10 things to do in Tulum
Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and is a place that resonates with a peaceful, bohemian, hippyesque style lifestyle. Think white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, cenotes, palm tree's and hammocks. As you stroll along the main beach in Tulum, you aren't met with 100's of tourists (at least not yet anyway), it's more of a chilled out atmosphere, with people perfecting their yoga moves, or the locals and travellers jumping high over the nets of the beach volleyball courts, immersed in a game that brings all cultures together. As you approach the waters edge, you're met with local Mexican children playing in the surf with polystyrene boats, they've made themselves, watched proudly by their parents & their wide smiles.
This place is not Cancun, nor Playa del Carmen, its slightly less touristic sister. This is a gem of a place that screams RELAX. There isn't a fast food eatery or nightclub in site. Just street food, cute little restaurants with even cuter table cloths & the famous mojito bar that is the epicentre of the nightlife here, where the crowds of care free travellers gather.
What to do whilst you're there? I've got it covered!
1. Mayan Ruins
Top of everyone's list has to be the Tulum Ruins, and mine is no different. The spectacular view of the Mayan ruins sat perched on a cliff top on the coast of Tulum, is a familiar site for anybody that's been or has researched the area. The sheer beauty of these ruins is mesmerising. The vast amounts of greenery, the rolling hills as you enter, as far as the eye can see. The grey coloured ruins, that used to be buildings, basking underneath a blanket of blue sky and the heat of the Mexican sun. The iguanas playing on the grass, and along the edges of the cliff tops, bring natural wildlife to a place so full of history and culture.
Be mindful that these ruins are a highlight on the Yucatan peninsula, and so attract tourists from far and wide including the touristic resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. To avoid the crowds and get great photos go early or later on in the day! That way you avoid photo bombers & strong heat of the sun.
2. Akumal Bay
This came in at a very close second. If you love pristine beaches, turquoise coloured lagoon like water, and marine life (namely turtles), then this should be high up on your list. Akumal Bay is a conservation area for sea turtles, and they are here in abundance. If, like me you've dreamed of swimming freely alongside sea turtles in their natural habitat, then you can tick it off your bucket list here. Akumal bay is half way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, and is easily accessible via the main freeway that travels down the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. So whether you book a tour, hire a car or simply order a taxi, it's really easy to reach this magical, majestic place & experience the underwater world of Mexico.
Worth remembering when visiting Akumal Bay is that there are a lot of touts on the approach to the beach, which is a main tourist attraction. Because of this, "stories" will be told about how you have to have a tour guide when entering the water, and pay for certain things before you can experience swimming with the turtles. You don't. This beach is free, as is swimming with the turtles. The only rules here are that you have to wear a life jacket, because they don't want people to be able to free dive to get closer to the turtles. As a qualified diver & expert swimmer I was able to get away without wearing one, and the Mexican guys patrolling the area from surfboards were cool with that, but just to be aware. You can rent all of your equipment here, as well as eat, drink and bask in the sun after you've been in the water. Akumal Bay truly is such a marvellous place, full of wonder and beauty. I don't think I will ever tire of the sight of a turtle in the water next to me....actually every time it happens, I think my smile gets bigger :)
3. Tulum Beach
Vast stretches of soft white sand will greet you on the beaches of Tulum. It's a place where relaxation is first priority, and the cool beach shacks, as well as the more up market beach bars will help you to do that. Tulum's vibe is very spiritual & hedonistic. Yoga, healthy juices and mindfulness surround this bohemian beach and the surrounding town. Put simply, it's paradise - as you walk along the waters edge, feeling the softness of the fine sand, and water tickle your toes, as the beautiful blue skies and strength of the all powerful sun give everyone that special travel "glow".
We decided upon beachside accommodation along the Riveria Maya coastline, which gave us our very own piece of private beach. What more could you want. (More on that later).
The word cenote translates to mean an underwater sink hole or cave. An underwater world, away from the many beaches of the Yucatan Penninusla and the hot Mexican sun. The waters are rich in minerals, and the Mayans even think the waters have magical properties, as they used to pray to their Gods here.
The Yucatan Peninsula is surrounded by these true wonders. Perfect for snorkelling, diving and just plain swimming, each cenote will be different in its form and will give you a different experience every time you dive deep to explore the rock formations. Above and below the surface feels like a fantasy, it's that beautiful. Whenever you're venturing out to the many cenotes that surround Tulum, you'll need to be prepared, so snorkel, towel, bikini/boardshorts and lunch if you're planning on spending the day visiting a few of the different ones. Oh! Not forgetting your camera or GoPro too, as the footage you will capture here will be like no other! Dive deep and make great memories.
5. Diamante K
Diamante K, on the coast of Tulum is the most idyllic setting for a relaxing trip away. The private beach here, and with that your very own private ocean draws the crowds, but at $100 dollars a night with a small number of rooms, this place doesn't really have that backpacker or busy vibe. It's aimed more at couples and young professionals looking to embrace the natural rustic feel of the place and just CHILL. The fact it's built in a national park, means that there is no electricity here, just a generator, which more than catered to our needs, of charging an iPhone or turning on a light. The location of this place, means that you get a nice cool breeze, through the day and more so at night, so the fact that the beautiful little wooden bungalows don't have air con is no biggie!
Its a truly incredible experience to wake up and step out of your bungalow onto the sand that looks out onto the secluded ocean, and swim into the waves before you've even had time for breakfast. Blissful.
6. Kitesurfing & Surfing
The Yucatan peninsula is a great spot for both kite surfing & surfing, and there are many schools dotted along the beaches of Tulum. The conditions are perfect, beautiful soft white sand beaches, no big rocks, shells or concrete and just a few people swimming in the waters, because of the vast stretch of beach and ocean. Water temperature depending on the time of year will typically be similar to the air temperature, so anywhere between 23 - 28 degrees C. Its a great place to go out on your surf board, or indeed with your kite, your twin tip board, or your surf board - meaning you can really surf the waves with the kite attached to you.
The wind blows best in the months of January, February, March, April, May and December. Morning, afternoon, or early evening before the sunsets, is the best time to get out on the water, with the wind speed blowing between 12-15 knots. There are reefs about 600 metres out of shore, so do bear that in mind because the waters can still be shallow at that point
There are many kitesurf and surf schools, so do your research if you're a beginner, or if you've got all of your own gear, just head to the beach, launch your kite & ride!
7. Zine Food & Film
We found this place on TripAdvisor, which isn't normally our go to when were travelling, but I'm so glad that we did. It's the perfect date place, or chill place with friends, and completely grasps the relaxation vibe of Tulum. Imagine watching a movie, on a really comfy sofa, with great food, beer and cocktails. A room all to yourself with a gigantic projector like screen, and 100's of movies to choose from. Sit back, hell even lie back and be transported into a world, where it feels so luxurious even on a travellers budget.
8. Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
On the coast of this beautiful country, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea lap up against the shore, inviting everyone in to take a dip and cool down from the searing heat of the Mexican sun. Some travellers will simply want more, myself included. So dive beneath the waves (with your oxygen tank of course), and explore the underwater world of the Yucatan Peninsula. If the salt water and the waves of the ocean don't appeal, then why not try a dive in the crystal clear fresh waters of the Cenotes, that surround Tulum. Certified divers have both options at their finger tips so dive the Mesoamerican Coral Reef or be introduced into cave diving in the Cenotes in Tulum. The choice is yours.
For snorkelling there are a ton of different bays and reefs, as well as snorkelling the many cenotes, where fish do exist. However you'll be more fascinated by the rock formations and visibility of the water above anything else. One of my favourite days!
Shopping when you're travelling is always so much more exciting than at home. Firstly the things that you can find, are normally always authentic to the country that you are travelling in, so you can pick up some real finds, that you can keep in your home and remind you of amazing happy memories.
Secondly, if you aim for the markets and street stalls, more often than not you'll pay a lot less than you would in your home country for little trinkets, or art, or anything you can find. Tulum, and Mexico in general is famous for its beautifully crafted dream catchers, so venture into the many shops in Tulum centre and barter with the local shop owners to capture your dreams, and take one of these marvellous dreamcatchers home. As you head down to the Mayan ruins you'll also be met with stalls upon stalls of things to buy, but just bare in mind that anywhere that represents a real tourist spot in Tulum, will mean that the prices of the things you'll buy will more than likely be double of what you'd pay in Tulum centre.
Batey's also known more formally as Batey's Mojito and Guarapo bar, is the hub of the nightlife in Tulum centre, and is the perfect place to go for a very tasty mojito and some live music. As you walk down the little lanes of Tulum's centre, you're met with a car, but not just any car. A VW old school beetle, that isn't actually a car, but a fully working sugar cane factory - pumping out all of this sweet sweet sugar cane for Batey's many different flavoured mojito's. The bar is a very relaxed, hippy style vibe, with travellers from all parts of the world venturing down to enjoy the different days of music and different flavours of drinks. Classic, Mayan, Mediterranean, Watermelon and Maracuya are all types of mojito's you can sip on and enjoy, whilst you sit back and enjoy Mexico.