This post is all about the best day trips from Tulum – including natural sinkholes, climbing ancient ruins, and swimming with sea turtles.
Tulum is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. Travelers flock to the Tulum for the bohemian vibes, gorgeous beaches, amazing food, and vibrant beach clubs. However, sometimes you just need a break from the Tulum crowds.
If you’ve already spent some time exploring Tulum, it may be time to take some day trips to see all of the incredible things that the surrounding area has to offer. Incredible attractions like Chichen Itza, Cozumel, Sian Ka’an reserve, and Valladolid are all reachable from Tulum as a day trip.
Here are 11 of my absolute favorite day trip ideas from Tulum.
Best Day Trips From Tulum
1. Swim In Cenotes
One of my favorite things to do in Tulum is spend a day visiting the cenotes in the area.
If you’ve never heard of cenotes, they’re natural sinkholes that formed when the ceiling of a cave collapsed in on itself. Some of them are completely open, while others are underground. They’re all absolutely breathtaking and so fun to swim in.
Tulum has many cenotes within driving distance. Some of the more notable ones are:
- Gran Cenote – one of the most popular cenotes in the Tulum area. Absolutely gorgeous collection of cenotes with crystal clear water and a covered cave area that you can swim through.
- Cenote Calavera – the “skull” cenote, named for the three sinkholes that resemble eyes and a mouth. This cenote is so much fun because you can jump from the top into the water.
- Cenote Azul – a huge open-air cenote with shallow water and a fun cliff to jump off of. It’s also a great spot to go snorkeling.
- Cenote Carwash – another open-air cenote with plenty of fish and turtles to swim with. This spot is very popular with scuba divers due to the cave portion that reaches a depth of 50 feet.
- Cenote Zacil-Ha – this cenote feels more like a playground! There are plenty of ledges to jump off, a rope swing, and even a zip line across the water.
- Cenote Dos Ojos – featuring two sinkholes that make up the “ojos” (eyes). This cenote is really popular with scuba divers and snorkelers.
If you’re going to visit the cenotes near Tulum, make sure you respect the land. The ecosystem is very fragile so you’ll be asked to shower before entering and refrain from wearing any sunscreens or lotions.
- Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour – This tour will take you to Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido, and Cenote Cristal. It includes a bike and helmet, snorkel gear, and brunch in a secret jungle lodge.
- Tulum: Snorkeling Adventure in Cenote and Reef – This 5 hour boat tour includes a view of the Tulum ruins, a snorkeling excursion through a Caribbean reef, and a visit to Cenote Sac Aktun.
2. Swim With Turtles At Akumal
- Distance from Tulum: 27.5km
- Time: 25 minutes by car
An absolutely unmissable day trip from Tulum is swimming with the sea turtles at Akumal.
Akumal actually means Turtle in Mayan, so you’re basically guaranteed to see some of these beautiful sea creatures during a visit to this beach.
When I visited Akumal, you were able to bring your own gear and pay a small fee to rent a life jacket on the beach. Now there are new regulations and you’re required to pay a fee of $20 and you can only swim in a designated area.
Swimming with sea turtles is definitely a bucket-list experience, so I still recommend making this day trip from Tulum. However, I have not visited Akumal since these new regulations took place so I can’t speak from experience how it is with the new restrictions.
Visiting Akumal from Tulum is actually very easy. Grab a local colectivo from the Main ave bus stop or flag one down anywhere on Highway 307. Make sure to let the driver know you want to stop at Akumal. The drive should cost 35 pesos ($1.70).
This guide will give you the full details. It also explains how to get to Akumal by car, taxi, bus, and scooter.
3. Explore Valladolid
- Distance from Tulum: 105km
- Time: 1hr 45m
Valladolid is one of my favorite cities in the Yucatan peninsula, and one of the best day trips from Tulum.
Wander around the colorful streets, visit the historic convent, and go swim in the nearby cenotes. There is a ton to do in Valladolid.
The fastest way to get from Tulum to Valladolid is by rental car or taxi. The drive will take you about an hour and 45 minutes.
You can also get to Valladolid from Tulum by bus. The ADO bus takes about two hours and costs $13 per person. The easiest way to book the ADO buses in Mexico is on Bus Bud.
4. Take A City Break In Cancun
- Distance from Tulum: 130km
- Time: 2 hours
If you’re craving a bit of city life, you can head to Cancun for a day trip from Tulum.
Cancun has it all – plenty of shopping, dining, and beaches to lounge on. Some of the top things to do in Cancun are:
- Shopping until you drop Mercado 28. This open-air market has everything from classic touristy shot glasses to locally made handicrafts.
- Party it up in Cancun’s Hotel Zone (Zona Hoteleria). The bars and clubs stay open late here, so it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a fiesta.
- Go swimming. The beaches in Cancun are beautiful, even if they can get a little overcrowded. Some of the most popular ones are Playa Caracol, Playa Delfines, and Langosta Beach.
Cancun can be easily reached from Tulum on the ADO bus. Mexico’s bus system is actually pretty incredible. The ADO buses have been comfortable, safe, and clean every time I’ve ridden in one. Book your bus here.
5. Check Out Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Distance from Tulum: 63km
- Time: 20 minutes
One of the most beautiful day trips from Tulum is a tour of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve and Muyil ruins.
The Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve is home to thousands of species of wildlife and plants. This area is so significant that it’s actually been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll have a chance to explore several different ecosystems including mangroves, marshes, coral reefs, and tropical forests. You may even be lucky enough to spot some of the crocodiles and wild dolphins that live in this reserve.
If you’re feeling very adventurous, it is possible to explore Sian Ka’an on your own in a 4×4 rental car. However, I highly recommending joining a group tour for this day trip. You won’t have to worry about crossing over washed out roads in your rental car, plus you’ll cover a lot more ground because your tour guide will know the best spots.
Here are some top rated tours of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve:
- Sian Ka’an Half-Day Tour – this tour takes you to the Muyil ruins before heading to the Sian Ka’an reserve. You’ll be able to admire wildlife, swim, and boat through the biosphere reserve.
- Sian Ka’an Biosphere Eco Park Extreme – This 10 hour tour will have you floating down canals, zip lining through the jungle, exploring ruins, and snorkeling in a cenote.
6. Discover The Coba Ruins
- Distance from Tulum: 50km
- Time: 45 minutes
Another incredible day trip from Tulum is a visit to the spectacular Coba ruins. This ancient city is tucked away deep in the jungle. It was once an extremely important trading hub for the Mayans, and you can find temples, pyramids, residential structures, and even ball courts here.
One of the most incredible things about Coba is that it is still a little bit under the radar. You won’t find the same magnitude of crowds that plague both Chichen Itza and the Tulum ruins. If you head here early in the morning, chances are you’ll have the whole archaeological site to yourself.
Another unique thing about the Coba ruins is that you’re allowed to climb to the top of them. However, I’ve heard that they may change this rule soon (so get here ASAP!).
Getting to the Coba ruins from Tulum is also very easy – you can reach Coba by colectivo, ADO bus, taxi, or rental car.
One tip for visiting the ruins is that you can cover a lot more ground here if you rent a bike. If you choose to walk the grounds of the ruins, you’ll easily walk several miles. A bike rental costs 200 pesos ($10) but it will allow you to see so much more.
Have a car and want to add on to your Coba day trip? There are plenty of nearby cenotes that you can explore while you’re in the area. The closest cenotes to Coba are Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha, and Multum-Ha.
- Coba Full-Day Tour – This full day tour takes you on an exploration of the Mayan ruins at Coba. You’ll also get a glimpse of local life on a visit to a Mayan village. BOOK NOW
7. Check Out Cozumel Island
- Distance from Tulum: 95km
- Time: 2hr 35m
If you’re looking for some relaxation and beautiful turquoise waters, you’ll want to head to Cozumel. This little slice of paradise is located just off the coast from Playa Del Carmen.
Some of the top things to do in Cozumel are snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring the island in a jeep. You can also just come here to lay on the beach and enjoy the gorgeous views.
Getting to Cozumel from Tulum is fairly straightforward. First you’ll need to get yourself to Playa del Carmen, and then you’ll take a ferry across to Cozumel. The Ultramar ferry departs from downtown PDC and reaches Cozumel in only 20 minutes. It costs 500 pesos ($24) for a roundtrip adult ticket.
If you want to take a tour while you’re in Cozumel, here are some of the top rated ones:
- VIP Glass Bottom Boat & Snorkeling 3 Reefs Tour – This glass bottom boat tour looks like so much fun! You’ll cruise around in a clear bottom boat and stop at 3 different coral reefs for some epic snorkeling.
- Jeep Adventure and Beach Snorkeling with Lunch – Discover Cozumel in this fun jeep and snorkel tour. You’ll visit some of the most beautiful spots on the island, including El Cielito beach and Chankanaab Park.
- Snorkel and Swim with Stingrays – This snorkeling tour includes a visit to Cozumel’s Stingray Beach. You’ll have a chance to swim and snorkel in the coral reefs with stingrays and other marine life.
8. Visit Playa Del Carmen
- Distance from Tulum: 65km
- Time: 1 hour
Another great day trip from Tulum is a visit to Playa Del Carmen.
Playa Del Carmen (PDC) is filled with pedestrian-friendly shopping streets, beautiful beaches, and laid-back vibes. It’s also a big digital nomad hub so it’s a great place to head to if you need to get some work done in a co-working space or cafe.
Some great things to do in Playa Del Carmen:
- Shop until you drop in the stores on Quinta Avenida Norte (Fifth Avenue)
- Grab some cocktails at a beach club at Calle 10 Beach
- Check out the sculptures at Parque Los Fundadores
- Relax on one of the beautiful beaches (Mamitas Beach, Playacar Beach, Playa Punta Esmeralda)
Getting to Playa Del Carmen from Tulum is super easy. Grab a north-bound colectivo anywhere on Highway 307 and let your driver know you want to get out in PDC. You can also take a scheduled ADO bus from the main bus station in Tulum. Check timetables for that route on Busbud.
9. See Chichen Itza
- Distance from Tulum: 150km
- Time: 2 hours
As one of the Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is one of the most popular day trips from Tulum. This ancient city is the crown jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula.
While Chichen Itza is a magical experience, expect lots of crowds and vendors here during the day. It also gets HOT here, so try to visit as early in the day as possible to beat the crowds and heat.
If you’re coming from Cancun, I definitely recommend combining Chichen Itza with another attraction in the area. It’s a long drive so you’ll want to make the trip worthwhile. Combine it with a visit to Cenote Ik-Kil or a trip to Valladolid.
If you’re not visiting Chichen Itza with a tour group, I highly recommend hiring a guide at the entrance. It is pricy, but definitely worth it. We visited without a guide and while it was absolutely gorgeous, we really didn’t know what we were looking at.
- Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid Tour – This tour takes you to Chichen Itza, a local cenote, and the beautiful city of Valladolid. All entrance fees are included in the price.
- Chichén Itzá: Hubiku Cenote & Valladolid Tour – You’ll visit Chichen Itza, Hubiku cenote, and go for a Tequila Tasting on this fun tour. The entry fee for Chichen Itza is not included in the price of this tour.
10. Go On A Boat Tour in Bacalar
- Distance from Tulum: 215km
- Time: 2hr 25m
One of my all-time favorite places in the Yucatan Peninsula is Bacalar. This area is most famous for its Laguna de Siete Colores (Lagoon of 7 colors). You’ll find sparkling blue and turquoise waters here, extremely laid back vibes, and plenty of water activities.
My favorite things to do in Bacalar are take a boat tour of the lagoon, rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards, and visit the natural lazy river at Los Rapidos. The town itself is pretty small and sleepy but there are some incredible restaurants to enjoy here as well.
Because it takes over 2 hours to get here, you’ll definitely want to head out early in the day. If you have the time, I highly recommend spending a few nights in Bacalar so you can really experience it. I spent 5 nights here and I never ran out of things to do.
The easiest way to reach Bacalar from Tulum is to take the ADO bus from the main bus station in Tulum. There are multiple buses throughout the day. We booked our tickets on Busbud and it was super easy and affordable.
11. Visit Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas
- Distance from Tulum: 205km
- Time: 2hr 45m
A super unique day trip from Tulum is a visit to Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos.
You’ve probably seen these pink colored lakes on Instagram at some point. Las Coloradas are actually man-made salt lagoons that have been dyed naturally with red algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that live here.
Be aware that you are not allowed to swim in these lakes. They have security guards and and barriers to prevent tourists from getting too close to the water. You also are not allowed to use large cameras or drones here.
The easiest way to get here is to rent a car from Tulum and drive for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Because it’s such a long trip, I highly recommend leaving as early as possible in the morning.
If driving isn’t an option for you, you can join a group tour. This tour departs from Tulum and includes a visit to the pink lakes, a guided tour of Ek Balam, and lunch in a local restaurant.
While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the rest of the Rio Lagartos area. This area is a UNESCO protected biosphere because it is a breeding ground for many species of birds. Take a boat tour of the Biosphere Reserve for a chance to see flamingos, crocodiles, and endless species of birds.
This post was all about the best day trips from Tulum.
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