Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Sun October 09 2016

Tulum: Come for the Ruins, Stay for the Beach

Destination & Tourism | John Roberts | October 09, 2016

Tulum: Come for the Ruins, Stay for the Beach

Photos by John Roberts

As one of the most significant archaeological sites in the region highlighting life of the Maya people, Tulum is intriguing enough.

But the proximity to a hopping beach scene at the base of this centuries-old spot makes it an especially interesting place to spend a day. We toured the ruins with Aventuras Mayas on a blazing hot and sunny day, and after about an hour looking at the stone structures and learning about how society worked for the Maya people, my mind started to wander.

Maybe it was the strange new creature wandering in my path that stole my attention. I chased the raccoon-like ball of adorable around for a minute. What the heck is that? It was fairly tame and obviously used to these crowds. A quick Google search told me I had seen my first coati.   

My next distraction: The crashing sounds of the waves increased in volume as our tour made its way closer to the iconic structure of Tulum, El Castillo, which sits perched at the edge of a hill overlooking the inviting blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea.  

The beach at Tulum is a growing hotspot. We joined hundreds who had descended the staircases from El Castillo to soak up the sun and bob around in the warm waters. The thin strip of sand is pinched between the sheer, craggy hillside and the exceedingly gorgeous sea. The whole scene is postcard-perfect and made for relaxation.  

If you don't let the iguanas startle you.  

Entrance to the Tulum archaeological site is about $3.50 (65 pesos). If you're a history buff, you'll love looking around the grounds and pondering life in a Mayan city. The civilization is known for its impressive knowledge and advancement of sciences, medicines, astronomy and architecture. That is, before their societies collapsed after 2,000 years and the cities were abandoned.

READ MORE: Grand Oasis Tulum: The Quiet Resort

A shuttle train (fee: about 50 cents) takes visitors to and from the ruins entrance. You gather in a queue at the main plaza and shopping area at the Tulum site, which features all the souvenir shops and cafes you'd expect at a heavily touristed area (there is even a Subway and Starbucks). Most people could also easily walk the half-mile and skip the train.

If you're more of a beach bum, get to Tulum early to beat the crowds. Sure, take a quick look around the ruins and snap your pictures of the cool stone temples and such. Then, head down to the beach to claim your spot on the fluffy white sand and enjoy a day of snorkeling, swimming and snoozing in one of the hippest places in Mexico (pack a small cooler with beers and snacks). You'll marvel at the view you have looking back up to El Castillo and the surrounding cliffside ruins after you swim out a bit from shore.

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