Tulum is a beautiful tropical destination where you’re bound to enjoy the sand and sun, but why stop there? This majestic land was once home to one of the greatest civilizations in human history. Explore its world-renown natural richness and astonishing remnants of the Mayan legacy, all surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Tulum’s conservation efforts make this city and its surroundings one of the best ecotourism destinations out there. Start packing and don’t forget your sunblock — the adventure of a lifetime starts in Tulum. 

01Zona arqueologica de Tulum

Drone view of El Castillo, Tulum ruins archeological zone, Mexico

Ruins, sand, and sunshine — what more do you need for your perfect getaway? Located in Tulum National Park on the Caribbean coast, Zona Arqueologica is a protected archeological area that is home to well-preserved remains on a cliff over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Imposing and ancient, El Castillo is one of the most famous remains of the site; it served as a lighthouse for Mayan vessels and as a ceremonial temple. El Templo de Los Frescos houses colorful murals that preserve prehispanic art. From the main beach near el Castillo, catch a glimpse of a smaller sandbar that once welcomed Mayan commercial vessels but has become a nesting site for native sea turtles.

02Delight your palate with prehispanic and colonial delicacies

Sopes de Cochinita Pibil - Cochinita Pibil:is a Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán. Sopes: It is an antojito which is made from a circle of fried masa (ground maize soaked in lime) Juanmonino / Getty Images

Like most coastal destinations, seafood is the hero of many traditional dishes in Tulum. Pescado Tikin Xic, ceviche, and garlic shrimp are some of the delicacies you can't miss. Cochinita pibil and sopa de lima are some of the exquisite dishes from the Riviera Maya that possess prehispanic roots but were later influenced by the arrival of the Spaniards. These recipes melded with the Caribbean surroundings, creating opportunities to use local ingredients such as banana leaves and coconuts. Tulum receives tourists from all around the world, and so it caters to many cuisines. For a truly unique gastronomic experience, try out Tulum’s lobster pizza and fish burger.

03Aktun Chen Natural Park

Inside a Cenote Pet cementery, Tulum riviera Maya, Mexico

Ready to explore untouched land in the middle of a tropical rainforest? The pristine atmosphere of this underground walk will transport you to another time — one where people communed harmoniously with nature. Explore the main underground cave, the crowning jewel of the park, and one of National Geographic’s top ten underground walks. The cave trail covers 70 yards of ancestral rock formations and a river that leads to a cenote, where natural light illuminates the water. Go way above ground to the park's canopy and zipline over the greenery to catch sight of species you won’t spot from the ground. 

04Explore the islands of the Riviera Maya

Hammocks in the water at Punta Cocos, Isla Holbox

Choose your escape to the islands of Mujeres, Holbox, and Cozumel. Their sandy shores are a refuge for nature and history, making them truly unique in the Mexican Caribbean. Isla Mujeres boasts grand attractions, from eco-parks and an underwater museum to temples and natural reserves. After exploring Isla Mujeres, hop over to Holbox. One of the largest islands and also the furthest one from the coast, Holbox has garnered new-found international popularity. Whether you ride a kayak, rest at one of its iconic hammocks, or just admire its unique street art, you’re bound to have a great time. 

05Rent a bike and discover the city your way

Tulum Caribbean beach bicycles Riviera Maya

Tulum is dedicated to protecting its natural and archeological sites. What better way to help them in their mission than by biking around the city? Tour the ruins of Coba, the Reserve of Sian Ka’an, cenotes, and many other cycling-friendly attractions. Ride through the cobbled streets, palm tree-shaded sidewalks, and beaches. You will see that locals and tourists alike prefer biking over driving to gain a unique perspective of Tulum. 

06Plunge into ancient waters

Gran Cenote, Tulum, Mexico emicristea / Getty Images

There are more than six thousand cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula; only 2,241 are registered, and the best ones are in Tulum. The Mayas considered cenotes sacred places, as they were simultaneously their water sources and the entrances to the underworld, Xibalba. Some of the finest cenotes in the area are the Gran Cenote, Dos Ojos, Calavera, and Aktun. You can swim in their crystal waters, dive to the mystical depths, or sunbathe on the shores. 

07Biosfera de Sian Ka’an

Frigatebird Tree in Sian Ka'an, Mexico

Reconnect with nature and yourself in one of the largest biospheres in the Mexican Caribbean. Come and discover for yourself the “origin of the sky”  in Sian Ka’an. In these 6,500 square kilometers, you will find all this Mayan paradise offers: unspoiled beaches, jungles, coral reefs, cenotes, and an archeological site. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, this protected reserve is home to wildlife you won’t see anywhere else in Tulum or even the Riviera Maya. Be mindful of the rules for visiting this biosphere; follow them to protect its inhabitants and make sure it thrives for decades to come. 

08Visit one of the most beautiful beaches in the world

Punta Maroma, Quintana Roo Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones / Flickr

Known for its crystalline waters and fine white sands, Punta Maroma deserves to be in your itinerary. One of the beach’s attractions is its coral reef, which is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. From snorkeling to horse riding, to jet skiing or hammock sunbathing, there is a myriad of things to do on this gorgeous beach. Punta Maroma is an hour’s drive from the city of Tulum and well worth the journey. 

09Parque Xel-Ha

Cenote - turquoise water at Xel-Ha, Cancun Australian Lifestyle Images / Getty Images

Six miles from Tulum, you will find a treasure like no other. Xel-Ha, “where water is born” in Mayan, is an eco-park where saltwater from the Caribbean sea joins the springs and underground rivers of the peninsula. Parque Xel-ha is the world’s largest natural aquarium, and marine and freshwater creatures coexist. There are many attractions to explore in this nature retreat. Jungle trails, snorkeling, caves, water slides, and swimming with some of the marine inhabitants are all within reach. Get early-access tickets to thoroughly take advantage of the park’s attractions without the mass of visitors. 

10Don’t forget about this World Wonder

Sunny Archaeological site Kukulkan / El Castillo , Mayan Pyramid Chichen Itza Mexico cinoby / Getty Images

If you’re already visiting the Riviera Maya, you’re halfway there to see one of the Seven Wonders of World. Two hours from Tulum by bus or car, Chichen Itza is what remains of the once-splendorous Mayan city and trade center. Centuries ago, it was an economic and political powerhouse for the Maya. The pyramid of Kukulcan is the city’s crowning jewel; its superb architecture has withstood the test of time. Make sure to pack comfortable clothes and shoes, and bring snacks for your trip. Check the weather before you head out, as temperatures in Chichen Itza can reach a stifling 104 degrees Fahrenheit.