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Best Day Trips from Tulum

Archaeological site Tulum in Yucatan peninsula by the Caribbean Sea in Mexico during the sunset

90 minutes south of Cancun city in Mexico, you will find Tulum. Rapidly gaining popularity among millennials, the city is not a “new kid on the block”, as its archaeological sites date back to the 13th century! Nowadays, the city is bustling with yoga venues, atmospheric cafés, bars and restaurants; Tulum beach is a hot spot for visitors, but the over 1000-years-old Mayan ruins are still one of the main reasons why tourists pilgrim to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Navigating among things to do and see in and around Tulum can be difficult, let us guide you through the best day trips from Tulum Mexico making sure you do not miss any of the ancient (and contemporary!) highlights.

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Day trip from Tulum to Chichen Itza 

Chichen Itza is one of the most prominent examples of the Mayan-Toltec culture and a must-see on a day trip from Tulum Mexico. Even though the site dates centuries back, many structures have survived. The buildings that we can still admire today include Temple of Warriors (on the north-east), El Castillo (also referred to as the Temple of Kukulkan) and the circular observatory also known as El Caracol, famous for its spiral staircase that gave the structure its catchy name. 

The archaeological research has shown that almost all the major monuments of Chichen Itza were erected before the 13th century. In the 15th century, the site was abandoned, and its parts have since undergone gradual deterioration. However, due to the excellent construction techniques applied by the ancient Mayan builders, large parts of the complex, as well as sculptural and pictorial decorations, remained well conserved. The first archaeological excavations of Chichen Itza began about 150 years ago, and since 1988 Chichen Itza has been listed as official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can get to Chichen Itza from Tulum by direct public bus. The drive will take around 2 hours 30 minutes, and fares start at around 11 USD for a one-way journey. If you feel more comfortable travelling by car, we look into guided trips to Chichen Itza from Tulum.

Day trip from Tulum to Chichen Itza

CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO - Tourists visiting Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza, Yucatan. Kukulkan pyramid is one of seven New World Wonders and popular tourist destination in Mexico.

Day trip from Tulum around Quintana Roo

The Yucatan Peninsula is divided into three states: Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo, the youngest state in Mexico. Tulum is one of the cities within Quintana Roo, but the area offers much more for tourists to explore.

Visit the ecological park of Xcaret where you can enjoy cultural activities and learn more about eco-tourism. Another noteworthy mention is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (the name directly translates to “Gate of Heaven” or “Origin of the Sky”). Known for its pristine beauty, it is a protected area where natural resources are used sustainably and where you can observe many species of birds and fish and experience impressive floral diversity. Sian Ka’an has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Close to Cancun town, you will find Isla Mujeres. With hotels and resorts for every budget, the island is a great spot for a getaway into a more pristine environment. If you go, make sure to stop by the sea turtle protection centre! Another beautiful island that is worth adding to your Quintana Roo checklist is Holbox. This pristine paradise with locally-run resorts and restaurants attracts tourists longing for a rest away from the urban bustle. Note that the journey with bus and ferry will take 3 hours 30 minutes; if you go, consider staying on Holbox overnight.

El Meco mayan ancient city, located in Cancún, Quintana Roo, México

Day trip from Tulum to Bacalar Lagoon

Another one of our top recommendations for day trips around the Yucatan Peninsula is a getaway to Bacalar Lagoon. With its most famous site, Lago Bacalar, also referred to as “Lake of Seven Colours”, Bacalar Lagoon is a popular spot for day-long boat trips!

There are direct buses from Tulum to Bacalar (ticket fees start at around 11 USD), however, with 215 kilometres between the two cities, the bus tour will take around 3 hours (each way). For faster and more comfortable transportation, we recommend booking a day trip to Bacalar from Tulum with an agency. 

You will be picked up from your hotel in Tulum and continue to Lake Bacalar, onboard the sightseeing boat and enjoy a relaxing cruise through the Lagoon of Seven Colours. Lunch and bottled water will be provided, and at the end of your tour, you will also visit San Felipe Fort and museum. The fort dates back to the 18th century, and now it houses a piracy museum where you can see expositions of weapons from the colonial-era as well as local artefacts. Another Bacalar site worth visiting is the Church of San Joaquín – the patron saint of the town. Every year in July, Saint Joaquín is celebrated with feasts and regional dances performed by dancers in costumes traditional for the Yucatan Peninsula.

Day trip from Tulum to Bacalar Lagoon

Laguna de Bacalar Lagoon palapas in Mayan Mexico at Quintana roo

Day trip from Tulum to Lagoon Kaan Luum

Lagoon Kaan Luum is one of the most affordable and easiest to access locations for day trips from Tulum Mexico. Before you go, you should know that it is a fairly secluded location, and there are no shops or restaurants on-site! If you want to stay there for the day, make sure to bring own snacks and refreshments.

Surrounded by an impressive variety of trees (maybe you can even spot examples of unique jungle fauna!), Lagoon Kaan Luum is a serene place for a cosy getaway from Tulum. Bring your camera with you if you want to immortalize the colour contrasts between the centre of the lagoon and its sides. The lagoon is lined with grass and there is some sediment on the edges, so get into the water from the pier; further out from the shoreline the bottom gets nice and sandy. The lagoon also attracts yoga enthusiasts who want to try the SUP (stand up paddle-board) yoga. 

Lagoon Kaan Luum is off Mexico’s 307 Highway, south of Tulum. If you want to get to the lagoon using public transportation, take one of the “colectivos” that go from Tulum to Felipe Carrillo. On the way, the “colectivo” will drive past the entrance point to the lagoon. Hungry for more? Head further south towards the ancient Mayan ruins of Muyil.

Day trip from Tulum to Lagoon Kaan Luum

Snorkelling with where sharks day trip from Tulum

Looking for a first-hand experience of some of the most fascinating and gentle marine giants? Join a whale sharks tour in Cancun & Riviera Maya: Small-Group Eco Friendly day trip that will bring you closer to the incredible water creatures. Book the trip online and let your knowledgable local guides take you on an eco-tour to first learn about the fauna and flora of the Mexican waters, and then learn about the different species that inhabit Mexican grounds.

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is one of the only places on the planet where you can swim alongside whale sharks. First, you will onboard a boat from where you can observe the waters for whale sharks. Once you spot one, grab your snorkelling gear and jump into the clear, tropical waters to come closer to the magnificent fish. You will see them feast on tiny plankton; experience the animals in their most natural habitat.

Upon your return to the boat, the tour will continue towards Isla Mujeres where you will learn about the animal species from the island and its surrounding waters. A biologist will explain how to gently and safely interact with the marine fauna and flora, following the principles of eco-tourism and responsible travelling.

Snorkelling with where sharks day trip from Tulum

isla mujeres off the yucatan coastin mexico ** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizes

Day trip from Tulum to Playa del Carmen 

If you want to check out the local hot spot for nightlife, we suggest a tour to Playa del Carmen. Located along the Riviera Maya strip of the Yucatan Peninsula, it attracts tourists with its sandy, palm-lined beaches and stunning coral reefs. 

One of the popular attractions around Playa del Carmen is the Rio Secreto natural underwater park. Located just a few kilometres from Playa del Carmen the park offers an unforgettable eco-tourism experience. Explore a cave system of semi-sunken grottos with impressive rock formations and limestone tunnels. Visiting is only allowed with a local guide, as it is pitch dark inside, and before you go in, you will be given a wetsuit, helmet and a headlamp. Your guide will introduce you to the unique vegetation along the way; apart from incredible sights, prepare to learn more about the (underwater) geology!

Back on the ground, make sure not to miss the pedestrians’ boulevard Quinta Avenida (meaning “5th Avenue”) that runs parallel to the beach in Playa del Carmen. The boulevard is filled with shops and charming cafés. Playa del Carmen is popular for its vibrant nightlife; check out the many rooftop bars! But before you make it to the (beach) clubs, head to one of the local restaurants for dinner, and make sure to try the exquisite seafood! 

Day trip from Tulum to Playa del Carmen 

PLAYA DEL CARMEN,MEXICO - Beach Club by the seaside at the touristic city of Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera

Private Cooking Class in Tulum Mexico

If you are not only hungry for more Tulum experiences but also hungry for some tasty bites, we recommend joining a private cooking class in Tulum Mexico.

The food tours provide a great (and tasty!) introduction to the Mayan culture through an authentic experience of made-with-love Mayan food. Depending on who you travel with, you can look into different food tours in Tulum. If you are in town with a small group, we recommend hiring a private chef who will guide you through the most popular Mayan dishes. For solo travellers, we rather suggest joining a guided food experience that includes a market tour. You will explore the Mexican grocery markets and learn about the locally harvested ingredients (like the bitter orange, also known as “naranja agria” and the fragrant variety of chillies) before you roll up your sleeves and start preparing the food on your own.

Some Tulum food tours include a spirit tasting too; your meal can be paired with servings of artisanal mezcal, local craft beer or Mexican wine. Browse online through the different options available if you want to add mezcal or wine tasting to your gourmet experience. For an even more hands-on experience, look into rural food tours that include harvesting/picking the ingredients on your own!

Private Cooking Class in Tulum Mexico

Fresh fried fish tacos on a plate in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The Best of Tulum Walking Tour, including Tulum Beach

Tulum is a true treasure chest, and it can be hard to navigate around the bustling town and its attractions. Which is why we recommend joining a guided walking tour that will take you to the most spectacular locations around Tulum. 

Discover the best of what the city has to offer; the first longer stop will be at Tulum Archaeological Site where you will have some time to explore the ancient Mayan ruins inside Tulum (there is an entrance fee, however, if you book a guided walking tour, the ticket will be included in your booking price). The walking tour will continue past Tulum’s magnificent city hall and the bustling Parque Dos Aguas, known for its many sweet stalls selling churros and marquesitas – pastries similar to wafers, that are meant to be enjoyed with a generous serving of Nutella.

On the walking tour, you will also visit the famous Tulum beach, Playa Paraíso. Clean and sandy, surrounded by unpolluted waters, Tulum beach is often mentioned as one of the best beaches in the country! During your guided walking tour, you will probably not have time to lounge on the beach; we highly recommend saving some time to come back to Tulum beach. It is best to arrive in the morning if you want to secure a good spot.

The Best of Tulum Walking Tour, including Tulum Beach

Tropical beach and ancient mayan ruins on a cliff at Tulum in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Recommended Day Trips from Tulum

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Best Day Trips from Tulum

Best Day Trips from Tulum

Best Day Trips from Tulum

Article written by:

Hi, my name is Samantha, Finance Managing Guru by day, Travel Blogging Enthusiast by... well... day too! Haha! Travelling King is the destination hotspot for the wannabe traveller! Showcasing affordable, luxurious getaways for the budget conscious! With the combination of my financial knowledge and travelling experiences I aim to show you, with a little planning, the right budget and a realistic goal you can fulfil your travel fantasies and explore the world whatever your budget or desires may be!