Has it been two months since we came back from Mexico already? Insane! I am still reminiscing about the tropical sun, palm trees, and a refreshing ocean breeze so I thought I’d put together a list of our top 5 favorite things to do in Tulum and around Riviera Maya.
1. Tulum Ruins (Tulum Archaeological Site)
Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s hot. But you can’t go to Mexico and not visit at least one Mayan ruin! Especially if you’re in Tulum! You can read all about the history and significance of the ruins online, but just know that it’s a sight you have to experience in person! Entrance is 64 pesos per person ($4.50).
There are many cenotes to choose from. A cenote is a fresh water (mixed with salt water) hole in the ground. We actually didn’t do this until our last morning in Tulum (not even a full day). But we hit up 3 cenotes. First, we crossed the road from our hotel and climbed over a fence to get to a hidden cenote in the jungle. There were plenty of mosquitos, but I always carried bug spray with me. The water is a bit chilly, but it is very welcome after
sometimes brutal sun.
Next we took a taxi to Cenote Esqueleto (Temple of Doom). Entrance fee was 90 pesos per person ($6). I don’t think this cenote was worth the entrance fee, however, Dmitry enjoyed diving into this one. It’s not ideal for snorkeling, but we did see several people going on scuba expeditions.
From that cenote we took a 2 mile hike down the freeway (no, we did not get kidnapped) to Gran Cenote. We almost ended up not going as we thought the entrance fee was too high at 150 pesos per person ($10). But I am so glad we decided to go in! This cenote is amazing for snorkeling. The grounds are nice and clean, very well kept. The water is amazingly clear. And the caves you get to explore without needing scuba equipment are absolutely amazing! The pictures truly don’t do it justice!
Riviera Maya has several parks to choose from. We chose Xcaret (pronounced ex-shkaret) as it offered the biggest variety of activities. This was also the most expensive activity we did at 1500 pesos ($100) per person (for the best exchange rate, just pay with your traveler credit card). Also, if you book online 7 days in advance, you get 10% off. Xcaret was an exhausting, but a fun day. There are museums, animals, birds, beaches, restaurants, lazy rivers, etc.
And the whole day ends with a huge 2 hr AMAZING cultural performance.
Since I was too chicken to swim with a turtle in Hawaii, Akumal beach was my second chance. This was a free activity because we had our own snorkeling gear. People will attempt to sell you a tour, but you really don’t need it. Just follow the tour into the water with your own gear and start swimming. Akumal actually means the land of turtles in Mayan. And if you wish to support the turtle conservation efforts, you can always donate on location. There are very friendly and not pushy greeters at Akumal entrance. I did take some videos with the turtles under water, but our underwater camera is not that great, there are much better videos already uploaded on youtube by others.
5. Tulum City
There are so many people that go to Tulum for vacation and never step out of the hotel zone. But how can you say that you’ve been to Tulum if you never went into the city? We ended up in the city almost every day to catch a colectivo or an ADO bus to our destinations. And we also spent quite a bit of time walking around. It is a very small town, so it’s easy to walk it, but you have to make sure to turn from the main Tulum street to see the REAL Tulum. And if you need to buy something, the local Chedraui (supermarket) is your best friend, otherwise this activity is free. 🙂
BONUS! Coba ruins
So you have an extra day and not sure what else to do?
We felt like we needed to see more of the ruins, but didn’t want to spend 3 hrs on the bus one way going to Chichen Itza. So we opted for Coba ruins. An ADO bus runs from Tulum city directly to Coba every day at 10:11 am for 66 pesos ($4.50) per person one way. Ask for the return ticket as well, which leaves Coba at 2:30 pm (don’t miss it, there is only one bus a day!). It’s an hour long bus ride, but totally worth it!
The entrance to this archaeological site is 64 pesos per person ($4.50). It’s a big site and there is an option to rent a bike, which we would recommend. But since I don’t know how to ride a bike, my feet had to do all the work. 🙂 Coba is also the only ruin site in Riviera Maya where you can still climb the ruins… all 120 steps of the ruins.
People watching was my favorite part! 🙂