The beaches of Tulum are the town’s main attraction for a reason, and the best of the bunch is Playa Paraiso. Once you see the beach’s white sand and turquoise water, you’ll understand why it has been a winner of TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice award for the best beach in all of Mexico.
Best of all, Playa Paraiso is a publicly accessible beach, meaning a visit to this natural wonder is one of the great free things to do in Tulum. Or, if you want to spend a little cash, Villa Pescadores and El Paraiso beach clubs offer loungers for a minimum spend on drinks and food.
It’s an easy walk from here to the second best thing to do in Tulum…..
They may not be the largest Mayan ruins in Mexico, but their spectacular location on a cliff overlooking the beach makes the Tulum ruins a marvelous site to behold. A visit here is a must from anywhere in the Yucatan, and it’s definitely one of the top things to do in Playa del Carmen as well.
One of the best kept secrets in Tulum is the Laguna de Kaan Luum, which sits just 9 kilometers south of Tulum town. This magical lagoon hosts a huge cenote (underground spring) in its center, which imbues the lagoon’s water with a spectacular array of colors.
Visit to the lagoon can bath in the mud that’s produced by the cenote, and which according to legend has healing properties. Plus, it’s reasonable entrance fee (50 pesos), makes it one of the great budget things to do in Tulum.
I’ve probably had thousands of burritos in my lifetime, and I can’t think of any tastier than the creative bannana-leaf-wrapped burritos served up at Burrito Amor.
Seriously, they are that good.
Located along Tulum’s main road on the south end of town, Burrito Amor serves up some of the most delicious food in a town. And, best of all, the average price is only about 100 pesos ($5.25), making it a welcome respite from the soaring prices that have infected much of Tulum recently. This is easily one of the best places to eat in Tulum, and a can’t-miss stop when you are in Tulum town.
As Tulum’s nightlife scene explodes, the same unassuming bar still remains the go-to place to start your night out. At Batey you’ll find live music in the evenings and an energetic crowd spilling into the streets with tropical drinks in hand.
Oh, and you can even watch them press the sugarcane for your mojito! It doesn’t get much fresher than that. Mojitos go for 120 pesos ($6.30), and while that’s a bit pricey when backpacking Mexico, the drinks are worth ever peso. The vibe here is excellent and it’s always packed with people looking to have a good time.
Just south of Tulum lies the enormous Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a protected area home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, as well as some of the most pristine water in Mexico. Inside the park, you’ll find dolphins, turtles, and more fish and birds than you can count.
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Note that the long road through the park is very rough, so you’ll either need to rent a 4×4 for the drive or sign up for a tour. It makes for a great daytrip from Tulum!
The Tulum ruins are great for their setting, but if you’re looking for a more substantial Mayan pyramid, you still don’t have to go far from Tulum.
Though slightly less popular than the famous ruins at Chichen Itza, I think the Coba ruins make for a much more enjoyable day trip from Tulum.
The most refreshing thing to do in Tulum is to take a dip in a “cenote,” jungle swimming holes formed when underground springs cut into the limestone bedrock.
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There are dozens of cenotes in the Tulum area to choose from, but one of the most popular is Cenote Dos Ojos, which is located just 20 minutes north of town (you can get there by collectivo or via a taxi). And actually, if you are a scuba diver, you can do a dive at Dos Ojos!
Tulum’s south beach is gorgeous, but can be difficult to access unless you are staying at one of the many resorts that control the beachfront.
One way around that is to rent out a day bed at a beach club, and the best of the bunch is Papaya Playa Project. Less pretentious than its neighbours, this bohemian beach club serves up some seriously delicious food in an Instagram-worthy setting. Note that while there is officially a minimum spend of 500 pesos ($26), I’ve often found the servers willing to lower or waive that if you ask in advance.
One of the few drawbacks to the amazing beaches in Tulum is that they can get a bit windy at times. But this also makes Tulum the perfect place to try your hand at kitesurfing.
There are several operators along Tulum’s southbeach that will teach you how to crush those waves. It’s a great adventure activity and one of the best things to do in Tulum if you’re looking to get a work out. A 1 hour lesson and a 1 hour rental is around $100USD.
A cup of joe may not seem worthy of inclusion on a list of the best things to do in Tulum. But, as someone who used to work as a barista, let me tell you that Chale’s cold-brewed coffee is no ordinary cup of coffee!
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This local roaster doesn’t have a physical location, but you can find Chale cold brew in coffee shops all around town. But for a special treat, be sure to head to Matcha Mama, where you can try it straight from the tap.
If you’re the kind of person who cares about fashion, you’ll love the many boutique vendors that sell hippie-inspired wear in Tulum. No wonder why shopping is one of the most popular things to do in Tulum. Just be prepared for sticker shock, as Western prices dominate here.
There’s several clusters of popular shops along Tulum’s south beach road – just walk or bike the road and stop along the way.
One of the more annoying aspects of visiting Tulum is the constant need to shuttle yourself between the beaches and Tulum town. While there are plenty of taxis that ply that route, a fun and affordable way to get around Tulum is to rent bicycles and power yourself with your own feet.
Nearly every hotel in town will rent you bikes, and there are several large bike paths in Tulum that make biking the best way to get around and one of the most popular activities in Tulum. Bicycle rentals are around 100 pesos ($5.25) per day.
Just a few miles north of Tulum lies a cave and cenote complex that will make you feel like you’ve left Mexico and landed on another planet. The pools of spring water inside the caves make for a spectacular site as they reflect the hanging stalactites.
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Best of all, Caracol is a bit of a hidden gem, so it’s a great thing to do in Tulum to get away from the crowds!
To get here, you’ll either need to rent a car and drive yourself or go as part of an organized tour. The entrance fee (starting at 500 pesos) is steep but worth it.
Tulum isn’t known for its nightlife (my theory is that the sun sucks the energy out of people during the day), but if you’re in the mood to go out anywhere, Santino bar is the spot to be. This tiny bar and club in the middle of town boasts a small but pulsating dance floor, strong cocktails, and the best music in town!
If you’re looking for unique social things to do in Tulum, you’ll love The Dining Experience. Though it is kind of hard to describe this unique experience, think of it as a high-end adult dinner party – you must be 18+ to join.
You’ll eat a several course meal while sharing a communal table with folks who will start the night as strangers and end it as your friends, thanks to the loquacious hosts and free-flowing alcohol.
So it’s a little touristy.
Ok, so it’s a lot touristy.
But, come on… you know you want to!
Tulum, like towns all around Mexico, has a sign in its center just begging for you to take a photo with it. You’ll find the sign in the main square in the center of town. It’s among the most popular things to do in Tulum, so you may have to wait in line to grab that shot.
A fun and popular bar located on the main road heading to the southern beaches, I Scream Bar is the place to be in those twilight hours of the evening just after the sun sets. You’ll find (relatively) affordable drinks, a lively atmosphere, and delicious snacks.
You’ll also find ice cream on offer here too of course. But, to be honest, I’d suggest giving the cold stuff a pass. Why? Because right next door to I Scream Bar is a far better option (and our #19 thing to do in Tulum)…
I was told by a local that the gelato at Origami is to die for. And, though I’m still alive to tell the tale, I have to admit that this places serves up some seriously delicious gelato.
You can find Origami halfway down the main strip on the southern beach. It’s 90 pesos ($4.75) for a double scoop.
Tulum’s south beach is so jammed with high-end resorts that it can be difficult for a budget traveler to find a stretch of sand to enjoy without breaking the bank.
Thankfully, Taqueria La Eufemia is here to come to the rescue. Nestled on the same stretch of beautiful sand as the thousand-dollar-a-night resorts, this place somehow still serves up cold brews and delicious bites at bargain basement prices. Tacos are from 20 pesos ($1).
It’s a popular place to visit in Tulum, so the handful of chairs here tend to fill up fast. But don’t worry if you miss out: just bring a towel, find a strip of sand to call your own, and call over a water to enjoy some tacos on the beach.
Ok, so this may seem like an obvious thing to include on a list of the best things to do in Tulum. But, with so many other activities in Tulum, it can be easy to forget that the gorgeous water is the star here!
So be sure to build in some time in your Tulum itinerary to take a swim in the sea. Or take it one step further and enjoy some snorkelling, paddle-boarding, riding a banana boat or jet ski, or any one of the many incredible water activities on offer in Tulum! You’ll find vendors all throughout the beach and in the town willing to help you get your adventure on.