Cancun may get a lot of recognition as a winter tourist destination, but its neighboring city in the Riviera Maya, Tulum, is a tropical paradise that offers pristine beaches, food, and nightlife in addition to environmentally friendly opportunities to see wildlife in its natural habitat and visit historic ruins.
With warm sunny days for relaxing on the beach or exploring, the best time to visit Tulum is during the winter months so you can miss the hurricane season and enjoy the average temperatures of 75 degrees.
I was looking forward to a winter visit to Tulum myself recently. In addition to day trips to explore the ruins, cenotes, and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, I had planned to take a cooking lesson on Mayan cuisine and even a tequila workshop. My participation in the trip was unfortunately rescheduled, but because of the ideal weather and cheaper hotels in the winter months, I’ll be booking a trip soon. Here are 9 reasons to visit Tulum, Mexico in the winter.
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1. You Can Explore Ancient Ruins
Plan a day trip and explore three Mayan ruins. The location of the 13th-century Mayan archaeological Tulum ruins on the beachfront makes the start of this day trip even more exhilarating. Then about an hour away from Tulum are the Coba ruins with a 138-foot pyramid, and the Chichen Itza ruins are a little further.
The Tulum ruins are well preserved and housed on a cliff with views of the Caribbean sea. Recognized as one of the world’s seven wonders, visiting the ruins inspires awe and is a way to discover Mexico’s history. An often-photographed site is the Castillo -- the clifftop watchtower, which hearkens to days when this was a port village.
Want to see all the ruins? Consider Beyond Chichen Itza: Maya Ruins In The Yucatan Worth Visiting.
2. There Are Underground Cenotes
The word cenote means “sacred well.” And while the region is known for its number of cenotes, of these caves and underground rivers, the closest and deepest known cenote to Tulum is Cenote Dos Ojos. Dos Ojos, meaning two eyes is the coincidence of two cenotes that appear as two large eyes looking into the underground. The two cenotes connect into a large cavern, ideal for exploring the unique ecosystem.
It’s a breathtaking experience to swim, snorkel, or dive in one of these underwater limestone sinkholes. They’re fed by underground rivers and offer a breathtaking glimpse into the world beneath.
Enamored by cenotes and Yucatan adventure travel? Adventures await at Mexico’s Xcaret Parks: Here’s everything you need to know.
3. The Beaches Are Some Of The Most Pristine In Mexico
Tulum’s beaches are why many visit. Spend the day lounging on the beach’s near-white sand, watching the waves, and enjoying the sun. You’ll find the untamed jungle and miles of beachfront make it one of the most spectacular beach destinations in the world.
Popular beaches include Playa Ruinas, located at the base of the Tulum ruins, Playa Paraiso, and Akumal Beach, or visit the Las Palmas Public Beach.
4. Visit A Natural Wonder
Just a few minutes’ drive from Tulum is the Kaan Luum Lagoon. The turquoise lagoon has shallow areas for wading as well as other areas that are no deeper than 6.5 feet. The mineral-rich mud is known for its healing powers, and the shallow waters make it easy to cover yourself in the mud or just sit and relax in the waters. If a mud bath isn’t your preference, take a paddleboard tour of the lagoon. In the center is an enormous cenote that divers can explore.
The lagoon is located inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you’re there, take in this important nature reserve with nine ecosystems. It’s home to four endangered species including jaguars, tapirs, manatees, and peccaries. Plus, 300 bird species and 100 species of mammals make it a truly unique destination.
If interested in exploring, there are Mayan communities on the outskirts of the reserve who will take you on an organized expedition of Sian Ka’an. Immerse yourself in the culture even more and take part in workshops put on by the locals that will introduce you to honey production, medicinal herbs, and the Mayan language.
5. You’ll See Sea Turtles In Their Natural Habitat
From May to October, thousands of turtles arrive on the beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. Watch for them after sunset as the mother turtles lay their eggs and then return back to the water.
If you’d like to see the ruins and swim with sea turtles, Ocean Tours has a guided trip during which you’ll start with a visit to Tulum National Park, an archeological site with Mayan ruins, visit some of the cenotes, and then swim along the coast with sea turtles in Tulum’s coral reef. They offer a variety of combinations including hiking through the jungle, swimming in cenotes, and more, so you can try all that the area has to offer in one tour.
Or rent snorkeling gear and head to Akumal Bay. It’s a perfect area for snorkeling with turtles as the bay is protected by a reef that keeps large waves from the area. The turtles are abundant in the bay, and since they’re used to humans, you can swim up close for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
6. It’s An Eco-Friendly Destination
In addition to Sian Ka’an, other reasons Tulum is more than just a tourist destination are the sustainable hotels that attempt to blend tourism with creating a smaller footprint. Three hotels have attained Green Key certification in Mexico for their focus on sustainable hospitality. Their initiatives include protecting marine life and nature, creating jobs for local residents, limiting food waste, and green building practices.
One such hotel is Ahau Tulum. Located on the beachfront, the eco-conscious cabanas and huts, daily yoga lessons, and sunrise meditations create a luxurious yet environmentally conscious destination.
AZULIK Tulum, an adult beachfront property, takes this quest even further and only uses light from candles. Because of the natural lighting, the beach in front of AZULIK is a popular nesting area for turtles. The 48 villas reflect a desire to live in harmony with the Mayan jungle and the Caribbean Sea and do not have electric light, air conditioning, or television.
7. Tulum Has An Exciting Nightlife
Spend your days diving in cenotes, exploring the ruins and the wildlife reserve, taking a yoga class, or lounging on the beach. Come nightfall, the area comes alive with beach parties and live music venues.
According to blogger Mexico Dave, the best bars are located in two areas: the Pueblo and the Middle Beach Zone. Each has its own vibe with The Pueblo being more affordable and laid back and Middle Beach Zone offering more upscale hotspots. Dave says that five bars take turns hosting the biggest parties, each designated a certain night of the week. The bars are open nightly, but the party night for each includes Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar; Thursdays at Casa Jaguar; Fridays at Gitano; Saturdays at Papaya Playa Project; and Sundays at Salsa Night at La Zebra Hotel.
8. You Can Explore The Area On Bikes
With the majority of the hotels and bars centered along the shoreline, Tulum is an ideal destination to rent a bicycle and explore. Tulum is known as a bike-friendly town and rentals are available, or take a bike tour. Tulum Bike Tours provides cenote tours, a city tour, and a backroads tour during which you’ll discover the culture and wildlife of the area.
9. The Food Is Delicious
With a focus on local flavors, the food in Tulum is not to be missed. There’s something for everyone with trendy eateries, taquerias, and of course, delicious street food.
For an immersive experience in nature, dine in an enormous treehouse that has private nests high above the Mayan jungle for seating at Kin Toh. The food is Mayan-Mexican signature cuisine that utilizes local ingredients blended with international elements. For a special meal, indulge in the five-course menu that includes two appetizers, two main courses, and dessert for about $140 USD.
Another trendy restaurant is Mur Mur. Utilizing local resources from the Yucatan Peninsula to create authentic Mexican cuisine, Mur Mur serves seasonal, local dishes cooked with the least amount of technology. The menu changes seasonally based on what is locally available.
At Loco Tulum, taste chef-inspired Mediterranean cuisine. The menu is designed to “puzzle, amuse, and amaze” with seasonal options utilizing unique flavors, textures, and aromas. Try the duck, salmon, or prime rib for a flavorful sensation.
If taquerias are more your preference, get your fill of tacos at Taqueria La Eufemia. Your toughest decision will be choosing whether you want grilled shrimp, grilled octopus, veggie, beef, fish, or al pastor at this small yet trendy restaurant.
Sampling street foods in Mexico is one way to fully immerse yourself in the food scene. Enjoy fresh coconut water, roadside tacos, and ice pops at stands in Tulum. For breakfast or lunch, stop by Taqueria Honorio. They open at 6:30 a.m. to serve fresh and hot traditional Yucatan tacos.