Climbing pyramids, swimming with turtles and visiting pink lakes are just some of the best day trips from Tulum. Read on to discover 11 unmissable excursions from Tulum!
Tulum is a beautiful destination in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. It’s easy to spend day after day chilling out the beach, but if you have some extra days, then it’s definitely worth it to go and explore the other attractions near Tulum, Mexico. Here are my favorite day trips from Tulum and the most popular day trips in Riviera Maya in general.
Swim In The Most Beautiful Cenotes
In addition to all those Mayan ruins, there’s another thing that Yucatan is famous for: cenotes. And swimming at cenotes should be at the top of your list of things to do around Tulum, and here’s why.
All across the region, you’ll find plenty of sinkholes littering the landscape. While they might seem like just pits in the ground at first, they actually open up into spectacular subterranean lagoons that you can swim in, as well as take part in the ever-popular Yucatan pastime of cenote diving.
There are also other cenotes which are mostly above ground, but which still offer a welcome respite from the Mexican heat as you plunge into the water.
You can definitely visit the cenotes in Tulum and the Riviera Maya on your own, although you might have to rent a car or a driver for the day.
If you prefer to avoid the hassle, though, you’ll find that there are a lot of cenotes tour operators in Tulum. These tours let you visit multiple cenotes in a single day, and are a great way to spend a day relaxing and swimming with friends and family. It sure beats the hotel pool!
➤ BOOK HERE the Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour, which combines Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido & Cenote Cristal all in one day ’cause one cenote alone isn’t enough!
➤ BOOK HERE the Snorkeling and Underground Cenotes Half-Day Adventure, which includes a visit to a beautiful cenotes + snorkeling at the barrier reef
Climb Pyramids at Coba
Yucatan is also known as the Mayan Riviera, since it’s home to some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins still in existence. Hidden in the dense forests are many magnificent reminders of this once-mighty civilization, but the city of Coba is a little different. Archaeologists believe that Coba would have been an important trade hub in Mayan times, but it now lies mostly forgotten in the midst of the surrounding forests.
Since it’s tucked out of the way, it sees fewer tourists than more popular sites like Chichen Itza, which is definitely to your advantage if you feel like taking the trip out there… I don’t know about you, but crowded places lose some of their appeal to me! For one thing, it’s much more peaceful than the tourist hotspots, allowing you to fully take in the wonder and ancient mystical atmosphere of these Mayan ruins near Tulum.
Secondly, it means that, unlike the other sites, you can actually climb the pyramid of Coba, although I recently heard this might change soon for safety reasons (so you need to go ASAP!). The climb is quite steep, especially coming down can be a little scary, but wear comfy shoes and use the ropes to help you. From the top, you can gaze out in wonder across the treetops, and see for yourself why the Mayans felt closer to the gods up here.
How to get to Coba from Tulum: The Coba Mayan ruins are only 47 km and 45 minutes by car from Tulum. You can either rent a car and combine a Coba day trip with some other attractions on this list, or go by colectivo or ADO bus.
You can also join a tour to Coba- here a couple of suggestions for you:
– Tulum, Coba & 2 Reef Snorkeling with Transfer Options: on this full-day tour you’ll explore both the ruins of Coba and Tulum, and you’ll snorkel at 2 different reefs. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
– Punta Laguna and Coba Day Trip: on this tour you’ll visit Coba and the natural reserve and monkey sanctuary of Punta Laguna, where you’ll hike or zip line through the jungle, swim at a cenote, and attend a Mayan ceremony. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
– Coba, Tulum, Cenote and Mayan Village Tour with Transport, which combines the ruins of Coba and Tulum with swimming at a cenote. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Soak Up The Colors of Valladolid
From the Mayans, to Spanish settlers, to the present day, Yucatan has a rich history that’s well worth delving into. If you’re interested in the impact that the Spanish conquistadors had on the region, then definitely plan a Valladolid day trip. Valladolid is a somewhat sleepy but extremely charming town where that way of life has been preserved for centuries.
READ ALSO: Top 7 Things to do in and around Valladolid
Here, you’ll find magnificent examples of conquest-era architecture in the churches and municipal buildings, and pastel-colored walls everywhere you turn in these quiet streets. Just wander the town and enjoy the slower pace of life here, or explore the cenotes in Valladolid (Cenote Zaci is right in the middle of Valladolid).
Another city you should make time for is Merida: it’s chill, safe and laid back, and the food is great!
Discover Breathtaking Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
A stunning area of natural beauty near Tulum, Sian Ka’an is a nature preserve that offers a welcome respite from the crowds that unfortunately you’ll encounter in many of the other spots on this list.
Think like deserted, wild, white beaches fringed by palms that will remind you of Baja California, coral reefs where the water is of the most beautiful colors you have ever seen, lagoons with crocodiles and wild dolphins that swim along your boat. It sounds unreal, doesn’t it? It’s even more surprising that this natural area starts right at the edge of Tulum beach. Where Tulum ends, Sian Kaan begins!
You can explore Sian Ka’an on your own if you want to, but keep in mind that to get to Punta Allen and the most beautiful water, it’s over one hour by car and the road sucks (sorry, there isn’t a nicer way to say it). It’s unpaved, bumpy, and you definitely need to have a Jeep or something like that to make it, especially if it’s rained recently.
For once, I strongly suggest taking a tour for your Sian Kaan day trip. I have three suggestions for you:
– Half Day Trip Sian Kaan Muyil, which includes a boat ride through the lagoon, swim time in the turquoise waters, and a visit to the Mayan ruins of Muyil in the middle of the Sian Kaan Jungle, which look like they came out of an old Indian Jones movie. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
– Sian Kaan Boat Trip and Snorkel Adventure, a full-day tour which includes a 3-hour boat tour where you’ll be able to snorkel in the 2nd largest coral reef in the world, spot dolphins and turtles. Then you’ll have time at the beach and a wonderful fresh fish lunch. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
– Sian Ka’an Biosphere Eco Park Adventure for the adventure junkies out there. On this super fun tour you’ll snorkel in a cenote, zip line across the jungle, go on a boat ride, visit the Muyil ruins and more. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Just, please do me a favor and go: this is one of the best day trips from Tulum you can take… definitely in my top 3!
Swim With Turtles in Akumal
In Mayan, “Akumal” means “turtle”- so no prizes for guessing what you’ll encounter on a swim through this beautiful bay! Out in the ocean lies a huge coral reef that is the sea turtles’ main feeding ground, which is why so many of these beautiful creatures are to be found in these waters.
Heading down to the beach, strapping on snorkel gear, and diving in to the waters to meet these creatures for yourself is something you shouldn’t miss, and an Akumal day trip from Tulum is actually really easy to plan.
➤ To get to Akumal from Tulum, is as easy as booking a $3 minivan. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
You used to be able to come here with your gear and do your thing, but regulations have recently changed and tourists aren’t allowed in the water by themselves anymore. Now there is a (quite steep) fixed price of about $20, and people are only allowed to swim in a restricted area, which can get very crowded.
I haven’t gone swimming with turtles in Akumal since the new regulations took place, so I can’t tell you how it is from my own experience, but swimming with turtles is a truly magical experience, and this is one of the best places to go snorkeling near Tulum.
Explore Mayan Ruins With a Chichen Itza Day Trip
As mentioned earlier, Yucatan was the center of the Mayan empire in its heyday, and the jewel in the crown of that empire was undoubtedly the magnificent city of Chichen Itza. Luckily, the site has been remarkably well-preserved over the centuries, so there are still plenty of awe-inspiring examples of Mayan architecture to be seen here.
You may want to book a guide, who will be able to tell you all about the history of this place, although it might get quite pricey; the other option is to download some material about the site beforehand and read it while you walk through the ruins.
READ ALSO: A Complete Guide to Chichen Itza Ruins
The ruins of Chichen Itza aren’t my favorite ones in Mexico (Palenque is gorgeous!), mostly because of the crowds, but a day trip from Tulum to Chichen Itza is absolutely recommended. It’s not a case that Chichen Itza is one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and one of the most popular Riviera Maya day trips.
Survival Tip: make sure to get Chichen Itza in the early morning, as the site gets more than crowded as the day goes on. Also, you want to try and avoid the midday heat (bring a hat).
There are plenty of Chichen Itza tours from Tulum in case you prefer to go with a tour. Here the two best options from Tulum:
– Chichen Itza, Ik Kil Cenote and Valladolid All Inclusive Tour, perfect if you want to visit Chichen Itza and the city of Valladolid, plus swim at a beautiful cenote. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
– Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Ik Kil Cenote Day Trip, which combines the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza with the other beautiful ones of Ek Balam, plus a swim at Hubiku cenote ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Zipline at Xplor Park
I don’t know why I waited 28 years of my life before trying ziplining. There’s nothing quite like the thrill that comes with soaring over the treetops and lakes and cenotes, and if you want to give it a try for yourself, then I heartily recommend the Xplor Park.
Xplor is part of the same group that also owns Xcaret Park (another one highly recommended). At Xplor, you can tackle the tallest ziplines in Yucatan, glide through glistening waterfalls, and plunge into deep caves, and it’s all perfectly safe for the whole family! You’ll speed along at almost 20mph, making ziplining here a truly hair-raising experience.
If you want to relax after that adrenaline rush, then you can paddle a raft through the underground caverns, or take an amphibious buggy out for a ride for your own Jurassic Park-style adventure in the undergrowth.
➤ GET 15% OFF YOUR XPLOR TICKET by booking online! The ticket includes unlimited non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day and a buffet lunch.
Take a Cozumel Day Trip
If you can’t go all the way to Isla Holbox, then Cozumel is as close to a Caribbean paradise as it gets around here. I mean, look at that turquoise water!
You could easily spend more than one day exploring the island, as Cozumel offers beautiful remote becahes, lighthouses, lagoons, and what more, but it’s also easy to organize a day trip to Cozumel if you prefer to go back to Tulum at night.
➤ Check out this Cozumel tour by Karma Trails – this is a tour operator I’ve used multiple times and always found very reliable. The tour includes snorkeling in various points of the island, which in my opinion is the best thing to do in Cozumel.
Another suggestion for you when it comes to day tours to Cozumel:
➤Cozumel Private Jeep Tour with Snorkeling: this private tour on a Jeep includes off-roading, beach time, and snorkeling ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
Go All Fancy With a Playa del Carmen Day Trip
Fancy a change of scenery from Tulum? From clean, sandy beaches lined with palm trees, to coral reefs below the waves, Playa del Carmen has it all, making the city the perfect destination for a day relaxing on the beach.
However, it’s also a trendy, up-and-coming city, too, with plenty of hip eateries, boutique shops, and stores from all the major Western chains that only close at 10pm. If you prefer to chill at the beach in Tulum and go to Playa to spend an afternoon/night of shopping, that’s a good option too.
You could even go on a food tour to small, out-of-the-way eateries and food stalls to try out the real Mexican food, away from the tourist spots of 5th Avenue. BOOK IT HERE
How to get to Playa del Carmen from Tulum: Taking a colectivo (shared shuttle bus) is your best option. Just stand on the side of the 307 highway going north and signal the driver when you see a shuttle bus approaching. Just tell the destination to the driver (in this case Playa del Carmen), and you’ll pay once you get there. A colectivo trip from Tulum to Playa del Carmen shouldn’t cost you more than 50 -70 pesos.
➤ Save yourself any stress and book in advance a minivan ride for less than $4. BOOK IT HERE
Otherwise, the ADO bus Tulum- Playa del Carmen is another option, with multiple buses a day. Check out the schedule here.
Swim at the Laguna Kaan Lum
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If you don’t mind discovering the Tulum off the beaten path a little (and why would you?), then Laguna Kaan Lum is well worth a visit. A hidden paradise, this vast lagoon is an oasis of tranquility, where you can swim and splash to your heart’s content in peace and quiet.
The lagoon itself is actually a huge cenote, and the depth causes the water to glisten in truly gorgeous colors. The water is usually pretty warm, and it’s just a short drive from Tulum, so why not stop by for a dip? One thing to note is that there are no amenities here other than bathrooms, so make sure you bring your own food with you.
How to get to Kaan Lum Lagoon: Laguna Kaan Lum is 5km south of Tulum, off Highway 307. If you are coming from Tulum with your own car, look for the sign on your left.
READ ALSO: A Guide to the Best Things to do in Tulum
Rio Lagartos & Las Coloradas
Looking at photos of Las Coloradas, you might think that they have been Photoshopped- there can’t really be a pink lake, can there?! Well, there really is, and while you’re in the Yucatan peninsula (in this case Tulum), you definitely have to take the trip to see it for yourself.
Located at the very tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Las Coloradas dates back to the Mayan era, when the local people would use these tidal lagoons as a way of producing salt. Water would flow into them at high tide, and then remain behind when the tide went back out again. As the water evaporated, the sea salt would be left behind to collect- and over the centuries, that process has caused the water here to turn a brilliant pink.
I spent a few hours here taking millions of photos and videos because… well… a pink lake! Do I really need to explain??
READ ALSO: A Guide to las Coloradas, Yucatan
Nearby, you should also check out the town of Rio Lagartos. The town itself is a picture-perfect example of a sleepy Mexican settlement, but the stars of the show here are the thousands of flamingos that live nearby.
If you love all things pink, or just want to marvel at the wonder of nature, then be sure to take the time out of your vacation to visit both of these stunning landscapes.
How to get to Las Coloradas from Tulum: It’s about 200km from Tulum to Las Coloradas and you definitely want to rent a car (or a car with a driver) for this trip. You could go by bus to Valladolid and from there take a combination of colectivos and buses but it would take you forever, so better to plan your own transportation.
➤ Otherwise, if driving isn’t an option or you wanna save yourself the hassle, check out the Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos tour, which includes a visit to both Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos, and transportation from Tulum. ⇒ BOOK IT HERE
And there you go! These are the best day trips from Tulum – they’ll definitely keep you busy for a while!
If you have more than one day available, though, definitely consider taking a 3-day trip to Isla Holbox. This beautiful island off the coast of Cancun is still relatively untouched, and here you can find unpaved roads, beautiful white beaches, flamingos and water hammocks!
Where To Stay in Tulum: Zamas Hotel
When it comes to choosing where to stay in Tulum, the choice is quite hard. There are so many possibilities, ranging from backpacker cheap, to mid-range and ultra luxury.
I always try and look for boutique hotels as I generally prefer them to the big resorts, and so I came across Zamas Hotel, a very colorful, laid-back boutique hotel located right on the beach. If all you want is palms, white beaches, and playful cabanas, keep reading.
I was staying in a beachfront cabana, and it was simply perfect. Falling asleep with the sweet rolling sound of the waves and getting up and being 10 steps from the ocean was a dream come true, especially after months of traveling around at a fast speed.
Some special touches included the mosquito net that was put in place every night and the jar of purified water that helps reduce the use of plastic bottles. The bathroom, featuring a big shower, is gigantic and very colorful, in theme with the rest of the hotel.
I absolutely loved the porch with the hammocks, a perfect spot to relax in front of the ocean.
Other types of rooms include larger jungle bungalows and garden suites.
I found the food in Tulum to be excellent, even though keep in mind that the prices are way higher than in the rest of Mexico. And the food at The Restaurant at ZAMAS didn’t disappoint, not even one bit. The food is fresh, locally sourced, and the plates combine innovation with traditional Mexican flavors.
READ ALSO: 19 Restaurants in Tulum Not To Miss
The beach is private for hotel guests, and we never had a problem finding a chair or a lounger.
There are so many choices when it comes to hotels in Tulum: if you are looking for a place that combines a touch of luxury, mid-range rates, and an exclusive location right on a private beach, then Zamas Hotel is the perfect choice!
Rates start at $120 a night for the beachfront bungalows and go up to $300 for the classic room with ocean views.
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I received a complimentary stay at Zamas, but all the opinions in this article are mine and mine only.