The Ruins of Tulum, Mexico

Ruins of Tulum

I visited the Tulum Ruins during my first solo trip to Mexico. I had previously visited these ruins with my family, but I wanted to come back and explore them on my own.

Gorgeous ocean next to the ruins

Quick Facts:

Where are the ruins located?

The Tulum Ruins are located approximately five minutes north of the town of Tulum (by car) and one hour south of Playa del Carmen, along Highway #307.

The magnificent El Castillo

How do you get to and from the ruins independently?

You can easily get to the ruins via taxi from the town of Tulum, colectivo (shared shuttle van) from either Tulum or Playa del Carmen, ADO bus from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, or by bicycle from the town of Tulum.

Taxis from the town will cost around 70 pesos to the ruins, and they will drop you off at the entrance. You can catch a colectivo along the main highway running through the town of Tulum, if you just stand anywhere along the boulevard on the south side of the road (going towards the ruins). Colectivos drive by all the time and will stop for you, as they do not operate on a fixed schedule. Colectivos cost around 30-40 pesos and they will also drop you off at the entrance. Just tell the driver where you want to go and then grab an available seat in the van. You pay when you reach your destination.

You can catch colectivos from the parking lot at Avenida 15 and Calle 2 in Playa del Carmen. Listen for drivers calling out the names of destinations, and when you hear Tulum, head to that van. You can also ask the drivers where they are going. You may have to wait a little while until the driver finds enough people to fill his van. Make sure to tell the driver that you want to go to the ruins (las ruinas) not the town and they will drop you off there for about 40 pesos. Once you are finished exploring the ruins, you can find the colectivos lined up along the road that takes you from the ruins entrance to the highway.

There are first class ADO buses that run between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on a regular basis. You can check the schedules at www.ado.com.mx. The buses will stop at the ruins first, on the way to the bus terminal in the town of Tulum. You will get dropped off at the intersection of the highway and the short road that leads to the ruins (about a 10 minute walk). The first class buses from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum ruins cost about 62 pesos. You will have to check the bus schedules for buses returning to Playa del Carmen.

The colectivos and ADO buses will drop you off on the highway at the intersection of a road that leads to the ruins. You can walk approximately 1 km towards the ruins or take a little tourist train for about 20 pesos. There are a lot of information booths lined up along the road. Do not buy tickets or tours from them, as they will not be authentic tickets. Wait until you get to the official ticket booth at the entrance of the ruins to buy tickets.

You can also choose to rent a bicycle in the town of Tulum. I rented from Kelly’s Bike Rentals (located on the main highway running through town, just past Calle Satelite while walking towards the beach) and paid 60 pesos for the day (regular 80 pesos, but if you stay at Mama’s Home Hostel, you get a discount). There are other bike rental shops located along the main highway through town as well but they all cost around the same. Make sure to bring your driver’s license with you, as the rental place will keep it as collateral and give it back to you when you return the bike. You are provided with a bike lock. There is a paved bike path that runs along the highway all the way from town to the ruins, and riding there only takes about 20 minutes one-way. It felt very safe and it was nice not having to worry about the highway traffic. Once you arrive at the ruins, there is a place for bike parking right next to the ticket counter at the entrance, or you can just lean your bike up against any tree near the entrance and lock it there.

Kelly’s Bike Rental in the town of Tulum

Cost of Entrance:

65 pesos (as of May 2015)

Hours:

8 AM to 5 PM CST.

How much time is recommended to explore the site?

The Tulum Ruins are small and compact and you do not need more than two hours here. I spent about 1 1/2 hours in total. There is a small beach that you can access from the site and if you are planning on swimming there, you could choose to spend the entire morning, afternoon or day at the ruins.

View of the ocean from the cliff

Ruins

Tips:

Bring lots of water with you to stay hydrated. The ruins site is wide open with hardly any shaded areas and once you have paid your entrance fee, there is nowhere to purchase water.

Wear a hat and lots of sunscreen (natural if possible), to protect your skin from sunburns.

Eat before you enter the ruins, to stay energized and prevent fainting from the extreme heat. There are no stores or carts to buy food from once you are inside the site.

You are not able to touch or climb any of the ruins in Tulum.

Bring a swimsuit and towel. There is a gorgeous beach area below the cliff where the El Castillo is situated, and it can only be accessed from the ruins site. You spend some time swimming in the ocean here to cool yourself down.

Wear good sneakers. Climbing hills and stepping on rocks while wearing flip flops would not be a smart idea.

You will need at least 30 minutes to see the ruins (though in my opinion, you would miss out on a lot if you left after only 30 minutes). I spend about an hour and half at the ruins and went through at a leisurely pace. I did not go swimming at the beach, so allot yourself more time if you plan to swim.

Get to the ruins as early as possible, preferably when they open at 8 AM. By midday, the ruins get very crowded with many different tour groups and the sun is extremely hot.

The sunny and wide open ruins site

The Tulum ruins are situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The site is small and open and the structures are much smaller than those at the sites of Coba and Chichen Itza. Nevertheless, they are still beautiful and interesting to learn about.

Ruins

I decided to visit the ruins around lunchtime/midday, which I quickly realized was a bad decision, considering that it’s also the hottest time of the day (and I visited in May, which is one of the hottest months in Mexico)! The bike ride from town to the ruins was absolutely exhausting, but thankfully there were a lot of gas stations along the way where I could buy some ice-cold water to keep me going.

I am pretty proud of this photo! The stunning El Castillo overlooking the ocean waters

Midday is also the busiest time to visit the ruins, and there were crowds of people everywhere. This made the atmosphere less relaxing and peaceful, than I prefer. It was also difficult to take good photos of the ruins without people getting in your way.

Ruins

If you are planning on visiting the ruins, I suggest arriving around the time the ruins open at 8 AM, in order to beat the heat and the crowds. Also, bring lots of water with you, as they do not sell it at the ruins!

As you enter the road to the ruins from the highway, you will be bombarded with people trying to sell you tours. Keep bike riding or walking past them and buy your tickets at the official ticket booth at the end of the road.

I had to take a selfie!

Despite the challenging bike ride to get to there, the ruins were worth the effort.

The view of the El Castillo overlooking the ocean was gorgeous! There were also some other interesting structures around the ruins site to visit and the history is interesting to learn about.

A big guy!

This was one of the bigger iguanas

One of many iguanas spotted at the ruins

There were large iguanas everywhere, sunning themselves on the rocks or hiding in small cracks in the ruins, with only their tails sticking out. There was also a set of wooden stairs that takes you down the cliffside to a small and beautiful beach, directly underneath the ruins. Bring your swimsuit and a towel if you plan on checking out the beach.

Ruins

Secluded and quiet beach area below the ruins

The only downsides to visiting these ruins, is that all of the structures are roped off and you cannot touch or climb anything. I disliked how crowded the ruins were, but I did visit during the busiest time of day. If I had gone during the early morning, I am sure my experience would have been better.

The El Castillo with wooden steps leading to the beach below

The area surrounding the ruins was very commercialized and developed for tourists, and sadly, there was even a Subway near the parking lot. There was also a large market-style shopping area before you got to the ruins selling overpriced souvenirs.

If you are hungry or thirsty after visiting the ruins, the road running from the site to the highway is lined with tourist-priced restaurants. I ended up buying fresh coconut water for 50 pesos, which is double what you would pay in the town of Tulum.

Strange looking tree growing out of the cliff

Overall though, I really enjoyed visiting these ruins. They are located close to both the town of Tulum and Playa del Carmen and make for a good half-day or full-day trip.

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