Most people think of Cancun when they hear Riviera Maya, but if you’re backpacking the region make sure to head further south past Playa del Carmen until you get to the beautiful hippie-chic town of Tulum, one of the top destinations in Mexico, which offers a less touristy and more off the beaten path side of the Mexican Caribbean.
Tulum is a backpacker must. Dating all the way back to the year 564 of our era, this oceanfront city has been considered as one of the most prominent and representative sites of the Mayan civilization. But it’s fame as a trendy town has grown at a high pace more recently thanks to a booming culinary and art scene that blends in perfectly with its laid back atmosphere, pristine white sanded beaches and Mayan walled city and cliff-side ruins.
Now, the best way to explore Tulum is by bike. You’ll be able to easily ride from Tulum town up to the ruins and back, which brings us to our top must-do in Tulum: the ruins.
Visit the ruins
With a striking backdrop of crystalline turquoise waters and cliffs, these ancient ruins offer one of the most beautiful sights in the area. Go ahead and explore the different structures, burial sites, castles and pyramids and once you’re done plunge into the ocean.
Get a splash and bask in the sun
The beaches in Tulum are the best of the region so you may find it tempting to just sit back and enjoy the view with a cocktail in-hand for the rest of your trip, but if you want to make the most out of it you might as well get moving and head off to explore paradise.
Venture to The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Get a dose of nature by visiting this place known for its natural beauty as it is home for tropical forests, mangroves, more than 300 bird species and a large portion of the World’s Second Largest Coral Reef Barrier. It also hides up to 23 archeological sites and Mayan ruins, including a place known as Muyil.
Enjoy a boating tour of the Muyil Lagoon
It is hidden in the Sian Ka’an Reserve and it offers one of the most enjoyable boating experiences in the middle of the jungle with its changing colors and captivating sights.
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Snorkel in a cenote
No visit to Tulum would be complete without a bit of cenote swimming and snorkeling. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that can be found all over the Yucatan Peninsula in the middle of the lush jungle vegetation. Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Cristal and Cenote Escondido are just few of the popular ones.
Glide on top of the jungle canopy and enjoy an unparalleled view as you zip-line in Tulum. Most zip-lining tours will pick you and drop you off at the hostel and offer lunch and additional activities like ATVing.
Discover Playa del Carmen’s nightlife
Playa del Carmen is about an hour North of Tulum and it is considered Mexico’s nightlife hub. If you want to be at the heart of it all, head directly to the 5th Ave. and 12 st, a spot that livens up as soon as the sun is down.
Swim with turtles at Akumal
There is no need to book a tour to do this activity, you can go solo and enjoy all the same. Akumal Beach is halfway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It is a beautiful bay with a marvelous ocean view and the plus that it’s a Turtle Sanctuary so if you bring a mask you’ll be able to see the turtles as they swim along with you.
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Find a yoga retreat
Tulum is a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts. Home to various yoga retreats, it offers seaside class opportunities for both beginners and advanced yogis.
Go ecofriendly shopping and visit local art galleries
Tulum is home for designers and artisans that sell their ecofriendly pieces in the several boutiques that can be found spread all across Tulum. If you’re into contemporary art be sure to check out the IK LAB Gallery or join a street art tour.
If you’re backpacking Tulum, make sure to pay us a visit at the Mayan Monkey Hostel where we’ll be glad to help you find the best activities, tours or just a comfy bed to to crash for the night.
Keep wandering the world!