After lazing around in the relaxing town that is Tulum, Val and I decided to spend a couple hours on a sweltering afternoon at the Tulum Ruins. Aside from the Gulf, the Tulum Ruins are the main attraction to this Yucatan beach town.
When we arrived, I realized quickly that planning this visit isn’t as straightforward as it seems. I wrote this guide to answer the questions I had on this day.
When visiting this ancient site, here’s what to know before you go.
What are the Tulum Ruins in Mexico?
The Tulum Ruins were constructed under the Mayan civilization as a military fortress to protect them from invaders. If you go to Chichén Itzá (which I highly recommend!), then this visit will tie into what you see in Chichén Itzá.
There are plaques all along the walking path with information about the use of each building or structure. I won’t go into detail about each specific one, so that it won’t be ruined (see what I did there?) for your own time visiting the Tulum Ruins.
Can you climb the Tulum Ruins?
Similar to Chichén Itzá, you cannot climb the Tulum Ruins. I realize this may be disappointing if you’re used to visiting ancient sites like Angkor Wat in Cambodia that allow you to walk or climb on just about anything. However, my experience was still very rich in both of the ancient Mayan sites I visited.
There are ropes barring visitors from getting too close to the buildings, so please pay attention to those and respect the monument.
Tulum Ruins Entrance Fee (Updated 2022)
It costs 85 pesos to visit the Tulum Ruins.
The ticket booth is cash only, and they wanted exact change when we visited. There was a sign on the window saying as much, so I recommend having 85 pesos ready to go.
Tulum Ruins Hours (Updated 2022)
The site is open every day, from 8am to 5pm. Final entry is at 4pm, so try to arrive by 2pm.
What to Bring to the Tulum Ruins
When visiting, be sure to wear sunscreen and bring:
- Camera (I used my phone for all the pictures in this post, so whatever works for you.)
- Cash in small bills (think 20s, 50s, and coins) for parking and entry
- A swimsuit, just in case the beach is available and you want to swim
Tulum Ruins Beach
Part of what makes the Tulum Ruins an attraction is their coastal location. Not only does it have historical significance from the Mayans using it as a sea port and fortress to protect their thriving civilization, but it also has two small enclave beaches surrounded by jagged cliffs.
When you’re traveling in Mexico and want to see a blend of ecology, history, architecture, and beautiful beaches, the Tulum Ruins can be a great place to enjoy all of the above.
When Val and I visited, the beaches of the ruins were closed due to their size. Both of them are so small that it would be impossible to enforce social distancing.
If you’ve ever been to Thailand, these beaches are smaller than the famous Maya Bay that the Thai government had to close years ago for overcrowding.
At the time of our visit in May 2022, the beaches were also covered in seaweed and sand space was limited. We wore our swimsuits assuming we’d get to lounge on the beach after walking around in the heat, but that wasn’t the case. Off to the pool we went after our self-guided tour was done!
My best piece of advice for this aspect of visiting the Tulum Ruins is to temper expectations about the Tulum Ruins beaches. You may not be able to access them for one reason or another, and they are very small. It may be crowded on the day of your visit, so you may choose to skip it anyway.
If you want to go to the beach, but the Tulum Ruins beaches are closed, then there are other Tulum public beaches anyone can enjoy.
Important: Tulum Ruins Parking (Updated 2022)
This is where things got interesting.
We tried twice to enter the site after going to the wrong entry area on our first attempt. I’ve included a Google Maps screenshot below to show you the correct entry if you’re driving.
Don’t drive down the road that runs along the coast. Yes, people do park there, but I don’t recommend it. They pay hotel parking attendants to use street parking along this road, but it’s unclear if it’s legal to park there or if you can be towed by the Tulum police for that.
Instead, you want to drive down the main highway near downtown and turn right into the ruin site (if you’re coming from downtown Tulum). Once you arrive, people will try to flag down your car and sell tours or parking. You don’t have to go with them if you prefer to DIY.
When this happened to us, we thought we had to stop and were pitched an expensive tour that I wouldn’t consider worth the money after doing a normal self-guided visit to the ruins. If you’re interested in a Tulum Ruins tour combined with a boat ride and beach access, go for it! We had an afternoon at the pool to look forward to, so this wasn’t a good fit for us.
Tulum Ruins Parking Fees: A Mystery
We went with private parking on this same road, basically across from the one on the map. There’s a big blue sign on the right that says “Estacionamiento” in white letters.
Parking is not free, and is cash only. I recommend to bring at least 100 pesos, maybe 200 just to be covered. Use small bills. The rates vary so much that anything other than a ballpark figure here would be unhelpful, honestly.
After parking, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the ticket booth. Our parking attendant also tried to sell us a tour, but we weren’t interested. She did give a helpful quick overview of the ruins for free (they all do this as a prologue to sell their tour to you). That was interesting, and she was nice. She did tell us that there was an hour wait because of long lines, which was untrue. We didn’t wait at all, but maybe the lines do get long at peak visiting hours.
Reflections on Visiting the Tulum Ruins
As we strolled through the unforgiving tropical sun in the heat of the day, we talked about our lives so far, how much had changed since we went to Thailand together in January 2020, and where we were headed. Val and I have been friends since 2003, when we met at church as little girls. We’ve been through many phases of life together with more to come.
During our visit, I wondered how many people walked these paths before us. Not only at the ruins, but in life as well. It seems the entire world has been at a crossroads for the past two years. In a place that represents cross-cultural movement, it’s only fitting that people from all around the world have descended on this site to walk through history. Moments like these stay with me.
After a couple more days in Tulum, we left the Yucatan Peninsula in search of adventure in Oaxaca. What happens next is my favorite of the trip. Keep reading, and you’ll find out why.
Read more Mexico travel guides:
- Mexico Travel Guide: Culture, History, and Cuisine
- Chichen Itza Day Trip and Ik Kil Cenote Without a Tour
- 5 Tulum Vegan Restaurants You’ll Love
- Oaxaca Travel Guide
- Oaxaca Vegan Guide
- CDMX Travel Guide (to come!)
- CDMX Vegan Guide (to come!)
- Lonely Planet Mexico (2022 edition)