Tulum, Mexico: The Riviera Maya

Tulum is a laid-back beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, situated some 80 miles south of Cancun. It marks the southernmost boundary of the region known as the Riviera Maya. While Tulum is cherished for its beautiful beaches and upscale hippie vibe, the town is probably most famous for its impressive Mayan ruin, set dramatically on a clifftop overlooking a stunning stretch of turquoise ocean.

Areas of Tulum:

Tulum is divided into two distinct areas: the lively, if rather scruffy, main town center is set right beside the highway, while the hotel zone, or “Zona Hotelera,” is a more secluded stretch of jungle and beachfront leading towards the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. While many travelers don’t linger in Tulum after visiting the ruins, they’re missing out: it’s well worth spending a few days and soaking up the relaxed, eco-friendly vibe, stunningly wild beaches and excellent dining, drinking and spa opportunities.

What to Do in Tulum:

Explore the ruins of Tulum (open 8am-5pm daily), a cluster of Mayan structures from the Postclassic period whose relatively modest design is more than compensated for by its unforgettable setting overlooking the ocean. Be sure to take a dip in the sea afterwards
Take a day trip to Sian Ka’an, the spectacular nature preserve declared a UNESCO Biosphere, for outstanding wildlife viewing, birdwatching and swimming in the clearest waters you’ll ever experience.

Observe sea turtles laying their eggs on the beaches: several hotels, like La Nueva Vida de Ramiro, operate volunteer programs to protect the turtles and their eggs.

Swim, snorkel or even go cave diving in cenotes, the system of underground rivers found beneath the Yucatan Peninsula. Visit the Gran Cenote, on the road to the Coba ruins, where you can snorkel in the caverns, or for a more memorable day out, arrange a tour with a local outfit like AllTourNative, who can arrange excellent guided tours to little-visited spots.

Sweat it out in a temascal, the ancient Mayan sweat lodge ritual that’s becoming an increasingly popular pursuit among travelers. The spa at Cabanas Copal offers an affordable version in the jungle…

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