electrical service) allowed the area to develop at a much smaller scale than Playa. A visit to Tulum is a bit of a step back into a slightly less hurried, over-built, and crowded time. While easily accessible as a day trip, this is a small place that is best experienced over several days.
Tulum is actually three places: the coastal Mayan ruins, the inland town (the pueblo), and the beach-side hotel zone.
The coast here is characterized by gorgeous sugar sand beaches and brilliant turquoise water. But don’t spend all of your time on Tulum’s perfect beaches! There are ruins to explore both at Tulum and at nearby Muyil. There are also shops and restaurants worth visiting in both the hotel zone and in the town. And, for those in search of more adventure, Tulum makes a good base for exploring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, snorkeling and diving along the Mesoamerican reef, and visiting the not-to-distant Mayan ruins at Cobá.
The town of Tulum itself (often referred to as Tulum Pueblo) has a population of more than 18,000, but it feels smaller. The city is located right along the coastal highway, with a dense low-rise downtown surrounded by neighborhoods with a mix of homes and businesses.
We didn’t spend much time in the town, not because it didn’t offer some interesting options, but because there was so much else to do . . . and it was hard to drag myself away from our gorgeous stretch of beach! There were a couple of restaurants and shops I planned to visit, but we never got to them. We did visit the local cemetery and its colorful memorials, but that was about all we were able to fit into our schedule.
Located on a cliff above the sea, the ruins of Tulum have a striking setting. This was the last occupied Mayan site in the Yucatán and a handful of structures stand within the original walled compound. In addition, the lovely beach at the base of the ruins provides a great spot to cool off and relax when the sea turtles aren’t nesting there.
- Touring the Mayan Ruins at Tulum
- Know before you go
Tulum hotel zone
We loved our villa at Zamas. It’s a more casual — and less expensive — resort with a range of options and a good restaurant. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about Zamas at TripAdvisor. (Affiliate link)
Dining in the hotel zone
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