Visiting the Tulum Ruins

I recently realized that for some odd reason I’ve missed writing about a lot of places in Latin America. Since I saw a photo from the Tulum ruins while I was looking through some of my pictures, I decided to start there. And because I also get a lot of questions about this city.

Tulum ruins

Tulum is a town in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It tends to be one of the Yucatan’s more popular areas. I suppose its close proximity to Playa del Carmen doesn’t hurt. It is known for white sand beaches and some of the most gorgeous blue waters in the Caribbean.

But we didn’t like it.

We missed seeing the ruins during our first visit, so when friends came to Playa del Carmen, we accompanied them to visit the remnants of the walled Mayan port city.

Still didn’t like it.

I mean on one hand you have to admire the Mayans who lived and worked here. This has to be one of the best views for any city. But compared to other Mayan ruins on the Peninsula. . . well, Tulum doesn’t compare.

Tulum ruins

The town itself doesn’t offer much. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of mid range accommodations. You’re either lodging in interesting hostels or forking out some serious pesos for more luxury. Regrettably, the amazing beach is also not easily accessed unless you’re staying in one of the more luxurious beachside places.

If you love sitting for hours and hours on the beach, though, Tulum could well be one of your favorites. It is generally more quiet and less crowded than some of the tourist meccas nearby. The beach is pretty good for families (as long as you don’t have to trek to get to it) as there are sandbars and reef breaking up rough water.

Feel like you just have to see it? I would recommend doing it as a day trip from Playa del Carmen. You can catch a mini van for super cheap, and they run back and forth frequently throughout the day. You can also grab an ADO bus if the mini vans don’t appeal to you.

Sea turtles near the Tulum ruins

If you come to Tulum, I’d suggest skipping the ruins and hitting the beach instead. There is little to no relief from the sun in the ruins complex, and to me they just weren’t worth the effort and heat. When we were there, the access to the beach from within the ruins was also cut off. That may be repaired by now.

The nearby town of Akumal, however, is most definitely worth a visit! There is even less to do here, but the beach is nice, and you can snorkel with sea turtles! They are found in the waters off Akumal’s coast year round. It is an absolutely incredible experience to be able to swim with these creatures.

If you can’t do both Tulum and Akumal, skip the Tulum ruins, beaches, etc., and head straight for Akumal!

Have you been to Tulum? What are your thoughts?

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  1. I love it when people are honest and say that they just thought a destination was ‘meh’. Great photos but understand what you mean that some places can be underwhelming!

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  2. We didn’t like Tulum. The ruins have great views, but…no shade, too hot and too many tourists, even first thing in the morning. I don’t have any desire to go back.
    I agree…skip Tulum and go to Akumal. Thanks to your suggestion last year we went there, swam with the turtles and had a fab time with them. Loved it! We even skipped the cenotes to go back to Akumal for a second day of hanging out with turtles.
    As a ruin, I would definitely take the time to drive to Calakmul. It is not a day trip from Tulum but…there are NO people! And the ruins are really interesting, they are covered in trees as the jungle is reclaiming its territory back. Tulum ruins..not so much.

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    • Yeah, Tulum ruins totally not worth it. I haven’t been to Calakmul, though. Sounds great. Really enjoyed Ek Balam, and Coba is nice, too.

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  3. We will definitely visit Akumal next time we’re down that way, we’ve heard so many good things. I really enjoyed Tulum, very relaxing, great beaches. Id go back again if I was in need of some R&R!

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    • Akumal is so enjoyable. And if you’re there during turtle hatching season, you might get to see that which is amazing.

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  4. We totally agree, Akumal to snorkel with sea turtles and go to some Mayan Ruins you can actually climb, like Ek Balam or Coba, but there is a cheap Chinese restaurant we liked in Tulum

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