BEST Tulum Instagram & Tourist Attractions

June 12, 2023

tulum instagram

Mesmerizing turquoise water lapping onto pristine sugar-sand beaches, there isn’t a prettier beach anywhere in the Caribbean. Unlike the more frenetic Cancun to the north, Tulum has a more laid-back beach vibe, although it has rapidly gone from a sleepy fishing town to an upscale holiday destination featuring a myriad of eco-chic boutique hotels. With so much gorgeousness, the Tulum Instagram opportunities have helped it explode onto the social media scene.

If you can tear yourself away from the seaside – which admittedly won’t be easy – there are myriad things to do in the nearby jungles. Exploring the pre-Columbian Mayan port city for which the area is named is a must.

The well-preserved ruins include a large stone structure called El Castillo (castle), perched on a rocky cliff above the idyllic white sand beach and turquoise sea. And there are other Mexican ruins nearby, too.

A one-day all-inclusive ticket to the natural aquatic park Xel-Ha includes access to a lazy river, snorkeling, cliff jumping, bicycles, food and alcohol.

Or head for one of the close-by cenotes, the freshwater sinkholes that were once considered sacred by the ancient Maya. Through the opening at the top of the cenote caves, sunlight and roots filter down to the pools, creating an ethereal feel.

If you are wondering how the cost of going to Tulum compares to other places in Riviera Maya, here’s a guide answering the question, “is Tulum expensive?”

Where is Tulum

Tulum is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo along the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s about a two-hour drive from Cancun and one hour from Playa del Carmen.

How to Get to and Around

Unfortunately, there is no airport in Tulum. The nearest airport is the Cancun International Airport (airport code CUN).

You can get to Tulum from the airport by ADO bus or private transportation, but we recommend renting a car because there is a lot to see in this part of Mexico.

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Best Time to Visit Tulum

tulum instagram

The Yucatan Peninsula has a tropical climate, hot and humid all year round.

The best time to visit Tulum is very subjective. The dry season is between December and April, with pleasant temperatures and little rainfall. However, these months are also peak season, which means high prices and heavy crowds. We visited in April, and while the weather was ideal, the beach was overrun with seaweed. We would not go again in April.

The rainy and hurricane season usually starts in June and ends in October.

November to January can be very windy and a little cool (for me).

Tips for Visiting Tulum

  • Arrive at tourist attractions early. Cenotes and ruins are some of the most popular things to do in Tulum. You’ll want to arrive before the tour busses.
  • Bring plenty of (bottled) water. It’s usually quite hot and staying hydrated can make the difference between a fun adventure and a miserable experience.
  • Wear a hat. The sun is hot, hot, hot!
  • Apply sunscreen repeatedly. The sun is scorching, especially during mid-day, and shade can be evasive.
  • Have a swimsuit handy. There are lots of options for cooling off that you might want to take advantage of.

What to Pack for Tulum

Here’s a guide on what to pack for Mexico.

Here’s a guide on the only beach packing list you’ll ever need.

Is Mexico Safe?

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest destinations in Mexico. Tulum is generally safe, but there are scammers and pickpockets to be aware of. Just use common sense and keep your wits about you. Also, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Leave your valuables in your hotel room.

Always lock your car and keep your belongings in the trunk.

Avoid walking at night and taking taxis, especially alone.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff! Here’s what I’m going to list below, so you can skip to what you’re interested in:

  1. Best Tulum Instagram Spots
  2. Fun Places to Visit In and Around Tulum
  3. Where NOT to Go in Tulum

20 Best Tulum Instagram Spots

Love them or hate them, Tulum has an unequaled plethora of Instagram ops. For the most part, the most popular places are located on Tulum beach road. The boutique hotels, stylish restaurants, and stunning beaches are perfect for capturing those stunning Tulum Instagram moments.

We set out to find as many as we could, with some restrictions:

  1. I never waited in the ubiquitous lines to get a photo, which is often an hour or more. This was easy to avoid because we left the Tulum hotel zone early every morning to escape the hordes when the partiers were still asleep. We’d stop at a couple each day along the way to where we were going.
  2. We did NOT stop traffic or engage in any other “annoying tourist behaviors” to get the shots. Same as #1 above.

Here are the 20 best Tulum Instagram spots!

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#20 Tienda souvenir stand, Hotel Zone

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#19 Hotel Zone

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#18 I Love Tulum, Pueblo

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#16 Wooden Hand, Hotel Zone

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#15 Random Vintage Bus, Hotel Zone

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#14 Door to Nowhere, Hotel Zone

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#13 Cenote Calvara

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#12 World Signs, Pueblo

Mayan ruins

#11 Mayan Ruins (Buy this dress here!)

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#10 Bad Bunny, Hotel Zone

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#9 Macho Libra Wrestler, Hotel Zone

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#8 Selena, Hotel Zone (Buy this chiffon skirt here!)

#7 Stone Crescent, Hotel Zone

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#6 Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe, Hotel Zone

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#5 Macha Mama, Hotel Zone

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#4 Juice Lover, Pueblo

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#3 Tulum Love Sign, Hotel Zone

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#2 Water Hammock, Laguna Kaan Luum

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#1 Follow That Dream, Hotel Zone

Note, unfortunately the famous Ven a la Ruz wooden sculpture was closed for repairs the whole time we were there.

5 Best Tulum Places to Visit

1 Tulum Ruins

tulum ruins

You can’t visit this region and not explore the magical Tulum Archaeological Site. Though the Tulum Ruins are not the most impressive of their kind, this cliff-hanging pre-Columbian site in Tulum has always been my favorite ancient Mayan site because it’s the only one that overlooks the sea.  Dramatically poised over the sparkling turquoise Caribbean Sea (well, when the dread seaweed isn’t there!) surrounded by dense jungle, exploring the well-preserved and expansive walled city is a treat for the eyes.

mayan ruins

Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya and was a major trading and religious center between the 11th and 16th centuries.

I recommend getting there as soon as it opens because (1) it gets VERY crowded as the morning wears on, and (2) the midday sun is excruciatingly hot. If you get hot, there’s a beach below the ruins where you can take a dip.

Bring exact cash to pay. They don’t take credit cards and they do not have small bills for change.

If you are an ancient history buff, you might want to explore more of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, including

  • Chichen-Itza
  • Uxmal
  • Calakmul
  • Coba
  • Ek’ Balam
  • Muyil
  • Edzna

2 Laguna Kaan Luum

laguna kaan luum

Buy this chiffon skirt here!

The secret gem Laguna Kaan Luum was our favorite spot in Tulum Instagram spot and best place to cool off! Just south of Tulum and frequented mostly only by locals, this slice of heaven was a much-needed respite from the hordes of people that seemed to be everywhere in Tulum.

In the middle of a lush green jungle, the open dark blue cenote is surrounded by a shallow lake of crystal clear turquoise-green, bathwater warm water.

laguna kaan luum

It’s imperative to stay away from the dark cobalt-blue cenote near the middle of the lagoon because of the strong currents that can drag you down to the bottom, which is said to be 262 feet deep.

The charming site is mostly rustic, surrounded by grass with a few thatched palapas for shade, a tower to climb for views, two piers, overwater hammocks, and swings.

Apparently, the lagoon is known for mud baths, but didn’t see anyone doing that when we were there.

We recommended that bring your own food and drink, as you will not find any vendors around the lagoon.

We loved just chilling out in the shallow water – so much warmer than all the other cenotes and much to my liking. I didn’t want to leave!

3 Cenote Calvera

cenote calvera

Pronounced “say-NO-tay,” a cenote is a natural sinkhole created when the ceiling of a cave collapses, partially exposing an underground river or waterhole. These freshwater underworlds were considered sacred by the ancient Mayans. They can either be open, semi-open, or cavernous (entirely underground and accessible only by hole or tunnel). Many of them are connected by networks of subterranean cave systems, and the ancient Mayans considered them a gateway to communicating with the gods. The water is clear and cool and provides various heights for jumping from platforms or cliffs.

There are many mysterious cenotes in Mexico with at least 6,000 located in the Yucatan Peninsula. I’ve swum in a dozen or so cenotes in Mexico. I love them all, but Cenote Calavera might be the most fun!

cenote calvera

Calvara means “skull” in Spanish and is named because of the shape of this cenote, which has two small holes in the ground that represent eyes and one large hole that represents the mouth. The deepest part is 54 feet deep.

Cenote Calavera is a “Cántaro” or jug type of cenote which has an opening in the roof that is smaller than the water-filled cave cenote below. Most people jump into the largest “mouth” hole; the eye holes are smaller but you can jump one person at a time doing a “pencil” jump (although people have gotten injured).

If you don’t want to jump, you can enter the cenote via a ladder. There’s also a great swing hanging from the top of the cenote, but you have to do a short swim from the ladder to get onto it…in the freezing cold and deep water. As you can guess, Kary did the jumping and I posed for the photo op on the swing..

I would recommend that you arrive early. We got there about 10 minutes before it opened in the morning and there was hardly anyone there. I assume it gets more crowded as the day goes on…

More Cenotes Near Tulum:

  • Gran Cenote
  • Cenote Suytun
  • Dos Ojos
  • Zacil-Ha
  • Casa Cenote
  • Carwash
  • Casa Tortuga

4 Tulum Pueblo

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Tulum’s Pueblo (centro) offers an authentic Mexican experience. Best explored on foot, visitors can experience Tulum’s vibrant history, culture, and food just like the locals do.

5 Xel-Ha

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For a fun-filled day of water-based fun, head straight to Xel-Há, an ecology, and aquatic-themed park. The name comes from the Mayan words “Xel” meaning “birth” and “Ha” meaning “water.” The scenery, flowers, and fauna are gorgeous, and there are tons of things to do in this great natural wonder. Swim or snorkel in the cove, cenotes, lagoon, or caves. Try a traditional zip line or perhaps the new “flying bicycles” where you are strapped into a bike-like contraption in which you can peddle around in the air attached to a zip line. Test your balance on the floating bridge, get a fish pedicure, hike along the many lush paths, or hurl yourself into the water from various height cliffs. Or – my personal favorite – grab an inner tube and take a one-hour float down the lazy river. Xel-Há is that sort of soul-refreshing place frequently sought after.

Here’s a guide to more crazy fun adventures on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast.

Things NOT to Do

1 The Seaweed Invasion

seaweed tulum

Probably the number one thing that attracts visitors to Tulum is the idyllic soft, white-sand beaches and turquoise water. Whether you’re looking to dine with your toes in the sand, sip cocktails at a chic beachfront bar, or just bliss out on a beach bed lounger.

In recent years, there have been outbreaks of sargassum seaweed. While some of the more upscale hotels clear the seagrass daily, the public beaches are another story.

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On our latest visit, we found that what had once ranked #5 of my top beaches in the world was now covered in a plethora of the dreaded sargassum seaweed, piling up on the beach and turning the shimmering turquoise water to dull, opaque gray-blue. Even Playa Paraiso, supposedly the most beautiful beach in Tulum was not beautiful and we did not stay long.

2 The Hotel Zone

My last visit, 15 years ago, was just a day trip to the Mayan ruins overlooking the turquoise beach which was pretty spectacular. So I was excited to spend more time in this so-called “bohemian paradise.”

But when we got here, it was nothing like I was expecting…

  1. The hotel zone, while lovely, suffers horribly from over-tourism, jammed with so many cars, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians, all vying for a place on the narrow, dirt road. What should be a 10-minute drive to get from one end of the strip to the other now takes an hour or more because of traffic.
  2. The entire beach side of the hotel zone is lined with, well, hotels. They are all stunningly lovely organically-designed boutique masterpieces – that’s not the problem. These private properties take up the entire street with almost no public beach access so people who want to visit the beach have to pay a day rate to use their “beach clubs.”
  3. Not only is beach access blocked, but the hotels (and some private residences) have built high walls across the ENTIRE hotel zone, so not only can you not use the beach, you can’t even SEE it on the whole hotel zone – that’s just not right! We were staying across the street from the beach, but we could not see it, and to set foot on the beach we had to drive quite a distance away to public Paradise Beach.
  4. The prices of the restaurants and boutique shops along the hotel zone were outrageously expensive…and empty. We went into El Centro (downtown) to eat 100% of the time.

Where to Stay

glamping tulum

Glamp· ing (noun) the activity of camping with some of the comforts and luxuries of home

Since Tulum is so much more expensive now than it was 15 years ago, we decided to try a new experience: glamping. Because glamping is just more popular in general, there were quite a few options in Tulum. Set in the middle of beautiful natural surroundings, these experiences can feel like Eden itself!

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While camping is a non-starter for me, I actually did enjoy the higher-up glamping experience a lot. I don’t like roughing it, but we had a huge tent (probably more like a yurt, with a soaring ceiling) with a comfy king-sized bed and sitting area with 2 chairs, a table, and a lamp. Kary’s favorite part was the outdoor bathroom surrounded by jungle, with a toilet at one end, a shower at the other, and large vanity and round hanging mirror in the middle.

No air conditioning, of course, but we had two large fans which was fine because it also cooled off at night.

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Oh, and did I mention we had our own private cenote?

We were all the way down the hotel zone, almost at the entrance to Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve, so no hordes of people.  However, we were also just across the street from the beach, but as previously mentioned, all access to (and views of) the beach were walled off so we were never able to walk to it, which really sucked (excuse my French).

Nearby Places to Visit


The whole Yucatan Peninsula is magical and budget-friendly! It’s one of our favorite places to escape the cooler winter weather here in South Carolina. Here are some of our other recommended places to visit and things to do in Yucatan, Mexico:

Yucatan Road Trip

Holbox Island

Bacalar: Jaw-Dropping Seven-Color Lagoon

Cozumel Island

Charming Valladolid

Colonial Campeche

Izamal: The Yellow City

Colonial Merida

Cancun: Swimming with Whale Sharks

Cancun: Dive the Underwater Museum

Progreso Beach Town

Halloween vs. Day of the Dead in Mexico

Yucatan Food

Most photos by Kary Kern.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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