About 80 miles (129 km) south of Cancún is the small town of Tulum, best known for its ruins, which overlook turquoise colored waters and soft sandy beaches on the Caribbean coast.
Tulum was built during the dying days of the Mayan empire, and was actually a fort. It’s quite tame in comparison to the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, but it does have one overwhelming attraction: its location next to the sea.
You can come here for a day, enjoy the ruins and then walk down to the great beaches and crystal-clear water for sunbathing, paddling, swimming or snorkeling.
Just 15 minutes’ away from Tulum is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a UNESCO listed and federally protected area which is more than 2,000 square miles in size. You can find out more about this in the section below about the Riviera Maya, of which Tulum is part.
Tulum is part of the Rivera Maya; the nearby town of Tulum has undergone a transformation over the last decade and is now an exclusive destination featuring upscale hotels, fine restaurants, and boutique stores.
El Castillo (The Castle) is the largest of the buildings, and it overlooks the coast on the cliff edge.
Templo del Dios Descendente – (Temple of the Descending God) depicts a diving figure, (looks like a bee) and is the same figure you can see depicted at other Mayan sites, including Cobá.
Templo de los Frescos – Temple of Frescoes dates back to the mid 1400s, and is a two-story building with colorful murals on the inner wall. It is thought to have been one of the last structures built by the Maya before the arrival of Hernan Cortez.
Tulum is Part of The Riviera Maya
The 78 miles (125 km) stretch of coastline that runs from the southern edge of the resort town of Cancún, through Playa del Carmen and the Mayan ruins of Tulum, finishing at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, is known as the Riviera Maya.
About The Riviera Maya
A number of small towns and villages, nature parks, resorts and the Mayan Ruins of Tulum lie along this coast. Besides the well known and developed areas of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, the coast’s four other main points of interest are:
Puerto Morelos – as yet an undeveloped quiet village, perfect for a break away from the crowds and commercialism surrounding Cancún.
Akumal – one of the least commercialized areas of this coastline, Akumal offers the perfect place to relax away from the hype and bustle of Cancún and other commercially developed areas. The location has a high number of holiday houses for rent, making it a popular place for families and couples who want to enjoy the experience and economy of a self-catering rental holiday.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere is located between Tulum and Akumal and is a federally protected reserve that features freshwater canals, tropical forests, mangrove wetlands, lagoons, prairies and a 70-mile (113 km) long barrier reef – the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Costa Maya – the area south of the Sia Ka’an Biosphere to the coast off Belize. The area holds attractions for SCUBA divers and sports fishing, although the beaches themselves are not as attractive as the ones further up the coast if you’re looking for swimming, bathing and strolling opportunities.
By Air – The closest airport to Tulum is Cancun. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Car – Tulum is located about 80 miles (129 km) south of Cancun and just a short car or bus ride (45 minutes) away from Playa del Carmen. Take Highway 180 south along the coast to Tulum. Also see additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
By Bus – Regular buses and mini vans make the trip from Cancun and Playa del Carmen to the town of Tulum and the ruins alongside the coast. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
Opening Days & Times: Open 7 Days between 8 am to 5 pm. Modest admission charges apply and there are concessions for students, children and seniors. On Sundays, admission is free for Mexican citizens and foreign residents (with proof of residency).
Avoid the Crowds: Tulum’s archaeology park is a big tour-bus destination. If you want to miss the crowds, then you’ll need to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon. We recommend you experience the archaeological site during the early morning, before the crowds and the high heat of the day.
Photography & Video: A permit is required if you want to use a tripod to take photographs at the archaeological site. A small fee is made for the use of hand-held photographic and video equipment. Read the section on Mexperience Mexico Essentials about Video & Photography at archaeological sites in Mexico.
Ideal Clothing & Footwear: Wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes with a non-slip sole. Take your swimming gear and snorkeling equipment if you want to enjoy the refreshing waters off the beach at Tulum, next to the ruins.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Major Cities: Mexico City (closest)
Colonial Cities: Merida
Also nearby: Xel-Ha Water Park – See the Pictures of Xel-Ha
The local climate is the same as it is for nearby Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
This region is hot and humid, but the humidity is not as drenching as it can be in some other places in Mexico. August through October is hurricane season in this part of the world, and the weather becomes more changeable and less predictable during these months. The rainy season is May through October. November through February is the high season here, and quite hot, although evenings can be cooler, so a warm pullover may be a useful item to pack with you during these months.
Dress with light clothes that enable your skin to breathe. Bring sun screen, insect repellent and a hat. Carry plenty of water and stay well hydrated at all times.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico