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This is a detailed one day trip guide for those who are planning to head to Tulum – a small Mexican town located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, 65 km south from Playa del Carmen. Please note that you can fit in more places to visit in one day, but if you are planning to enjoy the beauty of each site and of course to have at least two meals during the day, this guide is for you.
Mayan Ruins of Tulum
The old city of Tulum (Pre-Columbian Mayan walled city) is nested on 12 meter high cliffs along the east cost of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The former name of the site is Zama, meaning the City of Dawn, which was given for its location facing the sunrise. Tulum was one of the last cities inhabited and built by Mayan people, serving as a major port for Cobá.
It’s a perfect start to your day. The views are breathtaking! We enjoyed the site so much!
- Location: It’s very easy to find. Just follow the signs, look for “Zona Arqueologica”. It’s 1 km from Highway 307 on the left hand side if you are coming from Playa del Carmen/Cancun and 2 km before the intersection of the highway and the Coba/beach road in Tulum.
- Entrance fee: 57 pesos
- Parking: 70 pesos
- Opening hours: From 8 am to 5 pm
Gran Cenote is a big beautiful garden cenote with crystal clear refreshing blue water and easily accessible caves for snorkeling and diving. This place is popular with families and first time cenote swimmers, like us.
It’s a great experience. The water is so clean and crisp. The caves are full of stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes. Be prepared to see fish and turtles (bet you didn’t expect to see turtles right?).
When going down the stairs, turn on the right and you will find a shallow snorkeling area with soft white sand bottom and natural open hole on the other side of the cave.
More advanced swimmers can try out the large cave to the right. Be ready for the 15 meter journey into darkness, hundreds of stalactites and bats!
We took our snorkeling gear with us. If you don’t have one, you can rent it right there for an extra 70 pesos.
- Location: Drive 4 km by the Coba road from the intersection of Highway 307 and beach road in Tulum. It will be on your right hand side.
- Entrance fee: 120 pesos; 150 pesos for divers
- Parking: Free
- Opening hours: From 8 am to 6 pm
Have Your Delicious Meal
There are quite a number of restaurants and cafes in Tulum considering it’s such a small town. I would like to recommend several places which are really good!
1. Kinich Restaurant
Try out this cozy restaurant with its authentic Yucatan Food. The ambience of the place is very pleasant. The food is tasty and service is very good. Prices are quite resonable as well. Don’t miss it!
2. El Camello
Looking for excellent seafood? This place is definetely your choice. El Camello offers delicious, cheap and fresh seafood. This is the most famous marisqueria in Tulum, some people say it is the best in Mexico! 😉
3. Trattoria Romana
For a break from Mexican Food there is this amazing (yet very simple) italian restaurant. The food is great. The owner, an Italian, is very friendly, speaks to every guest and makes sure you get a perfect plate.
4. El Gourmet
It’s a small coffee shop, run by a sweet local family. It’s a great place for a coffee and snacks. They sell homemade pastry, cheeses, ham, sandwiches and other yummy things. These guys are very friendly and try their best to make you happy.
How to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen
It’s very easy to get to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen. You have 3 options here:
1. ADO Bus. Departs from Playa del Carmen every day from 8:00 am to 12:31 pm (see the photo below). The price of a one way ticket is 66 pesos. ADO buses are very comfortable and fast.
2. Colectivo. Colectivo – minivans used by locals to get around within and outside the town. It’s a quick and cheap way to get to the desirable destination. It’s less comfortable than ADO buses and doesn’t have AC but is still safe. The Colectivo to Tulum runs every day between 5 am to 10 pm. It leaves from Calle 2 between 15th and 20th Avenue every 15 minutes. A one way ticket will cost you 40 pesos.
3. Car. If you prefer to travel without using public transport, as in any country of the world you can rent a car. I don’t know why many people say that it’s cheap to rent a car here. I would say it’s expensive, but affordable. Of course it all depends on whether you are going to purchase full insurance, which adds $25 to your bill. If you choose to rent a car, go only to the world famous companies like Hertz, Avis or EuropCar.
We rented our car from Hertz and were very happy with it. All the process of renting was very smooth and thank God we didn’t have any problems on the road. However it was expensive. We paid $75 each day. The fuel is cheap in Mexico, so with a distance of 65 km from Playa to Tulum, we didn’t spend much money on gas. If you’d like to rent a car but you are not sure about it, check out my guide to renting a car abroad. You’ll get all the necessary information and a few tips on how to rent a car and don’t loose money. If you don’t feel like reading that long post and would like to book your car right away, I suggest you to use the website that we always use to rent a car abroad. We always manage to find cars that we like and to pay less than you would pay at the office.
Accommodation (Update of 2017)
I know you are planning a one day trip to Tulum, but just in case you feel like staying there for one or two nights, I’d like to show you a few affordable and really good hotels where you might like to spend a couple of nights while in Tulum. All the hotels below have free wifi, free parking and rated highly by the travellers.
1. Prana Boutique Hotel 4*
Free WiFi, free private parking, free use of bicycles, outdoor pool and pet-friendly. The hotel has a sun terrace and views of the garden, guests can enjoy a drink at the bar.
2. Azura Boutique Hotel 4*
Free WiFi, free parking, family rooms,rooftop solarium, airport shuttle, located very close to Mayan Ruins.
3. Los Amigos Tulum 4*
Free WiFi, free parking, outdoor pool, family rooms, airport shuttle, free use of bicycles, spa and wellness centre.
4. Hotel Casa Santiago 4*
Free WiFi, free parking, airport shuttle, non-smoking rooms, water park, daily maid service, free access and discounts on consumption in several private beach clubs.
Guys, I haven’t stayed at these hotels but I chose them the way I chose accommodation for ourselves, considering every single detail. When we went to Tulum all the hotels were extremely expensive so we opted for an Airbnb apartment. We use Airbnb very often and we love it! Just in case you’ve never rented an apartment through Airbnb just click this link and you’ll get up to $25 discount from me on your first trip.
Tulum is a very beautiful place. If you have time, not only one day, I encourage you to come to this town for a few days. There are more things around to do and to see. Enjoy your holidays!
Are you planning to have a day trip somewhere else rather than Tulum from Playa Del Carmen? Then check out my detailed posts on One Day Getaway in Cozumel, or find how to visit Chichen Itza from Playa Del Carmen in one day!
Amazing post, Alyona! And the photos are amazing. You just saved us a lot of planning for our Tulum trip tomorrow. 🙂 Thanks. Looks like you had an amazing day. 🙂
Thank you Celia! I am glad to be helpful. Hope you are having a great time in Tulum! 🙂
This is such a helpful article. I just arrived in PDC and am very keen to see the ruins in Tulum. Swimming in the cenotes sounds good too! Do you know if you just arrive at the cenotes- no booking required?
Hi Kat! Thanks. You don’t need to book anything, just go there during the opening hours and enjoy yourself 🙂
Thank you for all of the detailed information! Planning a side trip from Playa to Tulum soon.
You are welcome, Jen! 🙂
Hey Alyona, great guide that is very useful to my planning right now, thank you! I have a question for you: Would I be able to walk from the ruins at Tulum over to Gran Cenote? My wife and I are in good shape and wouldn’t mind a walk if its less than 3 miles or so. Also, are the beautiful beaches I hear about in Tulum close to the ruins site (again, walkable distance)? We aren’t renting a car and will be relying on the colectivo to get us down to Tulum from our resort.
Hi Brandon! I am afraid the Tulum ruins are too far from Gran Cenote if you want to walk this distance. It is around 6-7 km away. I am not sure about taking a colectivo (but there are colectivos in Tulum, maybe there is a route to Gran cenote). Just use a taxi. Cabs are cheap there. With regards to the beach, you can just go down the stairs at the ruins site, find the place you like most and swim there, it’s very beautiful.
I personally didn’t swim there, but many people do. Hope this can help. Thanks for coming by!
Carol Martin says
I just read your post about traveling from Play del Carmen to Tulum. Are you able to answer a few more questions? If so, if we take the bus to Tulum are we able to get return bus transportation back to Playa del Carmen? Once the bus drops you off are you within walking distance to the ruins? How far is it?
How far is it to the ElCamello restaurant you recommended? We have five in our party and need to plan a cost contained day trip.
The colectivos run to/from Tulum very frequently, you just stop one and go back to Playa. You can use ADO as well, just check the timetable. The bus/colectivo stops right near the turn to the Ruins. You will have to walk, but it’s not an impossible walk…maybe 10 mins. Many tourists do so. Then if you want to go to El Camello it will be a bit far to walk, it’s around 5 km from Ruins. Just catch a taxi from there to get to the restaurant or stop any colectivo. Hope it was helpful 🙂
Colectivo – minivans used by locals to get around within and outside the town. It’s a quick and cheap way to get to the desirable destination. It’s less comfortable than ADO buses and doesn’t have AC but is still safe.
Correction: Most of the colectivos have AC. If you take one whitout it (rare), the price is almost half the price than the ones with AC.
Have a nice day
Ignaura Tejeda says
Hello Alyona! Hope you still have time for one more question 🙂
How long did the whole trip take? At what time did you leave/were back in Playa?
Hello Ignaura! We stayed in Tulum for a few days. But the plan I offered here took us exactly one day. You can easily go to Tulum in the morning (go early at around 7-8 am) and come back in the evening.
Hello Alyona 🙂 I have a question. We are going to Tulum from PDC, after we plan Cenote but I’m not sure how back to PDC from Gran Cenote. Should we back to Tulum and take ADO or is another way strictly to PDC? Thank you in advance. 🙂
Hi Lukasz, you will have to go back to Tulum anyway, because the road to PDC goes through Tulum. So if you manage to catch a bus/minivan to PDC from the cenote, just go for it. If not, then head to Tulum and catch a bus from there. Hope it was helpful 🙂
I loved this article, thank you for taking the time to put all that information together! I also have a quick question. My family and I will be arriving on a cruise in Cozumel and will take the ferry to Playa del Carmen. Can I take a taxi to Tulum from Playa del Carmen instead of renting a car or taking the Collectivo? is it too expensive to take a taxi? We have time restrictions because we have to be in the cruiseship by 5pm.
Hi Clara! Thanks for stopping by and sorry for my late reply! Yes, you could take a taxi to Tulum. I won’t tell you now the exact price, but cabs are not expensive in Mexico. Once we took a taxi from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and it cost us 600 pesos, which is around $40. Since the distance between Playa and Tulum is almost the same, I think the price will be similar.
Amanda P says
Your blog was so helpful!! Gave us an outline for the day! I’m curious about the price of the Gran Centone. I saw you posted 190 pesos (Snorkel entry with equipment) which if I’m converting correct is around $12 but on trip advisor someone said $25 for entry?? I tried to look on their website and it seemed to just show group rates or packages. We wouldn’t want a guide. We just want to go and explore on our own. Is your price the accurate one or was it a typo?? Thanks!!
Hi Amanda! Thank you! Let me show you photos of their prices, which I took when I was there. They were taken a year ago, so maybe the prices have changed by now. Hope it will help you 🙂
Thanks for all this information!!
Hi! I was wondering if you would happen to know how far the shops on Tulum road are from the ruins and Gran Cenote? Are Taxi’s readily available? Great article!
Hey! Thanks for your question 🙂 I am sorry, I am not sure which shops exactly you are talking about, but cabs are available everywhere, don’t even worry about it 🙂
Millie Warham says
very useful – thank you – you can’t beat an honest review, Millie Warham
Thanks Millie 🙂
Hi Alyona your post very informative. This was the first time I saw mention of Gran Cenote! My daughter told me to visit – tour offices had no idea. Great info on cat hire as well everything I needed to know thanks
You are welcome Teresa! 🙂
Look on TripAdvisor for more info on Gran Cenote
Dag – Thanks so much for correcting the comment about AC in Colectivos. I’m likely going to take one today from Tulum to Playa del Carmen and wouldn’t have had I thought they didn’t have AC. Cheers!
Came across your blog when searching for tulum and cenote tours. Great travel blog and beautiful pictures !
Thank you! 🙂
Robin Cervantes says
We plan on visiting soon and am considering car rental. Am in the planning stages, so this is very helpful info. Wish you the best in all your travels!
RAJASEKARAN T says
thanks a lot. this helps a lot for us while planning for travel from Cancun to Tulum.
Thanks for the review. Very helpful info. Did you see a lot of people swimming/snorkeling in the ocean in Tulum? We have heard that Playa del Carmen has a seaweed problem and we really would like to find a beach with good water that we can snorkel in. Any suggestions?
Hey thank you! To tell you the truth I don’t remember people snorkeling. We tried, but you almost don’t see anything near the shores. Diving is amazing there. We tried diving in Playa. You might want to check this my post about it and consider to try it yourself 🙂
do you know much about Taxis? How do you catch a taxi from Tulum and head back to Playa? Are they always just hanging around tulum?
Hi Sophia, to tell you the truth I am not sure about the taxi. As far as I remember you can just catch them on the street.
Hi. We’re staying in Puerto Morelos soon. Is it practical to do the Tulum trip in one day? How about getting there and back. No problem with using local transport from our perspective, just need best advice and an idea of costs please.
Hi Paul, I can’t really help you on this as I’ve never been to Puerto Morelos, so I am not sure how public transport works there. I can see that it’s around 100 km from Tulum, which is not that far. I guess it’s totally ok to make a one day trip if you’re going by car. If you intend to use public transport then you need to see whether it’s easy to get there or not.