Breathe it in… the salty air, the wafting of floral incense, the deep sweetness of tropical flora and fauna…exhale slowly. You have arrived in Tulum.
The magic of Tulum and the reason it has become such an extraordinary destination on the Yucatan Peninsula lies not only in the history of the ruins but the energetic pull the city and sea have over those who come to visit.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Tulum was the last great city constructed and inhabited by the Maya between the 13th-15th centuries. Tulum was a site of worship to the Mayan Great Descending God. You will see dozens of images of this god on the exterior of the temples within the site.
Tulum was also of great importance for the trade industry, not only from the sea but also land, most specifically for the trading of obsidian. Tribes from all over Mexico and other Central American countries would travel here for commerce. It is said, the great wall around the city was erected to protect it from envious traders and pirates who wanted to steal the prime location and trade profits for themselves.
The pull of ancient Mayan energies combined with the magic of the natural wonders and historic sites, have been bringing in spiritually centered tourism for decades now. Once a quiet, beach town with slowly wandering yogis and artists, Tulum has developed into a thriving tourism hot spot. But don’t worry, there is still plenty of the spiritual divine to discover.
Below is our guide to making the best of your visit to Tulum. We hope you enjoy!
WHERE IS TULUM?
Tulum is on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula (see map below), in the state of Quintana Roo. The town and nearby Mayan Ruins are in the heart of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean Sea—approximately 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 90 minutes south of Cancun.
Adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Tulum is in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters and white sand beaches. This is DEFINITELY the island life!
WHEN TO VISIT TULUM The tropical climate in Tulum is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.
October – December, the autumn-winter months, are generally speaking the best times to visit Tulum. The hurricane season has passed by this time and the humidity is lower.
January – April are lovely weather-wise, but see the highest influx of tourists. If you are not a people person, plan around this.
May – November are the hottest and most humid months of the year. Moderate numbers of tourists scatter about at this time. One advantage is you can expect lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM There are a few ways to get to Tulum.
By Shuttle: Some suggest the easiest way to get to Tulum is by hiring a shuttle ride in advance. The tour company will send a driver to meet you at the Cancun airport and take you directly to your hotel in Tulum. Keep in mind, your hotel/resort may also have complimentary airport pickup so be sure to look into that and reserve in advance.
By Bus: The bus system is fantastic here and you can easily catch a bus to Playa from the Cancun airport, then change busses to continue to Tulum. This is by far the most affordable way to travel to Tulum, although not the fastest.
By Taxi: Taxis are everywhere in Cancun & Playa del Carmen and will take you straight to your accommodation in Tulum. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taxi’s from Cancun or Playa del Carmen to Tulum are convenient but can be quite expensive.
By Car: From the Cancun International Airport, rent a car and head down the only highway southbound. You will pass Playa del Carmen, Akumal and so on. Approximately 90 minutes later you will arrive in Tulum Town. Be sure to check if your lodgings are in the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) or Centro (town center), as your turn off will be on different sides of the road.
TULUM HIGHLIGHTS! The Top 5
1. Go to the Beach! With so many to choose from it’s a sure bet that you will find a dreamy spot, perfect for a sarong and a picnic basket.
2. See the Mayan Ruins of Tulum. The energy of this magical, ancient place is what has been calling tourists here for centuries.
3. Dabble in the Peculiar. It is what makes Tulum stand apart from the rest of the Riviera Maya. Take a meditation journey, a tantric sex session or simply a yoga class on the beach. Open your mind and your courage to the possibilities.
4. Visit a Cenote. Talk about healing properties. The cenote choices are vast here. You can scuba dive, snorkel, swim or just walk through one of these breathtaking and powerful forces of nature.
5. Explore the City of Tulum. Although the area has become very touristed, the city center and surrounding local areas have a magic all their own. I always recommend to new travelers that the most important thing you can do when visiting a new place is to see where the locals live. The art, food and culture will delight you. Bicycles are a popular way to get around and are for rent everywhere.
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM
The beach, the jungle or town center? The choices are as varied as the locations. The main areas for hotels are in Centro (town center), in the Jungle on the outskirts of town, and the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) beach area, about 10-20 minutes south of town. WHAT TO EAT IN TULUM
Whether you’re looking to just grab a bite or go on a culinary adventure, there are some great restaurants all over Tulum. WHAT TO DO IN TULUM
There is so much to do in Tulum. From visiting the Mayan ruins to beach lounging to bicycle riding and more. It’s really easy to make each day in Tulum a special experience. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy!
1. Explore the Tulum Mayan Ruins!
The Tulum Ruins archaeological site is most likely what brought you to the region in the first place, so go see it! Guides are available at the entrance if you are keen to really understand the historical significance of the place. Strolling solo is always a pleasure too.
Don’t forget to bring your swimwear and hit the gorgeous beach, only accessible from the site. Other Mayan ruin sites are around the Yucatan also. Chichén Itzá, Cobá, and Ek Balam are also accessible from the area and defiantly worth the journey.
2. Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of ancient tropical canals, rainforest, 120 km of coastline, an abundance of wildlife to see and coral reefs to delight your every adventurous whim.
Take a kayak through the winding river canals, float with the manatees and sea turtles, or simply relax under a forest canopy. It is an experience not to be missed!
3. Visit a Cenote
With over a dozen cenotes in the area that offer snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, ziplines and more, it’s hard to go wrong no matter where you choose to go. Spending an entire day visiting multiple locations may just be the highlight of your vacation.
4. Let Yourself Go
Discover something new. Take a cooking class, visit the art zone, explore the immense yoga and meditation class options, learn how to scuba dive, take a dance class, start a conversation with a stranger…your options are endless here.
Get out of your comfort zone. Opening yourself up to new possibilities is what makes this beautiful place so intoxicating for so many. Be happy, be free.
5. Eat, Drink & Be Merry