Tulum: Mexico’s most famous Mayan archaeological site

Mar azul turquesa no México.
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2024-06-17

Here’s everything you need to know about what to do and see in Tulum, Mexico, the archaeological complex on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Discover the essence of Tulum, a treasure in the Riviera Maya of Mexico, where ancient Mayan history meets the natural beauty of the Caribbean Sea.

In this post, I’ll share information based on my own experience of what to do in Tulum.

I had the opportunity to explore the Tulum Archaeological Complex during a cruise stop and was captivated by the beauty of the Mayan ruins.

Get ready for a journey through time as we walk among the seaside ruins, where the grandeur of Mayan architecture harmonizes with the stunning coastal landscape.

Additionally, I’ll highlight other unforgettable experiences in Tulum, from exploring crystal-clear cenotes to relaxing on pristine beaches.

I’ll also provide suggestions for activities in this region of Mexico on rainy days, which are quite common in this area.

Join me and discover what makes Tulum a unique destination.

Best Things To Do and Visit in Tulum, Mexico

Templo del la Serie Inicial, em Tulum, México.
Templo del la Serie Inicial, in Tulum, Mexico.
Templo del Dios del Viento, em Tulum, México.
best things to visit in Tulum, Mexico: Templo del Dios del Viento.
Pormenor do Templo del Dios del Viento, em Tulum, México.
Detail of the Temple of the God of Wind (Templo del Dios del Viento), in Tulum, Mexico.
Navio MSC Divina no Porto de Playa del Carmen, México.
MSC Divina ship at the Port of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Visiting the Archaeological Zone of Tulum (Tulum Ruins)

Entrada para as Ruínas de Tulum.
Entrance to the Tulum Ruins.
Descobrir a História de Tulum.
Discovering the history of Tulum.
Entrada para o Parque Nacional Tulum.
Tulum zona de monumentos arqueológicos.
Uma iguana e um lagarto no Complexo Arqueológico de Tulum.
An iguana and a lizard at the Tulum Archaeological Complex.
Gaio do Lucatão.
Yucatan jay (Cyanocorax yucatanicus).
Explorar o Complexo Arqueológico de Tulum.
Exploring the Tulum Archaeological Complex.
Turistas de visita ao Complexo Arqueológico de Tulum.
Tourists visiting the Tulum Archaeological Complex.
Mapa do edifício "El Castillo", em Tulum.
Map of the “El Castillo” building in Tulum.

The Tulum Archaeological Complex was an ancient walled Maya city. In fact, it was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya.

The city reached its peak in the 13th and 15th centuries, but it was only inhabited for about 70 years after the arrival of the Spanish.

It appears that the native population began to die from diseases brought by the Europeans, leading to the collapse of society.

Exploring the magnificent beaches of Tulum

Playa Ruinas, em Tulum.
Playa Ruinas in Tulum.
Descida para a Playa Ruinas, em Tulum.
Descent to Playa Ruinas in Tulum.
Playa Ruinas ao longe.
Playa Ruinas in the distance.
Turistas na Playa Ruínas.
Tourists at Playa Ruinas.
Mar azul turquesa no México.
Turquoise blue sea in Mexico.
Praia de Tulum

Exploring the beaches of Tulum is an unforgettable experience. Among my favorite beaches are:

Playa Paraíso, as the name suggests, is a true paradise by the sea, with crystal-clear waters and white sands that invite relaxing moments.

Playa Pescadores, on the other hand, offers calm waters and rustic charm, perfect for those seeking a more authentic atmosphere.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Playa Ruinas, located next to the Mayan ruins, provides a unique experience combining history and natural beauty.

Each of these beaches in Tulum has its own unique charm, making it difficult to choose just one favorite beach.

I am certain that each of these beaches will offer moments of pure serenity, surrounded by the splendid Caribbean coast.

Shopping in Playa Del Carmen

Descobrir Playa Del Carmen, no México.
Discovering Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Autocarros coloridos no México.
Colorful buses in Mexico.
Playa del Carmen México.

Although I don’t usually go overboard with shopping while traveling, Mexico offers plenty of worthwhile items to buy.

I enjoy the hustle and bustle of Playa Del Carmen to peek into shops and storefronts, with my favorites being:

  • Quinta Avenida: The main shopping destination, full of shops, boutiques, and local markets offering everything from handmade crafts to international brands.
  • Mercado de Artesanato: Ideal for those who prefer authenticity, this market offers many Mexican handmade items such as ceramics, colorful fabrics, and jewelry.
  • Centro Maya: A shopping mall with various stores including clothing, electronics, and sporting goods, providing a modern shopping experience.
  • Plaza Las Américas: Another popular shopping center with a diverse selection of stores, as well as restaurants and entertainment options.

By the way, for the ladies, beach dresses in Playa Del Carmen are often very beautiful and affordable! It’s a tip for anyone looking to take advantage.

Diving into amazing cenotes

Praia em Tulum, México.
Beach in Tulum, Mexico.

Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of limestone rocks, revealing underground pools.

Tulum, Mexico, is one of the most incredible places to see them.

For the Maya civilization, these formations held sacred significance, believed to be portals to the underworld known as Xibalbá. Maya people considered diving into these cenotes a way to communicate with the gods.

Tulum boasts several amazing cenotes, each with its own beauty and character. Here are some of the most well-known:

Cenote Carwash, also known as Aktun-Ha, features crystal-clear waters and rich underwater fauna. Casa Cenote stands out for its connection to the ocean through underground channels. Cenote Zacil-Ha is renowned for its tranquil waters and lush surroundings.

Additionally, cenotes like Dos Ojos, Corazón, Azul Tulum, Suytun, and Calavera offer unique experiences, from underwater caves to open cenotes surrounded by jungle.

Tulum no México.
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15016745303f85a369e904b1113953bd0c5813091e
1501674562188bc3376cb9624c75879799dd25a52c
1501674597f073f34a3f918d15bc29cbad270d271c
Magnífica praia de Tlum.
1501674671b501cbadf495e2676817bb887b08b72c

What to do in Tulum when it rains?

Rain in Tulum is quite frequent, as those lush green tones require plenty of rainfall to remain so vibrant.

The good news is that typically, rain showers in Tulum, Mexico, last about half an hour to an hour before the sun returns.

Nevertheless, there are still enjoyable activities to do on these cloudy days when rain is almost certain.

Rainy days are perfect for visiting museums, and my suggestion is the 3D Museum of Wonders in Playa del Carmen.

Another very interesting activity in Tulum on rainy days is to take a Mexican cooking workshop! Learn to prepare typical Mexican dishes to reminisce about dream vacations when you return home.

Another relaxing option is to indulge in a day at the spa. Many hotels and resorts in Tulum have luxurious spas where you can pamper yourself with a massage or body treatment.

If your hotel doesn’t offer these activities, look for nearby resorts as there are likely places where you can enjoy a relaxing massage while waiting for the rain to pass.

O que fazer no México com chuva.
What to do in Mexico when it rains.
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Our experience on a tour to Tulum aboard the MSC cruise

Cruzeiro MSC atracado em Playa del Carmen, México.
MSC cruise ship docked in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Porto de Playa del Carmen, visto a partir de uma cabine com varanda no cruzeiro MSC.
Port of Playa del Carmen, seen from a balcony cabin aboard the MSC cruise.
Porto de Playa del Carmen num dia de chuva.
Port of Playa del Carmen on a rainy day.
Viajar em família para o México. Eu e os meus filhos numa praia em Tulum.
Traveling with family to Mexico. My children and I on a beach in Tulum.
México com crianças.
Mexico with children.
Viajar para o México com adolescentes.
Traveling to Mexico with teenagers.

The storm continued. When it finally cleared, we realized that our departure for Playa del Carmen was only delayed by 30 minutes. Not too bad! We traveled to Tulum by bus, and upon arrival, we rushed to buy insect repellent as mosquitoes wouldn’t leave us alone.

Our guide was experienced and talked non-stop. Almost without realizing it, we drifted away from the group to take photos and “feel” the place without distractions.

Coincidentally, the solstice had occurred in the early hours of that day. One of the buildings constructed by the Maya has an opening through which sunlight passes during the solstice. It must have been a spectacular sight to witness!

Before concluding, I’d also like to mention that despite enjoying the tour, we felt it was very rushed. Additionally, we ended up losing time traveling between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

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