With so much to see and do around this Yucatan town, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. What’s an essential visit? What can you pass up? Most importantly, what do you need to see, hear, do, and taste to truly complete your Tulum experience?

Explore the Ruins

The Mayans once ran this part of Mexico. Tulum was a critical port city in their vast empire, and there are several marvelous ruins still standing today. Tulum and nearby Coba are both worth visiting for their individual, unique charms. The ruins of Tulum, of course, are the more famous of the two, and it’s hard to overlook the wonder of a towering, complex pyramid overlooking the sea. Tours can reveal the secrets of the ancient city, and there’s plenty to explore independently.

The Coba ruins are a bit farther away, but they sport an even larger pyramid – one you can still climb. It’s one of the very few Mayan ruins that allows visitors to ascend to the holy heights of the sacred pyramids and marvel at the splendid views they provide. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, entirely different from the ruins found on Tulum’s coast, and an adventure not to be missed.

Meet Dolphins and Turtles

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is one of Mexico’s most beautiful secrets. This lush chunk of paradise, protected from pollution and development, features the area’s best wildlife – both flora and fauna – in addition to clean, clear waters. Dolphins, turtles, and other living wonders show up regularly for tourists, happy and safe in their protected environment. See Mayan-built canals, travel between the twisted roots of ancient mangroves, and check out a vibrant barrier reef. There are many amazing tours available to lead you through the best of the reserve’s freshwater marshes, coastal wonders, and tangled jungle, but it’s also possible to visit on your own with a little research, legwork, and preparation.

Discover a Cenote

Tulum boasts several of these natural limestone sinkholes around the area. They make perfect (and literal) swimming holes straight out of your most fanciful daydreams. Bright blue, clean, clear water shaded with vivid minerals fills these sunken oases with mesmerizing colors and diamonds of reflected light.

Sound a little scary? They’re not! Cenotes in the region are celebrated attractions, and they are cared for accordingly. Most are about as easy to access as a hotel pool, only with much better ambience. Cenote Calavera, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Nicte-Ha offer some of the coolest environments for tourists to explore.

Find Paradise on the Beach

You can find plenty of incredible villas in Tulum right on the beach. Waking up to the sound of the waves and the fresh ocean air will envelope you in pure relaxation. There is a reason why Tulum is so well known for its beaches, and without a day frolicking in the surf, have you really even gone on vacation?

Although there are many beaches in the area, you need to check out the best: Paradise Beach, also called Playa Paraiso. This place has everything you’d expect on your dream beach. Turquoise waters roll up in low waves to wash over a white sand beach. Just off shore is a bit of coral adventurous snorkelers can reach. Naturally, there are plenty of watersports for you to enjoy, too.

Get into the Food Culture

Affordable, authentic burritos are only the first step on your culinary adventure in Tulum. You can find amazing tacos on the beach, and you will find fantastic Mexican food wherever you turn, but Tulum offers up some surprisingly awesome international nibbles. There’s gelato, specialty adult dinner parties, a bar with its own ice cream, and some of the best cold brew coffee you’ll find in the world. All this goes without mentioning the laid-back bar culture that permeates the region and all the wonderful drinks it offers.

Ultimately, every Tulum experience is different. You may want to spend days at a time on the beach, or maybe you’ll fall in love with the mystery of the Mayans. Whatever direction your Tulum travels take you, make time for something new. Dive into a Cenote, spot a dolphin, or eat something exciting. Tulum is waiting! How will you complete your Tulum experience?