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. 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. Read on for my Tulum Ruins visitor guide to learn everything you need to know to visit the ruins from Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya.
Where are the Ruins in Tulum?
The ruins in Tulum Mexico are located just outside the city center of Tulum, or about an hour south of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Due to the site’s close proximity to the city center, visiting the ruins is the perfect activity for any Tulum itinerary. The archeological site is located right on the Caribbean sea elevated at a height of 12 m (~ 39 feet), offering spectacular seaside views.
History of the Tulum Ruins Mexico
I won’t go into a long history lesson but here are a few interesting Tulum Ruins facts:
- The ruins weren’t originally built by the Mayans but were inhabited and expanded by them in the 13th century.
- Tulum means “wall” in the Mayan language but the town was previously called Zama, which means “city of dawn.”
- Tulum served as an important trading post especially for turquoise and jade products, sitauted with convenient access to both land and sea routes.
- The site lasted for over 200 years but was eventually abandoned once diseases were introduced by the Spaniards.
How to Get to the Tulum Ruins
The ancient Ruins of Tulum can be visited fairly easily on your own or you can book a guided tour for the added convenience of roundtrip transportation with pickup from your hotel in Playa del Carmen. Visiting the ruins is one of the best excursions in Tulum.
If you decide to visit on your own, the easiest way to get to the Mayan ruins in Tulum is by driving or renting a car. It is a little less than an hour drive south of Playa del Carmen, driving directly south on the main highway 307.
You will see signs off the highway with the “Ruinas” symbol. Turn left at the main entrance and you’ll arrive to the main entrance.
Tulum Ruins Parking
Parking at the ruins is easily available but a little expensive (around $160 pesos ~ $8 USD) so make sure you have some cash on hand.
By Public Transportation
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get to the Tulum Mexico Ruins from Playa del Carmen is to take a colectivo (shared van). 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 around $45 pesos (~$2 USD) per person. Tell the driver you’re going to the ruins (“ruinas” in Spanish) and take note the stop is before the main stop in downtown Tulum.
Once you get off the colectivo, 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).
On a Tour
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving or figuring out public transportation, then I would recommend booking a Tulum Ruins tour. Most tours will include all entrance fees and roundtrip transportation with hotel pickup.
In addition, many tours also include snorkeling and visits to nearby cenotes, which are hidden swimming holes that only be found in the Yucatan peninsula. With these added activities, you get more bang for your buck and a hassle free booking option.
Entrance Fee for the Tulum Ruins
The Tulum Ruins entrance fee is around $80 pesos (~$4 USD) per person for visitors. If you are planning bring a GoPro or professional camera, you’ll need to pay an additional photography fee (around $45 pesos). Entrance is free for Mexican residents on Sundays.
Best Time to Visit the Tulum Ruins
The Tulum Ruins opening hours are currently daily from 9:00am – 5:00pm and I would definitely recommend visiting during the week if you’re able. Entrance is free for Mexican residents on Sundays so it can get extremely crowded with local families. It’s best to get there early if you want to avoid the crowds and get the best pictures.
Exploring the Ruins at Tulum
The ruins are located on a large site with an arrival area, the main archaeological site, and public beach access.
Once you make your way past the parking lot, there is an arrival area with the large colorful “Tulum” letters where you can take photos. You’ll also find large souvenir shops, restaurants, and food and drink stands. Most of the souvenirs at the ruins are pretty overpriced and you’d be better off to stick to the shopping in Playa del Carmen.
You’ll then proceed to the ticket counter to purchase your Tulum Ruins tickets and go through some turnstiles. Then you’ll have to walk a ways through a wooded area to get to the stone entrance of the main archaeological site.
Tulum Archaeological Site
Once you pass through the stone tunnel at the entrance, you are free to explore the ruins at your leisure. The ruins are are all roped off so you can’t walk on them and just have to view them from a distance. It’s a bummer but with hundreds of people visiting daily, it’s understandable 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. The ancient city of Tulum ran as a sophisticated operation which included sacrificial temples, a castle, watch towers, and trading posts.
The best views can be found from the top of the Tulum 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 ruins are widespread so be prepared for a lot of walking and some steps to get up to the top. There is little shade on the main site so be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, water bottle, or even an umbrella for shade. Temperatures in Tulum can be very hot all year round.
Tulum Ruins Beach
One of the most unique features of the Tulum Mayan Ruins is the public beach access directly on the site. The beach is very impressive looking as it’s enclosed by the massive cliffs surrounding the ruins. The beach is beautiful and secluded but it can get very crowded so I would advise arriving early. If you plan to swim, be sure to bring a swimsuit, towel, and biodegradable sunscreen.
What to Do After Visiting the Tulum Ruins
If you get to the ruins early, you’ll still have a good part of the day to explore Tulum. Here’s my recommendations for things to do in Tulum:
Visit a Beach Club
After you’re done walking around the ruins, you’ll more than likely be dripping in sweat and ready for a cold beverage. I would highly suggest heading over to a beach club in Tulum – it’s the perfect way to cool off and relax for the rest of the day.
I always recommend Ziggy’s Beach Club in Tulum, 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.
Once you pull up to Ziggy’s, you will immediately feel Tulum’s beachy eclectic vibe. With a palm tree lined entrance and cutely strung overhead lights, you’ll first pass by the hanging swings at the main bar before seeing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean in the distance.
From there, you can grab a table at the restaurant or head directly down to the beach to reserve a beach bed. Pricing varies by season but during high season (December-February) there is usually a $50 USD consumption for use of the beach beds.
Keep in mind the food and beverage minimum can be split between 2 people. The food menu at Ziggy’s is actually very good – much better quality and more creative menu items than many of the beach clubs in Playa del Carmen. I personally like the Baja Fish Tacos and the Ceviche Caribe. The margaritas are tasty too!
The beach at Ziggy’s is really gorgeous and definitely less crowded than the beaches in Playa del Carmen. One of the reasons I love the beaches in Tulum is because they are usually much more chill and relaxing.
Visit a Cenote
Another fun activity after the visiting the ruins is to head to a nearby cenote. There are tons of cenotes near Tulum but Gran Cenote is probably the best one to visit that is the closest proximity to the ruins. The easiest way to get there is to take a taxi from the main entrance.
Once there you can swim, snorkel, or just hang out in a beautiful natural setting. Make sure to bring biodegradable sunscreen as regular sunscreen is prohibited when swimming in cenotes. I would also bring water shoes and a quick dry towel.
Tips for Visiting the Tulum Ruins in Mexico
- Get there early. The ruins are open daily from 9am – 5pm but can get very crowded. If you go early, you can enjoy the site with less people and still have time to hit a beach club afterwards.
- There is public beach access directly from the ruins so if you want to swim I would recommend bringing a swimsuit, towel, and biodegradable sunscreen.
- It’s a good idea to bring a compact umbrella if you have one. There is little to no covered areas at the ruins and rainstorms can come on very quickly. This happened to me the first time I was there and I got drenched! And if it doesn’t rain, you can use the umbrella for shade!
- There is very little shade at the ruins so I would bring sun hat and a water bottle to stay hydrated. It can get VERY hot.
- Entrance to the Tulum Ruins is free for Mexican citizens and foreign residents on Sundays.
Teeming with rich history and flaunting pristine oceanfront views, the Mayan Ruins at Tulum are definitely a fun option for a day trip from Playa del Carmen. Personally, I’m intrigued by learning about the history of the ancient Mayan Ruins of Tulum. But even if you’re not a history buff, there is still much to be enjoyed from the stunning views, secluded beach access, and the many options for exploring or just relaxing in Tulum.
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