You only have 36 hours in Tulum, Mexico. While it seems impossible to make the most out of a vacation in such a short period, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to come up with the best possible itinerary for your 1 and a half day in this lovely coastal town in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
From what we know about Tulum, we’ve put together a list of activities it’s best known for. Whether you’re backpacking the entire Riviera Maya or just in town for a quick luxury getaway, we made sure that you’ll see what Tulum has to offer.
Here’s our Tulum itinerary that will bring you to Tulum Town, to the beach, and the historical ruins — all in less than 36 hours!
Tulum Itinerary for 36 Hours
Tulum Itinerary Day 1: The Flavors of Riviera Maya
Relax after your flight or journey. The travel time from Cancun International Airport to Tulum will take at least an hour. If you’re coming from the US, you’re most likely to arrive in Tulum in the afternoon. If not, well, unpacking and settling in your hotel also take time. With most of the day already gone, the best thing to do is just relax and unwind. You’d want to reserve your energy for tomorrow’s long day full of fun activities!
If you’re staying on Tulum Beach, get in line early at Hartwood Tulum. This crowd favorite restaurant is so popular that almost all Tulum itinerary articles mention it. The queue can also get crazy! It seems like everyone wants to try this open-air restaurant that serves world-class food prepared by expat chef Eric Werner.
If you’re staying in Tulum Town, there are also plenty of dining options and taco stands you can choose from where you can relax and unwind. Why not savor the sunset with a good mojito at Batey’s? Here’s a list of the best bars in Tulum and a guide on Tulum’s nightlife, for your reference. If you’re not the type who drinks alcoholic beverages, Tulum Town also has plenty of trendy and hip coffee shops you might want to check out.
Remember: don’t stay out too late. You don’t want to spend your remaining hours in Tulum sleeping or curing a hangover!
Tulum Itinerary Day 2: Tulum Mayan Ruins, Tulum Beach, and Tulum Cenotes
(Before) Sunrise – Get up extra early if you wish to make the most of your full day in Tulum. Take a taxi to Santa Fe Beach and catch the sunset on Santa Fe’s soft white sand and blue waters. Although the entrance is free, this beautiful beach is off the tourist radar — perfect for a quiet morning swim. Take note, though, that the use of their washroom and their beach loungers already come with a fee.
08:00 AM – A trip to Tulum wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Mayan Ruins. After catching the sunrise in Santa Fe (or if you decide to skip it), head on to Tulum Archaeological Site before 08:00 AM to beat the crowds and the would-be harsh noon heat.
Sitting on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the archaeological site is one of the most famous points of interest in Tulum and one of the most visited ruins in Mexico. The Mayan Ruins were once a walled city and an important trading port between the 13th and 15th centuries.
There is also a quaint sandy beach just below the Mayan ruins. It’s called Playa Ruínas and is one of the best beaches in Tulum. It’s accessible by a wooden staircase that descends from the foot of El Castillo, the archaeological zone’s largest pyramid. You can swim here, but you already did that this morning. Take a few pictures and let’s move on to other beach clubs for lunch!
10:00 AM – Take a refreshing break at Playa Paraíso or Paradise Beach. This gorgeous beach is constantly named Tulum’s best beach. Also known for its namesake beach club, Playa Paraiso has rows of lounge chairs and beach beds that can be rented at around 5-25 USD. You may lounge under a palm tree for free or order snacks or drinks for a shaded cabana. Learn about the best stretch of sand in Tulum.
The beach club is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and accepts major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. Service is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since Playa Paraiso does not accept reservations, we suggest you arrive early so you can have a nice spot for lunch.
If you prefer to spend the rest of your stay in beach clubs, we also recommend Coco Tulum. Here’s a list of the best beach clubs in Tulum. However, if you want to really make the most out of your remaining hours, let’s go explore some cenotes!
12:00 NN – For those who don’t know what a cenote is, it’s a large water-filled sinkhole that has formed from sedimentary limestone rocks collapsing. They’re basically large beautiful swimming pools made by nature. There are around 6,000 cenotes in the entire Yucatan Peninsula and some of the most popular ones are just near Tulum! One of the nearest and most popular is the Gran Cenote. It’s a collection of open-air and cave cenotes amid large tropical greenery — great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Just like Gran Cenote, Cenote Aktun-Ha (a.k.a.. Car Wash Cenote) is only 10-30 minutes away from Tulum Town via bicycle. It’s a large open-air cenote surrounded by lily pads and fallen trees. If you’re looking for a cenote that’s off the beaten path, Cenote Aktun-Ha is the place to be!
If you want to visit a bunch of cenotes, go to Dos Ojos Park. Just 22km north of Tulum, this park is home to several famous cenotes including Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Nicte-Ha, Cenote El Pit, and Cenote Sac Actun (a.k.a Pet Cemetery). We suggest that you adjust your morning schedule and come earlier if you want to see all the cenotes. Be sure to head back to Tulum before 05:00 PM as transportation seems to be a bit more difficult at this hour.
If you can’t make it to a cenote, you might consider a spa. Tulum has a some great spas, since it’s considered a hub for wellness.
Sunset – Head back to your hotel and check if they (or any place nearby) offer sunset yoga classes. If not, perhaps you can spoil yourself with a relaxing massage after your long day of exploring Tulum. You’ll surely have a good night’s rest on your last evening in Tulum. Just don’t forget to set an alarm or ask the hotel to give you a wake-up call so you don’t miss your flight the next day!
There you have it, your 36 hours of fun in Tulum! If you found this guide helpful, please consider sharing it. Tell us about your plans for your next Tulum trip in the comments section.