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Visiting Tulum Ruins-Our Everything to Know Guide

Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins

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!

Tulum Ruins

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.

Now there is a tour to Tulum ruins that includes entrance and transportation to the site for just $40 USD per person. This is a promotion before November 1, 2016.

Another 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.

Tulum ruins map

Tulum Ruins Map

Look at the map and follow the numbers

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. This spot will put you in front of the most famous spot in the ruins, The “Castillo” or “castle” as it is called.
  4. 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.
  5. Make sure you go around the back of the “Castillo” to get another great view.
  6. Walk to here and you will see some detailed carvings on the buildings, then proceed to the exit, number seven.
  7. 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.
  8. Walk here to go back to your car or bus. This is also where you can catch the tractor train.
Tulum Ruins

Tulum Ruins

More tips:

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.

33 Comments on Visiting Tulum Ruins-Our Everything to Know Guide

  1. Hi there! I plan to do a free day trip to Tulum by collectivo. I want to go to the centre of town and rent a bike. How far of a bike ride is it to the ruins? Can I ride by bike around instead of walking? Any ideas on low cost but quality bike rentals in Tulum? Thank you in advance.

    • There are many places that rent bikes in Tulum and all are about the same price. The ruins are about 3 km from the center of town. If you go to visit the ruins you will need to lock up your bike before going in. Also check out the road to the beach because there is a bike trail and it makes for a lovely ride. Enjoy!

  2. Mary Cutsworth // June 6, 2016 at 11:48 PM // Reply

    We were planning a visit to Tulum ruins and were not sure how we were going to get there. We just knew the photos of it were amazing and we wanted that photo. Your guide helped us get there and spend time in the best way. Thanks for this guide and next time we come to the Rivera Maya we will be checking out your other guides because we are thinking about going to Coba or Ek Balam ruins. It you had to pick one of those, which one do you think we should go to? We are an active couple in our late 20’s and maybe want to swim too.

    • Mr.Yucatan // June 7, 2016 at 7:51 AM // Reply

      Hello Mary. We are glad you found our guide helpful, we like to be able to give people the tools to make their vacations a success and enjoy everything that is here. For your next time down we would recommend both ruins because they are equally nice, but we do lean toward Coba. Both ruins have cenotes nearby you can swim in and both ruins have temples you can climb to the top. So since you are an active couple that is a great thing to do. But at Coba you can rent bikes and visit the ruins. The trees are also larger here and the experience is more jungly.

  3. Tracy Wusterman // July 22, 2016 at 2:46 PM // Reply

    Your guide made it easy for us to Playa our trip to see Tulum ruins. We found everything you described and did it on our own. Thanks.

  4. alli & john // August 12, 2016 at 1:26 PM // Reply

    Hi, we just wanted to say a big thank you for writing and posting this guide it has been very helpful. We are heading to Tulum ruins just now and with your map we will not go wrong. We don’t want to go home we love it here. Thanks again xx

  5. We wanted to thank you for a good article. we followed your tips and had a very good day visiting Tulum ruins. I love you website by the way.

  6. Hello. We just got back from Tulum ruins and had a good time and followed your advice. It was really hot and we are glad we took water. The prices were high around the entrance. The view of the ocean was outstanding and we cannot wait to visit next year!

    • Hello Sarah. We are glad you had a good time at Tulum Ruins. Maybe next year you will be ready for some more ruins. There are several good options to consider. We have a whole guide to Mayan ruins and what to expect at each one. See you next year here!

  7. Christy Powell // September 30, 2016 at 12:33 PM // Reply

    Hello,
    I found your guide very helpful. I am on my way down to Playa del Carmen with a group of 28 people. I am interested in the tour (for the entire group) you had described for $48. The link however sends me to viator.com with much higher prices. Do you know how I could book this more directly and work out a group rate? Thanks for your help:)

    Christy

    • Hello Christy. Thank you for letting us know. That is the problem with links because sometimes they change the price. We will change that and get back to you this evening with more up to date information. We will send you an email and anything else you need just let us know. We are glad to help out.

    • Hello Christy. Do you know your dated for coming to the Riviera Maya and what day you would like to visit Tulum ruins? If you visit before November 1st there is a rate of $40 USD per person.

  8. Hi! I am planning a DIY day trip to tulum ruins from playa del carmen. What is the best place to catch a bus back to playa del carmen?

    • Hello Farah
      Are you talking about the ADO Bus or the colectivo? There is an ADO bus top by the highway near Tulum ruins. This is the same place you would catch the colectivo. Just be sure to check the ADO schedule because there are not as many busses that leave from the Tulum ruins stop as the downtown Tulum station.

  9. These are good details for visiting. We have been to Tulum ruins once before but this time we are coming with friends, so we hope to follow your instructions and take our friends there ourselves.

  10. Christina Goshell // November 2, 2016 at 11:47 AM // Reply

    Hi! I am going to drive to the ruins and have a couple questions:
    1) Are the signs guiding you to the ruins clearly marked on the highway?
    2) Is the tractor-pulled train and the guides right there in the parking lot when we arrive?
    3) What is the best time to visit the ruins? We would like to avoid the tour buses, if possible!

    • Hello Christina

      The signs are pretty clear. If you are driving, do not pull into the first street to your left as you enter Tulum where it says ruins. This is for bus stops and taxis. There is no parking here. You must drive until you see the large TULUM sign on our left. This is the main entrance and where you park. You will pay for parking here.

      The train to the ruins is there and comes frequently. We always walk though.

      The best time to see the ruins is not in the heat of the day. Most tours arrive at 9am or after. Later in the day you can get in but you want to have time to walk through before they close. So after 3pm if it is not hot.

      We hope this helps you and you have a great trip to Tulum ruins.

  11. Sanora Baptiste // November 3, 2016 at 5:05 AM // Reply

    We visited Tulum ruins this week and the one tip we have for other guest is walk from the parking lot to the entrance. You really don’t need to take the train the short way. Save the money and buy something with it later.

  12. Scot Newport // November 3, 2016 at 3:41 PM // Reply

    You give good details for visiting. We have been a few times and really like Tulum ruins.

  13. We’re very grateful for your complete guide. We visited Tulum ruins yesterday and it was easy to follow your directions. It make it easy to visit. Thanks.

  14. G. Mulchivic // November 11, 2016 at 7:52 PM // Reply

    Very detailed guide to visiting. It is cool to see the view from the ruins and if open the swimming is great at the foot of the cliff.

  15. What time does the gate to the ruins open? Why are the tour company prices so much higher than the prices you quote?

    • The ruins open at 8:00am There are hundreds of tours that operate to Tulum ruins. Some include Xel Ha and some are just the ruins. Some tours overcharge people and some give good value. That is why we like to give recommendations for tours or give people the information to do it themselves.

  16. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Tulum Ruins. Regards

  17. I can’t find a contact site for Viator for questions. I think our hotel, Grand Princes, may be out of their pick up area for the early public tour of Tulum ruins? How do I find out before paying?

    • Hello Carol

      This is a good question. We looked over their description and only says most Playa Del Carmen hotels. We would suggest booking it and seeing what they say. There is a 100% cancelation policy if you cancel 2 days before, so you should be covered. We wish we could offer you the tour personally so we could guarantee all the answers but we do have to refer people to tour companies.

  18. So, what’s your part on all this? Why do you have this site?
    It is very helpful.
    Do you get a commission?

    • Hello Carol

      We mainly have this website for two reasons. 1. To help people discover all the things that are here and how to enjoy them. Sometimes making a guide to show people how to see places themselves. 2. Help good merchants or restaurants get known. Many places that we go to never know we just wrote about them. We have a great sense at the end of the day that we have helped people both find things and support good hard working people that offer good services. We also will talk with businesses because we see many people overpay or have no idea how to do marketing here. Another platform we have is supporting cultural tourism and preserving it.

  19. Hi there, we are going to visit Tulum(early) and then Coba on Christmas eve. Going to use the Ado buses from Playa del carmen. Can you tell me which bus stop i need to get off at Tulum please as there are 2 stops: Tulum or Tulum Zona Arqueologica (is this the stop closer to the ruin)? Look forward to your reply.

    Many thanks in advance
    Sukyi

    • Hello
      Yes the Tulum Zona Arqueologica stop is the one at the ruins and the other is in the center of Tulum. These stops are about 2 miles apart so make sure you get off at the correct one. We hope you have a great time visiting Tulum ruins.

  20. Thanks so much for your reply.

  21. Hello, we are going to Playa Del Carmen in January 2017 for the first time and staying in North Playa. We would like to try to take the colectivo. How do I catch the colectivo from my hotel and how do I know where to get off for the ruins? Are there visible signs from the freeway? Thank you very much.

    • Hello Nancy

      As you can see in the colectivo article, the colectivos do not run straight from Cancun to Tulum. They only run Cancun to Playa or Playa to Tulum, so you will need to get to Playa and transfer to a Playa Tulum colectivo. When you enter the Tulum area there is a sign and a small parking lot with a small building. It is not the best signage but the driver should let you off on the highway there and you just cross the highway and walk down the road. It is one of the first things on the left as you enter town.

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