Cancun may get a lot of recognition as a winter tourist destination, but its neighboring city in the Riviera Maya is also a tropical paradise. Pristine beaches, delicious food, and exciting nightlife await in Tulum, Mexico. It also offers 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 this beach town is during the winter months so you can miss the hurricane season and enjoy the average temperatures of 75 degrees. Here are 9 reasons to visit Tulum, Mexico in the winter.
1. Maya Ruins
Plan a day trip and explore three Maya ruins (often incorrectly called “Mayan ruins” — learn more here). The location of the 13th-century Maya 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.
Pro Tip: Just south of Tulum, the Muyil Ruins (also known as Chunyaxché) are less crowded.
2. Underground Cenotes
The word cenote means “sacred well.” And while the region is known for its number of these caves and underground rivers, the closest and deepest known cenote to Tulum is Cenote Dos Ojos. Meaning “two eyes,” Dos Ojos 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.
Just outside of Tulum, Gran Cenote offers crystal-clear waters for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. These underwater limestone sinkholes are fed by underground rivers and offer a breathtaking glimpse into the world below.
3. Pristine Beaches
Many visit Tulum for its beaches, which are some of the most pristine in Mexico. Spend the day lounging on 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.
Some of the best beaches include Playa Ruinas, located at the base of the Tulum ruins, Playa Paraiso, and Akumal Beach, or visit the Las Palmas Public Beach.
Pro Tip: Looking for more fun in the sun? Xel-Há is a popular natural waterpark that offers snorkeling, mangroves you can float through on a tube, and a slide that’s nearly 100 feet tall among other adventure activities.
4. Kaan Luum Lagoon
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 or kick back in a hammock suspended above the water. In the center is an enormous cenote that scuba 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.
Explore the mangroves and lagoons of Sian Ka’an on a boat or kayaking tour. Maya communities on the outskirts of the reserve 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 locals who will introduce you to honey production, medicinal herbs, and the Mayan language.
5. Sea Turtles
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 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 Maya 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.
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 add up to a luxurious yet environmentally conscious destination.
An adult beachfront property, AZULIK 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 Maya jungle and the Caribbean Sea and do not have electric light, air conditioning, or televisions.
7. 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, Tulum 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. 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. Delicious Food
With a focus on the flavors of the Yucatán Península, 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 Maya jungle for seating at Kin Toh. The food is Maya-Mexican signature cuisine that utilizes local ingredients blended with international elements. For a special meal, indulge in the three-course tasting menu that includes an appetizer, a main course, and dessert for about $185 USD.
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. Entree options include duck, salmon, and prime rib in diverse preparations.
Taqueria La Eufemia
If taquerias are more your preference, get your fill of tacos at Taqueria La Eufemia. Your toughest decision will be 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.
Getting To Tulum
Located on the Caribbean coast in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Tulum is about a 45-minute drive south of Playa del Carmen and is 90 minutes south of Cancun. Tulum doesn’t have an airport, but tourists can fly into Cancún International Airport. Cozumel’s airport is another option but involves taking a ferry from the island. A bus such as the ADO or chauffeured van can get you the rest of the way to Tulum.
Staying In Tulum
The resort town is divided into a hotel zone and an archeological zone. Zona Hotelera is where the ritzy hotels, resorts, and beach clubs are located, while the archeological zone is home to ancient Maya ruins. A popular place for wellness retreats, Tulum offers upscale all-inclusive resorts, boutique hotels, and even hostels.