Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating destinations in the Riviera Maya, Tulum is the perfect combination of a bohemian beach town, a charming village and ancient Mayan ruins. Located 81 miles (130 kilometers) south of Cancun, Tulum has become a popular destination for Hollywood stars and New York fashionistas.



Tulum’s Hotel Zone is void of sprawling resorts. Small inns and cabañas line the two-lane road that snakes through the jungle. The beach is, in a word, spectacular. Tulum “pueblo” (where the locals live) is a charming town featuring small hotels, restaurants and cafes.

The archaeological site is the only ancient Mayan walled city in the Yucatan, and is believed to have been built to protect against outside invasion and to separate the Mayan ruling class, who lived inside the fortress, from the working class, who lived outside its walls. The only Mayan city located next to the Caribbean Sea, Tulum was home to laborers, astrologers, farmers, and nobility.

There are several places on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean to appreciate beautiful views and take pictures. After visiting the ruins, there are many booths and shops containing traditional Mexican handicrafts and souvenirs, plus several smaller food and drink vendors. To fully enjoy the Mayan ruins of Tulum, plan to spend three hours at the site. Swimming and sunbathing is allowed at the breathtaking white sand beach at the bottom of the staircase below the ruins.


Cenotes (cave-like sinkholes with natural wells fed by underground rivers) cover the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes were essential to the Mayan civilization. Since few rivers existed on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayans constructed their cities near cenotes which were their source of water. The Mayans also believed the cenotes were portals to the afterlife, so they would perform ceremonial rituals in and near them.

Thousands of cenotes have been discovered and thousands more are thought to exist on the Yucatan Peninsula. These natural wells have crystal clear, blue pools of natural water and are surrounded by cave-like walls. The natural beauty of the cenotes and their clear cool water with colorful fish make them a popular place for snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming.

Gran Cenote is the most famous cenote in the Riviera Maya and one of the most popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Gran Cenote is located on the road to Coba just outside of Tulum at kilometer 3.5.


Tulum is more of a funky, free-spirited area, so the upscale, trendy bars and nightclubs of Playa del Carmen won’t be found. Instead, there are some very nice casual cafes and clubs, such as Zebra, a great place to dance Salsa on the weekends.