Tulum ruins is a very popular day trip from Playa Del Carmen. How can you maximize your experience there? How can you visit on the cheap and not waste time? Here is our guide to give you all the information you need!
One look at the photo above and it is no wonder why this beautiful spot is so popular to visit. Tulum ruins is just a 40 minute drive south of Playa Del Carmen and makes for a great day trip. (For a cool model of what Tulum used to look like when it was occupied, check out this gallery). This walled city was occupied all the way up until the 15th Century and saw the arrival of the Spanish. Today this is the most preserved coastal Maya city which makes it so interesting for tourist to visit.
Should you go to Tulum by yourself or with a tour?
Both are good options but for different people the answer is not the same. It really comes down to convenience. A basic half day tour cost about $39 USD and that includes hotel pick up and drop off, entrance fee to the ruins and tour guide. So basically for two people with a tour it will cost about $80 USD compared to doing it yourself for about $25 USD for two people. The difference is the convenience of not having to figure out how to take the bus and if you go by yourself you will not have a guide. Other tours will almost always add in something else because the amount of time to get there and see it is not a full day. If it is a cenote or other stop this can be an added benefit to taking a tour, you get to do something that you otherwise might not do on your own, however it will be more then the above mentioned “basis”tour price. We do however NOT suggest taking a Tulum ruins tour with Xel-Ha package. Xel-Ha is a full day of fun at a natural snorkel park. You can easily spend all day there and just barely see everything, plus you get free food and drink there all day, so if you visit the ruins as well, you are missing out on full value.
One tour we do recommend for people that want to go on a tour is the one below.
The tour to Tulum ruins that we recommend is the early tour from Playa Del Carmen or your hotel. This tour is $49.99 and take off early so you beat the crowds and heat of the day. Transportation, entrance and a packed bag lunch is provided. This is a great way to see the ruins without having to arrange things yourself.
How to get to Tulum
If you drive yourself there it is easy to follow the 307 Highway straight to Tulum. When you enter the town of Tulum you will see a parking lot and signs for the ruins but this is just for busses. The parking lot and car entrance is farther up on the left side with a large “Tulum” sign in yellow and it will say parking.
You can take the colectivo to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen. You can read our article on the colective in the link. It cost 40 pesos one way and make sure the driver knows you are going to the ruins in Tulum and not just Tulum. The ruins stop comes first but if you miss it, it will be about 40 peso taxi back to the ruins from the center of Tulum. The colectivo is about 15 minutes faster then the ADO bus and cheaper, but not as comfortable.
ADO busses go almost hourly to Tulum ruins. It cost between 54 and 62 pesos each way. Tip: Be sure to check the schedule for the return. They do not start until 1:40pm in the afternoon and you might not want to be there that long. So a later departure will ensure a bus going back to Playa when you want one. The only problem will be that you are visiting the ruins in the heat of the day.
Note: If you take the bus or colectivo, they both let you off closer to the entrance then parking! Go public transportation!
How much is the entry price to Tulum Ruins?
Entrance to the ruins is 65 pesos. If you are a resident or national it is free on Sundays. Parking for a car is 120 pesos, this has recently gone up and bordering on ridiculous prices for parking. Since the parking lot is so far from the entrance they offer a tractor pulled train for 20 pesos each way. If it is hot and you don’t want to walk that much this can be a nice option, otherwise enjoy the free walk. Water and food are all more costly here, so plan ahead and bring a bottle of water if you can.
What hours are the ruins open?
The ruins are open everyday of the week from 8:00am-5:00pm. However it should be noted that you need to enter by 4:30pm because that is the cut off time for letting people in. That way you can have at least 30 minutes to walk around and exit before they close.
What to see in Tulum ruins
If you have guide of hire a guide at the entrance then you will be shown all the places of interest within the walled city. It is actually not that large. What makes these ruins so special is the beautiful turquoise waters that lap the beaches just below the ruins.
Guides can be seen near the ticket booth offing services. Prices for a guide are all negotiable. A higher price should be given for a group of 4 or more people. If it is a slow day or not the best weather you might be offered a lower price. Generally tour guide prices range from 200-700 pesos. Guides will have official ID and are trained to give good tours.
Tip: Bring your bathing suit or better yet, wear it under your clothes so you can jump in the water. It makes for a fresh break from walking around the ruins. There are no changing facilities by the beach (only the bathrooms by the ticket booth) and having a towel will come in handy.
Fun fact: There is an average of 3,287 people visiting. That puts it in perspective how busy this place can be at peak times. However it is a large grounds and that is spread out over the day.
Here is a handy map to look at if you are visiting by yourself.
Look at the map and follow the numbers
- This is where the trail from the parking lot leads you and the train drops you off. There are public bathrooms here and the only ones near the ruins, so take advantage of them. This is where you will buy your tickets and then follow the red line to number two.
- You can enter the first gate but the second gate is much nicer and you can get several good photos here. Basically the side of the ruins near the ocean is much more photogenic and interesting. You can walk the other parts as well, but you can observe them from a distance if you like. As you walk to number three you will get a beautiful beach view.
- This spot will put you in front of the most famous spot in the ruins, The “Castillo” or “castle” as it is called.
- This overlook here will be where you can take some of the best photos! This is also where there is a large wooden staircase going down to the beach and you can get in the water here.
- Make sure you go around the back of the “Castillo” to get another great view.
- Walk to here and you will see some detailed carvings on the buildings, then proceed to the exit, number seven.
- This is the exit. It is a quiet end of the ruins. As you go out there is usually a person selling water or ice cream, which you might want after being in the sun.
- Walk here to go back to your car or bus. This is also where you can catch the tractor train.
If it might rain, a rain poncho can save the day. There is not any protection from rain while walking around.
It is usually hot walking around, so comfortable clothes, shoes, sunscreen, hat, glasses and water are all good things to keep in mind.
If you drive to the ruins, there are many gift shops by the entrance. It is almost hard to find the trail to the ruins. Don’t give attention to overly aggressive sales people and don’t take photos will the animals if you care about them. They belong in the wild and not working all day. Already in other parts of the Riviera Maya the use of animals in the street has ben banned.
It takes about a hour to walk around. If you have hired a guide, take a swim or are in a large group it can easily be two hours. Beyond that many people will find it hot to be out for that long.
Here is a short video we made showing you some of the features of the ruins.
We hope you enjoy your visit to Tulum ruins. It is one of the spectacles of the Mayan world that is just in our backyard.
Have you been to Tulum ruins? What tip do you have for other tourist? What would you do differently next time? Let us know in the comment box below.