The 15 Best Things to do in Tulum

Make Tulum a must-see place on your visit to Mexico’s Yucatan coast. There’s so much more to Tulum than its pristine beaches and golden sunsets – but if that’s your vibe, there are plenty of options. Feeling like the main character in your own adventure story? There are activities in Tulum for that, too! Kickstart your Mexico adventure with the ultimate list of things to do in Tulum.

Historical things to do in Tulum

One of the most unique activities in Tulum is the ancient Maya ruins, built over generations and rediscovered in the last century. Tulum’s convenient proximity to these ancient wonders makes a visit to more than one archeological site realistic. Check out these activities at the ancient Maya ruins, one of the best things to do in Tulum!

1. Turn back time at the Chichén Itzá Ruins

The staircase of the Chichen Itza pyramid, a must-see on your list of things to do in Tulum
Photo by Mario La Pergola on Unsplash
Admiring the pyramids at Chichén Itzá is ranked one of the top things to do in Tulum.

Giant stone pyramids, ancient altars to the gods, a beautiful tropical backdrop – and the occasional human sacrifice to promote the health and well-being of the community – are what legends are made of. The mighty Maya city of Chichén Itzá boasts five ancient sites located just west of the scenic Yucatan coast, which puts this at the top of our Tulum activities list.

Built between two sacred cenotes, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chichén Itzá draws millions of visitors each year to study its rich – and complicated – significance in Mexican culture. Just four square miles in area, nearly 35,000 ancient Maya people lived, worked, and worshipped within this once-inhabited archeological site.

Look closely for intricate details as the structures are full of symbolic meaning; the four-sided pyramid El Castillo has a combined total of 365 steps – the number of days in a solar year. Additionally, during the summer and fall equinox, shadows align between the structures to create the illusion of a snake slithering down the staircase. It is details and hidden meanings like this that make visiting Chichén Itzá one of those most interesting things to do in Tulum.

2. Skirt the crowds at the Cobá Ruins

Chichén Itzá may get all the tourist attention in the Cancun area, but the Cobá ruins are off the beaten path, which is all the more reason to make it one of your top things to do in Tulum! Archeologists only just uncovered this Maya gem from the dense surrounding jungle within the last 100 years, making this ancient site a little less accessible for your typical tourist, but all the more rewarding.

Grab a backpack and book a bike to explore this unique site, characterized by white roads radiating from the city center. These white roads (sacbeob) were the veins of the ancient Maya economy, transporting goods within the Maya empire. Unlike Chichén Itzá, the largest pyramid at the Cobá site is open for visitors to climb the 130-steps to the top, where sweeping views of the Yucatan peninsula and nearby lagoons can be found.

3. Take a dip in a cenote

Once thought to be the threshold to the Mayan underworld, cenotes serve as a staple topographical point of interest in the Yucatan area. Formed from collapsed limestone bedrock to reveal fresh groundwater, these infinitely azure pools were the sole source of fresh water for humans and wildlife for many millennia.

In recent years, archeologists have dredged these mystical pools to discover precious metals and stones – even human remains – from ancient Maya societies in the area. Even prehistoric dinosaurs found their final resting place in Mexico’s cenotes, and scientists today continue to study modern inhabitants, like fish and frogs.

While some cenotes are still designated as sacred sites among Mayan descendants, several cenotes are open to swimming, snorkeling, and cave-diving, usually with an expert guide.

4. Try spelunking in Aktun Chen Nature Park

A woman wearing a helmet admiring the spires in an illuminated cave
Photo by @aktunchenpark_ on Instagram
Get subterranean in an underground network of caves.

Whether it’s a rainy day in paradise, or you want to beat the searing Mexican heat, exploring an underground cave network at Aktun Chen Nature Park might be your ticket to adding something completely new and different to your list of activities in Tulum.

If you thought the nearby Mayan ruins were old, think again – some of these caves date back almost 5 million years, and the entire network has yet to be completely explored. Shaped by water erosion for thousands of years, both stalactite and stalagmite spires can be explored easily with a specialized guide and illuminated caves.

Adventurous things to do in Tulum

Break up your beach vacation and get out of your comfort zone with some active excursions in and around Tulum. With so much to explore, there’s no way you (or your family) will run out of things to do.

5. Get wild at Xcaret Eco-Adventure Park

A family wearing snorkelling masks in a pool
Photo by Xcaret Park on Tiqets
Take a walk on the wild side with swimming, snorkeling, and animal exhibits.

Part adventure park, part archaeological site, and part natural wonder, Xcaret offers a full Mexican experience in one location. Once used as a seaport for the Maya empire, the Caribbean location of this coastal point makes it ideal for leisurely swimming and snorkeling in this protected inlet.

The park Xcaret offers water features of all sorts, depending on your adventure level: natural scenery and pools for all ages, educational exhibits featuring Mexico’s unique ecosystem, and cultural displays dedicated to the pre-Hispanic people of the Maya Riviera.

6. Swim with the dolphins at Delphinus Xel-Há

Spend the day with the planet’s smartest mammals at Delphinus Xel-Ha. This eco-friendly resort paradise combines conservation efforts and entertainment by using interactive activities to educate guests about these incredible creatures.

Make a splash in the dolphin pool where you can swim with the dolphins under the guidance of an experienced trainer. Hitch a ride for a lap around the pool, or watch them perform acrobatic tricks in (and out) of the water.

While dolphins may be the star of the show, there is more to explore at Delphinus Xel-Ha. Snorkel in crystal-clear waters among 90 species of colorful fish, or visit the interactive aquarium for tangible access to native marine life.

7. Get your adrenaline pumping at Xplor Park

A woman ziplining in a hammock above a river
Photo by @xplorpark on Instagram
Get a bird’s-eye view from a zipline above the rainforest canopy.

Ziplining, cave diving, and amphibious vehicles? What seems like a scene straight out of an adventure film is yours to experience at Xplor Park. Not for the faint of heart, Xplor Park invites guests to skim the Mexican treeline on one of 14 zipline tracks, each offering a different perspective of the lush jungle below.

Jump on an all-terrain ATV and explore a 3.1-mile jungle trail that rumbles through dense rainforests and into hidden caves. This activity will maximize your adrenaline rush and make you feel like Indiana Jones in no time.

After a day of exploring all the park has to offer, relax in a hammock with a cocktail in the lounge.

8. Cool off at FlowRider Cancún 

Skip the beach hassle and avoid the creatures that lurk beneath the surface with surf lessons at FlowRider waterpark. With access to a skilled surfing instructor, you’ll be on your feet catching simulated waves in no time. Start with the bodyboard basics and try out some new techniques on the FlowBoard with guided instruction.

FlowRider technology features a gentle incline and soft landing material, ideal for beginners who are looking to avoid a total wipeout. If you are with a family, add this to your list of things to do in Tulum – it’s an excellent choice for kids in a low-risk environment, or for adventure-seekers who want to try something new.

Relaxing things to do in Tulum

Recover from swimming with the dolphins, hiking around the Maya ruins, or exploring the Mexican jungle with this line-up of relaxing things to do in Tulum.

9. Go barefoot at SFER IK

A man admires an art instalment inside SFER IK
Photo by Felipe Pires on Unsplash
Admire art from one of the most understated artists – Mother Nature.

Don’t let the name of this marvel of modern art and architecture intimidate you. Pronounced “spheric”, SFER IK is a curvilinear art museum that is composed of only curves and angles reflected in its natural setting: the Maya jungle. In fact, you won’t find a single “straight line” inside (or outside) this modern building.

The best way to experience the museum is to go barefoot, a requirement for guests as they enter the building. Without any barriers on your feet, you are better able to connect with the sensory details of the exhibit, including natural fibers like vines, wood and living plants. Look hard enough and you might see a few local “residents” hiding in the artwork; the natural materials make perfect homes for birds and insects.

10. Become an ecotourist at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
Discover an array of animals on an ecological reserve.

Seek the place where ancient Mayas believed “heaven begins” at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Established as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, this fragile ecosystem is protected and preserved for generations to come. It is recommended over and over as one of the best things to do while you are in Tulum.

Maya inhabitants dug a maze of canals by hand to create trade routes throughout the empire; these serene canals are now occupied by crocodiles, sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins, all best seen with a local guide.

Multiple unique ecosystems convene within a vast 1.3 million acres, including tropical forests, grasslands, lagoons, coral reefs, and beaches. From the trail or the tour boat, keep your eyes and ears open for howler monkeys, flamingoes, and tapirs; the jaguars and the pumas will be more elusive during the day and more active at night.

11. Soak in the sun on Playa Paraiso

A pair of chairs and an umbrella along a sandy beach
Photo by @playaparaisotulum on Instagram
If Margaritaville isn’t a real place, this has to be close.

A trip to Tulum without at least one day (or more!) dedicated to one of its many sparkling beaches is incomplete. Get in on the fun at Mexico’s top-ranking beach: Playa Paraiso. Lounge in a beach chair or swing in a hammock to watch the clouds float by, and you’ll see why this slice of paradise is on the list as one of the best things to do in Tulum. For a more active experience – or activities for a family – take a dip in the tranquil turquoise water, or swim the day away.

Work up an appetite after an active beach day and dine on both international and local cuisine at the nearby beach club. Everything from snacks to tide you over until your dinner reservation, or a fine-dining experience await you with beautiful Playa Paraiso as your backdrop.

12. Test your fins with snorkeling

If you thought the city of Tulum was colorful, wait until you see what lies beneath the surface! Spend the day snorkeling at Mexico’s second-largest coral reef and meet thousands of marine species that call the National Park of Puerto Morelos home.

With an expert guide and equipment provided, snorkeling along the Mexican coast has never been easier, ranking this activity as one of the top things to do in Tulum. Within driving distance of many area resorts, make sure to add this to your list!

13. Squeeze in some shopping in downtown Tulum

Nurse your sunburn and recover from your beach day with a stroll through downtown Tulum. Lined with lazy swaying palm trees, restaurant patios brimming with cabana umbrellas, and the hum of mariachi music around every corner, what’s not to love about the heart of Tulum?

Colorful artisan crafts, collectible souvenirs, and traditional Mexican textiles and pottery can be found in several of the markets in Tulum, many open to the public every day of the week.

Whether you are looking for a fine-dining experience showcasing the harvest of the sea, or scrumptious street tacos from endless local vendors, spend a day – and then some – tasting, sipping, and relaxing in this quaint Mexican town.

Things to eat and drink in Tulum

Looking for one of the most refined – yet deceivingly simple – cuisines in the world? Look no further than the Yucatan Peninsula. With local specialties perfected over centuries and techniques passed down through generations, it’s no wonder why sampling the local fare makes our list of one of the best things to do in Tulum.

14. Get your taco fix at Taquería Honorio

What pulled pork BBQ is to the American South, cochinita pibil is the Yucatan Peninsula. This national specialty is popular in hole-in-the-wall taquerias and posh resort restaurants alike, but the process to make enough of this tasty taco filling to feed thousands of locals and tourists each day is a lengthy one, so let the experts at Taquería Honorio do the heavy-lifting (while you enjoy a tasty taco!).

Start with a whole suckling pig coated from head to hoof in a muddled mix of spices, resulting in a rich red paste. Add abundantly available local citrus that grows in most places year-round. Traditional preparation methods call for an earthen pit to be dug and used for generations (but a modern aluminum-lined pit will do just fine); tuck the pig in with banana leaves and slow cook overnight for an incredibly juicy and flavorful surprise the next day.

15. Sip some henequén liquor at Gitano Jungle

A woman with pink sunglasses enjoying a margarita
Photo by @gitano on Instagram
Sip cocktails under a disco ball in the middle of the jungle.

You may have heard of tequila or mezcal (or enjoy them frequently – no judgment here), but have you heard of henequén liquor? For the last century, the henequén plant dominated Mexico’s export industry. Today, henequén plantations – or haciendas – can be found scattered across Mexico as the plant can be harvested for fiber, pharmaceuticals, and (in this case) a unique liquor.

With a similar flavor profile to mezcal – its easterly cousin – henequén separates itself from the tequila pack with a unique distillation process. Extracted from the mature pineapple-like fruit of the agave plant, the substance undergoes fermentation and distillation, and is then finished in a white oak cask. Try a unique cocktail and soak in the ambiance at Gitano Jungle Tulum.

With this ultimate list of things to do in Tulum, there’s nothing left to do but pack your bags and book the next flight to Mexico. Whether you prefer tasty tacos on the beach, or a day of exploration in the Maya ruins, Tulum won’t disappoint.

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