Skip to Content

20 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Tulum Ruins

20 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Tulum Ruins

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Tulum is one of those dreamy travel destinations in Mexico with its mix of stunning beaches, gorgeous cenotes, and a history that dates back hundreds of years.

The walled city of Tulum was actually one of the last to be built by the Mayans! Now, it’s transformed into one of Mexico’s top places to visit for travel enthusiasts, beach bums, and history buffs.

The incredible Tulum Ruins sit right on the Caribbean Sea just outside the city of Tulum. These are some of the best Mayan Ruins in Mexico and are truly incredible to explore! When it comes to stepping back in time, we found these ruins are super easy to get to and make for a fun day trip from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum

There is so much to learn about Mayan history and culture, take a break from the beach and add visiting the Tulum Ruins to your Tulum itinerary. We’ve created a list of 20 things you need to know before visiting the Tulum Ruins to make your trip as effortless and enjoyable as possible! 

Don’t have time to read the full article? If you’re a history buff or love learning about ancient civilizations, you HAVE to visit the Tulum Ruins. Learn all about this Mayan landmark by taking this half-day tour and be transported to the past with insights from your knowledgable guide.

1. About the Tulum Ruins 

El Castillo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Bailey walks the grounds of the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

While a great deal of mystery surrounds the Tulum Ruins, there are a few things we know for sure. This is the only city built by the Mayan people right on the beaches of the Caribbean. Construction started as early as the 6th Century and this was a thriving Mayan city in the 13th-15th Centuries.

Sitting right on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, this was likely an important trading seaport specializing in turquoise and jade. Knowing that this fortress would be the first city seafarers would spot, they made it intentionally large. The wall surrounding the city stretches 5 meters (16 feet) high, 8 meters (26 feet) thick, and 400 meters (1,300 feet) long. Inside these walls, you’ll see El Castillo, the Castle, which is 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall and stretches over the large wall. 

The word “Tulum” means wall in Maya, but the original name for the city was Zama, meaning “dawn” which makes a lot of sense since the city is on a cliff facing east towards the sunrise. While we visited early in the day, we didn’t make it for dawn, but watching the sunrise over the ruins sounds like a pretty amazing vacation highlight to me!

The city was abandoned by the end of the 16th Century due to the Spanish invasion and the diseases brought into the area that decimated the Mayan population. The ancient city was rediscovered in the mid-1800s by explorers John Stephens and Fredrick Catherwood who wrote about the city and drew illustrations of the ruins that captivated the world.

We were totally in awe wandering around here ourselves. Seeing the Tulum Ruins up close is impressive, to say the least, and even more mind-boggling to realize how old these ancient ruins are!

2. Where are the Tulum Ruins? 

A temple at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

The Tulum Ruins are located on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is right on the tip of south-eastern Mexico in the state of Quintana Roo. 

The ruins are just 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) from the city center of Tulum and we found the drive was under 10 minutes. This makes it easy to visit the ruins if you’re staying in Tulum, as there are plenty of lodging options and things to see around the area.

You can also take a day trip from Cancun! The drive from Cancun to Tulum is 127 kilometers (79 miles) of coastal highway that’s quite stunning. There are a lot of tours out of Cancun to visit the Tulum Ruins, so it can make for a seamless and exciting day out. Or you can come out here as soon as you arrive with a shuttle from the Cancun Airport to Tulum!

If you’re visiting Playa del Carmen, you can take a 61-kilometer (38-mile) drive south to see the Tulum Ruins. This also follows the beautiful coastal highway, so you’ll have pretty views the whole drive!

Related Read: Planning to drive to the Tulum Ruins? Make sure to read our guide to renting a car in Mexico for some helpful tips and ways to avoid getting scammed.

3. What are the two entrances to the Tulum Ruins? 

A map of the Tulum ruins as well as entrance and parking
The main entrance is where the 7-11 is.

There are two entrances to the ruins. Both contain large parking lots, but this first entry is the official entrance. The entrance has the largest parking lot and facilities and is where you can pay the entrance fees. You’ll have about a short 1-kilometer (0.6 mile) walk from the main entrance to the ruins. 

The second entrance is closed for construction, so using the first entrance is your only option. However, when this entrance is usually open, you’ll still have to walk about 1 kilometer to reach the ruins. 

Note: You can ride a bike or take a shuttle from the entrance to the ruins. The shuttles cost $20 MXN or $1 USD. 

4. How much is the entrance fee to 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
Prices

It costs $90 MXN (about $5 USD) and must be paid in cash (with the local currency) at the entrance. Like many places we’ve visited in Mexico, there’s no change! So it’s handy to have small bills and exact change so you don’t overpay.

I’d also recommend bringing some pesos to pay for parking, pick up a souvenir, or if you have a large camera. If you have some sort of professional camera, they will charge a photography fee of $45 MXN ($2.50 USD).

Related Read: While in the area, consider going scuba diving in Tulum! There are dives for beginners and advanced divers.

5. When are the Tulum Ruins open? 

Bailey poses for a photo with the Tulum sign at the entrance to the Tulum Ruins
The Tulum sign at the entrance to the Tulum Ruins

The Tulum Ruins are open from 8 am to 5 pm every day of the week. This has become a very popular tourist destination so it’s best to get there as early as possible before it gets too crowded!

The last entrance to the park is 4 pm to ensure you have enough time to explore before the park closes. This means you need to enter by 4, not simply be in the parking lot. Although you’ll definitely need more than just one hour to explore, so I’d advise trying to get there earlier so you don’t have to cut your visit short! 

6. When is the best time to visit the Tulum Ruins? 

Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Bailey looks out at the ocean at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

Even if you’re not a morning person, hear me out – mornings are the best time to come! The ruins open at 8 am, so if you can be there for opening or shortly after.

Getting here early means you can maximize your time at this historic site. Second, it can get very hot in this part of Mexico, so visiting early can help you beat the heat.

Probably the biggest advantage for early birds is that it’s much less busy here first thing! The early morning hours are like this magical quiet time with hardly any other people around. Most big tour buses arrive around 10 am, so even if you can get here by 9 am, you should be able to avoid the crowds for a bit!

If you’re thinking about a weekend visit, just note that Mexican citizens can enter for free on Sundays so it can get even more crowded. If your schedule is flexible, I’d definitely recommend visiting on a weekday.

Visiting Tulum from December to April is the best weather-wise. You’ll have those perfectly warm, sunny days and cool nights. This is also when it might be most crowded though! If you can visit during the summer, you might catch the rainy season but there will also be fewer travelers. 

7. How do you get to the Tulum Ruins? 

Bailey at the Tulum Ruins
Bailey ducks her head to walk through a tunel at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

Drive 

Driving is a convenient option, especially because the ruins are only 5 minutes away from Tulum! This is how we visited. We rented a vehicle through Discover Cars and loved the flexibility of arriving and leaving whenever we wanted. You will have to pay for parking, but we have the details on that below. 

Colectivo 

The colectivo is another convenient option if you don’t want to drive yourself. The Tulum/Playa del Carmen colectivos are small buses that act like a taxi. They will drop you off on the main road by the entrance and you’ll walk the rest of the way. From Tulum, it costs $20 MXN (about $1 USD) and you can simply catch a ride back on the main highway. 

Ride a bike

Renting a bike is one of the best ways to get from Tulum to the ruins. You can rent your bike from one of many bike rental spots downtown and take about a 20-minute ride to the ruins. The path is a straight shot from downtown Tulum, and the bike path will take you along Coba Avenue the whole way. It’s about $8 USD to rent a bike for the entire day! 

Tour

Tours are always one of our favorite ways to visit an area. Tours from Tulum take care of pretty much everything, which makes your day relaxed and easy. Many of the tours we will mention below include parking, the guide, and fees so you can simply show up and be ready to explore this historic place. 

There are lots of tours to book in advance (which we cover later!) but you can also book a tour guide at the entrance gate and negotiate the price. A fair price for a tour is around $700 MXN per person – equal to about $40 USD.

8. Is there parking at the Tulum Ruins?

Daniel with his rental car at the Tulum Ruins main entrance parking lot in Tulum, Mexico
Parking!
Daniel pays for his parking at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
You pay for parking before you leave!

Yes, there is a large parking lot at the main entrance! Parking costs $150 MXN ($9 USD) for the entire day, which includes only one entry and exit. You will take a ticket upon arrival and must pay at the booth in cash before leaving. 

There are security guards and parking attendants all around, so it’s a safe parking option. The parking lot does fill up, so be sure to arrive early or you might have to wait or find parking elsewhere. 

9. Do you park or get dropped right at the Tulum Ruins?

A bus takes people to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins in Mexico
A bus takes people to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

You do not park right next to the Tulum Ruins, which makes sense … I mean it’s not like the Mayans built parking lots!

The parking lots and drop-off points are about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the ticket booth. After you purchase your tickets, you’ll have about a 15-minute walk from the entry gate to the ruins site. 

There is an option of a shuttle that can take you from the entry gate to the ruins for $20 MXN ($1 USD) each way. If you arrive in the morning, the walk is rather shaded in the trees. However, it’s right in the sunshine by lunchtime.

Overall, be prepared to be walking in the sun all day when you’re visiting the ruins, the walk to and from the parking lot is no exception.

10. Is it best to take a tour to the Tulum Ruins?

Daniel poses for a photo at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Bailey walks along a dirt path at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

If the thought of navigating a busy parking lot, finding the entrance, and negotiating a guided tour price stresses you out, booking one of the amazing tours of the Tulum Ruins ahead of time might be the best option for you!

We will go into detail on a few of our favorite tours in the next section, but generally, tours will take care of all the details and sometimes even have some neat extras like visiting cenotes and snorkeling or lunch on the beach!

We took this specific private tour of the ruins and I’m glad we did! Wandering around these historical places on your own is great, but I love hearing some of the history (and mystery!) of places like this. It makes it so much more memorable and our guide, Eli, was full of incredible stories.

If you’re looking for an all-day outing that includes time at the Tulum Ruins, this full-day tour is our pick. Not only do you get a guided tour of the ruins (and some free time to wander around after), you’ll also snorkel in Yal-Ku Lagoon, take a dip in a fresh-water cenote, and enjoy a yummy lunch at an exclusive beach club.

If you don’t need transportation or are a super last-minute kind of person, you still have a couple options. You can opt for a self-guided audio tour for $10 USD which includes an app with live GPS tracking to tell you about exactly where you are while exploring and it works offline too. Another option is to hire one of the tour guides hanging around out front for about $700 MXN (about $40 USD) per person. It’s typically cheaper for larger groups and you can negotiate the rate on the spot.

11. What are the best tours of the Tulum Ruins? 

Famous building overlooking the ocean at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

In our opinion, taking a tour around the ruins is the best way to see them – especially if it’s your first time here! The guides give an in-depth history of each structure, you can ask questions, and they will give interesting facts and little stories that you’d never know by wandering around yourself, making it a more memorable experience.

We’ll break down some of the best tours of the Tulum Ruins below!

Tulum Ruins Private Tour from Tulum, Akumal, or Playa del Carmen

This private half-day tour is a great way to see the ruins and we were honestly so impressed how much our guide, Eli, knew! He was able to share info about Mayan history and culture, and the intricate details of these stunning structures. It really made the history of this place come alive for us.

A huge advantage of this tour is that it’s just your small group and the guide. There’s no rushing from spot to spot, you can linger and ask questions and just appreciate how impressive of a place this is! The guided portion of the tour was two hours long, which felt like a nice amount of time to explore.

The tour includes transportation from your hotel in Tulum or Akumal, and can also pick you up from Playa del Carmen for an extra fee. For $124 USD per person, it covers all the details with the transportation, entrance fee, your guide, and refreshments included. It’s no surprise this is a popular tour, so make sure you book it online before it sells out!

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

This full-day tour gives you the chance to explore the Tulum Ruins, swim in collapsed underwater caves called cenotes, and snorkel in a beautiful lagoon. It is a jam-packed day of adventure!

Your day starts with a morning pickup from your Playa del Carmen hotel where you’ll head right to the Tulum Ruins. Your guide will take you all around the ruins, explaining the impressive structures and history. You’ll then have some downtime to explore the ruins on your own. Be sure to check out the secret beach that sits behind El Castillo at the base of the ruins! 

After a few hours of exploring in the hot sun, your small group will leave the ruins and take a drive to the Yal Ku Lagoon for snorkeling. It has a mix of freshwater from the nearby estuary and saltwater from the sea, making for a marine life haven. This is some of the most unique snorkeling I’ve ever experienced!

After that, it’s off to a cenote! Cenotes are essentially collapsed caves that are now natural swimming holes. They are a beautiful turquoise color and quite refreshing – especially after all that walking around the ruins! Swimming in cenotes is a must-do Yucatan activity, so it’s great that it’s included in this tour!

You’ll finish off the tour with a beachside lunch at the exclusive Punta Venado Beach Club. There’s something about eating on the beach that I just love. Nothing says vacation like an ocean view, am I right?!

This full-day tour includes hotel pickup/dropoff, entrance fees, transportation, snorkeling equipment, guides, and lunch! You can reserve your spot online for $169 USD for adults and $133 USD for children. Note that children under 8 are not allowed on this tour. If you book online with Viator, you can also book now and pay later and cancel up to 24 hours in advance if your plans change.

Temple Of The Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins
Temple of the Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, Cenote, and Caves

This Tulum Ruins tour also offers a combination of history and outdoor adventure as it takes you to the Tulum Ruins, snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, swimming in a cenote, and exploring the nearby jungle and caves. This is actually an exclusive tour that’s only available through Viator!

This tour offers pickup from your hotel in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. You’ll then spend time exploring the Tulum Ruins with your guide leading the way. They will give you some free time to explore the ruins on your own before heading out on your next leg of the adventure. 

You’ll then board a boat that will take you from Mayan Beach to a coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. You’ll have time to swim in the gorgeous blue water around the brightly colored fish in one of the most vibrant coral reefs in Mexico! You might even get lucky and get to swim with sea turtles and stingrays, making this amazing experience even more memorable!

From there, you’ll head to Xtun Caverns Ecological Park for cenote swimming, cave exploring, and jungle adventuring. You’ll spend about three hours here, giving plenty of time to swim and snorkel in the cenotes, then explore the cave system while learning about the history and significance of the area. This is also where you’ll have lunch provided!

I love that this tour gives you some of the best experiences in the area and it’s all arranged for you! It’s definitely one of the best Tulum tours from Cancun. Included are transportation to and from your hotel, all entrance fees, snorkeling gear, lunch, and your amazing tour guides! The price varies depending on your pickup location but is an average of $119 USD for adults and $99 USD for children. This tour can only be booked through Viator, so book your spot online before it fills up!

Tulum Ruins Guided Tour from Cancun and Riviera Maya

If you’re looking for a way to explore the Tulum Ruins for just the morning, this half-day tour does the trick. You can expect a relaxed morning exploring the archeological site and not have to worry about the details such as transportation!

This tour picks you up from your hotel in Cancun or Playa del Carmen and takes you to the Tulum Ruins. Your entrance fee is included in the tour, so you can begin exploring right away!

Your guide will lead the group through the ancient site explaining the significance and purpose of certain structures, such as El Castillo and the giant wall that surrounds the city. You’ll spend about two hours wandering through this amazing place, learning about Mayan culture and history. 

Finally, the tour will return you to your hotel by the afternoon, so you have the rest of the day free. This tour is great for all ages, as it isn’t quite as physically demanding or as long as other tours!

This four-hour tour includes transportation, entrance fees, and guides. You can reserve your spot online for $99 USD.

Two people walk the Tulum Ruins site

Tulum and Cenotes Tour

This full-day tour takes you to see some of the best attractions of Yucatan: Tulum Ruins, Cenote Chen-Ha, and Mariposa Cenote. It’s definitely the most budget-friendly inclusive tour out there at only $39 USD!

This tour has meetup points centrally located in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. For an additional fee of $10 USD, you can also request hotel pick-up in each of these cities. 

Once you’re on the tour, you’ll head to the Tulum Ruins! Admission is included in the tour price and your guide will spend the next two hours taking you all around the site. You’ll have some downtime to explore the ruins and beach on your own. 

You’ll then head to the cenotes which are just a few kilometers from Tulum. The Chen-Ha and Mariposa cenotes offer crystal-clear water to swim and snorkel in. These cenotes are also ancient sacred sites for the Mayan civilization. So while you’re enjoying the natural beauty, you’ll also have the chance to learn about its unique history.

This tour can get rather large – up to 50 travelers! But, that is often the case for a less expensive tour. Included in this tour are transportation and guides, but you will need to pay some taxes and fees to enter the ruins and cenote (about $20 USD cash). You can reserve your spot online here

Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration and Map

We love tours because of how much we learn, but sometimes it’s nice to simply travel at your own pace. This self-guided audio tour is the perfect blend of both, as you are guided by an app while you explore the Tulum Ruins on your own! 

You simply download the app which provides photos, text, audio narration, and a map with a suggested route of the ruins. The app uses live GPS tracking, so it picks up when you’re at a specific location and will start telling you all the information about the spot. It’s like you have your own personal tour guide in your ear! 

We love that this app is a flexible tour option, you can use it on any day and at any time! It lets you explore the ruins at your own pace, so you can really tailor the experience to how you want. The app even works offline, so if you don’t have an international data plan, it’s not an issue. 

Some drawbacks of selecting this tour are that you can’t ask specific questions to your tour guides like you can with a real person, and you still have to deal with parking/transportation and entry fees. But, if you like more of an independent tour option, this one is great. 

You can purchase the self-guided tour here for $10 USD per person and use it every time you visit the Tulum Ruins!

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.

12. What is there to see at Tulum Archeological Site?

El Castillo

A temple at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico
El Castillo!

El Castillo is the tallest and most iconic structure in the Tulum Ruins. It stretches 7.5 meters (25 feet) in height and truly shows the craftsmanship of the Mayan civilization.

While “El Castillo” means castle, it was presumed that El Castillo was actually a lighthouse! Its small windows at the top and placement at the edge of the bluff make this location ideal for seafarers coming in from a distance. The small cove that sits at the base of El Castillo is where trading canoes would make their way to shore.

Temple of the Frescoes

Bailey with the Temple Of The Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Bailey with the Temple of the Frescoes at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

This building is impressive not for its size, but for the intricate detail that is visible, even to this day! The Temple of the Frescoes gets its name from the frescoes (colorful murals) that are on the first floor of the temple. The murals contain black, green, yellow, and red paintings of deities, intertwined snakes, and offerings to the gods.

While visitors aren’t allowed inside the temple to see the murals, we were able to see lots of details carved into the outside walls. It’s fascinating to see how storytelling played such an important role in the Mayan civilization, and it’s unbelievable you can still witness it today!

House of the Halach Uinic

Bailey with the House Of The Halach Uinic at the Tulum Ruins
Bailey with the House of the Halach Uinic at the Tulum Ruins

“Halach Uinic” is the title given to the ruler of each Mayan city. It means supreme ruler, leader, chief, or overlord and they ruled on behalf of one of their gods. This structure is where Tulum’s Mayan leader lived.

The House of the Halach Uinic in Tulum is well-preserved, giving us a look at the hierarchy and power structure of the civilization. The large pillars that remain show that this structure was once quite grand for the ruler to reside in.

House of the Columns

House Of The Columns at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
House of the Columns at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The House of the Columns is also referred to as El Palacio, which means the palace. This large, four-room structure was likely the place of residence for important Mayan rulers. Its architecture is more complex than some of the other ruins at the site with columns supporting the roof of the main room. 

13. Is there anything else to do at the Tulum Ruins? 

Bailey watches a display at the Mystika Immersive, Tulum
Mystika Immersive is so cool!
Bailey in a display at the Mystika Immersive at the Tulum Ruins

Mystika Immersive 

For a totally unique experience (and an amazing place for Instagram photos!), you won’t want to miss visiting Mystika Immersive! This is like a mini-museum of art, visual effects, and photography.

There are seven rooms set up to display different aspects of Mayan history. With the use of lights, projectors, visual arts, and photos, each room becomes a 360-degree moving art display. 

We absolutely loved this experience! It was unlike any tour we’ve done before and gave such a unique perspective of Tulum and Mayan culture. 

It was also very easy to access this tour. Simply book your tickets online for about $27 USD and show your booking to get your ticket upon arrival! It is located right near the entrance to the ruins, so it is easy to find. I highly recommend adding this on to your visit to the Tulum Ruins!

Beach snorkeling 

There are amazing beaches all along Tulum National Park. One of the best activities to do around the ruins is to go snorkeling! You can book boat tours just off of Playa Santa Fe. These tours will take you out on the water to jump into the clear blue water to go snorkeling. You can even see the ruins from the boat! Tours cost around $25 USD per person, but they will likely try to charge more. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price down a little! 

Shopping

Like any good tourist attraction, there are lots of shopping options around the Tulum Ruins. At the main entrance, you’ll see lots of booths set up with locally-made artisanal goods such as clothing and pottery. There are also plenty of souvenir shops to get your matching “Tulum” t-shirt and hat! It’s always fun to poke around these shops and find something to take home and remember your day at the Tulum Ruins. 

Related Read: If you want another fun activity to try, swimming with whale sharks in Tulum is unforgettable. These gentle giants of the sea are totally safe (they only eat plankton and small fish) and are amazing up close.

14. Are the Tulum Ruins wheelchair accessible? 

A wheelchair ramp at Tulum Ruins, Mexico
A wheelchair ramp at Tulum Ruins, Mexico
A wheelchair at the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

Yes, most of the Tulum Ruins are wheelchair accessible! However, it’s not the most ideal condition for wheelchairs. While these ruins were not built with wheelchairs in mind, they’ve done an okay job of creating pathways suitable for wheelchairs. 

You’ll find that many of the ramps are very steep and at times difficult to get to. Some parts of the pathways are flat, but others are cobblestone, dirt, and full of potholes. If it’s recently rained, there are often large puddles. You’d definitely want someone to help push up the steep ramps and traverse the cobblestone paths.

15. Where to eat at the Tulum Ruins?

Bailey with coffee and breakfast at Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas
Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas
Bailey with breakfast at Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas

There are no restaurants directly inside the ruins. But just on the outside of the main entrance, there are a lot of good options, including Starbucks! Our favorite restaurant here is Don Cafeto Tulum Ruinas. They serve a fantastic breakfast that includes coffee, juice, toast, and a huge meal – just check out the spread we got in the photos above! They are so friendly and have great service, and are very well-priced.

You are very close to downtown where there are more restaurants in Tulum than you’ll know what to do with! You’ll certainly be able to find something to refuel after a full day of exploring the ruins. 

16. Tulum Ruins vs Chichen Itza 

Bailey at Chichen Itza, Mexico
Bailey at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza is the site of the most famous Mayan ruins in the country. It’s hard to beat! It is a UNESCO world heritage site and was listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. There are more ruins to see, they are larger and more impressive and restored to a better condition. 

While both are truly remarkable sites, overall, we would say that Chichen Itza has the edge over the Tulum Ruins. It just has a bit more to offer. Luckily, there are also some great Chichen Itza tours that also depart from Tulum!

However, the Tulum Ruins are still incredible – especially seeing them in person. The history of this area is mind-blowing! Its location is actually better than Chichen Itza because it’s right on the beach, and the area surrounding the ruins is simply beautiful. 

If you have time in your schedule, I recommend visiting both locations! They each have something unique to offer and are impressive in their own way. There are also some really good Chichen Itza tours from Cancun and from Playa del Carmen if you happen to be staying in one of those locations.

Related Read: For a totally different ruins experience, you can visit Chichen Itza at night! The Chichen Itza Night Show is a really cool way to see the ruins that not everyone knows about!

17. Can you swim at Playa Ruinas? 

Tulum Ruins beach
It was closed for the turtles during our last visit.

Yes, you can swim at Playa Ruinas! It’s actually one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. This is a great activity after exploring the ruins in the hot sun all day. It’s fascinating to think about how long people have been swimming at that beach, right next to the ruins!

Keep in mind that the beach can close without notice if there have been turtles in the area. This is what happened on our last visit! However, if this is the case you can always swim nearby at Playa Pescadores or Playa Santa Fe. Be sure to pack your swimsuit, because you’ll definitely want to take a dip in this beautiful water!

18. How long do you need to visit the Tulum Ruins? 

Temple at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico
Temple at the Tulum Ruins in Mexico

You should plan for at least 3 hours for your day of visiting the ruins. This accounts for the time it takes to go from your hotel in Tulum and back, which leaves about 1.5 hours at the ruins. This should be plenty of time to see the sights and the ocean! 

You can make your day trip longer by checking out local restaurants or hanging out on the beach for an afternoon, or by booking one of the tours we mentioned earlier!

19. Tips for Visiting the Tulum Ruins 

Bailey at the Tulum Ruins
Bailey smiles at the camera while walking through the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

Bring a hat and sunscreen – It can get very hot at the Tulum Ruins and there isn’t much shade. I definitely recommend bringing a hat and sunscreen, the sun is a bit more intense in this part of Mexico as well!

They charge to bring in large cameras – If you’re bringing in any sort of professional-looking camera or GoPro, you will be charged a $45 MXN ($2.50 USD) “photography fee”. 

An umbrella for the sun is a good idea – You’ll want to spend a few hours exploring the ruins, so bring a sun umbrella so you can stay cool and shaded the whole time. Nothing is worse than having to cut your day short because of the heat!

You will need cash and small bills – They often run out of change at the entrance booth, and many vendors only take small bills. Be sure to bring plenty of cash (pesos are preferred, but USD is often accepted) and break your bills before you arrive! 

Only buy tickets from the official entrance booth – There might be people selling entry tickets before you reach the official entrance booth, but don’t purchase these as they aren’t real tickets. Only tickets purchased from the official entrance booth will permit you to enter the Tulum Ruins. 

Good footwear is needed – You’ll be walking A LOT while exploring the ruins. It is highly recommended you wear good, comfy shoes so you can last the whole day!

20. Are the Tulum Ruins worth visiting? 

Bailey walks around the Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Yes!
Bailey poses for a photo while enjoying the views of the Tulum Ruins and ocean in Tulum, Mexico

Yes, we absolutely loved visiting the Tulum Ruins! It was fascinating to see the history and learn about the ancient Mayan civilization. It’s not every day you can see ruins that date back hundreds of years and are still standing!

This is an interesting piece of history that truly helped me understand Mexico a little bit better. The location is absolutely stunning, sitting right on the beach, and it’s a fun, different activity than most lazy beach days in Tulum!

Other Activities to do While in Tulum

Diving in Tulum, Mexico
My first cenote dive was in Tulum!
Seafood tacos on a food tour around Tulum
Seafood tacos!
  • 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

If you’re going to be visiting the Tulum Ruins, staying nearby makes it easy! 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. 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!

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

The Tulum Ruins are certainly a must-visit in Mexico! Hopefully, you’ve picked up some helpful tips for your own visit here. Whether you come on your own or take a tour, there is so much to experience at this ancient site.

While planning your hot holidays, make sure to check out our Mexico page. We’ve traveled and lived all over Mexico and have lots of ideas to share. We also have some popular blogs below that might help you put together your own trip itinerary!

33 FUN Things to do in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

15 BEST Beaches in Cancun, Mexico

10 Things to Know BEFORE Booking an ATV Tour in Tulum

10 BEST Tours in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico