Set atop the Caribbean Sea, the Tulum Ruins were originally built as an oceanside fortress and are one of the most popular archaeological sites in Mexico. When my parents were visiting from back home, my mom and I decided to visit the Tulum Ruins for the day. It was a very hot and very busy Sunday at the ruins, but we still had a lot of fun exploring the site and learning more about the Mayan culture. Although the Tulum Ruins are not as grand as those found in Chichen Itza or Coba, I think they are definitely still worth a visit if not for the views alone.
Getting to the Tulum Ruins
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get to the Tulum Ruins is to take a colectivo (shared van) from downtown Playa del Carmen. The vans leave from the main depot on 2nd Street and 20th Avenue. Just make sure you get on one that is heading towards Tulum. It is about an hour drive from Playa del Carmen and costs $45 pesos (~$2 USD) per person. Tell the driver you’re going to the ruins (ruinas) and take note the stop is before the main stop in downtown Tulum. Once you get off the bus, cross the highway and head straight towards the main entrance. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the main entrance but there is also a shuttle train that drives visitors from the parking lot to the main entrance, which can be taken for an additional fee (I think it’s around $20 pesos).
Entrance Fee for the Tulum Ruins
We visited the Tulum Ruins in January 2019 and the cost was $75 pesos (~$4 USD) per person for visitors. You can also visit the ruins through a guided tour for around $30 USD, which generally provides transportation and a group tour guide. In my opinion, I think it’s just as easy to do it on your own. Around the entrance you will also find a multitude of souvenir shops and food stands. Most of these places seemed to me to be a bit overpriced so I would recommend venturing into Tulum for better restaurants and shopping options.
Exploring the Tulum Ruins
Once you pass through the stone tunnel at the entrance, you are free to explore the ruins at your leisure. Understandably the ruins are are all roped off so you have to view them from a distance. Bummer but with hundreds of people visiting daily, I get that they have to preserve them. There are small informational plaques in front of each structure (written in English and Spanish) that provide tidbits on the history and how each building was used. It was very interesting to learn about how the walled city of Tulum ran as a sophisticated operation which included sacrificial temples, a castle, watch towers, and trading posts.
The ruins are widespead but the best views can be found from the top of the site overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This is where everyone is fighting for photo ops and also where you can access the wooden stairs leading down to the public beach. The public beach is admittedly very impressive as it’s enclosed by the massive cliffs surrounding the ruins. It was however very crowded and sprawling with tourists when we were there. Overall, we spent about an hour walking through the ruins before we were super sweaty and decided to head over to Ziggy’s Beach Club in Tulum for some lunch and relaxation.
History of the Tulum Ruins
I won’t go into a long history lesson about the ruins but here are a few tidbits I found to be interesting:
Next Stop: Beach Club!
After you’re done walking around the ruins, you’ll likely be dripping in sweat and more than ready for a cold beverage. I would highly suggest heading over to a beach club in Tulum – it’s the perfect way to spend the rest of the day. My mom and I decided to check out Ziggy’s Beach Club, which is about a 20 minute drive from the ruins. There are a line of taxis waiting right outside the ruins that you can take to get there. Beware they will cost you a little more than your average taxi but for the added convenience we ended up paying around $18 USD for the trip.