Tulum Mayan Ruins Guide
The Great Mayan City By The Sea
Updated June 2023
Welcome to Tulum
Breathe it in… the salty air, the wafting of floral incense, the deep sweetness of tropical flora and fauna…exhale slowly. You have arrived in Tulum. The magic of Tulum and the reason it has become such an extraordinary destination on the Yucatan Peninsula lies not only in the history of the nearby Mayan ruins of the same name, but in the energetic pull the city and sea have over those who come to visit.
A Bit Of History
Tulum was the last great city constructed and inhabited by the Mayan people between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. It was a site of worship to the Great Descending God whose image adorns the temples within the site. Tulum was also of great importance for sea trade, most specifically for the trading of obsidian. Tribes from all over Mexico and other Central American countries would travel here for commerce. It’s said that the great wall around the city was erected to protect it from envious traders and pirates who wanted to steal the prime location for themselves.
Today, numerous structures remain, spread out over groomed lawns and oceanside cliffs. The site’s buildings are an evolution of architectural styles that showcase the growth of the area over the centuries. Whether seeking a scenic holiday or the chance to dive into rich Mexican culture or Mayan history, Tulum is an epic travel destination. Below is our guide to making the best of your visit to Tulum. We hope you enjoy!
Where Are The Tulum Ruins?
The Tulum ruins are located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. They are in the heart of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean Sea. Tulum is approximately 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 90 minutes south of Cancun by car.
The Tulum ruins are a few minute ride from the nearby town of Tulum Pueblo, often just called “Tulum” as well, where many people choose to stay when visiting the area.
How To Get To Tulum Ruins
From Tulum Town
There are many ways to visit the ruins from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Akumal or Tulum town. The ruins are around 2.5 miles from Tulum town center, 45 minutes from Playa or about 1.5 hours from Cancun. Here are some great options for visiting the ruins.
Renting a car might be the best scenario if you plan on exploring the area a bit. From the Cancun International Airport, rent a car and head down the only highway southbound. You will pass Playa del Carmen, Akumal and so on. Approximately 90 minutes later you will arrive in Tulum Town. If you will be spending the night in town, be sure to check if your lodgings are in the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) or Centro (town center), as your turn off will be on different sides of the road. Signs for the ruins themselves are plentiful. We recommend booking your car here for the best prices.
Book a car for pick up at the Cancun airport here.
Book a car for pick up in Tulum town here.
Take a Tour
There are a number of wonderful tours available to visit the Tulum Ruins from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum center. Many include visits to cenotes and other fun activities for the day.
To join an amazing all day tour that includes transport to the ruins, a guide, a snorkeling trip and a swim at a local cenote, check out this hugely popular tour that can pick you up in Cancun, Playa or Tulum town.
If you’d prefer a private tour, this is a highly rated private tour from Tulum or Akumal that includes hotel/resort pickup and guide.
There are many, many more popular Tulum tour options to explore here.
Another popular option is to bicycle to the ruins from local hotels. Exploring the area by bicycle is often recommended by locals as it gives you the chance to get around at your own convenience. You can rent a bike for around $8 US a day anywhere in Tulum town and explore at your leisure.
- If you are staying by the beach, the bicycle rides can be much longer so check distances with your hotel.
- You cannot ride within the Tulum ruins site, but there are bike racks outside the gates.
- In the summer months, the bike ride can be too hot. Save your energy for walking around the ruins.
If you want to take a taxi to the Tulum Ruins, they are everywhere in Tulum, Cancun & Playa del Carmen and can take you straight to the ruins. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taxi’s from Cancun or Playa del Carmen to Tulum are convenient but can be quite expensive. Taxis in Tulum are an easy way to get to the ruins which are about 2.5 miles from Tulum town center. Flag them down on the road or have your hotel call one for you.
Tips For Visiting Tulum
The Inside Info
There is so much to do in Tulum. Here are some helpful tips to make the most out of your visit to the ruins.
Wear Cool, Comfortable Clothes
Wearing the wrong outfit to the ruins can ruin your time (pun intended). You should wear loose-fitting or light-colored clothing that is comfortable. You are likely to sweat as you walk around the ruins in the hot Mexican sun. In addition, wear comfortable trainers enabling you to walk around the site. Some visitors come in their swimsuits as they go straight to the beach after seeing the ruins.
Bring Plenty of Water
You are likely to visit the ruins when the temperatures around Tulum are at or near their hottest. The weather on the Yucatan Peninsula is humid and can zap you of moisture. Carry a large bottle of water with you to sip as you explore the ruins to keep you hydrated in the heat. There is very little shade from the hot sun around the ruins.
Only Buy Tickets at the Information Booth
Upon arrival to the Tulum Mayan ruins, you may see several individuals selling tickets away from the site. Do not be fooled as these tickets are not authentic passes to enter the Tulum ruins. You should only purchase your tickets at the site’s gate.
This Post Has 10 Comments
Heed the warning regarding tickets. we bought tickets from a stand just across the road from the market place just as you turn in from the highway. HUGE ripoff. $100 for two for “special” ticket to get in faster ( probably saved 10 minutes) trolley to entrance to ruins ( but walk was less than 1/2 mile, and the worst part, a private guide who was awful. He was hard to understand. Did not an offer a lot of information, and 30 minutes later said the tour was done and we had seen only 1/2 the site. My advice, get a tour package from your hotel with transportation, entrance ticket, guide, and usually involves visiting a cenote. Much better value!!!
This is very helpful! Do you have a guide on specific ruins to see? Thank you.
The big 3 in Yucatan are Tulum, Chitchen Itza and Coba. Check out all three!
Tulum ruins are NOT closed. I don’t know what that article is talking about honestly. Glad you love the guides!
An unforgettable experience, was there in 2005. Traveling USA – Mexico – Guatemala.
Awesome! I hope you made it to Tikal too. Epic!
Very nice guide. I will visit Tulum later this year. Thank you.
Tulum is incredible. Highly recommended. Our kids favorite part was swimming in the sea there of course!
The Tulum ruins are extraordinary. We never would have thought to bring our swimsuits, excellent tip. Our kids loved swimming at the ruins.
Bring a lot of water and money for souvenirs. The temples are so interesting. Not as big as Chichen Itza but it is in a much more beautiful location.