For things to do in Tulum, the Mayan Tulum ruins take some beating. Being a bit of a history geek, I can honestly say it was my favourite thing to do in Tulum!
As you arrive at Tulum Ruins, just keep walking past all the hawkers, purveyors of tat and people offering guided tours and head down the long road to the proper entrance. We queued for only about 3 minutes to buy our tickets and then we were in. In other words, it is not worth paying to skip the queues.
If you are not feeling like walking, there is also a ‘train’. It’s a sort of covered vehicle/train/lorry thing running from the top of the road to the bottom to the proper entrance and vice versa.
They do offer official guided tours at the entrance so there is no need to get one at the top of the road. The official guides are all by the entrance and can offer a guided tour in various languages. I heard French, English, Italian, Portuguese and German mentioned. Of course, there may be others.
Once inside just follow the paths to come out in these amazing Tulum Ruins.
It was pleasing to see the site all laid out and clear of jungle growth. (In contrast, I’d recommend the Mayan Coba Ruins, too. These are in the forest and some have not even been excavated yet. And possibly, the only pyramid you can still climb.)
Laid out like this it gives a good appreciation of just how big these sites can be. Coba is still hidden in the jungle so it’s nice to get a comparison. The down side of that is that it is hot, real hot. A hat is a must! A warm jumper isn’t! If it looks like rain take an umbrella rather than a waterproof coat / pack-a-mac thing. Also the ‘brolly’ can be used as a parasol or sunshade too.
The beach area is accessible from steps down by the cliffs. Take your swimming stuff if you want to swim! I imagine its a great way to cool off.
I say imagine as it was full of seaweed when I was there. It might be a time of year thing? As I have seen pictures of it looking lovely. I was there in April so perhaps some months are better than others?
Where the beach is at the same level as the land there is no access. This is because of turtles. And yay turtles! If you want to swim with freshwater ones, head up to Gran Cenote! There are two species of Saltwater turtle that breed on the beach at Tulum, the Loggerhead and the White Turtle. These turtles always return to the same place to lay their eggs and happily a portion of the beach is kept clear for them.
Mayan Tulum Ruins History
Tulum was an important trading port with about 1600 inhabitants, it is thought. They were involved with a trading network that extended from central Mexico to Honduras in the south. Tulum was seen as an important centre that bridged land and sea trade. Land trade came from the network of Mayan Built roads that were prevalent in the area. Tulum was also trading with the likes of Chichen Itza.
This was all done in canoes. They hugged the coast as they were not true ocean-going boats, but the upside of this is that smaller boats allowed them to get up rivers. Cotton, honey, salt, obsidian blades, jade ornaments, and those amazing feather capes were all trade goods. Strangely, even though they knew of the existence of the wheel, the Mayans never used it. It is thought all goods were moved about at night when it was cooler.
Because you would, wouldn’t you?
The ground on which the Tulum Ruins stand is very young in geological terms. Just 2 million years old. It is an old sea floor that has risen up forming the Yucatan peninsula and is made of limestone. As limestone dissolves in water, that is why there are all the cenotes and underground river systems that honeycomb this area.
If you get a chance to walk along a beach or an exposed patch of rock, chances are you’ll see some fossils in the rock. We were staying at the Sian Ka’an and the beach rocks on the peninsula there were covered in them!
The Buildings at the Tulum Ruins
The architectural style of the houses is known as, unsurprisingly, east coast style. Some of the buildings still show a touch of red paint. This is left over from the many murals that the Mayans used to decorate their buildings with.
The Tulum Mayans were reliant on the sea, not just for food but also raw materials for making tools and ritual objects.
What happened to the Mayans and the Tulum Ruins
Tulum was contemporary to Chichen Itza although its decline started, no surprises for guessing, when the Spanish pitched up. Either they were killed by diseases the Spanish bought with them or they were assimilated into the settlers’ culture.
There were many cute critters there, including an Iguana who appeared to be wearing lipstick!
I’m not going to mock his make-up choices though, because I thought he looked fabulous!
5 Top tips for visiting Tulum Ruins
- Pay in Pesos
- Bring swimming stuff if you want to swim on the beach
- Take plenty of water and a hat is a must
- Ignore all the hawkers at the top of the road
- For a quieter time get there at 8 am or 3 pm
How to get to Tulum Ruins
If you haven’t got a car then collectivos are the answer. These are little minibuses which ply the roads. Flag one down by the side of the road and negotiate the price.
We got there by taxi from our hotel the adults-only all-inclusive Sian Ka’an and then took a collectivo into Tulum. Cancun to Tulum is about 130km that’s about 1 hour 50 Minutes in a car.
If you are looking to cool off after the heat of the ruins, I can suggest two Cenotes which offer great snorkelling near Tulum. Gran Cenote and Car Wash Cenote. They make up 2 of my 3 best Cenotes in the Tulum Area.
Disclaimer: In short, some of the links on this site are affiliate links. These means that if you click on the link and buy the item, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. The money helps go towards the upkeep of the site – so it’s a win-win for both of us! Any videos used on this site if not my own, are, of course, used within Youtube’s sharing guidelines.