This is part II of our honeymoon to Tulum and it's all about what to do while you're there! Part I was all about where to eat and sleep, so if you missed it, you can find it HERE.
Tulum is the total package and can satisfy whatever type of vacationer you are. Beach bum? Pristine beaches and turquoise waters; CHECK. Adventurer? Scuba diving, kite surfing, exploring ruins; CHECK. Culture and history buff? World heritage sites and Mayan traditions; CHECK. And if you're from the Southeast U.S. like us, you can get there before lunchtime which is an added bonus...long weekend getaway anyone?
If you stay on the main beach road in Tulum, you'll have immediate access to the gorgeous beaches from your hotel. The wind coming off the ocean was perfect for kite surfing so every day we would sit and watch the colorful array of kites soaring by.
For those who like to venture away from the beach, there are archaeological sites found all over the Yucatan, and several are a day trip from Tulum. Chichen Itza is probably the most famous and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of you have probably seen photos of El Castillo (The Castle) which is the largest temple in the town complex. This was by far the most touristy thing we did while in Mexico, and there were people everywhere. There is hardly any shade at the ruins so be sure to bring hats and where sunscreen! If you want a little more rugged, adventurous site to visit, try Coba. From Tulum, it's on the way to Chichen Itza. Though a smaller complex, it's still hidden as if the jungle has just grown around it and you can climb on the ruins themselves which you can't do at Chichen Itza.
The ruins at Tulum are definitely not to be missed even though they are super touristy. The town complex was built right on the edge of the Caribbean and boasts amazing views. There's also a beach you can wander down to and enjoy. Definitely get there before 10:00 when the tour buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen start to show up. If you go early, you'll almost have the whole place to yourself.
Snorkeling in a cenote was one of the top activities on my list for the Yucatan. Cenote's are sinkholes that have been filled up with groundwater, and the water is clear and fresh because it's been filtered through the rocks. Mayans revered the sinkholes because they were the greatest source of fresh water. We visited two during trip, but there are hundreds that can be found all over the peninsula...we're definitely making it our goal to find our favorite cenote over the next several years. The first one we visited was Ik Kil which is close to Chichen Itza. We didn't snorkel in this one because the water is too dark but it's such a cool experience regardless. The sinkhole is about 60 meters deep and is surreal with the towering limestone walls and lazy vines stretching towards the water's surface.
The second cenote we visited was the Grand Cenote which is about 20 minutes from Tulum. This was definitely my favorite because of how clear the water is; and the stalagmites and stalactites make for interesting underwater viewing that is different than your normal snorkeling excursion. You can also scuba dive here to get a better look around down to deeper depths. Like the ruins, the earlier you get to the cenote's the less crowded they are.
Valladolid makes for a great little day trip if you're looking to get away from the beach for the day. There's a quaint little town square with lots of shops and eateries surrounding. Like most of our trips, we enjoy stopping in the little towns found during a road trip because you usually find the most authentic experiences and photo opportunities there.
Another tiny town about 20 minutes from Tulum is Francisco Uh May. If you blink you'll miss it, but there are tons of little vendors and shops with the artisans sitting outside chatting up their neighbors and working on their crafts. If you're looking for textiles and soft goods most of those items have been brought in from other areas of Mexico or imported from border countries like Guatemala so they aren't authentic to the area. But you can find unique wares indigenous to the area like woodworking, and woven hammocks and wind catchers are also popular. We snagged several wind catchers to remind us our time there!