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5 BEST Tulum Tours from Playa del Carmen for First Time Visitors

5 BEST Tulum Tours from Playa del Carmen for First Time Visitors

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If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen on your Mexican vacation, then a visit to Tulum is a must. Nowadays, Tulum is just as well known for its hippy vibes and party scene as it is for its gorgeous beaches, amazing cenotes, and ancient Mayan ruins.

It has also become a pretty expensive place to stay in recent years, which is why taking a tour from Playa del Carmen is such a good option. You get a great overview of Tulum in just one day, without the hassle of driving yourself or trying to navigate public transport.

Plus if it’s your first time in Tulum, you’ll have an expertly planned trip to see the highlights and then you can always come back again if you love it. Spoiler alert: I’m sure you will!

We’ve been to both Playa del Carmen and Tulum many times, and we’ve even lived all over Mexico. So naturally, we’ve done lots of tours around here over the years, and we’ve rounded up the top 5 to make sure that you have the best experience in Tulum if you want to visit on a day trip from Playa del Carmen.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Visiting Tulum from Playa del Carmen is a great addition to a trip – especially with a tour that takes care of everything. Our pick is this 3-in-1 Tulum tour that includes the awe-inspiring Tulum Ruins, snorkeling, and a visit to a gorgeous cenote. This exclusive tour has thousands of 5-star reviews and can only be booked online!

BEST Tours to Tulum from Playa del Carmen

1. Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, Cenote and Caves

Bailey in a tunnel at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
This is literally the entrance to the ruins!
Bailey snorkeling on a tour in Tulum, Mexico
With a life jacket, it’s easy!

One thing we love about Tulum is how much variety there is here, and this full-day tour showcases it really well!

You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Playa del Carmen in the morning, and then the first stop is the world-famous Tulum archeological site. These are some of the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico, and they’re definitely a must-see. If this is your first time in Tulum, you can’t miss seeing the ruins.

Then, you’ll head to one of the pristine beaches nearby and climb aboard a boat for a snorkeling tour. Mexico is one of our all-time favorite countries for snorkeling, and you’ll see so many tropical fish, turtles, and rays while snorkeling around Tulum.

Tulum is also famous for its beautiful cenotes, and this tour takes you to Parque Cenote Yax-Muul, which is tucked away inside the Yucatan rainforest. You’ll be able to swim and snorkel in the cenotes, explore a limestone cave, and enjoy a guided walk through the jungle. 

As well as the fantastic itinerary, another thing we love about this tour is that it includes pretty much everything. You get hotel pickup and dropoff in Playa del Carmen, lunch, bottled water, and all of your entry fees, except for the $15 USD marine reserve fee, which has to be paid in cash on the day.

The tour costs $119 USD per person or, if you’d prefer, you can upgrade to a private experience for $333 USD each. This is a special tour as this exact itinerary is a Viator exclusive, meaning it can only be booked online through Viator.

It has thousands of 5-star reviews, so don’t just take my word for it. You can read all the reviews and book your own amazing Tulum getaway here!

Related Read: The amazing Mystika exhibit is also located at the Tulum Ruins and it’s dazzling to explore!

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

Bailey poses for a photo while enjoying the views of the Tulum Ruins and ocean in Tulum, Mexico
The famous viewpoint!
Cenote el sueño in Mexico
Cenote El Sueño in Mexico

This guided tour of Tulum is great if you want a nice, chill itinerary – and some time at a beautiful beach club! It’s also one of the best tours of the Tulum Ruins, but that’s not all you’ll see on this epic combo tour.

You’ll be picked up in Playa del Carmen in the morning and start the day with a visit to the Mayan Ruins. I like the fact that you get an informative guided tour to learn about the significance of this ancient archaeological site, and then some time to explore on your own. 

The Tulum Ruins get incredibly busy and there’s not much shade around. They’re great to explore, but after that, you’ll be very glad to arrive at the Yal-Ku lagoon

This is an awesome place to snorkel because its waters are so calm. The lagoon also has a unique ecosystem and contains both saltwater and freshwater, which means you can see a huge variety of fish here. There aren’t many snorkeling spots where you get to see freshwater and tropical fish at the same time, so we love that this place is featured on the tour itinerary.

As well as the lagoon, you get to visit Cenote El Sueño, which is one of Tulum’s best cenotes. It’s got bright blue water and crazy stalactites and stalagmites, so it makes you feel like you’ve entered a totally different world! 

The day ends with a relaxing lunch on the beach at the Punta Venado Beach Club. This exclusive beach club is in a protected area where you get to enjoy a pristine white-sand beach without a ton of crowds involved. The food here is really delicious and it’s such a nice place to chill out after your tour, perhaps with a cocktail in hand.

The tour costs $169 USD per person, which includes all transport, entrance fees, and lunch at the beach club. So if you’re looking for a nice mix of culture, history, adventure, and relaxation, then book a spot on this popular tour here!

3. Day Trip To Tulum and Coba Ruins

El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Huge temple at the Coba Ruins in Mexico
The Coba Ruins!

If you’re keen to explore the Maya Riveria to see fascinating ancient ruins, then this full-day tour is a great way to see both the Tulum and Coba Ruins, and save some money! 

The Tulum Ruins are a must-visit in my opinion, because not only are they super historic, they’re set against a stunning beach backdrop. You’ll get a 45-minute guided tour of the archeological site, and then you get some time to explore on your own or head down to Mayan Beach and chill out there for a while.

Then, you get to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch consisting of several local dishes, before heading into the ancient city of Coba. We think that the Coba Ruins are some of the best to visit in the whole of Mexico. Since they’re more remote, they’re much less crowded than the Tulum Ruins and they’re more spread out, so exploring them feels like a real adventure.

As you walk around, you’ll see ancient ball courts and the largest pyramid called Ixmoja in the Yucatan peninsula while you learn about what life in Coba was like. One of the highlights has to be climbing Ixmoja which is a pretty rare thing to do nowadays. You used to be able to climb the large pyramids at Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan in the past, but not anymore. That makes the Coba Ruins extra special!

Even though this tour is focused on Mayan ruins, you also get to finish the day with a quick swim at the Kuxtal Cenote. It’s such a nice way to cool off after walking around the ruin sites!

This 11-hour tour costs $79 USD per person which is one of the most affordable full-day tours like this that we’ve seen. If exploring some of the best ruins in the Riviera Maya is on your agenda, then grab a spot here before this tour books up!

Related Read: Whether you’re a history buff or just want to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, taking a trip to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen will take you back in time! These ruins are legendary for a reason.

4. Tulum Ruins Visit and Swim in Two Different Cenotes

Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Bailey swims in a cenote near Cancun, Mexico
The water is crystal clear!

Of course, you have to visit the Tulum Ruins on a day trip from Playa del Carmen, but this combo tour also takes you to two of the area’s best cenotes. It’s a bit like taking a cenote tour in Tulum and a guided look at the ruins, but you don’t have to book both separately!

You start by visiting the ruins where your guide will show you all the highlights over two hours. It’s enough time to get a sense of the incredible history here, but not long enough to get bored. You’ll certainly get sweaty though, so we love the fact that this tour gives you so much time to explore the Chen Há and Mariposa cenotes afterward.

These are two of Tulum’s most beautiful cenotes and they’re adjacent to one another. Chen Há is an underground cave cenote, but there’s a big hole in the roof that the light shines through, while Cenote Mariposa is an open-air pool with swings around the edge. It’s such a fun place to spend the afternoon swimming, exploring, and snapping some Insta-worthy photos, of course! 

We like this itinerary, but the great thing about this tour is the price. It costs $49 USD per person, including transport from a central meeting point in Playa del Carmen, although you’ll need to pay an extra $20 USD for entry fees in person on the day. Still, it remains a pretty cost-effective way to see the Tulum Ruins and explore two stunning cenotes.

For one of the most budget-friendly tours of Tulum from Playa del Carmen, you can secure your spot on this tour right here!

5. Tulum Ruins, Turtles in Akumal and Cenote tour 

Bailey at the Tulum Ruins
You get to walk through the buildings!

We love this combo Tulum tour from Playa del Carmen because it includes a visit to Akumal Beach, where you get to swim with sea turtles! You also get to visit the Tulum archaeological site to tour ancient ruins and learn more about the Mayan civilization. Then, the day ends with a dip in a freshwater cenote, where you can cool off before heading back to Playa del Carmen. 

First off, this tour rates so highly in our books because swimming with turtles on a tour from Playa del Carmen is easily one of the best things to do in Mexico. Akumal Bay and the beach here are gorgeous, the turtles are well-protected, and we saw SO many when we went snorkeling … I counted five!

This is one of our favorite tours to see turtles in Tulum. Plus, you’re not allowed to swim with the turtles here unless you’re part of a guided tour, so it’s well worth joining a highly-rated one if you have the choice.

Of course, having a chance to wander around the Tulum Ruins with your guide is great too. We so enjoyed having someone tell us all about what we were seeing rather than us trying to guess!

The tour also includes a buffet lunch with some light local dishes, and you get bottled water and fresh fruit to snack on along the way. It finishes with two hours to swim at Cenote Yax-Muul which honestly is the way I would want to finish every day in Tulum!

The tour costs $139 USD per person. It’s a large group tour, so if you like this itinerary but would rather have a private experience, you can book that for $338 USD per person instead. The tour has hundreds of 5-star reviews and is known for knowledgeable and funny guides!

You get to see so much breathtaking scenery and wildlife on this tour, as well as explore the iconic Tulum Ruins, so booking a spot on this tour will definitely should you why people love Tulum so much. 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Why book a tour to Tulum from Playa del Carmen? 

Bailey snorkeling in Cenote Dos Ojos near Tulum, Mexico
It’s so convenient!

There are a couple of reasons to book a tour to Tulum from Playa del Carmen rather than staying there. 

As you can see from the above itineraries, you can experience several of Tulum’s highlights in just one day, so there’s no need to pack up all your things and move from town to town! Plus, with a day tour, you don’t need to rent a car or worry about working out how to use public transport. 

It’s also nice to follow an itinerary crafted by a local company rather than trying to work out where to go and how long to spend in each place. With a tour, you can just sit back and enjoy your experience!

Tulum is also getting really expensive and it costs more to stay here than in Playa del Carmen. So by taking a day tour, you can save some money while still experiencing the legendary beauty of Tulum.

How far is Tulum from Playa del Carmen?

road between Cancun and Tulum
Road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum

Tulum is 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Playa del Carmen. It takes roughly an hour to drive there, so a day trip is very doable and doesn’t involve hours and hours of travel time! 

Related Read: If you’re flying into Cancun and need a ride here, check out our full guide on getting from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. My top tip is to avoid taxis!!!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Playa del Carmen

Bailey swims past some corals while scuba Diving in Playa del carmen
Scuba diving here is unreal!
bailey on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The beaches in Playa!

While heading to Tulum for the day is awesome, make sure you leave time to explore the vibrant town of Playa del Carmen. In fact, there are so many fun activities in Playa del Carmen, that it can be a little overwhelming! Here are a few of my favorite things to do here which I think you’ll love:

  • Swim alongside whale sharks – Did you know that whale sharks aren’t actually sharks? In fact, they’re the largest fish in the world, and you can even swim with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen! You will need to head a little way offshore before you can though, which is why I recommend this full-day whale shark tour, which includes all transportation and lunch!
  • Go shopping – Fifth Avenue is a super popular pedestrian street full of shops, boutiques, and markets. If you’re looking for souvenirs or fancy treating yourself to a new holiday get-up, this is the place to be. The Playa del Carmen Flea Market is my top pick for budget gifts and handicrafts, and Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall is your one-stop shop for international brands.

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

Bailey relaxes at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico near Playa del Carmen
Me relaxing at just one of the resorts I have stayed in Playa del Carmen!

There are a TON of great places to stay in Playa del Carmen, so it can be a bit difficult knowing where to even begin! The hotels here cater to all kinds of budgets, age ranges, and more, so to help give you a good overview, I’ve included some of my favorites below:

Che Playa Hostel and Bar – $

Visiting Playa del Carmen doesn’t have to be super expensive! In fact, for those traveling on a budget, I’d highly recommend Che Playa Hostel and Bar, which is an adult-only hostel and one of the best in town!

It’s really well-located right in the heart of Playa del Carmen and even has its own rooftop pool and bar. While it’s nothing crazy, this gives it a really chilled-out social atmosphere and the clean facilities and helpful staff make the whole stay a blast.

Rates here are some of the best you’ll find in town, with a bed in a dorm starting from as low as $37 USD per night. You can check out the rates for yourself over on Hostelworld or Booking.com.

Soho Playa Hotel – $$

Whenever I’m visiting on a moderate budget and don’t fancy staying in a resort, my personal pick is the Soho Playa Hotel, which I’ve visited a couple of times now and is a real gem! It’s just a stone’s throw away from the beach, has its own pool, and all rates include free breakfast.

The rooms here are also super modern and are really clean – a one-night stay here starts at $94 USD per night and can be booked online here.

The Palm at Playa – $$

The Palm at Playa is a lot like the Soho Playa Hotel – it’s in a similar price range, but I’d say it’s a little bit more on the luxury end. It’s also located right near the beach and has its own on-site restaurant, which blends local flavors with a European twist – I recommend the amazing fish tacos!

The rooftop palm garden is the perfect retreat when it’s super hot out, take it from me that this feels like a luxury hotel without the price tag. Rooms here start at $85 USD per night and for the best price, it’s best to book online in advance.

El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel – $$$

If budget isn’t an issue for you, then the luxury world of hotels at Playa del Carmen is at your fingertips! When it comes to enjoying out-of-this-world hospitality and comfort, El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel really can’t be topped. With its very own infinity pool and elegant suites, every corner of this hotel is Instagram-worthy!

El Taj’s ASI restaurant serves delicious gourmet food that dazzles the taste buds, and if you’re feeling ultra-relaxed in your room, you can request the chef to come to your suite and prepare your meals there! While I haven’t personally been here, you can bet that this is on my bucket list.

A one-night stay at El Taj starts at $185 USD, which I think is actually pretty good value considering all the luxuries that come with it! To snag the best rooms, I’d suggest checking your dates and booking your stay online here.

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. Read my honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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!

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

Tulum is one of our favorite places in Mexico for good reason! There are so many incredible things to see and if you only have a limited time, then a tour from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is well worth it. You’ll get a curated experience with highlights of Tulum and everything from start to finish is arranged for you. Then if you fall in love with Tulum (like we have!) you’ll know where you want to come back to.

I hope we’ve inspired you to venture beyond the borders of Playa del Carmen to see Tulum! There’s so much to explore in this beautiful country, so have a look around our other Mexico blogs for ideas on the best activities, restaurants, and tours for your trip!

15 BEST Restaurants in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

12 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Catamaran Cruise in Playa del Carmen

13 BEST Day Trips from Tulum