5 Best Tulum Excursions: From the Mayan ruins to the local cenotes to the animal adventures, Tulum has some of the best excursions in the Riviera Maya. Though it may be tempting to spend your whole vacation in the city and on the beaches, to make the most out of your trip, you should really make a point to go on some of the popular excursions in the area. Here are some of the best excursions and day trips in Tulum that you should try.
Swimming With Whale Sharks
One of the most unique excursions from Tulum is swimming with whale sharks. The eastern coast of the Yucatan is one of the few places in the world that offer this once in a lifetime experience. Whale shark tours are available annually between the months of May and September, when whale sharks congregate in the warm Caribbean waters. Many of the tours leave from Cancun, so depending on which tour group you book with, you may opt to be picked up via shuttle from your hotel in Tulum and driven to the group’s marina in Cancun. One of the best tour groups is Mexico’s Whale Sharks, which offers these shuttle services directly to their private marina in Cancun.
The trip out to where the whale sharks are usually takes about 45 minutes, but it can take longer, depending on the weather, ocean conditions, and location of the animals. Along the way, your captain will point out other marine life that you pass, such as manta rays and dolphins.
Once you arrive at the location where the whale sharks are, you will be able to disembark and swim or snorkel with them. The sharks are enormous, but completely harmless to humans, and swimming next to them is a fascinating and thrilling experience, well worth the trip.
A word of caution–because the chemicals in sunblock can be toxic to the animals, wearing sunblock on the tour is strictly prohibited. Be sure to dress accordingly, with a hat, long sleeves, etc. to protect against the sun.
Exploring the Cenotes
Tulum has some of the best cenotes in Mexico. A cenote (pronounced “say-no-tay”) is an underwater cave or sinkhole filled with groundwater. The ones present along the Maya Riviera are absolutely stunning, and vary greatly in terms of size and features.
Some cenotes are shallow and great for swimming, others have steep drops from the ground to the water below, and are perfect for diving and jumping off of, and others are very deep and excellent for scuba diving. Tulum is full of all these types of cenotes, some of which are just a couple minutes drive from the center of town.
Some of the most popular cenotes in Tulum include:
Cenote Calavera: Great cenote for jumping and diving into, with three entrance holes 10 feet above the water.
Cenote Angelita: Incredible cenote for scuba diving. Home of the world famous “underwater river” phenomena.
Cenote Dos Ojos: Vast cenote system with underwater caves that are great for scuba diving and swimming.
Chichen Itza Day Trip
Although Tulum has some of the best Mayan ruins right within the city limits, visiting Chichen Itza is still well worth the trip. Chichen Itza is a vast, well-preserved pre-Columbian city that is home to perhaps the most iconic historical landmark in Mexico, El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulcán, a step pyramid standing 98 feet in height and 180 feet in length along the base.
A day trip to Chichen Itza is one of the best Tulum excursions, and may tour companies in Tulum off pickup from your hotel, a guided walking tour of the major sites in Chichen Itza, a summary of the Mayan myths and legends regarding the area, plus a swim in the local cenote, great Mexican food, and tequila tasting.
You can book your tour here.
An aquatic theme park located a 20 minute drive outside of Tulum, Xel-Há Park features a lagoon and inlet that are great for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The park has numerous animal attractions, such as swimming with dolphins and sea turtles, and it also has a mega waterslide, great food and unlimited drinks, and the Mayan ruins of Xelha, which are located on the parkgrounds.
You can book a trip to Xel-Há that includes pickup and dropoff at your hotel, plus an all-inclusive day trip to the park. In addition to everything mentioned above, the all-inclusive visit allows you to explore and swim at the local cenotes and caves, float down the river in an inner tube, go cliff jumping, spelunking in caves, and relaxing on the beautiful beaches.
Visit Laguna Kaan Luum
An incredible lagoon with bluegreen tropical waters located a 15 minute drive southwest of Tulum, Laguna Kaan Luum is a beautiful, tranquil, and relaxing site. The lagoon’s calm, shallow waters are excellent for swimming, although the center of the lagoon, where the water changes from greenish to dark blue, is roped off to swimmers, as the currents in the middle of the lagoon are strong. Around the sides of the lagoon are multiple piers that are great for jumping off of, and swings and hammocks hanging over the waters that are free for visitors to use.
The water is warm and refreshing, especially on hot summer days, and the area is especially popular with the locals. Around the lagoon, the trees and clear blue skies contribute to the natural beauty of the area, and many of the visitors who come here (especially if they arrive early, when there are hardly any crowds) consider it the highlight of their trip.