Our one day in Tulum itinerary began from Playa del Carmen, but you can use this Tulum guide to explore highlights from Tulum itself or Cancun. We have also included Tulum Ruins tour options, to explore this beautiful Mayan site in Mexico. This in-depth guide on the Ruinas de Tulum Playa del Carmen (Tulum ruins archaeological site) will make you want to visit this gorgeous Mayan wonder in a heartbeat.
Tulum is a coastal town located in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It is well-known for its white-sand beaches and the ancient Mayan ruins. Along with the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, we were looking forward to exploring the Tulum ruins because of the picturesque landscape and the gorgeous Paradise Beach (Playa Paradiso).
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
One day in Tulum Itinerary: Ruinas de Tulum Playa del Carmen (Tulum Ruins Tour)
Tulum Guide – Quick Facts about Tulum Ruins
Tulum literally means a “walled city” in the Mayan language. It is believed that the town’s original name was Zamá which meant – “Place of the dawning sun.” The archeological site in Tulum is the last known Mayan ruins.
Tulum is newer then Coba and Chichen Itza, in terms of construction dates. These ruins were built after a prolonged drought of 10 years. It was one of the few enclosed cities that the Mayans built. With walls on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other, Tulum was built to be a fortress and also served as a religious and ceremonial center.
The town of Tulum was a major trading port for connecting Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico with the Mayan peoples of Honduras and modern-day Central America.
How to get to Tulum from Cancun and Playa del Carmen?
Getting to Tulum is very easy. And you have tons of options to choose from – you can rent a car, use local buses or ADO (shared coach). Taxis will be expensive than ADO of course. And if you think you don’t need a car for the rest of your trip, then you can save the car rental fees and just opt for an ADO.
Colectivos are also one of the nicest options to choose from. It is like a mini-van, fully air-conditioned, and lots of room inside it.
- Cancun Airport to Tulum is about 1.75 hours and you pay just $7 USD in an ADO bus. Convenient and economical. You will find an ADO stand at the airport. Taxis are also available in the airport area. Many tourists explore Isla Mujeres and then proceed to Tulum for a day or two.
- If you are staying in one of the resort areas in Playa del Carmen or Cancun, then you can also consider taking a day trip to Tulum. Most day tours are for 8-9 hours in duration. They cover the return trip and pick you up from your resort. Tours can also include a lunch and entrance fees to the archaeological site and a guide. Day tours start at $65 USD+. Playa del Carmen to Tulum ruins is about 1 hour.
- Tulum is about 1 hour from Playa del Carmen and about 2 hours from Cancun.
How to get to Tulum Ruins? Tulum City to Tulum Ruins (México Ruinas Mayas)
If you are arriving in Tulum city, then Ruinas de Tulum will be located only 14 minutes away (by car). Walking will take you 1 hour to reach the site. Taxis, tours, and ADO colectivos are still great options to explore the archaeological site.
Preparing for Tulum Ruins (Ruinas de Tulum Playa del Carmen)
We started our day bright and early to reach Tulum from Playa del Carmen. Start your day with the BEST – Tulum Ruins (Ruinas de Tulum Playa del Carmen) to check it off your bucket list.
Getting Ready for Tulum Ruins – What to pack?
- Never-mind the time of the year, always carry an umbrella and water. BUY this water bottle with an in-built filter
- Don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito repellent. BUY sunscreen and mosquito repellent here
- Wear comfortable shoes, lots of walking! BUY my favorite waterproof shoes
Amenities at the Tulum Archaeological Site Quintana Roo (Zona Arqueológica de Tulum)
- Car parking is available on site and is paid to park. (but cheaper if you park by the shopping center).
- Parking here is a pain. It is not close to the archaeological site. You will either have to take a train (for 20 pesos) to get to the entrance. (taking a guided tour is what I would recommend, keep reading to learn more)
- Washrooms located on-site
- Information Center
Entry Fee to Ruinas de Tulum (Tulum Ruins Cost)
- The entry fee to the site is $3.5 USD (or $72 pesos).
- No entry fee on Sundays for visitors (free entry)
- They are open 08:00 am to 05:00 pm every day.
- Other fees – For parking – $3.5 USD (or $72 pesos).
Ruinas de Tulum exploration – Tulum Ruins Tour ( Tulum Tours )
Salil and I were very excited about visiting the beautiful Mayan ruins of Tulum. We have seen a lot of pictures of the gorgeous ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the lovely palm trees swinging in and around it. That image was more than enough to make us wake up early at 6:00 am and head to the ruins.
We considered a lot of different options to get to Tulum and arranging for a tour seemed to be the best option for us. We love to support the locals and booking through them made us happy. So we booked our tour online to explore the Tulum ruins. They picked us up from our Playa del Carmen resort in the morning, provided us with a welcome breakfast.
For $75 USD, it covered our return coach trip, guided tour, and entry fees to the site. We met a guide who took us around the beautiful archaeological site.
As soon as the coach/minivan dropped us at the main gate, we had to walk a little to reach the washrooms and the information center. This is where the tour officially began. We pass through a forested area, with tall trees and occasionally we would see iguanas. Most of these trees were living for decades and some of the trees were poisonous. So if you are a tree hugger, be careful and stay away.
- To make the most of your day, you can also include a tour to Xel-Ha cenote with Tulum ruins. Check prices for the tour here
- Private Tours: If you prefer a private tour, here is a Tulum private tour option for you
From the entrance to the ruins complex
As you reach the ruins, there is a ticketing area, an information center, and a seating area. On to your left are washrooms. You will be collecting your tickets and walking to the right of the tourist center to head to the ruins.
The entrance to the ruins is about a 5-minute walk from the archaeological site. The city square below includes a bookstore, a museum, a restaurant, and a ticket booth.
Structures at the Tulum Ruins
Tulum ruins are smaller in comparison to Chichen Itza or Coba, but it’s scattered across the archaeological site. The site is beautiful and you can expect a lot of wind as you wander in the Tulum complex.
The Tulum site is surrounded by a 16 ft thick wall on three sides, interrupted by five gates. That’s why the name – walled city.
At the Tulum ruins, “the diving god” or “the descending god” is honored and it’s evident from its main structure which is the El Castillo.
The House of the Cenote
To enter the ruins, you will have to cross a walled structure. This was the 8-meter thick wall that protected the inhabitants of the city. This also differentiated the superior class from the common people that lived outside of those walls.
The first structure is called The House of the Cenote. A “cenote” is a natural sinkhole. Our guide mentioned that this structure was built on top of a cenote, which we found to be quite interesting.
The local Mayans still rely on the cenote water. And in bygone days, this was a fresh water source for its residents and traders. Learn about Tulum Cenotes
El Castillo Pyramid at Tulum
The largest and most prominent building at Tulum is El Castillo (every Mayan site has an El Castillo structure, it’s actually the “Castle”). It is located closest to the sea and might have been used as a lighthouse or as a landmark for sailors.
A temple as well as a fortress, El Castillo was originally covered with stucco and painted red. Much of the paint is gone right now, but you can still see a few corners that are smeared in red paint. A wide external staircase leads up to the temple, which has three niches above the doorway. A beautiful sculpture of the descending god is in the central niche.
Temple of the Frescos
The Temple of the Frescoes is located directly in front of the Castillo. It was used as an observatory for tracking seasons and the movements of the sun.
This structure is actually very small and short (not a tall building). The frescoes were dedicated to the rain god – Chaac and Ixchel – the goddess of weaving, women, the moon, and medicine. The Tulum ruins were built after the Mayans suffered a drought and hence the significance of the rain god is huge.
Its believed that the frescoes were covered in different colors. But you can now only see some red paints here and there. This structure is unique because you can actually see some beautiful cravings from 600+ years ago that the Mayans built.
There are supernatural serpents, gods, and many other Mayan symbolic arts that were carved on those. This structure seems to be almost crumbling and hence they have iron bars holding up the roofs and entry inside is prohibited. There is an altar outside the temple of frescoes.
Temple dios del Vinlo (God of the Winds Temple)
You must have seen hundreds of images of Tulum with this iconic building and wondering what is it or is it the entire Tulum ruin. Well, this is the God of the Winds Temple. This structure is very small and you will encounter this temple as you make your way to the main Tulum site.
We are unclear about the purpose of the structure being situated so close to the coast. But it looks like a small temple honored to the God of Winds.
Visitors are not permitted to climb or enter the temple. As you walk along, you will see that the temple is located on an inclined hill (sort of).
This image was taken on the other end of the site. We wanted to get a good view of the beach as well hence we selected this spot and you can use stairs to get down to the beach from there.
Great Palace – Ruinas de Tulum Playa del Carmen
The Great Palace or the Palace of the Great Lord is one of the prominent structures in the Tulum Ruins archaeology site. The great palace has several large rooms that are supported by columns.
Its believed that this is where the most important members of Tulum lived. Great Lord” or “ruler” with his family lived in this palace and they performed their religious ceremonies at the altars located in the site.
There are many smaller ruins located in the archaeological site – many had beautiful carvings on them and many were in dilapidated condition. But the entire is beautiful with lots of greenery around and a cool breeze and every now and then you can see iguanas and mini ruin-structures popping in and out of the lush greenery.
Playa Paradiso – Paradise Beach (Tulum Ruins Beach)
Tulum ruins are unique due to its proximity to the Caribbean coast. The Tulum ruins are located 12 meters above sea-level. From the ruins site, there are stairs from where you can descend to the beach. This beach is called the Paradise Beach or Playa Paradiso.
The stairs were blocked off during our visit, so we had to take another route to reach the beach area.
This image was taken from the ruins site itself and you can stairs from where you can capture some amazing shots of the blue waters.
The beach is beautiful and clean. There is a cute restaurant and there are tons of activities that you can participate on the beach. Tulum has some of the beautiful beaches. Check out Tulum Beaches
Activities at the Beach – Tulum Snorkeling
Swimming and sunbathing are the most popular activities on this beach. We were at the beach at around noontime and it was slowly getting crowded. Snorkeling and diving can be done here as well.
Most prices for snorkeling and diving were not included in the day-trip voucher. But for additional time and an extra $50-100 USD, you can do a range of activities here.
Pancho Villa Restaurant and Bar
We were so excited to see this shack and we thought, we gotta have some chilled beer and sit for a bit. This place is called “Pancho-Villa” and they served beers, cocktails, coconut water, and light food and fruits.
They had a swing and lovely thatched-roof umbrellas with turquoise blue chairs. You can sit, relax, drink a beer or two, read a book, and admire the beautiful beach.
Tulum Cenote – Dos Ojos
Dos Ojos is a cenote or a sinkhole, located very close to the Tulum ruins. Dos Ojos means “two eyes” in Spanish. It is said to contain the deepest cave passage in the Yucatan region.
Like with all cenotes, you are allowed to swim or dive in. You have to take a shower before getting into the water. We highly recommend visiting one cenote during your Mexico trip. It could be any – but do visit one!
All the cenote water is believed to be connected to each other.
The Dos Ojos Cenotes is a popular spot for snorkeling and cavern diving. Most guided cavern dives consists of two dives in one day, each being 45 minutes long plus a 60-minute surface interval.
You can explore Cenote Dos Ojos with a guided Tulum tour as well. BOOK YOUR TOUR OF TULUM RUINS AND CENOTE DOS OJOS HERE
We missed Sian Ka’an during our one day in Tulum visit. But this UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth visiting if you are in Tulum for additional days. Sian Ka’an is a biosphere reserve located towards the southern part of Tulum.
The reserve has a coral reef. It also has many Mayan archaeological sites, including remnants of the Decauville railway – Vigía Chico-Santa Cruz.
Tulum Guide – Where to stay and eat in Tulum?
Where to stay in Tulum Playa del Carmen?
If you decide to stay in Tulum for the night or two, here are some recommendations. There are many unique hotels, vacation rentals, and resorts in Tulum which offers amazing (and sustainable) accommodation.
The 2 hotels listed below are on our wish list, so we will share them with you. Our friends have stayed in the following resorts/hotels and they LOVED it. (Received positive reviews about them, but we haven’t stayed.)
Papaya Playa Project – When I heard about the Papaya Playa Project, I thought it was a weird name. But pictures of the rooms and restaurants facing the beach screams GORGEOUS-NESS! The white coastline just melts my heart! So so relaxing!
- PPP is a sustainable boutique hotel comprising of beachfront cabins and cottages.
- Rooms offer rustic accommodation with panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea.
- Papaya Playa Project is also a magnet for party-goers. PPP hosts a party every Saturday (with $10 USD entry fee) and once a month a full-moon party.
- The hotel has a spa specializing in Mayan Shaman therapies. Water sports and fishing are all available on the nearby beaches.
- The Tulum ruins are located one km away. Cancún International Airport is an hour and 30 minutes away (drive)
- BOOK YOUR STAY HERE
Ahau Tulum – Ahau Tulum is a 4-star luxury accommodation in Tulum. They also offer cabin style, outdoorsy type of vibe!
- The hotel also offers spa treatments.
- A unique dining experience at the on-site restaurant
- The hotel is within a quick stroll from popular Ana y Jose Beach Club, with plenty of dining options.
- BOOK YOUR STAY HERE
Search for more hotels in Tulum
Food and Restaurants in Tulum
When in Mexico (or Tulum), splurge and eat the freshest fruits, salsa, and margaritas!
- The Mexican Experience Tulum ($$) – Highly rated restaurant in Tulum serving Mexican food. Their food is delicious at a great price.
- Frescoes ($$) – Unique outdoor restaurant (their decor reminds me of food vendors in Asia). Anyhow, vegan and vegetarian options are available here. Nice and open seating arrangements and decently priced menu items. Popular for tacos!
- Casa Jaguar ($$$) – This small rustic restaurant is located in the heart of Tulum city. The restaurant offers a range of Mexican delicacies including fish tacos, citrus salads, and fresh drinks. Not many vegan or vegetarian options here. The food here is actually just about okay. The jungle vibes at the restaurant make it so popular with many tourists. If you decide to go here, make reservations ahead of time. They are open for dinner from 06:00 pm to midnight.
We had an amazing time at the Tulum ruins. There is so much history to this place than just an Instagram picture-perfect spot. And the greenery is heavenly.
You can get a sense of how natural and green this place generally is when you are flying close to the Yucatan peninsula. If you are staying in Tulum Mexico, then consider reading our additional resources on the country
- Travel Tips for planning your trip to Mexico
- Get our itinerary to Playa del Carmen
- Read about Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza (Chichén Itzá)
- Planning to extend your stay in Tulum, read this ultimate guide
- Hotel review in Playa del Carmen – Gran Porto Real
- Get the Mexico Packing tips
- Budget guide to Tulum
- EXCLUSIVE Mexico Riviera Maya Tours
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.