12 Epic Day Trips From Tulum You Can’t Miss

by | Nov 11, 2020 | Mexico | 2 comments

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Tulum is one of the most visited destinations in Mexico’s beautiful Riviera Maya. But if you’ve already checked off your Tulum bucket list, then you should take a couple of day trips from Tulum to explore more of what Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula have to offer.

While Tulum might feel like paradise, there are other must-see colonial cities, magic towns, and coastal gems in eastern Mexico worth exploring. Coba, Valladolid, Uayma, Sian Ka’an, and Bacalar are a few of my favorite places and days trip from Tulum.

Tulum’s location in the northern part of Quintana Roo positions itself perfectly for day trips. That’s why if you have the chance, you should definitely take the opportunity and go on a fun day trip from Tulum.

Whether you have all day or just a half-day to spare, here are the best day trips from Tulum! 

Best Day Trips from Tulum for Extra Adventure

While many blogs and itineraries for day trips from Tulum include things to do like cenote tours, Tulum ruins, and Laguna Kaan Luum, I consider those activities to still be in Tulum (and so are their addresses). The below day trip suggestions are for places outside of Tulum. The closest day trip from Tulum is only 20 minutes away and the furthest is 2.5 hours away. So you have quite a bit of choice!

The places you see first are the closest in distance and the last are the furthest day trips from Tulum. This way, you can quickly scout out which day trips you’d actually have time for!

Note: Some destinations, even though they might be closer, may take longer to reach due to road conditions or traffic.

1. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve & Muyil Ruins

  • Distance: 23 km / 14.5 miles
  • Time: 20 minutes via Hwy 307
  • Directions

One of the best day trips from Tulum is actually the closest. Just a 20-minute drive south of Tulum lies the hidden Mayan ruins of Muyil. Here, you can tour the ruins underneath the forest canopy before continuing to the shore of the Muyil Lagoon inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

The highlight of this day trip from Tulum is getting to float down ancient Mayan canals in the lagoon carved out some time in 500 B.C. during the pre-classical era. These canals were used as historic trading routes from neighboring Mayan civilizations. You can do the Sian Ka’an boat tour on your own or with an eco-tour company. The best time to go is early in the morning, around 8-9 AM when it first opens so you can secure a spot with a boat captain.

ALSO READ: How to Visit Muyil & Float Down Ancient Mayan Canals in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

2. Akumal

Akumal turtle | PC: Canva

  • Distance: 28 km / 17 miles
  • Time: 25 minutes via Hwy 307
  • Directions

If you take Chetumal-Cancun Hwy 307 in the other direction, you’ll head toward Akumal – another coastal town known for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Akumal is a popular day trip from Tulum to witness sea turtles in the wild. Quite literally, Akumal in the Mayan language translates to “Place of the Turtle.” Its colorful coral reef nearby the shore makes it a hotspot for divers – from newbies training to get their PADI certification to Dive Masters. Thanks to its picturesque beaches, Akumal is a big destination wedding spot for star-crossed lovers with tropical hearts. Seeing as it’s so close, it definitely merits a top spot on your Tulum day trips list!

3. Coba Mayan Ruins

  • Distance: 47 km / 29 miles
  • Time: 45 minutes via QROO 109
  • Directions

Another incredibly popular day trip from Tulum is none other than Coba. What brings people to Coba, you ask? Well, if not for its hidden Mayan ruins and climbable pyramids tucked away in the jungle, then it’s for its underground cave cenotes just around the corner. If you want an adventure truly worthy of a day trip from Tulum then you should definitely put Coba on your bucket list! When you go, head out early. If you go early enough, you’ll be able to enjoy Coba without a crowd while everyone’s busy with the nearby Tulum ruins and cenotes. The entrance price for Coba is around 75 pesos. There is an extra charge to rent bikes and explore the ruins faster, but it’s worth it in my opinion!

ALSO READ: How to Visit the Coba Ruins + Cenotes

4. Punta Allen

woman riding scooter on road from Tulum to Punta Allen

coastal sian kaan where lagoon and sea meetView of coastal Sian Ka’an on the road to Punta Allen

  • Distance: 55 km / 34 miles
  • Time: 2-3 hours via QROO 15
  • Directions

Ever wondered if you were just to keep driving down Tulum’s Hotel Zone road? Well, you’d end up at Punta Allen! While Punta Allen seems close to Tulum because it’s only 35 miles away, it actually takes between 2-3 hours to get there because of the road conditions. QROO 15 is just a single dirt road full of bumps and potholes. But if you make it there, Punta Allen will reward you with its sandy beaches and small Mayan fishing village vibes.

The tricky part about visiting Punta Allen from Tulum in one day is that, well, it takes a while to get there. You also need a full tank of gas in a sturdy 4×4 vehicle. There’s no gas service in Punta Allen so you need a big tank to get there and back. (Trust me, we learned the hard way when we tried to make it there on a rented scooter!) Punta Allen is actually inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (it’s massive), so once your south of the Tulum Hotel Zone, you’ll be asked to pay a $50-75 pesos conservation fee.

Tip: You can also head down this road as an alternative day trip from Tulum, even if you don’t make it all the way to Punta Allen. Visit the beach near Boca Paila, tour the free visitor’s center and climb the watchtower there, or take a boat trip out on the lagoon to see wildlife such as native birds, manatees, and crocodiles.

5. Playa del Carmen

  • Distance: 65 km / 40 miles
  • Time: 55 minutes via Chetumal-Cancun
  • Directions

Of course, if you are in Tulum then it’s likely you’ve already heard about Playa del Carmen. Maybe you’ve even been before! Either way, Playa del Carmen is just under an hour’s drive away, making it the perfect day trip from Tulum. It’s neither too far nor too close, so you feel like you’re getting a real break! Plus, the vibes of PDC are way different than Tulum. In my opinion, it’s a bit like if Cancun and Tulum had a baby (lol). There’s a low-key boho vibe but also an eccentric shopping, dining, and nightlife scene. If you are a digital nomad, you’ll appreciate Playa for its conveniences and stronger wifi compared to Tulum.

6. Cozumel

Playa Palancar in Cozumel Mexico

  • Distance: 80 km / 50 miles
  • Time: ~2 hours, including the ferry to cross
  • Directions

San Miguel de Cozumel, or simply known as Cozumel, is a stunning island just off the Riviera Maya coast. It makes for an awesome day trip or even a multi-day trip especially if you have 1-2 free days in your itinerary. To get there on a day trip from Tulum, you first need to drive to Playa del Carmen (actually just south of it) and then take a ferry crossing from Punta Venado/Calica. Ferry times and maritime departure ports may vary depending on who you book with. The new Ultramar ferry departs from downtown Playa and offers the fastest route at only 20 minutes and costs around $500 pesos/person round-trip (basic adult plan). So if you’re just visiting on a day trip from Tulum, it’s better to pay a bit more to save on time. Otherwise, the Winjet and Transcaribe ferries take around 45 mins – 1 hour.

ALSO READ: Cozumel, Mexico: The Complete Travel Guide

7. Felipe Carillo Puerto

Photo credits: Na’atik Language and Culture Institute (left), @salvador_sg (right)

  • Distance: 96 km / 60 miles
  • Time: ~1 hour via Mexico 307
  • Directions

Felipe Carillo Puerto, named after the journalist and revolutionary with the same name, is a bustling Mayan city. If you want to leave the touristy coastal towns in the Riviera Maya behind and get a sense of real Mayan culture and history, then a day trip from Tulum to Felipe Carillo Puerto is a must. If you ask locals around Tulum or near Muyil, many of them live in FCP because it’s remained local and genuinely Mexican and they can’t afford to live in Tulum. There are lots of things to do in FCP on a day trip. You can visit an ecotourism center run by Mayan locals, take a Spanish/Maya immersion course, taste authentic Mexican food, or visit the Santuario de la Cruz Parlante – a cross-shaped shrine symbolizing the strife and plight of the Maya people.

8. Valladolid (Most Underrated Day Trip from Tulum)

Valladolid church in Yucatan Mexico

  • Distance: 102 km / 67 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 30 mins via Hwy 109 and 180
  • Directions

Valladolid is a charming colonial city in the state of Yucatan. If the state’s capital of Merida had a small sister, it would be Valladolid. It is a bit farther away, but many travelers make the day trip from Tulum to jump in one of Vallodolid’s cenotes or use it as a pit-stop on the way to/from Chichen Itza. I really enjoyed my time in Valladolid and feel like it’s one of the most underrated destinations on a Yucatan Peninsula road trip. Thanks to the fast highways, getting to Valladolid on a day trip from Tulum is fairly easy and straight-forward. If you leave in the morning you’ll have practically the whole day to visit Valladolid and maybe even hop over to see one of the Wonders of the World.

ALSO READ: Top 5 Things to Do in Valladolid (Best Cenotes & Activities)

Around Valladolid:

Uayma is an unassuming yet charming colonial Mexican town pitted between Valladolid and Chichen Itza (it lies 20 minutes west of Valladolid). It’s in this small adorable town that you can see the majestic church adorned in a decorative red and blue facade. We stayed one night in the colonial-era house just in front of it, Casa de Los Pianos, before visiting Chichen Itza the next morning. Uayma offers a glimpse into small-town Yucatan and shouldn’t be missed on a day trip to Valladolid from Tulum.

Ek Balam Ruins is another nearby attraction located just 30 minutes north of Valladolid. If you don’t have interest or time to see Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, meaning Black Jaguar in the Mayan language, offers a glimpse into another ancient Mayan Kingdom. Surrounded by lush jungle, it is a much quieter escape than Chichen Itza. Nearby are also a few cenotes with jungly vibes and swing ropes, notably Cenote Xcanche, that you can’t skip out on.

9. Cancun

mercado 28 in cancun mexico

Inside the Mercado 28 | Bucketlist Bri

  • Distance: 131 km / 81 miles
  • Time: 1 hour 40 mins
  • Directions

OK, so you’ve likely already passed through Cancun if you landed there and drove to Tulum. But just in case you came from Merida or another airport, then you could always take a day trip from Tulum to Cancun. There are lots of beaches to lounge on and even more dining and shopping opportunities. I personally loved exploring the Mercado 28 and eating my way through some taco stands.

ALSO READ: 15 Unique Things to Do in Cancun (+ 5 Day Itinerary)

10. Chichén Itzá (Most Popular Day Trip from Tulum)

chichen itza pyramid in the yucatan peninsula

  • Distance: 153 km / 95 miles
  • Time: 2 hours via Hwy 109 and 180
  • Directions

Chichen Itza is probably one of the most popular day trips from Tulum because everyone who visits Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for the first time wants to see this incredible Wonder of the World. I can’t blame them! The first time we road tripped around Yucatan and Quintana Roo, I too, said “I must see Chichen Itza!” There is a certain magic surrounding Chichen Itza. So if you want to take a day trip from Tulum to see Chichen Itza you need to rise early. Chichen Itza gets super busy and people line up even before the entrance opens at 8 AM.

There are many group tours from Tulum that will take you on an all-inclusive day trip to Chichen Itza and the surrounding cenotes like Cenote Ik Kil or even stopover for lunch at Valladolid. These tours are great, but they don’t leave you much room for flexibility. It would be a long day if you were to pack Chichen Itza and Vallodolid (plus the surrounding cenotes and attractions) in one day. But it really depends on your pace and what you want to see.

ALSO READ: Chichén Itzá: 10 Things to Do and Know Before You Go

11. Bacalar

  • Distance: 215 km / 134 miles
  • Time: 2 hours 20 mins via Hwy 307
  • Directions

Bacalar, near the Belize border, is one of Mexico’s magic towns (pueblo magicos) that is filled with eco glamping hotels skirting its Lagoon of 7 Colors (Laguna de Siete Colores). It is a super cute and small town with down-to-earth vibes. It’s not yet developed like Tulum, but it’s on the rise of becoming the next travel hotspot. You can kayak, snorkel, and go sailing on its blue and green-hued lagoon and swim in the nearby Cenote Azul, or check out the town’s 18th-century San Felipe fort. I really loved exploring Bacalar and its hidden gems! If you are looking for a quieter town to escape to, then definitely consider taking a day trip from Tulum to Bacalar. Make sure to head out early though since it is 2.5 hours away.

ALSO READ: How to Visit Bacalar & Kayak in the Lagoon of 7 Colors

12. Mahahual

mahahual beach

PC: Canva

  • Distance: 226 km / 140 miles
  • Time: 2 hours 30 mins via Hwy 307
  • Directions

What once was a local fishing village is now becoming a hotspot for tourists and cruise ships. Nonetheless, Mahahual remains a little slice of paradise, perched on the Costa Maya and the shores of the Caribbean Sea. There are beachfront restaurants with live music, quiet beach spots, attractive hotels, kayak and SUP rentals, and of course, a handful of snorkeling and dive centers to enjoy the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Mahahual is also located 1 hour and 15 minutes from Bacalar. So while it might be far to see both on a day trip from Tulum, you could consider spending 1-2 nights down there to explore both Bacalar and Mahahual since they are relatively close by to each other.

Other Day Trip Ideas to Take from Tulum

There are plenty of other small towns and attractions that didn’t get a special mention here, but that will charm you nonetheless. If you have extra time, I recommend exploring Puerto Morelos, Chemuyil, Calakmul ruins, Izamal, Uxmal, Rio Lagartos, and even Merida (which is 3 hours away).

ALSO READ: 50 Best Places to Visit in Mexico (Ultimate Bucket List!)

If you have any questions or suggestions about these day trips from Tulum, feel free to drop your thoughts below in the comments or shoot me an email. Happy exploring beyond Tulum!

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2 Comments

  1. Jill

    Don’t forget the cenotes all along the peninsula!! Great read girl!

    Reply
    • Bri

      Thanks so much, Jill!! And yes! I need to add them in as a bonus day trip from Tulum!

      Reply

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