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Tulum is an exciting tourist destination with awesome beaches, incredible restaurants, and a unique bohemian vibe. But Tulum’s popularity has soared in recent years, making it seem a little crowded at times. We still love visiting the town and try to base ourselves here when we visit the Yucatan Peninsula, but on days when we want a bit of peace and quiet or want to experience somewhere new, we head off on a day trip.
Luckily, Tulum is located close to some other great places to visit like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, as well as some lesser-known gems like Bacalar and Puerto Morelos. All of these make for excellent day trips from Tulum!
So, to give you inspiration for your upcoming vacation to Tulum, I’ve put together this detailed of the best Tulum day trips! There’s a plethora of options in this blog post, from visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza to swimming with whale sharks to scuba diving in a stunning cenote. You’re spoiled for choice when you decide to base yourself in Tulum!
Consider this your ultimate guide to the best day trips from Tulum!
The BEST Day Trips from Tulum
1. Chichen Itza
A 2-hour drive (151 km/ 94 miles) from Tulum is the most famous Mayan ruin site in Mexico – Chichen Itza. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and this fascinating archeological site is one of the best day trips from Tulum, especially if you’re a history buff or love photography because there are some epic photo spots here!
This massive site covers an area of 4 square miles and is, in fact, the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. It is a ruined ancient Mayan city that was built around the year 550. Easily, the most famous building here is El Castillo – the main temple at the site, which is a whopping 24 meters high (plus the temple at the top is an additional 6 meters!)
But the most interesting thing about El Castillo is not its massive size, it’s that it shows the phenomenal astronomical skills of the ancient Mayan people and the accuracy of their celestial measurements. Each of the 4 sides of El Castillo has 91 stairs, equalling 364, and add on the platform at the top, and you get 365 – the number of days in the year. So, it’s essentially the world’s largest man-made calendar!
Chichen Itza is also home to The Great Ball Court – the biggest in Mesoamerica and measures 168 by 70 meters (551 by 230 feet.) The game played here was called Pitz, which is believed to be the first team sport invented and is a mix of soccer and basketball. It’s pretty cool to see where the Mayans gathered to play this team sport!
If you have a rental car, you can drive yourself to Chichen Itza from Tulum; it’s a 2-hour (151 km) drive and it’s a pretty straightforward drive too.
However, I highly recommend joining a guided tour as that way you’ll learn some fascinating historical facts from an experienced guide. For example, this Chichen Itza tour from Tulum includes an English-speaking guide, your entrance ticket, and a guided visit to Ik-Kil Cenote. Afterward, you’ll also enjoy lunch in the stunning city of Valladolid. Pick-up to/from Tulum is also included in the price!
A 2-hour (130 km/81 miles) drive from Tulum is the bustling tourist city of Cancun, which I’m sure you’ve heard of! And Cancun is the ideal spot to head for a fun day trip from Tulum because there are plenty of awesome activities that you can enjoy in Cancun!
Start your day with a half-day sailing tour that includes awesome views, snorkeling, lunch, and unlimited drinks! As you can imagine, there are heaps of sailing tours on offer from Cancun, and it can be hard narrowing it down to just one – but I highly recommend this specific half-day sailing tour because it sails out the breathtaking Isla Mujeres and includes a snorkeling session with turtles.
In the afternoon, hit up Playa Delfines, one of the most popular beaches in Cancun. The beach literally means “dolphin beach” because you can see dolphins frolicking in the water from the shore! Plus, it is huge, so you likely won’t have to set up your towel right next to someone, and there are lots of palapas along the beach so that you can shade yourself from the strong Mexican sun.
Before you venture back to Tulum, try to squeeze in a tour of the Cancun Underwater Museum. In this unique museum, you can see 500 different sculptures that have been submerged in the sea. You’ll also see a variety of marine life too, like varied species of fish, dolphins, and seals.
3. Cozumel Island
Cozumel Island is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula. This tiny island boasts turquoise water, white sand beaches, and abundant coral reefs. In fact, the coral reef system here is the second biggest in the world (the first is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) – and therefore, many people come to Cozumel to dive or snorkel. So, if you love scuba diving – Cozumel Island is one of the best day trips from Tulum you can take!
You can reach the island by driving 64 km (just under an hour) to Playa del Carmen and then hopping on the ferry across to the island. The ferry ride costs about 400 MXN ($20 USD) and can take up to 45 minutes.
The first thing I recommend doing on Cozumel is either a scuba dive or a snorkeling tour, whichever one you prefer! This El Cielo private snorkel tour takes you to two different reef spots before mooring at a secluded beach. The tour also some yummy Mexican ceviche and a tasty margarita for lunch!
While if you’re a diving fan, Cozumel is the place to be! Even if you’ve never tried this sport before, you can learn right here on Cozumel, and thankfully, the clear and calm waters here are perfect for beginners. We highly recommend this Private 3-Hour Introductory Scuba Course! While if you’re an experienced diver, this 4-Hour Two Tank Scuba Tour is a great choice, and it takes you to two different dive sites.
Once you’re back on land, take some time to explore San Miguel de Cozumel. This small but pretty city is full of cute restaurants, stores, and art galleries. Also, it is home to a stunning church Iglesia de San Miguel, which is well worth visiting! If you’re feeling hungry, check out Cerveceria Punta Sur, a cool microbrewery that serves up amazing beer and food.
4. Go Swimming with Whale Sharks!
Tulum is one of only a couple of places in the world where you can go swimming with whale sharks! These incredible creatures are also known as the “gentle giants of the sea,” as they can weigh up to 19,000 kg and measure up to 10 meters in length!
This amazing bucket-list-worthy experience is one of the best day trips you can do from Tulum because not only will you take in incredible underwater scenery and see various marine life, but you will have the chance to get up close to these giant but slow-moving creatures!
The only way you can swim with whale sharks in Tulum is on a guided tour like this one. In fact, it’s one of the best-rated tours in the Yucatan. It includes pick up and drop off at your hotel, all snorkeling equipment, as well as lunch, snacks, and drinks. In addition, your professional guide will help point out several interesting marine animals on the boat journey out to the snorkeling spot!
Related Read: We also once went swimming with Whale sharks in Exmouth, Australia!
5. Dos Ojos Cenote
Dos Ojos Cenote is one of the best cenotes that you can visit from Tulum, making it a great option for a day trip from the town.
It’s one of the largest cenotes in the Yucatan region. Would you believe the total length of the cave system here is a whopping 310 km? The name Dos Ojos literally means “two eyes” because it features two large sinkholes which are connected by a 400-meter-long passageway, thus making the appearance of two eyes when viewed from above!
Because of the abundant natural light this cave system receives, it’s a great spot for snorkeling or diving because the visibility is great. Plus, at a depth of 118 meters, it’s one of the deepest cenotes in Mexico – ideal for diving! And with an average water temperature of 24 – 25 Celsius (approx. 75 Fahrenheit), it’s warmer than most cenotes, making for a comfortable experience!
The Dos Ojos entrance gates are just 20 minutes from Tulum, but once you reach the gates, you need to walk a further 2 km into the cenote itself! Dos Ojos Cenotes cost 350 pesos entrance fee, which is one of the more expensive cenote entrance fees. But we think it’s well worth the higher price tag!
Valladolid is a charming city a 1.5 hour (102 km) drive from Tulum. And there’s so much to do in Valladolid, from swimming in an ancient cenote to exploring Mayan ruins, or you could simply spend the day wandering the colorful streets admiring colonial architecture! Plus, after all that walking around, you can relax on the river beach in town before heading for some delicious tacos at Taqueria Rosario.
One of my favorite things to do in Valladolid is to indulge in some delicious chocolate and learn all about cocoa at Choco-Story. This museum is truly a chocolate-lovers idea of heaven and boasts 12 different rooms, each teaching something new about cocoa or Mayan culture. I recommend spending around 30-45 minutes here! Choco-Story is conveniently located in the heart of Valladolid, and entrance costs 165 pesos ($8 USD) per adult!
A great way to see the best of Valladolid is on this free walking tour. Tours leave daily from the Central Plaza at 10 am, 5 pm, 6 pm, and 7 pm. Just look out for the red umbrellas, and you’ve found your group! Your knowledgeable guide will take you to some of the city’s top sights, including the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino of Siena and the baroque-style San Gervasio Cathedral. Although the tour is free, it’s advisable to tip your guide!
And finally, a truly unique thing to do in Valladolid is this bee tour which takes place in a dry cenote that is buzzing with various types of bees (interestingly, none of these bees sting!) On this tour, you’ll get the chance to see the bees in their natural habitat and also get to see the inside of the hives via viewing boxes! Your guide for this particular tour is a passionate Mayan beekeeper, and you will learn so much from him about honey production and, of course, the bees themselves. And later in the tour, your guide will open a beehive so you can take a look inside!
Valladolid is one of the best day trips from Tulum, but to truly see what this city offers, I recommend spending 2-3 nights here if you can. There are lots of hotels in Valladolid to choose from so maybe extend your day trip and stay a night or two.
7. Playa del Carmen
Just under an hour’s drive (64 km) from Tulum is one of my favorite places to visit in Mexico – Playa del Carmen! Boasting postcard-perfect white sand beaches, a fun atmosphere, and a plethora of things to do, it’s no wonder why Playa del Carmen is one of the best day trips from Tulum.
Plus, good news if you don’t want to drive here from Tulum, there are plenty of shuttle buses and public buses operating this route numerous times a day. You can also catch a taxi here, which should cost around $30 USD.
One of the main reasons tourists come to Playa del Carmen from Tulum is to go shopping! Yep, there are so many large stores, boutique shops, and markets here that you’re sure to find something unique to take home with you. My top recommendation for souvenir shopping is the Playa del Carmen Flea Market – which sells everything from vintage clothes to handcrafted jewelry. While if you want to treat yourself, check out Fifth Avenue, which is lined with designer stores and quirky souvenir shops.
And after all that shopping you’ll definitely want to relax on one of the area’s awesome beaches. I mean, you can’t come to Playa del Carmen and not visit one of the stunning beaches here. Some of my favorites include Parque Fundadores, located in the heart of Playa del Carmen – it’s a spacious beach, so it doesn’t feel too crowded. Another favorite beach of mine is Playa Mamitas, also located in the downtown area. But be warned, it can get very busy!
Some other awesome things to do in Playa del Carmen include the 3D Museum of Wonders and the Frida Kahlo Museum. There are many tours that also leave from Playa Del Carmen to nearby cenotes and the Xcaret water park.
Related Read: Check out the best restaurants in Playa del Carmen!
8. Laguna Kaan Luum
A great alternative to a beach, Laguna Kaan Luum is a freshwater lake that is truly breathtaking. And the fact that it’s located just 10 km from Tulum means you have more time to explore the area instead of having to endure a long drive!
Although referred to as a lake, Laguna Kaan Luum is actually classed as an open cenote because the water within it comes from an underground river!
Plus, it’s surrounded by lush Mayan jungle, so the views are epic, and swimming here, you feel like you’ve discovered a hidden gem. The lake is divided into two sections – the deep center of the lake, which is fenced off, and the shallow exterior, where you can swim. Because of this variation in depth, the color of the lake changes significantly as you get closer to the center. In fact, it’s often described by locals as having “50 shades of blue!”
If you’re after the perfect Instagram photo – get someone to take a snap of you on the swing that’s recently been added on the lake shore. While if you’re after a little thrill, you can jump from the central pier into the lake. Afterward, relax on one of the palapas or seating areas surrounding the lake.
If you prefer, you can join a tour of Laguna Kaan Luum. This specific tour visits the lagoon as well as 3 other cenotes. Or, book this memorable SUP tour on the lagoon. It includes transport, equipment, entrance fees, and lunch.
If you don’t wish to drive to the lake yourself, you can rent a bicycle in Tulum and cycle the 10 km or hop in a taxi, which will cost just 300 MXN per person. Laguna Kaan Luum is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily.
9. Playa Akumal
Playa Akumal (or Akumal Beach) is one of the best places in Mexico to see sea turtles. Directly translated, its name means “place of the turtle,” and you can go swimming with them here. But, you will need to hire a guide from the beach to take you, as you can only enter the marked area (where most of the turtles live) with a guide. But because it’s a very popular activity and only 200 people are allowed to swim with the turtles each day, you will definitely need to get here early to get a guide to take you.
You can try to find the turtles yourself, but it may be difficult. You can easily rent snorkeling gear in Akumal, so if you want to DIY it, our recommendation is to swim East from the marked area, and you may be lucky! Just be sure not to get too close to them, and definitely don’t touch them!
While swimming or snorkeling here, you’ll also likely spot other marine life like stingrays, barracudas, and manta rays. Overall, it’s a great way to spend a day away from Tulum! And there are a few restaurants and bars along the beach where you can grab some delicious food and drinks!
You can drive to Akumal Beach yourself or take a taxi or collectivo (shared minivan) here. Another good option is to join a tour group with a guide which includes your transport, equipment, and a guide who knows where to find the turtles.
If you’re looking for a peaceful place to spend the day away from the hustle and bustle of Tulum – look no further than Bacalar. This off-the-beaten-path town is home to the breathtakingly beautiful Laguna de Los Siete Colores (aka the Lagoon of 7 Colors), which is, exactly as the name suggests, a large lake made up of various shades of blue!
The lagoon is home to a variety of wildlife and plant life, and one of the best ways to explore the lagoon is by kayak. You can rent a kayak for just $22 USD, but because it’s such a popular activity here, you should book it in advance to secure your rental. Because it’s self-guided, you can explore the lake as you please, even jumping off the kayak to swim in the crystal clear water!
Another must-do activity in Bacalar is to visit the Cenote Cocalitos because it is home to one of the most ancient organisms in the world – stromatolites! These are round stone-like organisms that grow from bacteria, and would you believe that each stromatolite takes hundreds of years to grow? These organisms can only be seen in a few places worldwide, so seeing them here in Bacalar is definitely a unique experience!
After exploring the lake and the cenote, why not take a stroll around the small Pueblo here, which is rich in culture and is home to some stunning buildings and great restaurants? It’s a low-key town and is a great way to see the workings of an authentic Mexican town!
Tulum is the closest town in Mexico to Bacalar, but at 133 miles (a 2.5-hour drive), it’s a long drive, so I advise leaving early so that you have enough time to explore the area. And despite the long travel time, it’s well worth a visit in my opinion! If you don’t fancy driving, you can catch a public bus here for just $15 USD but beware; it will take longer. Alternatively, you may hire a taxi for about $170 USD.
Another great alternative is to book a guided tour from Tulum! It’s a full-day tour, so allow 10 hours! The tour will take you around on a boat to explore the area, including cenotes, and a stop for lunch at the Colonial City.
11. Xplor Adventure Park
Adrenalin junkies will love this next-day trip option from Tulum – Xplor Adventure Park, where you can enjoy a bunch of heart-racing activities like ziplining, swimming in cenotes, and driving an amphibious vehicle! Owned by the well-known Xcaret brand, it is located just 40 minutes from Tulum!
Entrance into the park starts from around $125 USD per person, but that includes access to the above activities as well as lunch. You can easily drive here yourself, or transportation can be provided through organized tours.
A visit here will be one to remember – just imagine yourself flying through the treetops on 14 different ziplines, which all together cover a whopping 2.4 miles! Or can you see yourself swimming through caves with giant stalactites? At the same time, true thrill-seekers will be awed by the four-wheel buggy experience, which zooms through the jingle as well as whizzing through flooded caves.
And if time allows, try to do the Xplor Fuego experience, which takes place after dark! At this time, the whole park is lit up in fire-driven Tiki burners – it’s a mesmerizing experience!
Xplor Adventure Park is open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday!
12. Isla Mujeres
Although a lot of travel is required to get to Isla Mujeres (2 hours and 50 minutes each way), I’ve included it on this list because this tiny island is so stunning, and there’s lots to do here! In fact, it’s one of my favorite islands in all of Mexico!
Although Isla Mujeres (aka Island of Women) is teeny-tiny at just 4.3 miles (7 km) long, it sure packs a punch in terms of awesome activities and breathtaking scenery. The town here is filled with brightly colored buildings which house restaurants and stores, and it’s well worth spending an hour or so wandering the streets here!
The easiest and most popular way to get to Isla Mujeres from Tulum is by driving to Cancun and getting the ferry from there. I recommend taking the Ultramar ferry from Puerto Juarez because this high-speed ferry gets you to the island in just 30 minutes. The ferry departs every hour between 11 am and 9 pm and costs about 460 pesos ($23 USD) round-trip.
One of the prettiest beaches in the country, Playa Norte, is located on the northern tip of the island and so I think this should be your first stop when you arrive! It’s the perfect spot to spend a few hours swimming and sunbathing. Or, if time allows, book a snorkeling or scuba diving tour of the nearby reefs.
For example, this Isla Mujeres Snorkeling Tour is 4 hours long and stops at three amazing snorkeling locations where you’ll get the chance to see the largest coral reef in the region – the Manchones and an underwater museum where you can get up close to over 500 sculptures located on the ocean floor!
Another great thing to do on Isla Mujeres is explore the ruins of Ixchel Temple, which is located at Punta Sur. This impressive temple was built to honor the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility, and happiness. And a fun fact, it once served as a lighthouse due to its prime location!
13. Puerto Morelos
And last but not least, one of my favorite small towns in Mexico – Puerto Morelos. This fishing village has a bohemian vibe and is located 97 km (1 hour and 20 minutes) from Tulum, but it couldn’t seem further away from the bustling tourist resorts the Yucatan Peninsula is famous for.
So, if you’re looking for a quiet day trip from Tulum, I recommend Puerto Morelos. What I love most about here is that the locals speak very little English and there aren’t many tourist facilities, yet the beaches here are some of the prettiest I’ve laid eyes on! I personally love Playa Puerto Morelos and Playa Caracol.
Plus, you’ll get the chance to see and taste true Mexico – there are plenty of cheap local restaurants in the town, and most serve up traditional Yucatan cuisine. I recommend trying the Cochinita or Lechon Sandwich (steamed pork sandwich) – both are as delicious as the other.
Even though it’s a small town, there are lots of things to do in Puerto Morelos. Most are water-based, and you’ll find most of these tours start from the main port; for example, a catamaran tour or a kayaking experience are two of the most popular things to do in Puerto Morelos!
Another incredible thing to do in Puerto Morelos is a reef snorkeling tour – this tour is operated by local fishermen who will take you out to a lesser-known reef called the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, where you can go snorkeling! This is, in fact, one of the largest coral reefs in the world at an impressive 966 km (600 miles) long! The tour is very reasonable at just $45 – $70 USD per person and is limited to 10 people – giving you a more personalized experience!
If you decide to drive to Puerto Morelos instead of catching the bus or a taxi, then, if time allows, drive to the Ruta del Cenote – a famous stretch of road that is home to some beautiful cenotes like Cenote Las Mojarras, Cenote Siete Bocas, Cenote Verde Lucero, and Chilam Balam. This route starts just a few minutes from Puerto Morelos.
Related Read: Also read about all of the fun day trips from Playa del Carmen!
Where to Stay in Tulum
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!)
Hostels in Tulum
Hostel Che Tulum – This hostel prides itself in having a social vibe. They have a beautiful pool and a central location. For only $15 USD a night you can get a dorm bed in an air-conditioned room with breakfast included.
Weary Traveler Hostel – These guys offer FREE cocktails every day for happy hour – what more could you ask for from a hostel really?! But besides that, they also have a good location and offer comfortable dorm beds for $13 USD per night including breakfast. You can also get budget private rooms here.
Hostel Bambu Gran Palas – This hostel offers a unique experience, it is built around a cenote! While it may not be the most luxurious hostel, the novelty of it is worth it. The location is also great for those who want to spend time at the beach (which is literally right across the road!)
Budget-friendly Hotels in Tulum
Sol-Ha Tulum Boutique Hotel – If hostels aren’t your thing, this small hotel offers beautiful private rooms and incredible service. For less than $30 USD you can get a king suite with air conditioning, a king bed, and an ensuite right in the heart of Tulum!
May Paya – This hotel is the perfect combination of budget and luxury. For only $27 USD a night for a double room, you will get access to the pool as well as the modern amenities in the hotel. The grounds are gorgeous and they even have an outdoor bar onsite!
Joy Tulum Adults Hotel – For those looking for some peace and quiet in Tulum this is the place. No kids allowed and a location slightly out of town makes for a quiet getaway. The outdoor pool is located among the trees. $30 USD will get you a double bungalow with a fan and included breakfast.
Luxury Hotels in Tulum
Hotel Blanco Tulum – This hotel is luxurious without the ridiculous price tag. For less than 2,000 MXN a night you can get a deluxe double room with air conditioning and a balcony. The hotel is centrally located and offers an outdoor pool as well as a hot tub!
Hotel Boutique TerraNova – This hotel is one of the top-rated in all of Tulum. They haven’t cut any corners when it comes to comfort and the staff are wonderful. All rooms have air conditioning and a garden patio. There is an outdoor pool and the hotel is located right in town.
Casa KanKin – If you are traveling in a group or with a family then this hotel is perfect. It offers self-contained apartments with kitchens that sleep up to 5 people! It is smack in the middle of town and has an outdoor pool. Rooms are air-conditioned and spacious.
Renting a Car in Mexico
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 Mexico in 2019, 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 renal will be much cheaper!
Thanks for reading!
As I said, Tulum is quickly gaining momentum as one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico; with so many stunning beaches here and so much to do, it’s easy to understand why. And when you add into the mix – its close proximity to some other awesome destinations, I think Tulum makes for an excellent holiday destination.
I hope this guide to the best day trips from Tulum inspires you to visit this bohemian coastal town!
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this huge blog on the best day trips from Cancun. If you did, then keep planning and check out more of our great guides to other destinations in Mexico, such as: