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6 BEST Tours of the Tulum Ruins +Our Top Choice and Why

6 BEST Tours of the Tulum Ruins +Our Top Choice and Why

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Located on the outskirts of Tulum, the Tulum Ruins are widely known as being some of the best Mayan ruins in all of Mexico. This landmark is a place where people can walk around and explore ancient archeological sites that overlook the stunning blue-green waters of the Caribbean. In fact, this is the only Mayan city built directly on the Caribbean coast!

We were in awe as we walked around the ruins and realized how large and intricate the structures considering they were over a thousand years old.

One of the best ways to visit the Tulum Ruins is on a tour. This way, you’ll get transportation from wherever you’re staying in Mexico as well as local insight into the history behind this former city. Having a guide describing the importance of the structures really gave us a new perspective and appreciation for this beautiful place.

But if you’re still unsure if you should book a tour or not, or even what tour is best, then read on! Below, we’ve picked our 6 favorite tours of the Tulum Ruins as well as some essential info to know before you go.

Don’t have time to read the full article? The Tulum Ruins are truly a stunning piece of Mayan history. If you really want to learn about this ancient city, we suggest taking this private-half day tour because we learned so many interesting details from our guide. We highly recommend taking a tour so you can get a more extensive understanding about the archeological site.

About the Tulum Ruins

Bailey poses for a photo while enjoying the views of the Tulum Ruins and ocean in Tulum, Mexico
The famous viewpoint at the Tulum Ruins!
Bailey in a tunnel at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
This is literally the entrance to the ruins!

The Tulum Ruins were constructed nearly 1500 years ago. The city was originally named “Zama” which means dawn or sunrise, as it was built on the eastern facing cliffs. Zama is believed to be the last great Mayan settlement, and was a trading post for turquoise, jade, ceramics, textiles, and other goods.

Tulum, meaning “wall” in Maya, was at its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries, and was a trading port for sailors during this time. Because this city was usually the first stop for many seabound travelers, they made their exterior structures tall at 5 meters (16 feet) high and 400 meters (1300 feet) long so it would be easy to spot.

In its heyday, the buildings would have been covered in bright colors of reds, greens, and blues. One of the tallest areas within the walls is El Castillo (meaning “The Castle”) which stands at an impressive 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall and was believed to be a lighthouse for seafarers. The Temple of the Frescoes is another notable site that houses carvings and murals of ancient Mayan culture.

While researchers originally concluded that the city’s thick walls were built to protect goods from theft, others believe these walls kept the elite in while the commoners were forced to live outside. Regardless of the reason, these walls weren’t strong enough to prevent the oncoming downfall of Zama.

Unfortunately, a few decades after the Spanish conquest, the city was ultimately abandoned as colonization and European-borne diseases decimated the civilization. The city was untouched for hundreds of years, until it was stumbled upon by explorers Fredrick Catherwood and John Lloyd Stephens in the mid-1800’s. These men named the city “Tulum” and introduced Mayan culture to Westerners via their descriptive writings.

The careful construction of this ancient city is highlighted by how well it’s still standing today. However, some areas of the Tulum Ruins are now prohibited from entering, as the government had to step in to ensure the preservation of these structures from over-tourism.

6 BEST Tours of the Tulum Ruins

Choosing a tour can be stressful, so we’ve narrowed it down to the absolute best six so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs. We’ve been fortunate to travel all around Mexico, and have visited the Tulum ruins multiple times.

We’ve driven to the park ourselves, and have also taken tours from different locations around the country, so we’re hoping these suggestions will make it easy for you to decide.

1. Tulum Ruins Private Tour (from Tulum, Akumal, or Playa del Carmen)

Bailey walks around the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Walking around the ruins is beautiful.
Bailey walks through a tunel building at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Bailey walks through a tunnel building at the Tulum Ruins.
  • BEST completely private guided tour of the Tulum Ruins
  • Half-day tour/4 hours approx.
  • From $134 USD per person (based on two people)

We took this private-half day tour and absolutely loved it. Shout out to our guide, Eli, who knew so many interesting facts about Mayan culture and really took his time educating us on the importance of this site. We really felt embraced in the history, and would honestly recommend this tour to anyone.

Including transport, the entire tour lasts about 4 hours, with 2 hours dedicated to walking around and learning about the ruins. We thought this was the perfect amount of time to ask questions and explore the area. And since this is a small group tour, everyone had plenty of time to get all their questions answered without feeling rushed.

This tour will pick you up from Tulum or Akumal and costs $134 USD per person. If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, the fee is a little higher at $194 USD per person to accommodate for the longer travel time. All the details are handled so your round-trip transportation, entrance fees, and expert guides are all included. Plus they even have refreshments for you to enjoy while you explore.

This tour does book up fast, so be sure to book this private tour here in advance.

2. Tulum Guided Tour with Magical Cenote, Lagoon Snorkeling, and Beachside Lunch

aerial view Punta Venado Beach Club on white sand with day beds
This tour stops here for lunch! Photo Credit: Punta Venado Beach Club
  • BEST all-inclusive tour including snorkeling in a lagoon
  • Full-day/7 hours approx.
  • $169 USD per person

This guided tour of Tulum is a full-day tour that includes pick-up from most hotels in the Mayan Riviera, and it includes so many fun activities on top of visiting the Tulum Ruins. If you’re after a full day of exploring, look no further!

First, you’ll head from your hotel and go straight to the Tulum Ruins where you’ll have two hours to enjoy a guided tour and a little downtime to venture out on your own. We absolutely loved stumbling across the secret beach at the base of the ruins behind El Castillo.

Afterward, you’ll drive to the beautiful Yal-ku Lagoon where you can swim and snorkel around. We loved the diverse marine life that we encountered while snorkeling. This lagoon is home to an intersection of fresh water and seawater, so it’s really a unique place to visit.

Next on the tour itinerary is one of our favorite activities – visiting a cenote! There are some awesome cenotes near Tulum, and this tour visit is one of the best! Swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving in cenotes is one of our top things to do while visiting the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll have about an hour to swim around this natural fresh-water sinkhole, where you’ll go through caves on a guided eco-tour.

Finally, you’ll finish the tour by enjoying a delicious lunch at Punta Venado Beach Club. While we’ve dined at plenty of restaurants in Playa del Carmen, nothing quite beats enjoying a meal with a beautiful ocean view.

This full-day tour is jam-packed with things to do and includes entrance fees, round-trip transport from Playa del Carmen and most hotels in the Riviera Maya, multiple guided tours, and a tasty lunch with a view. One thing to note is that this tour is suitable for children 8 years and older only.

At $169 USD, we think that’s a pretty good deal. We recommend booking this full-day tour here so you can make the most of your vacation and secure a spot before it sells out.

Related Read: If you prefer driving yourself, check out our guide on renting a car in Playa del Carmen.

3. Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, Cenote, and Caves

A sting ray at The Beach while on a snorkeling tour in Tulum, Mexico
If you’re lucky, you’ll see a sting ray when you go snorkeling!
El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
  • BEST all-inclusive day tour with reef snorkeling
  • Full-day/8 hours approx.
  • From $125 USD per person

This combination tour has pick-up options from Riviera Maya, Cancun, and Tulum and is another full-day option. We love a tour that offers variety, and this is another great one.

First, you’ll head to the Tulum Ruins, where your guide will tell you all about the history and cultural significance of this area. Afterward, you’ll have time to walk around the ruins on your own.

Next, you’re headed out on a boat to explore a beautiful coral reef. You’ll be able to snorkel around the clear waters of the Mexican Caribbean and see all the amazing underwater life around the reef. Sometimes, there are even stingrays and sea turtles nearby, so it’s really a cool experience. Make sure to bring $250 MXN ($15 USD) for the Conservation of the Marine Fauna as this is the only fee not covered by the tour.

You’ll head to the Parque De Cenotes Yax-Muul next. You’ll have about three hours here to walk around subtropical rainforests, swim in cenotes, and spot all sorts of wildlife like tropical birds and other animals. This is the last spot on the tour and where lunch will be held, so it’s a great time to relax fill your belly after a busy day exploring.

It’s worth noting that this tour is a Viator Exclusive, so you won’t find it anywhere else! Prices average around $125 USD which includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, entrance fees, guides, lunch, and more, so be sure to book this full-day combination tour here.

4. Tulum Ruins Guided Group Tour

Temple Of The Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins
Temple Of The Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins
  • Best quick Tulum Ruins tours without extra stops
  • Approx 2 hours
  • $99 USD

Next up is this express Tulum Ruins guided tour which will pick you up from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. This is a morning tour, so you won’t have to worry about spending too much time in the sun and will avoid some of the larger crowds as well.

Your guide will regale you with tales of the Mayan people and the importance of the city that was once an important trading port in the 13th century. You’ll spend about two hours at the Tulum Ruins, and it’s great for anyone 4 years old and up.

We love this option because it’s a small group tour (up to 24 people) and is great for those who want a shorter option to fill their morning instead of the whole day. That way, you can spend your afternoon at the beach or enjoying any number of fun things to do in Mexico.

This tour costs $99 USD per person, and is a great morning activity for anyone looking to gain some more insight into this Mesoamerican civilization. Round-trip transportation is included too. Be sure to book this half-day Tulum Ruins guided tour here to secure your spot.

Related Read: Looking to book a stay in Cancun? Make sure to read our recommendations of the best Cancun resorts for all budgets.

5. Tulum and Cenotes Tour

House Of The Columns at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
House Of The Columns at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
  • Best budget-friendly tour of the Tulum Ruins
  • Approx 8 hours/full-day
  • $42 USD per person +$20 conservation fee

For those looking for a budget-friendly alternative, check out this Tulum Ruins and Cenote guided tour. On this full day tour, you’ll go to the Tulum Ruins and visit two absolutely stunning cenotes in the Yucatan – Cenote Chen-Ha and Cenote Mariposa.

This tour has meet-up locations in the hotel zones in Riviera Maya and Cancun, and they offer many pick up points around Playa del Carmen and Tulum as well, so you can choose the most convenient location for you. You can also select a hotel pick-up for a small fee.

Once on the tour, you’ll head straight to the Tulum Archeological Site and enjoy a guided tour of the Tulum Ruins. You’ll spend about two hours exploring buildings like El Castillo which is the tallest place on the premises, and El Palacio (or House of the Columns), which was a 4-room structure that likely housed important Mayan rulers.

Next, you’ll travel about 20 minutes to get to the cenotes. Cenote Chen-Ha and Cenote Mariposa are stunning to look at. You can swim in the turquoise waters and let the surrounding natural beauty calm your mind. These spaces are sacred sites, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn the Mayan history of these natural swimming holes.

While group size can get up to 50 people, we still think this is a great option at just $42 USD per person. You will, however, need to bring about $20 USD in cash to cover conservation fees for the cenotes and Tulum entry fees.

If you’re looking to have a fun-filled day, we recommend booking this full-day Tulum Ruins and Cenotes tour here.

6. Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration and Map

Map of the Tulum Ruins site
A map is helpful to make sure you see the whole site!
  • Best self-guided tour
  • 1 hour
  • $10 USD for unlimited plays

While we personally love guided tours for the historical knowledge they provide, we understand that group tours aren’t for everyone. If you’re interested in learning about the Tulum Ruins but prefer to explore independently, we recommend taking this self-guided audio tour.

This option allows you to download an app that has audio narration, maps with suggested routes, photos, and text so you can walk around the ruins at your own pace. The app uses live GPS tracking so it can detect your location and narrate facts about the structure or area you’re in front of. Sometimes technology really has its perks.

We love this option for the flexibility it provides, but it does have some disadvantages. You won’t be able to ask any questions like you would with an in-person guide, and you’ll have to figure out your commute, parking, and entrance fees. But overall, this is a good option for those who prefer to take on their travels solo.

A positive of this audio tour is that it works offline so you won’t be stuck staring at an empty screen if you don’t have an international data plan. It’s also a one-time download, so you can reuse it every time you visit the Tulum Ruins. How cool is that?!

You can purchase this audio-guided tour here for $10 USD and use it as many times as you like.

Related Read: While visiting the Tulum Ruins, check out the interactive museum Mystika Immersive located next to the entrance. You can buy tickets for Mystika Immersive here for $28 USD. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

When is the best time to visit the Tulum Ruins?

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
If you visit when the weather is nice you can hit up the beach afterward!

While I know this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, I recommend visiting the Tulum Ruins right when they open at 8 am. I know, I know… vacations are for sleeping in. But believe me, getting here early means you’ll beat the crowds and avoid the mid-day sun which is crucial if you have a full day of adventuring ahead.

If that’s too early, try to get here by 9 am that way you’ll get an hour to explore the ruins before the big tour buses arrive at 10 am. The longer you can enjoy this historic site without the noise or distractions of loads of people, the more enjoyable it will be.

If you can, try to visit during the week as weekends tend to be more crowded. Also, Mexican citizens get free entry on Sundays so it’ll likely be even busier then.

In regard to the weather, we recommend visiting Tulum between December to April as the days are warm and the nights are cooler. If weather isn’t a factor, we recommend visiting during summer. There will be more rainy days, but also less crowds.

Whenever you decide to visit, we’re certain you’ll be enchanted by this archeological gem.

Why Book a tour of the Tulum Ruins?

Bailey looks out over the beach at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Bailey looks out over the beach at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

Whether you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum, booking tours can save you a lot of stress and headaches. When it comes to visiting a new place, we always look for a tour that will be convenient and provide multiple services like round-trip transportation and additional excursions.

The Tulum Ruins are about 3.4 km (2.1 miles) from central Tulum. If you’re staying in Tulum, you can drive yourself, rent a bike, take a colectivo, or join a tour. Joining a tour means you get to skip the headache that comes with parking at such a popular attraction.

There is a parking lot at the main entrance and it costs $150 MXN ($9 USD) to park. The lot does fill up, so if you don’t arrive early, you may have to wait. We recommend getting there early (between 8-10 am) to avoid the rush.

Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at the Tulum Ruins parking lot in Tulum, Mexico
Parking lot at the Tulum Ruins!

If the thought of getting to Tulum early and dealing with parking and waiting in line stresses you out, going on a tour is going to be your best bet.

Aside from handling the logistics for you, you will also get copious amounts of historical knowledge that you might miss if you visit on your own. Although there are boards with small amounts of info around the ruins, it is very brief. If you want to actually understand what you are looking at and the history behind the ruins, then a tour is the only way to go.

You will need to have Mexican pesos on hand as transactions are only paid in cash. This is another reason why we love booking a tour in advance – most fees are covered so you can just relax and enjoy your time.

Tips for visiting the Tulum Ruins

Daniel buys our tickets from the ticket booth at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Buying tickets!
A signe of the entrance fees and rules to enter the Tulum Ruins
Hours and prices!

Bring cash, especially small bills – It is very unlikely the entrance booth will have change, so bring plenty of cash (preferably Mexican pesos, but USD may be accepted). Most vendors will only take small bills, so make sure to get cash out before you arrive.

The official entrance booth is the only place you should buy tickets – If you see people selling tickets before you reach the entrance, DO NOT purchase them. They are most likely counterfeit, and won’t be accepted. The official entrance booth is the only location that sells tickets to enter the Tulum Ruins. 

You have to pay extra if you bring in large cameras – You will need to pay $45 MXN ($2.50 USD) if you bring in a professional camera or GoPro. This “photography fee” will need to be paid even if you book a tour and have already paid the entrance fee.

Wear sunscreen and protective clothing – There are not many places to cool off at the Tulum Ruins, and shade is scarce. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and maybe a cooling towel as the sun is especially harsh in this part of Mexico.

Bring an umbrella or parasol for shade – You’ll most likely spend a few hours at the ruins, so bringing your own source of shade will help protect you against the elements. Heat exhaustion and sunburns are no fun, especially when you’re on vacation.

Wear good footwear – Visiting the Tulum Ruins is extremely rewarding, but the reality is you’ll be walking A LOT. We recommend wearing comfy shoes that are broken in to avoid blisters and sore feet.

Other Activities to do in Tulum

A person scuba dives in a shallow cenote in Tulum, Mexico
For beginners, pick an open top cenote.
  • Have a beach day – With all the adventuring and exploring you’ll likely be doing in Tulum, a lazy beach day is a perfect activity to relax! Tulum has some of the best beaches in Mexico. The closest beach to Tulum is Paradise Beach, and the name speaks for itself. You can rent lounge chairs here for $10 USD and enjoy the nearby restaurants.
  • Try a Temazcal ceremony – Another fun and authentic way to experience Mayan culture is to try a Temazcal ceremony, which is a bit like a sauna where a shaman helps you rejuvenate and cleanse the body! I’ve tried one before in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and had a blast. I’d recommend this Temazcal tour for Tulum, which offers both shared and private tours, great for bringing along friends for the journey.
  • Go ziplining – Traveling with kids? Or maybe you’re a big kid like us and still get a huge kick out of swinging through the trees? You’re never too old to let your hair down, and this 4-hour ziplining, rappelling, and cenote tour is a whole lot of fun! At $80 USD, I’d say this is great value and would make for an epic half-day out. While it doesn’t include transport, you can easily arrange this for about $15 USD from Tulum.

Where to Stay in Tulum, Mexico

Che Tulum Hostel Pool
Che Tulum Hostel pool and restaurant area.

If you know you’re going to visit the Tulum Ruins, staying nearby definitely has it’s advantages. It cuts down on transportation costs and travel time – whether you’re driving yourself or joining a tour.

No matter what you’re looking for in a hotel, Tulum has it! Offering everything from hostels to 5-star luxury hotels, there is accommodation for any budget!

Here are some of the best places to stay in Tulum (categorized by budget!)

Luxury – $$$

If you’re looking to make your vacation a luxurious trip, there are plenty of good options in Tulum! 

Hotel Boutique TerraNova is a top-rated boutique hotel that truly makes your stay like paradise. All the rooms are spacious and have a garden patio, and there is an outdoor pool as well! You can expect to pay at least $300 USD per night during the peak season for a deluxe queen room. For an upscale hotel with modern, serene vibes, book your stay at TerraNova here!

Another incredible luxury option is Kan Tulum. This hotel is actually built around its own private cenote! These rooms have a unique jungle treehouse design, with gorgeous terraces to see the sunset. You are well located right next to beaches and nightlife. Rooms cost around $250-$450 USD, but will certainly be a memorable experience! For a unique stay you’ll only find in Tulum, reserve your room at Kan Tulum online here!

Mid-range – $$

Aruma Boutique Hotel is a moderately priced, artsy hotel that’s still very comfortable and family-friendly! It has a great location and is only a few minutes away from Tulum’s city center and many shops and restaurants. They also serve an exceptional breakfast, including espresso, and the staff is so friendly! There’s a rooftop pool and bar, which makes a great place to relax after a day of exploring.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $50-$150 USD a night depending on the time of year you are visiting. But to take advantage of this awesome deal, you’ll want to reserve this accommodation well in advance!

Budget – $

For budget travelers, my favorite hostel is Che Hostel. It’s just steps from downtown Tulum and has a tropical vibe with gardens surrounding the property. There are lots of events happening here, including salsa dancing and pool parties!

You can get a dorm room for as low as $20 USD, which is truly a steal considering how nice this hostel really is! They also offer gorgeous private rooms. If you’re traveling on a budget, I encourage you to book well in advance – and you can do so on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com

Check out all accommodations available in Tulum!

Renting a Car in Mexico

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while driving around Mexico
A rental car means freedom to go to the beach whenever you want!

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car. 

I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically. 

I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend. 

The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too. 

Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit. 

Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper! 

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Thanks for reading!

Taking a tour around the Tulum Ruins is a great way to learn about the incredible impact that Mayan culture has in Mexico. From the arts to ancient rituals, we loved learning about this impressive site and really hope you will too. We hope this guide has been helpful and that you find a tour that fits with your travel plans.

If you’ll be traveling around the area, be sure to check out our Mexico posts. We travel all over Mexico pretty frequently, and we even lived here for a while. Check out some of our blogs below for more tips about this exciting country:

5 BEST Tours to see Turtles in Tulum

Where to Stay in Oaxaca – 9 BEST Hotels

23 Things to do in Puerto Escondido