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The 20 Best Things to do in Tulum For First Timers

Playa Paraiso

Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Quinta Roo, Mexico. There are two areas to visit, Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo. The nearest airport is in Cancun, Mexico. According to, The city of Tulum was known initially as Zama, the city of the dawn. The name Tulum means fence or trench in Mayan; originally, it was a walled city. The city started to flourish in the 13th to 15th century and lasted approximately a hundred years after the Spanish army began conquering Mexico. A 16-foot-thick limestone wall borders Tulum. The siege protected the Mayans who lived within the walls. However, researchers are uncertain what degree of safety was required. There are many theories. One theory is that Tulum's population of around 600 people sought protection from invaders. Another theory holds that the Mayans housed nobility and priests within the walls while leaving peasants outside. The diving, or descending, god is the most common depiction in Tulum. This deity is depicted as an upside-down figure. When visiting the historical site, you will notice the diving god on many of the doorways. This is because the ancient Mayans considered the waters surrounding Tulum to be the gateway to the underworld.

Tulum's city square is in the center, with El Castillo on the left. This stunning structure was built on top of a 39-foot cliff, making it one of the most photographed sites on the Rivera Maya. You'll see the town's residential buildings, which were built outside the wall, while you're there. Tulum is now a popular tourist destination. It is close to Cancun and has well-preserved ruins. In addition, the area's turquoise ocean waters are ideal for swimming and photographing. Visit Tulum to learn about the area's history and to appreciate the Mayan people's brilliance. The winter season, from December to April, is the best time to visit Tulum. This is not the rainy season, and the temperatures are perfect. However, Tulum's wet season, from May to October, has higher temperatures due to humidity. The only benefit to visiting Tulum during these months is that fewer tourists and prices will be lower. These are twenty things you shouldn't miss when visiting Tulum for the first time.

20. Muyil Archaeological Site

These ruins are just outside Tulum. They are located on the northwestern border of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Since this area is not as well known as the Tulum ruins, they don't get as much foot traffic. However, according to, The Reserve has ruins from 22 pre-Hispanic settlements, but this site is the most well-known. The Muyil Ruins are located inland from the Caribbean coastline and roughly south of Tulum. The land cover of 38 hectares is a jungle. The site holds an abundance of Ceiba trees, trees of life, and connecting them to the underworld. A lagoon, constructed by the Maya, and a system of canals that lead to the Caribbean Bay all exist onsite at the Muyil ruins.

Punta Laguna Nature Reserve

19. Punta Laguna Nature Reserve

Punta Laguna Nature Reserve has one of the most unexpected tourist destinations in Yucatán: spider monkeys. The creatures are the central focus of the reserve, alongside jaguars, pumas, and howler monkeys. Tours of thatched-roof houses and watching people cook over open fires also are given in the nearby Mayan village.

Calavera Cenote

18. Calavera Cenote

Calavera Cenote, also known as the Temple of Doom, is the first cenote you'll see on the Cobá Road. They are also recognized as Skull Cenote, Tulum's most beautiful cenote, with a breathtaking 12-meter halocline. This distinctive cenote gets its name from three circular openings in the cave's roof; the two small ones closely resemble the eyes and the huge one the mouth of a skull when viewed from above.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere

17. Sian Ka'an Biosphere

This is an excellent stop if you are ecologically conscious. They are dedicated to "sustainable tourism." They offer many exciting tours, including nature tours. The region was named a Biosphere Reserve in 1986. It remains the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. The Biosphere Reserve has tropical forests and marshes along its coastline. Its mixed tropical forests, savannahs, picturesque wetlands, and a fraction of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef support diverse flora and fauna. The reserve is home to mammals such as jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and tapirs. It is also a nesting site for turtles, seabirds, and marshland birds, and it is well-known for the unique life that develops in the underground cenotes.

Selfie Spots

16. Selfie Spots

Photos are one of the best parts of vacation and Tulum has some clever places to capture candid photos. Some of the best spots include a street sign that says "follow your dreams," and the famous crooked palm tree.

Day Trip to Chichen Itza

15. Day Trip to Chichen Itza

This is another beautiful spot to see Mayan Ruins. Unfortunately, it's a little outside Tulum, so it would need to be a planned day trip. According to, this area is a well-known archaeological site and was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The area is divided into Old Chichen and Chichen Itza. There are six different sites for ruins. The main ones in this location are Itza Pyramid, also known as El Castillo. Additionally, there is The Temple of Warriors.

Go deep

14. Go deep

Throughout Tulum, you'll find many beautiful Cenotes. If you want to explore a cave, Cenote Caracol is a great place to see a different side of Tulum. The cave is located a few miles north of Tulum and a lesser-known tourist attraction, so it probably won't be overly crowded.

Be extreme

13. Be extreme

Tulum is a great place to try out Kiteboarding, an extreme sport that uses wind to pull you across the water. Several sites offer lessons for beginners. The seas off Tulum are great for learning because the crystal clear water is free from many rocks and other obstructions.

Climb the Pyramid Coba Ruins

12. Climb the Pyramid Coba Ruins

The Mayan Ruins of Coba are nestled between four natural lakes hidden within the jungle. It has the most extensive network of rock walkways in the ancient Mayan world. Coba was also once the most powerful city in the region, controlling farmland, trade routes, and vital water sources. However, the Coba Ruins still have many significant structures today, making it an intriguing place to visit. The city of Coba was established between 100 BC and 300 AD, but the large percentage of the site's construction did not begin until 800-1000 AD. The countless ruin sites are connected by sacred Mayan roads known as sacbes. The ruins at Coba are not as well maintained as the more popular nearby sites. As a result, some of the mounds of uncovered temples can be difficult to spot, but there are also plenty of easily visible ones.

Experience a Temazcal

11. Experience a Temazcal

A Temazcal ceremony takes place in a sweat-house, a type of clay sauna known locally as Temazcal. The ceremony is led by a shaman designed to cleanse the mind and body and heal illnesses. Mesoamerican indigenous peoples first practiced this ancient ritual during the pre-Hispanic period. Temazcales were used in pre-Hispanic times. They symbolized a transitional place like a cave or a passageway between the heavens and the underworld. Priest warriors used them for both ritual and medical purposes.

Just a sip

10. Just a sip

If you're over 21, there is a local emerging craft beer scene. Although you may be familiar with brews like Tecate or Modelo, there are many more in Tulum. One of the local offerings is Hermana Republica; they pair local beer with traditional Mexican food. According to, you can sip and bite your way through downtown Tulum and never get bored.

Daniel Popper Statue

9. Daniel Popper Statue

Daniel Popper, a South African artist, known for his massive figurative sculptures, has introduced a new art and culture celebration in Tulum, Mexico. Ven a la Luz (come into the light) is a majestic installation made from wood and rope molded into a female figure. Her torso is coated in lush green plants, forming an archway for viewers to walk through. Ven, a La Luz, will be permanently installed at the Ahau Tulum resort now that the inaugural Art With Me festival has concluded. Tulum's popularity as a tourist spot has risen dramatically in recent years, and advancement and cultural investment in the area has skyrocketed as well. For example, a member of the famous Guggenheim family recently built an art gallery in a rustic, curvilinear style similar to Popper's festival-friendly sculpture.

Shop local

8. Shop local

One of the things you'll discover in Tulum is many local stores selling things you won't find anywhere else. So a great thing to do between all your other adventures is to check out the many unique stores in Tulum pueblo. One of the best things about the shop offerings is that they are an eclectic mix of shops for everyone, including the eco-conscious tourist, someone looking for traditional souvenirs, and someone who needs to find a quick swimsuit for the shop beach.

Akun-Chen Park

7. Akun-Chen Park

This park offers many tourist attractions for the whole family. Even though it's situated in the jungle, they have modernized it with things like zip-lines. The company started in 1997 with the idea to show people the beauty of the Rivera Maya. Although it is a great place to enjoy Tulum with fun activities, they also focus on climate change and other things affecting this area of the world. They seek a natural park that shows respect for their surroundings.

Mud Bath

6. Play In the Mud

One of the most relaxing things to try in Tulum is a mud bath in Laguna de Kaan Luum. This cenote has an underground spring giving the location beautiful color. Additionally, it's said that this lagoon has healing properties.

Azulik Museum

5. Azulik Museum

According to the website, Azulik Museum, "Reconnection takes on a new meaning in a place where nature, art, and ancestral wisdom coexist." This location is part museum and part natural wonder. The site offers Japanese-Mexican fusion cuisine inspired by traditional food. Additionally, there are beautiful outdoor stores to purchase a piece of Mexican art. There is also a place to practice and get centered if your trip becomes too stressful.

Bicycle Through the City

4. Bicycle Through the City

Many things like jungles, cenotes, hidden paths, and other quiet roads aren't tourist stops. Renting a bicycle will give you access to parts of the city you would otherwise miss. Cycling is the most ingenious method to get around Tulum; we're planning on going up and down the beach road all day, getting between the pueblo and the playa, and visiting the cenotes just outside of town. Tulum is littered with bicycles. They are simple to rent and cost around 150 pesos per day (less if you rent for multiple days). Tulum's pueblo, playa, and nearby region are mostly flat, with a few slight inclines here and there. The bike ride between town and beach takes 20 to 35 minutes, depending on where you start and stop. Car traffic on the beach road can stop for 5 to 15 minutes for no apparent reason. On a bike, you sail right through all the traffic.

Grand Cenote

3. Grand Cenote

This area is thought to hold sacred properties by the Mayans. It is an underground cave system, a place to go for snorkeling or swimming. It is located three miles outside central Tulum. One thing to consider, it is a top-rated tourist attraction, so as the day goes on, more and more people will be there.

Tulum Ruins

2. Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins are a segment of an ancient Mayan walled city nestled on a cliff's edge. The views from up here are stunning – it's no surprise that the ruins' original name was "Zama," which means "place of the rising sun." The name alluded to the fact that the citadel offered a fantastic view of the rising sun. Because it has a strategic location, Tulum was one of the most important cities during the 13th and 14th centuries. Cities like Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Coba came to the town because it was a trading post.

Playa Paraiso

1. Playa Paraiso

The vast Playa Paraiso, just south of the Tulum ruins, is a relaxing end to a day of exploring the area. However, with the recent arrival of the Playa Paraiso Beach Club, this stretch of sand is becoming extremely popular with tourists from Playa del Carmen and Cancun, and Tulum visitors. If you stay in a beachfront hotel, some offer private access to the beach. Tulum has beautiful beaches like Paradise Beach. When the ocean is serene, it becomes crystal clear, allowing you to see to the bottom. When the sea is more active, you will enjoy jumping and riding the waves. When going to visit this beach, make sure to pay close attention to the flags that indicate the water's current conditions.

Dominique Scappucci

Written by Dominique Scappucci

Dominique Scappucci is an Italian American with two passions; writing and music. One of her favorite childhood memories is her father bragging his daughter could read a book a day. He also gave her a love of Dean Martin. Now, her playlists are as eclectic as the topics of the articles she writes. Currently, she lives in Clarksville, Tennessee, with a sassy black rescue cat named Jett.

Read more posts by Dominique Scappucci

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