1. Snorkelling and diving
Did you swim before you could walk? Then Tulum has enough activities to keep you occupied for months. Diving enthusiasts will find plenty of guides ready to take them on excursions to the coral reef (the second-largest barrier reef in the world) or deep into the cenotes; if snorkelling's more your style, both options are open to you as well. Plus, don't miss the Yal-Kú lagoon near Akumal, about a half-hour drive north of Tulum; the warm, clear waters are home to countless fish both big and small, with snorkelling opportunities for all skill levels. Just make sure to pack biodegradable sunscreen, or an extra T-shirt to swim in, as standard sunscreen is prohibited due to its harmful effect on the local ecosystem.
2. Accommodation for every budget
The bulk of the places to stay in Tulum's "hotel" zone are actually beachside cabanas, from the most basic (walls, a roof and hooks for your hammock) to the luxurious, with prices to match. If you prefer your rustic with a ceiling fan, wireless Internet and a private bathroom (it is a vacation, after all), consider La Zebra, nine stylish cabanas plus a beachside restaurant serving delicious Mexican fare clustered near the southern end of Tulum's hotel zone. Or for more accommodation options, visit tulum.com.
3. A greener vacation
Tulum promotes itself as an eco-friendly destination; its hotel zone uses limited electricity (which comes primarily from wind-driven generators), and different hotels offer varying ranges of power access, from evenings-only (or even only in the restaurant) to 24-hour, although you'll notice the whole area is quite dark at night due to low levels of lighting. (Tip: Pack a flashlight, and consider scheduling your trip during the full moon for the best post-dinner beach walks.) Other eco-friendly measures found in Tulum include organic bed linens, water conservation measures and efforts to leave trees standing when building (check out the coco palms growing right through La Zebra's restaurant).
Page 1 of 34. An abundance of wildlife
Tulum and its environs offer enough exotic wildlife-viewing opportunities to keep kids (both big and small) enthralled. With species from lizards, frogs and crabs to iguanas, crocodiles and numerous types of bird, make sure to bring an extra memory card for all the photos you're bound to take.
5. Easy access to Mayan ruins
For a break from the beach (trust us, you'll appreciate it more afterward), visit any of the several Mayan ruins within easy reach of Tulum. (Do it on your own schedule by renting a car for the length of your visit, or join a tour from any of several local outfitters.) The nearby Tulum ruins, a spectacular site overlooking the sea, will be your first stop: watch for the many iguanas that make their home here.
Farther afield, the only partially excavated Cobá ruins make an easy afternoon trip. Climb the 42-metre-high Nohoch Mul pyramid for a challenging butt and thigh workout, and after you leave the ruins complex, visit the crocodile-viewing pier down the road from the parking lot to get a look at the lake's hungriest inhabitants. And if you're in the mood for an all-day excursion, make your way to the more famous site of Chichén Itzá – try to get there early to beat the rush.
6. Crystal-clear cenotes
Cenotes are a kind of sinkhole prolific across the Yucatan peninsula, where all fresh water runs underground. They range from simple pond-like structures to more elaborate caves with water running through, and many are available to the public (often for a small fee) for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Probably the best cenote near Tulum is Gran Cenote, not far along the road to Cobá. Refresh yourself in its cool waters after a hot afternoon of wandering the ruins, and swim under the caves to watch the cenote's resident bats flying around.
Page 2 of 37. The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
South of Tulum's hotel zone, surrounding the fishing village of Punta Allen, is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. It's best to visit the reserve on a tour, which can be arranged through your hotel. Mexico Kan Tours offers one water-oriented option; tour the waterways and mangrove-surrounded lagoons on a local fishing boat while you search for dolphins, sea turtles, starfish, crocodiles, pelicans, cormorants and the distinctive pink spoonbills, then snorkel the relatively unspoiled reef, go for a dip in the "natural swimming pool" (metre-deep crystal-clear waters stretching far from shore) and finish your day with a buffet lunch eaten on the beach.
8. Sunrises to get up early for
Yes, you're on vacation, but even if you're not much of an early riser, make an exception at least once and get up at first light for a sunrise walk on the nearly deserted beach. Take off your sandals and wade barefoot through the waves as you watch the sun's first rays light up the water; if you're a yoga or meditation devotee, this is the perfect time and place for your daily practice. Follow up your morning walk with a beachside pineapple and banana smoothie and Mexican-style eggs at La Zebra's restaurant.
9. Uncrowded beaches
Tulum's hotel zone stretches along the beach from the ruins near town all the way south toward the Sian Ka'an biosphere – and the road backs onto mainly jungle, meaning there's a limit to the amount of people nearby. The farther south you go, the more secluded the beach; while you may not be the only one stretched out in the sun, it's a far cry from the crowds farther north. And the creamy coral sand and clear turquoise waters spell nothing short of paradise.
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