Visiting the Tulum Ruins: 2024 Guide

Tulum ruins

The archaeological site of Tulum is located on the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, on the outskirts of what is now the city of Tulum, a popular destination in the Mexican Caribbean.

This archaeological site is none other than the third most visited in Mexico, behind Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza.

It must be said that the ruins of Tulum offer a spectacular and unique setting with the Caribbean Sea just below.

This visit, whether done on your own or on a guided tour, is definitely a must-do during a stay on the Riviera Maya.

In this guide, you will find all the necessary information for visiting this historical wonder.

Price to visit the Tulum ruins

The Tulum ruins have become an integral part of the ‘Jaguar National Park,’ a conservation project encompassing an area including the Tulum ruins and the beaches below, such as Playa Paraíso, Playa Santa Fe, and Playa Pescadores.

So, now, in addition to the entrance ticket to the Tulum ruins, you will also need to pay for entry to the Jaguar National Park. The fee is as follows:

  • National Park entrance ticket: 58 MXN Pesos.
  • Entrance ticket to the Tulum ruins: 95 MXN Pesos.
  • Total: 153 MXN Pesos.

🧒 Free for children under 12 years old

Children under 12 years old do not pay for either of these tickets. They enter completely free of charge.

Tulum ruins
Beach Tulum

Price of a tour to the Tulum ruins

A tour to the Tulum ruins is a classic in the region. You’ll find this option offered by almost all agencies and tour operators.

Typically, the following options & combinations are available:

  • Tulum Express: This tour includes only the visit to Tulum with a guide and transportation from your hotel. It’s a half-day trip usually done in the morning.
  • Tulum & Cenote: This half-day tour includes the visit to the Tulum ruins and one of the many cenotes nearby.
  • Tulum, Cenote & Turtles: This more comprehensive full-day tour includes the visit to the Tulum ruins, a cenote visit, and snorkeling activity with turtles in Akumal (20 minutes away).
  • Tulum, Cenote & Coba: This full-day tour is for history lovers and includes the visit to the Tulum ruins, a cenote visit, and the visit to the Coba ruins, another archaeological site 40 minutes away with a different style (in the middle of the jungle!).

❤️ I recommend this tour, departing from your hotel, with a guide which offers :

  • Visit of the Tulum Ruins
  • Swimming with turtles
  • Exploring a cenote
Tulum ruins

The price of an on-site guide

You’ll find many guides at the entrance of the Tulum ruins offering their services.

A guided tour with an archaeological guide costs between 800 MXN Pesos and 1000 MXN Pesos (price for the group).

Opening hours of the Tulum ruins

The Tulum ruins are open year-round from 8 am to 5 pm with the last entry possible until 3:30 pm.

I recommend arriving early to avoid the crowds, especially during high season (winter period).

The archaeological site opens at 8:00 am and usually begins to get very busy from 9:30-10:00 am.

Tulum ruins

The History of Tulum

Its strategic location along trade routes made it an important trading port for the Maya, especially for the trade of obsidian.


The significance of the name “Tulum” is “wall” in Yucatec Maya, which seems logical as one of the distinctive features of the Tulum site is its enclosing wall.

However, it is probable that its original name was “Zama,” which means “Dawn,” certainly in reference to its location facing the sea, where the sun rises.

Tulum ruins

Period of Prosperity

Tulum’s period of prosperity seems to have occurred between the 13th and 15th centuries AD, placing it in the late Postclassic period of Maya civilization.

During this time, most major Maya cities in the central basin had declined, but Tulum, along with a few other cities along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, such as Coba, were still thriving.

Role of the Maya City of Tulum

  • Trading Port: Tulum was primarily a trading port. Its position along the Caribbean Sea made it a strategic point for trade between inland cities and other coastal regions. Obsidian, feathers, cocoa, salt, and other goods passed through Tulum.
  • Ceremonial Center: Like most Maya cities, Tulum was also a ceremonial center. Some of the buildings, such as El Castillo, likely had religious significance and were used for rituals and ceremonies.
  • Strategic Location: Tulum is unique because of its location on cliffs overlooking the sea. This positioning not only offered an impressive panoramic view but also provided natural defense against potential invaders.
Tulum ruins
  • Navigation: The structure of El Castillo in Tulum was probably used as a beacon. Navigators used the light passing through two windows of the building to avoid dangerous reefs along the coast.
  • Fortified Establishment: The presence of walls surrounding the city suggests that Tulum was also a fortified settlement. These walls protected the city from invasions and pirates.
  • Cosmological Connection: Like in many Maya cities, the architecture and planning of Tulum were influenced by the Maya’s cosmological beliefs. This is seen in how the buildings are aligned with the stars and cardinal points.
Tulum ruins

Decline of Tulum

There is no consensus on the reasons for the decline of Tulum, as is also the case for other Maya cities.

Although Tulum flourished at a time when other Maya cities were declining, it was not immune to the pressures that ultimately led to its downfall.

Like other Maya cities, Tulum may have faced internal pressures such as power struggles, social conflicts, or economic problems.

These factors, combined with potentially limited resources, could have contributed to its decline.

Another possibility is that the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century disrupted the balance of Mesoamerican cultures.

However, unlike other Maya cities, Tulum was still inhabited when the conquistadors arrived.

While the Spanish did not directly cause the fall of Tulum, the diseases they introduced, combined with conflicts and economic changes, had a negative impact on the population of Tulum.

Finally, another possibility explaining the decline of Tulum is that the city relied heavily on its role as a trading port.

If trade routes changed or if other ports became more dominant, this could have significantly affected Tulum’s economy.

Tulum ruins

The Discovery of Tulum

The city of Tulum was never truly forgotten or “lost,” unlike other Maya cities in the region such as Chichen Itza.

Indeed, although Tulum was “rediscovered” by Europeans and North Americans in 1842 by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, local populations, especially the descendants of the Maya, were aware of the site’s existence since its foundation.

The Structures to See at Tulum

  • El Castillo (The Castle): This is the most imposing structure in Tulum, located on the cliff, overlooking the sea. It is believed that El Castillo served both as a lighthouse and a temple. Maya navigators used the light passing through two windows of this structure to avoid reefs when approaching the coast.
Tulum ruins El Castillo
  • The Temple of the Frescoes: This is one of the best-preserved buildings in Tulum. Inside, you can see well-preserved frescoes depicting figures from Maya cosmology and other ritual scenes.
Tulum ruins
  • The House of the Columns (or the Palace of the Halach Uinik): This structure, composed of several rooms and columns, could have been the residence of a high-ranking individual or an administrative space.
Tulum ruins
  • The Enclosing Wall: Tulum is surrounded on three sides by a wall, with the sea forming the fourth barrier. These walls were probably both defensive and symbolic, separating the sacred space from the outside.

Beyond the structures, the overall aspect of the site, with the Caribbean Sea below, is worth the visit in itself.

⏰ How long to visit the Tulum ruins?

Tulum is a relatively small archaeological site.

Plan for about 45 minutes for a quick visit, observing the main buildings and viewpoints, and 1 hour and 30 minutes for a more detailed exploration of the entire Tulum archaeological site.

🤠 Guided Tour

I consider a guided tour essential for understanding the role of the city and each building.

If you’re visiting multiple archaeological sites during your stay in Mexico, make sure to take at least one tour with a guide to learn more about the Maya civilization and its impact on present-day Mexico.

Tulum ruins

How to Get to the Tulum Ruins?

The Tulum ruins are very easy to access and located a short drive from the main beach resorts of the Riviera Maya.

From Tulum Downtown

The Tulum ruins are located a 5-minute drive from downtown and approximately 15 to 20 minutes on foot.

If you’re staying in an hotel in Tulum downtown, you can easily reach the Tulum ruins by walking or taking a taxi.

There is a north entrance that provides easy access from the federal highway and downtown, and a south entrance that offers simple access from the hotel zone.

To get to the Tulum ruins from Playa Del Carmen

🚌 By Bus

Take a bus from the ADO bus company at the Playa del Carmen bus terminal. It will drop you off at the North entrance of the Tulum ruins.

  • 🕔 There are 5 morning schedules to the ruins.
  • 💰 The trip costs 110 MXN Pesos per person.
bus ADO

🚐 By Colectivo: Best Option

This is certainly the easiest way to get to the Tulum ruins from Playa Del Carmen.

Colectivos in Tulum are small public transport vans. They depart throughout the day, every 5 to 10 minutes, and will drop you off at the entrance of the Tulum ruins.

  • 🕔 Departures every 5 to 10 minutes.
  • 💰 The trip costs 50 MXN Pesos per person.
  • 📍 The Colectivo is taken in front of the Chedraui supermarket.

Where to park at the Tulum ruins?

If you are exploring the region through a Yucatan road trip and rent a car, you will find parking lots to park your car.

You can indeed park at the Tulum ruins. There are several parking lots with prices ranging from 100 MXN Pesos to 200 MXN Pesos per day (payable only for the day).

Ignore the touts at the entrance of the Tulum ruins who will try to lead you to their parking lots (they are the most expensive).

Instead, head to the end of the road towards the official parking lot, which costs 100 MXN Pesos per day: Google Maps link.

Renting a car in Cancun is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture while exploring the area.

Tulum ruins

What to Know and Prepare for Visiting the Tulum Ruins?

To visit the Tulum ruins, I recommend coming prepared. Indeed, the archaeological site has its own specificities to consider.

☀️ Bring sun protection

The archaeological site offers few shaded areas. It is essential to equip yourself properly to protect yourself from the sun, otherwise you risk sunstroke.

Given the intensity of the sun in the region, don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when visiting the Tulum ruins.

🎟️ Payment for the entrance ticket is in cash

Entrance ticket payment is only accepted in cash. Credit card payments are not accepted.

If you need to withdraw cash, ATMs are available just before the entrance to Tulum, near the parking lots.

🚶 Walk to the entrance of the archaeological site

From the parking lots to the entrance of the archaeological site, it’s about a 10-minute walk.

If you prefer not to walk, there is a small train available for 10 Pesos per person (approximately 50 euro cents).

Tulum ruins

🚽 Restrooms are only available at the entrance of the site

You will not find restrooms within the Tulum archaeological site. The last restrooms are located near the ticket office.

Plan for this, especially for children if you have any, as once you exit the site, re-entry is not allowed.

📸 Some cameras and camcorders may be subject to a fee

GoPro cameras, camcorders, and tripods are subject to a fee of 45 MXN Pesos. However, DSLR cameras are not subject to this fee.

What is best between Tulum, Coba, & Chichen Itza?

Tulum, Coba, & Chichen Itza are three must-see sites in the region. Visiting these three sites is by no means repetitive as each has its differences and charm.

  • Tulum: This site offers a breathtaking setting overlooking the Caribbean Sea, with a very photogenic backdrop of turquoise waters and historical buildings.
  • Coba: This site is located in the heart of the jungle. The visit is done by bicycle in the shade of trees, due to its size. This makes the discovery enjoyable for everyone! With its two ball courts and stelae, it holds a rich history.
  • Chichen Itza: Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Its well-preserved main pyramid is the highlight of the archaeological site.
Chichen Itza

🚲 My advice

If you have children or teenagers, prioritize visiting the ruins of Coba.

As mentioned, the visit is done by bicycle on flat terrain in the heart of the jungle.

This makes the discovery particularly enjoyable for teens and children who may sometimes be less captivated by history.

🔎 What to do around the Tulum ruins?

Tulum is a central point in the region and is known for its numerous attractions. There are plenty of activities to do in the town and its surroundings.

Whether it’s cenotes, nature reserves, islands, or other archaeological sites, there is something to satisfy every taste.

Visiting the Tulum ruins won’t take you more than 2 hours, so it’s important to plan other activities for your day.

One-day itinerary

  • Tulum Ruins: Start by visiting the Tulum ruins in the morning, ideally at opening time (8 am) to avoid crowds.
  • Swim with turtles in Akumal: Then go swimming with turtles in Akumal Bay located 20 minutes away. Check out my guide on Akumal for more information.
  • Lunch at the Jungle Fish Club: Just a few minutes away, head to the Jungle Fish Club to enjoy fresh fish in a paradise setting.
  • A Cenote: Enhance your day with a visit to a cenote. There are plenty in this area; you’ll find about twenty just a few minutes’ drive away. I recommend Cenote Tak Bi Ha, Cenote Yax Kin, Cenote Azul, or Cenote Dos Ojos.

😍 Other things to do in Tulum

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

This biosphere is located beyond the Tulum hotel zone and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Within this biosphere, you can observe a rich fauna, including dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, and many bird species.

To fully appreciate the beauty of the place, the visit is done by boat.

❤️ I recommend this tour to enjoy the biosphere and observe all the animals in their natural habitat.

Sian Ka’an Boat Tour

Discover the wild beauty of Sian Ka’an by boat! Sail through turquoise lagoons, spot dolphins and turtles, and explore the mysteries of this preserved natural reserve. An unforgettable adventure in Mexico!

Book Now

The Kaan Luum Lagoon

Still preserved from mass tourism and usual tourist circuits, the Kaan Luum Lagoon is a paradise located just 20 minutes from Tulum.

You can easily spend half a day there to enjoy the beauty of the place.

The lagoon, vast and with crystal-clear water, is equipped with many facilities such as sun loungers, hammocks, and swings.

Laguna Kaan Luum

The Coba Archaeological Site

As mentioned earlier, Coba is another archaeological site in the region, located just a 40-minute drive from Tulum.

Visiting Coba is done by bicycle, under the shade of trees. The lush vegetation gives this site a special and captivating atmosphere.

The Cenotes

Cenotes are a geological feature specific to the region. They are natural wells created by the collapse of the limestone surface.

Many cenotes have been developed to accommodate tourists. You’ll find about thirty cenotes around Tulum. Each cenote has its own uniqueness and charm.

cenote Dos Ojos
5/5 - (2 votes)
Sian Kann Tours