02 May 5X BEST HOTSPOTS NEAR TULUM
Tulum is by far one of the most popular hotspots in Mexico. White, sandy beaches, relaxing beach clubs, trendy restaurants and lots of parties are what you’ll find here. Some hate it, some love it. But at Wander-Lust we always like to explore the options beyond a touristic destination. If this is what you are seeking, read on!
Nowadays, this destination is divided into Tulum Pueblo (city) and Tulum Playa (beach), both very small and easy to see in a day. So, where to go if you want to explore some more? No worries, we’ll give you our favourite hotspots near Tulum!
Why choose Tulum for your Mexico trip?
Tulum is popular for a reason. A quick search on Instagram mostly shows jealous-making photos of clear blue waters, the famous artwork of Daniel Popper (the wooden girl in front of the Raw Love Café) and the ‘Follow that dream’ sign. The last two you’ll find at Tulum Playa, known for the beach and cocktails at night. With a 20-minute bike ride, you can go from Playa to Pueblo, the city centre. Small note: we thought biking in the dark was a bit unsafe due to the lack of traffic lights. Better to bike back and forth during the day and go by car after dark.
The city is small but fun if you know where to look. Near the main street, there are excellent restaurants like Burrito Amor and La Coqueta. However, the most fun we found behind the main road, on the south side, where the ‘real’ Tulum took place. Away from the tourists and the trendy bars. Think of local basketball matches, music and food from street vendors, for instance.
If you go to Mexico, you have to visit a few cenotes – natural sinkholes, or what I call underground water paradises. A small one, but absolutely one of my favourites and nearest to Tulum, is Cenote Calavera, meaning skull. Don’t worry, the name comes from the three holes in the cenote, not from bones in the water. This place is super Instagram-worthy with painted walls, trees and skulls. The fun thing here is to jump into the water through one of the smaller holes. Also, there is a swing hanging in the water and via the ladder, you’ll get back up for round two. Along with the sunbeds and hammocks surrounding the cenote, this is a perfect start to your day! Entrance is 250 pesos, and go early. It’s small and easily overcrowded.
Undoubtedly the most beautiful and the most popular cenote. Two wooden stairs lead you to the platforms below. Look for the tiny turtles in the cordoned off areas. However, if you’re lucky, the turtles will swim alongside you. So put on your snorkel gear and start exploring. From one side you can swim underground to the other side. Besides turtles, look out for fish and bats as well. The entrance fee here is a bit more, 500 pesos. Again, try to go early and avoid the tourists who are just there ‘for the gram’.
Swim with sea turtles in Akumal
Speaking of turtles – discover the larger versions in Akumal. This hotspot outside Tulum is a lesser-known paradise and is only 30 minutes away by car. It’s a private beach, and you’ll always have to pay for entrance. Make a combination deal, including a guided tour to see the sea turtles. There are areas where you can swim freely, and others are cordoned to protect the turtles. It’s only allowed to enter this area with a guide. And it’s so worth it! I’ve never seen such a beautiful massive example from a close range. Entrance including a group tour (which is fine) is 420 pesos, with a private guide 500 pesos.
Diving hotspot outside Tulum at Cenote Dos Ojos
Have you seen the other two cenotes around Tulum? Think about skipping this one if you want to spend your time wisely. Unless you’re a big fan of diving! The name of Cenote Dos Ojos comes from the two main sinkholes, dos ojos meaning two eyes. It’s possible to dive from one eye to the other, entirely underground. It’s completely dark, and you have to dive with a guide. Snorkelling is possible, and you can visit the two eyes without diving. You just have to walk above ground from one to the other. The cenote is famous for its clear water, and there’s a small relaxing area with hammocks in between. After seeing seven cenotes already and having no intention of diving, I would have been okay with skipping this one. The entrance is 350 pesos.
Cobá and Punta Laguna
This hotspot outside Tulum is best to explore with a rental car. On the route towards Cobá (about 45 minutes away), several Mayan towns are to discover – pick one and pull over. Along this same road, there are multiple cenotes that you can visit – lesser known and probably only visited by locals.
Skip Cobá on the way and go to Punta Laguna first, an off the beaten track destination. This nature reserve is in the middle of the jungle, the home of puma cats and spider monkeys. A friendly Mayan community welcomes you and offers all sorts of activities, from zip-lining to a canoe trip across the lagoon. After Punta Laguna, visit Cobá and end your day with a sunset on top of the ancient Mayan temple overlooking the jungle. And remember to thank me later.
Bonus: Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Apart from the hotspots outside Tulum, I’ll give you the Mayan ruins of Tulum as a bonus. Despite the fact these Mayan ruins carry the name Tulum, it’s still a 20-minute car ride away from the centre. Tulum was the only Mayan city located at sea, and the ruins show a good picture of this former civilisation. It’s built on a fifteen-meter cliff overlooking the azure blue Caribbean Sea. Bring your bikini because you can dive into the water after your visit. The entrance is 85 pesos.
Tulum is a hot and happening destination. However, in contrast to the busy, touristy areas, I prefer the lesser-known hotspots outside Tulum. Beautiful places to discover and all to myself.
*Danielle is one of our guest editors. After 10 years of travelling, she knows exactly where to find the hidden spots. Her homebase is the Netherlands and you can expect at least one article per month from her!