The Mayan ruins at Tulum is probably the easiest ruin to see in all of Mexico and consequently is the most visited ruin in the Yucatan. Located right next to the ocean next to the nice resort town named the same, it is accessible to anyone in the Riviera Maya. Arrive early if you can arrange it to beat the crowds. Tulum is located 64 km south of Playa del Carmen and 131 km south of Cancun. The shear abundance of things to do in the area should make it a high-priority travel destination (more on that below).

Tulum Mayan Ruin - the Castle or The Lighthouse
the Castle or The Lighthouse

Most people seeing Tulum will see it via a tour. Tulum tours are available from Cancun, Playa del Carmen and even off of a cruise ship to Cozumel. Usually it will be included with additional stops, either a Mayan ruin like Coba or Chichen Itza or one of the many great cenotes in the area. Tour length will vary from a few hours to all day depending on what else is included.

If you are staying in the Tulum hotel zone, a short taxi ride will get you there or you could bike or even walk. If you rent a car, access is equally easy and you can control your itinerary and make sure to see other ruins, cenotes or the other natural beauty in the area. I can’t speak highly enough of cenotes or the wonder of the larger Mayan ruins in the area.

Tulum is a pretty compact site, and the walking is mostly level with decent walkways. If you want to go down to the ocean (recommended), you will have to traverse steps to go down to the beach 40 feet below the cliffs. The stairs down are well-constructed. Swimming is allowed in the ocean when sea turtles are not present, so bring your swimsuit and a towel if that interests you.

Tulum Mayan Ruin
Tulum Wall

Unlike some Mayan sites, climbing the pyramids or temple steps in Tulum is strictly prohibited. Likewise, you won’t be able to enter any of the buildings.

Entrance fees is 59 pesos at the time of this writing. You will spend more if you use dollars as the exchange rate is typically poor. If you use a traditional hand-held video camera expect to pay another 30 pesos or so for an extra tax. Videoing with a phone or a DSLR doesn’t cost. Go figure.

With so much to do in this area, you could easily spend a week or more even without relaxing  on the beach. There are literally dozens of cenotes in the area of Tulum, with as many more between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Also in between these two cities are eco-adventure parks like Xel-Ha, Xcaret and Xplor. These parks are a mixture of natural and artificial experiences and will feel a little more like an amusement park than the natural cenotes, with increased attendance.

Noteworthy Mayan ruins in the area include Coba, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Muyil.

A detailed description of our visit is here.

To see a gallery of hi-res pictures from our trip, go here.

My list of favorite cenotes in the area is here.

To see where Tulum fits in my ranking of favorite Mesoamerican ruins, go here.


IT pro by day, avid traveler and photographer by night.

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