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Tulum Essentials: What to Do

by Juliana Jaoudi

The view inside the cenotes.


Tulum is the rare beach destination that has so much to do off the beach, both sporty and cultural.

You can snorkel, scuba dive, bungee jump, kite-surf, run on the beach, and do loads of yoga. You can plan ahead through the hotel or you can be spontaneous: Tulum Beach is so small that most activities are of the walk-up-and-join variety.

And when that "I really should do something more enriching than just lie on the beach" feeling hits, the area abounds with natural sites, history, and cultural options.


Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes or caves that you can snorkel and dive in. Natural wonders found throughout the Yucatan, several are located along route 307; a rental car will come in handy or you can arrange transportation through the hotel. Private companies on location at the cenotes arrange for guides, gear, and safety precautions; you can't go it alone. The best ones are Cenote Yax Mul, Dos Ojos, El Jardin del Edén, Tres Bocas, and Gran Cenote. Imagine: stalagtites, bats, and beautiful rock formations. For divers, cenotes offer the rare opportunity to see fresh and seawater meet but not mix. (Read more about cenotes on Wikipedia.)


Xcaret and Xel-Há are commercialized nature resorts where you can snorkel in underground rivers, swim with dolphins and manatees, and visit Mayan ruins. They're especially good for families.


Tulum has fantastic Mayan ruins, some of Mexico's best, perched on a cliff in the archaeological zone: a walled Mayan city that once served as a port. Tulum means "wall" in Yucatan Mayan. Walking the ruins along 40-feet-tall cliffs, you can feel the energy of what must have been a bustling place at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries. The three main ruins are El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God.


The yoga scene is very big in Tulum and lot of American teachers are drawn to the area to live and work. Amansala and Maya Tulum are the most well known, but take a walk down the beach and you'll see makeshift signs indicating beach yoga on offer with whomever is inspired that day.

Next: Getting Around

Juliana is a digital media executive and sometime writer/amateur photographer. She lives in New York city but is a California-Parisian girl at heart and picking one is impossible and unnecessary. She travels for the jewelry, local art, and textiles.

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