I said it in my previous post and I’m gonna say it again… Tulum is the new Cancun! Why? It’s only been a few months since I’ve been back from Mexico, but in this short amount of time, the number of Tulum photos I’ve seen floating around Instagram has increased tremendously – like outta nowhere. There’s absolutely no doubt that this perfect sun destination is on the rise to becoming a new resort town favorite. So before you consider your next sun vacation, here are 25 things to do in Tulum, Mexico that will make you fall head over heels in love with the Mexican Riviera Maya!
1. Swim in a cenote.
You can’t take a Tulum vacation and not check out a cenote.
This is perhaps one of the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico and there are literally thousands of cenotes to pick from. Unfortunately, we only visited one because our main method of transportation was taxis. This definitely isn’t budget-friendly for cenote-hopping because the drivers are sneaky as hell and will try to rip you off. That said, I strongly urge you to rent a car. Despite Tulum being an expensive resort town, rental cars are actually dirt cheap. I remember seeing deals on Expedia for 15 pesos ($1 CAD) a day! Rent a car and you’ll thank me later.
Cenote Ik Kil
Perhaps the most famous of them all and a 2-hour drive from Tulum. There are quite a few tours you can join that take you not only to the cenote but to Chichen Itza as well. I visited a few years back and booked directly with my hotel literally a day or two before.
Photographed back in 2015. Apologies for the overexposure.
Cenote Dos Ojos
This is a popular one that’s much closer to Tulum located half-an-hour-drive north. The name translates into “two eyes” in English and originates from the way how two neighboring cenotes are connected to appear like two large eyes underground.
How insanely clear is this water!?
I’d seen this all over the Internet but never once thought it’d be close enough to visit from Tulum. The drive takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and looks out of this world. Put this on your itinerary or you’ll regret it like I do now!
Note that I’ve only visited the first two, but Anna from Anna Everywhere has an awesome list of “Best Cenotes in Mexico“.
2. Visit an ancient ruin.
Okay, let’s get all the basic Tulum travel guide items out of the way first. Ruins are another must you do not want to miss on the things to do in Tulum, Mexico list.
Chichen Itza (pictured above) is a classic one. Again, tours are available for both Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil. This could easily take up one day so a closer/shorter-trip alternative is the Tulum Ruins (pictured below). Very easily accessible and it is the only Mayan city built on a coast.
I joined a tour for both and while tours can be a hit and miss depending on how engaging the tour guide is, I do recommend doing one for Chichen Itza. It is, afterall, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and the history behind is simply captivating.
Not a fan of crowds? Try Coba Ruins. This is one of the less popular Tulum attractions and because it doesn’t receive that many visitors a day, you’re still allowed to climb it! Take a look at the Expert Vagabond’s guide on “Climbing the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba“.
3. Get yo tan on! 👙
Unlike Cancun, Tulum has a lot of seaweed on its beaches. We asked everyone we’d met whether or not this was normal and we got different answers each time. Some said it’s a seasonal thing. Others said it’s global warming and that it wasn’t as bad in previous years. No matter the reason, expect to find a lot of seaweed. But don’t let that stop you from soaking up vitamin D on Tulum’s gorgeous white sand beaches!
4. Poolside chillin’.
If it gets a little too hot on the beach, cool off in a jungle pool!
Cathy and I stayed at Coco Limited (sister hotel of Coco Tulum) and while the pool itself wasn’t the most extravagant of resort pools in Tulum, it was still a nice little spot to relax at.
Papaya Playa Project is another resort whose pool I would highly recommend. If you’re lucky enough to rent out one of their villas, you can enjoy a little slice of rooftop paradise to yourself!
5. Swing your worries away at Coco Tulum.
Continuing on with more “non-obvious” things to do in Tulum, Mexico… Coco Tulum is a super cute and trendy, white-themed resort along the coast of Tulum. Their beach club has the prettiest swing sets facing Mexico’s gorgeous turquoise waters and makes for an awesome hangout hub for you and your girlfriends.
Also, psttttt! I started a separate fashion/lifestyle account @themingdiaries. Be sure to take a looksies.
6. Enjoy a cocktail over Tulum’s jungle scene.
Are you really on vacation if you’re not
drinking before 5:00PM constantly drinking?
Azulik is yet another gorgeous beachfront resort. While its rates can start well over $1,000 a night during peak season, its treehouse restaurant, Kin Toh, is open to the public and makes for a great place to enjoy drinks as you lay in bliss on a hammock.
We actually dined here for dinner too. While the food wasn’t all that impressing, the views and ambiance were something else. If you are visiting with a large group, do reserve a table at their floating nest for a once in a lifetime jungle dining experience.
7. Watch the sun set at Pablo Escobar’s mansion.
Professional cameras are disallowed at Casa Malca so prepare for some grainy iphone shots coming your way!
Definitely not your typical Tulum activity, but yup, you read that right. You can now visit what used to be the infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s mansion. (Don’t know who Pablo Escobar is? You needa catch up on that Netflix subscription!)
In 2012, renowned New York art collector/gallery owner Lio Malc purchased Escobar’s estate and turned it into a luxury boutique hotel (Casa Malca) filled with amazing artworks from Keith Haring, KAWS, and Marion Peck. Not only is the entire property #interiorgoals, the views here are absolutely jaw-dropping.
While you’re here, don’t forget to admire the unique art displays they have on exhibit.
8. Embark on a gastronomic journey and meet new friends at The Dining Experience.
Nothing beats great food and great company. Join this adults only 7-course dinner party and explore authentic Mayan flavors. Read my full review for The Dining Experience here.
9. Put on your dancing shoes and get groovy~
Don’t let your night end after dinner. Papaya Playa Project is LIT on Saturdays. Head over for their full moon party and you will not be disappointed.
Full disclosure: I’m getting to that granny age where I can no longer party after a full day of events hahahaa. Check out Bonnie from The Style Traveller’s advice on “5 Best Nights Out in Tulum“.
10. Morning yoga with a view.
If you’re a yogi, you will love morning yoga at Sanara Tulum. For more information, here is their schedule/events calendar.
11. Eat breakfast amongst locals at Burrito Amor.
Burrito Amor was actually recommended to us by several travellers and locals alike.
Cathy and I tried the cactus and chaya burrito. Two different burritos, but we split half half. The cactus I was not a fan of. It tasted very much like okra with its slimy texture. Chaya, on the other hand, delish! For those who don’t know what chaya is, it’s a Mexican spinach that acts as a superb source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron. Oh and it’s also full of antioxidants. Highly recommended!
Forget what Mon got, but hers looked bomb as well.
12. Fall in love with Raw Love’s açai bowls.
Shout out to Cathy for being my model this whole trip!
Burritos not your thang? Fall in love with deliciously healthy açai bowls at gourmet vegan food restaurant Raw Love.
13. Go bird watching at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Photo from Visit Sian Ka’an’s official site.
Sian Ka’an in English means “origin of the sky” and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. This unique biosphere reserve provides a habitat for more than 300 species of birds, thus making this a great location for bird watching.
I’d seen this in a lot of Tulum guides, but I personally don’t have the patience (or inner peace or whatever you wanna call it) to sit still for 10 minutes just bird watching. If you’re a wildlife photographer though, for sure add this to your list of things to do in Tulum. If not, this is still an awesome place to go snorkeling nonetheless.
14. Take a stroll down Tulum beach strip.
This is a must when it comes to top things to do in Tulum.
Tulum is essentially separated into two main areas: the Tulum beach strip (where all the luxurious resorts are located) and Tulum town/downtown (where the locals actually live). Tulum town obviously has its own charms, but Tulum beach strip is where you’ll find a lot of beautiful murals and fun photo ops.
15. Indulge yourself in matcha heaven.
Ok I cannot get over how friggin’ adorable Matcha Mama is!!!
I’m a huge matcha gal and this was one of the things atop my “what to do in Tulum” list. We legit took like gazillion photos here and the food and drinks were delectable!
16. Shop ’til you drop in the streets of Tulum.
Whether it be the beach strip or downtown Tulum, this vacation hotspot is filled with darling little shops that will literally make you wanna buy everything.
17. Explore Tulum on a bike tour.
As embarrassing as this sounds, I… cannot ride a bike. Lol!
For those of you who can, Tulum Bike Tours offers fantastic tours whether you are looking to learn more about the culture and traditions of rural Mayan communities or you simply wish to ride through forest paths, beach roads, and local streets of Tulum.
18. Cool down with a popsicle!
It is 🔥HOT 🔥in Tulum. Make sure you stay hydrated and reward yourself with some yummy real fruit popsicle treats at Flor de Michoacan. Ice ice baby!
19. Try a mazcal drink.
I swear I’m not an alcoholic, but the number one thing I wanted to do in Tulum was try mezcal.
Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made of agave (obviously originating from Mexico) and I’ve only recently learnt of its existence after hearing about Susan @brooklyntropicali‘s adventures in Oaxaca.
You can find mezcal pretty much everywhere. A lot of bars and restaurants will have some kinda mezcal-based cocktail. It’s a little smoky and maybe not for everyone, but I liked it and think it’s worth a try!
20. Treat yourself to a spa day.
Spas and vacations basically go hand in hand.
When it comes to spas, Yäan Wellness is without a doubt Tulum’s most luxurious spa and wellness center. Catering from the mind to the body and spirit, they have a collection of various massages, Mexican therapies, body treatments, energy healing, and soaking baths all to help you feel relaxed and refreshed.
21. Tap into the right side of your brain at Tulum Art Club.
Launched in 2016, Tulum Art Club is a contemporary art and culture space. There is an art gallery on display and a café that serves phenomenal coffee and food. They also have super fun events every now and then like drink and draw with featured artists.
22. Inhale tacos, exhale negativity.
La Eufemia has AMAZING tacos. This was yet another recommendation from travellers/locals we’d met and we’re so glad to have discovered this little hidden gem.
It’s actually a beach club by the way. Super lively vibes and cool atmosphere!
August 2018 Update: Seems like La Eufemia is now permanently closed. Word is the owner may open another location elsewhere so let’s hope that happens!
23. Step into Morocco at Nomade Tulum.
Tacos alone don’t fill you up? Head on over to Macondo at Nomade.
By using fresh, local, and sustainably farmed ingredients, Macondo focuses on holistic cuisine to bring you not only good food, but whole body wellness consciousness. Not to mention, their decor is so inviting and really reminiscent of Moroccan vibes.
I remember seeing this on Michelle from Live Like It’s The Weekend‘s Instagram feed and wanting to come here sooooo bad. But like always, there are way too many things to do and too little time. I’ll be back, Macondo!
24. Catch up with friends over drinks at Gitano.
There’s something about these aesthetically pleasing Tulum bars and restaurants that just draws you in. By far, Gitano was my favorite place for drinks. A few more photos taken from their official site to show you why…
25. Dine at Tulum’s #1 restaurant.
Hartwood is the #1 restaurant in Tulum – no questions asked. Hartwood’s chef, Eric Werner, started his career in New York and while on holiday in Tulum in 2009, Werner and his wife had a sudden lightbulb moment to quit the fast-paced restaurant life on the east coast and start from scratch in Mexico.
What’s special about this restaurant isn’t just the food, but there’s no actual set menu as the dishes change every day based on what’s in season and what can be caught (land and water).
There were still lines out the door well past 9pm.
This was yet another spot we missed since we weren’t able to secure a reservation. Be sure to make resos at least 2-3 months in advance if possible. If not, you can try your luck with walk-ins, which are first come first served. What you can do is put your name down and grab a drink at Gitano next door while you wait.
Bonus: Stay active at Tulum Jungle Gym.
Ever heard of LA’s Muscle Beach? Well, this is similar.
Tulum Jungle Gym is an outdoor gym right on the beach. Day passes are 400 pesos ($~28 CAD) and classes are available as well in addition to private training. Perfect for those who are looking to plan a long-term stay in Tulum.
Putting this at the end of the list as a bonus because I know how hard it is to stay fit and healthy while on vacation. For those of you committed souls, this one’s for ya 💪🏼
And there you have it, 25 things to do in Tulum, Mexico!
While Cat and Mon didn’t quite like Tulum all that much, I personally really enjoyed it. It definitely has that (chic) hipster kinda vibe to it and is less crowded/touristy compared to Cancun. The locals are super friendly too and there’s this nice, homey, small-town feel to it.
Both destinations are obviously sun vacation spots. However, I would say that Tulum does offer more of an authentic Mayan experience if you’re looking to get to know Mexico and its culture better.
Aside from the seaweed, I really don’t have any complaints. Honestly, drafting this post alone is making me wish I were back in this tropical paradise. Guess I’m just gonna have to look forward to the next time I’m back!
Other Helpful Information
I hope my guide to Tulum will give you a better idea about some of the best things to do in Tulum, Mexico. Below are a couple additional tips from my favorite bloggers that will help you plan for the most perfect Tulum trip.
- Not sure where to stay? Michelle from Live Like It’s The Weekend has a detailed explanation on “How to Decide Where to Stay in Tulum“.
- For what you need to know when planning your Tulum trip, check out Cathy’s post “A Practical Travel Guide to Tulum“. (She shares everything from when the best time to visit is to how to actually get there and much, much more!)
Until next time!~