Tulum is the only Mayan city in the Yucatan that was built right on the coast, and the combination of its scenic location and interesting if unremarkable archaeology make it an enjoyable half-day outing. The site is quite compact – in its heyday Tulum apparently had no more than 2,000 inhabitants compared to some 50,000 at nearby Coba – so you can walk all the paths at a leisurely pace, view all the buildings (exteriors only) and be on your way within a couple of hours. Or head to the beach below the Castillo/Castle, the main building located on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean, for a cooling dip. There are actually two beaches at the ruins, but one is reserved for turtles. Check out the aerial photo at [--]. The longer beach on the left of the Castillo/Castle is for humans; the deeper one on the right is the protected turtle area.
You don’t need to take an organized excursion to Tulum. If you prefer to travel independently, get a colectivo on Careterra/Highway 307, and be sure to tell the driver you’d like off at the Zona Archeologica; if you ask for just Tulum, you may be dropped further along the highway in the town of Tulum. The ride takes 20 minutes from Akumal Beach Resort to the drop-off point (a four-way crossing with traffic lights). Price seems to be variable; we paid 25 pesos each. It takes maybe five minutes to walk from the highway to the entrance to the ruins. Along the way, you’ll pass a number of booths offering to sell tickets or arrange guides, but they are not official sellers. The official ticket booth is at the end of the road. Admission is 51 pesos for adults. You can hire a guide there (500 pesos/CAD $45 for a 45-minute tour for 1 to 4 people) or walk around on your own. If you opt for the latter, a guidebook would be helpful as there’s not a great deal of information on the plaques identifying each building or group of buildings.
Aim to arrive early to avoid the heat and crowds. We got there at 9 a.m., thinking that was opening time. In fact, the site opens at 8 a.m. It was pretty quiet till around 9:30-10:00 a.m., when big tour groups started arriving.
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