Although every part of Mexico has something great to offer, there is no denying that the Yucatán peninsula is the most visited region in the country.
And who can blame travelers for migrating here when every trip is rewarded with pristine, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and endless opportunities to explore ancient Mayan ruins?
Not to mention the fact that the peninsula is home to more than six thousand cenotes, which offer an otherworldly way to go for a swim and take in the scenery.
And while Tulum is a great home base for exploration, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you spent all your time in this one city.
So when you have had your fill of the city’s busy, tourist scene, check out some of the exciting destinations on this list of the top fourteen day trips from Tulum, Mexico.
Table of Contents
1. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Established as a wildlife and plant sanctuary back in 1986, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve should be on everybody’s day trip list when planning a trip to Tulum, Mexico.
This picturesque reserve is home to thousands of different species, both animals and plants, and is considered to be the most extensive protected area within Mexico’s Caribbean.
Depending on your preferred choice of transportation, you will pick from three different options to reach the reserve, and each offers its own unique benefits.
The most affordable option is to take the public bus to Sian Ka’an, which can be found right in the town of Tulum and takes you to the small town of Punta Allen where tour boats to the reserve are found in abundance.
You can always choose to take your rental car right up to the reserve but just keep in mind that all-wheel drive is one hundred percent necessary and there is still a good chance that you could be faced with impassable road conditions.
The most popular option, although the most expensive, is to sign up for a guided tour that will make getting to the reserve a breeze and the overall experience the best that it can be.
A popular tour guide company is Living Dreams Mexico, and they pride themselves on their ability to make the process as stress-free and informative as possible.
Once you arrive at the reserve you will be blown away by the untouched shoreline, lush greenery, turquoise water, and abundance of active marine life.
Some frequent sightings include a variety of seabirds, dolphins, manatees, crocodiles, sea turtles, and so much more.
If you decide to opt for a guided experience, you will also get to enjoy a scenic boat ride, snorkeling amongst a giant coral reef, and an authentic meal from the fishermen village that is Punta Allen.
2. Muyil Ruins
Located along the edges of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, the Muyil Ruins is another great day trip adventure that is sure to wow its visitors.
The official name for these ruins is Chunyaxché but it is referred to by its modern name of Muyil which was given to it when it was declared an archeological site.
Unlike some of the other ruins located on the Yucatán Peninsula, the Muyil Ruins see very little foot traffic, so it is a good option for travelers who like to take in the sights without all of the crowds.
The ruins themselves are on the smaller side compared to their neighbors, but the magnitude of their beauty makes them feel larger than life.
To reach the ruins, you will walk through a lush forest with flourishing greenery that only adds to the magical feeling of exploring the lost civilization.
You will notice many Ceiba trees along your journey, which the Mayans considered to be their connection to the underworld. It is said that spirits live among them protecting everyone who visits.
Some other features that make these ruins so special are that it was one of the first settlements along the coast of the Caribbean and it is home to the Riviera Maya Coast’s tallest pyramid.
The pyramid, or Castillo, stands at a towering fifty-seven feet and is the most popular part of the grounds for visitors to take pictures.
There is also a footpath that leads out to the lagoon overlook where you can take in the mesmerizing views of Laguna Muyil and the dense jungle that surrounds it.
Keep in mind that a section of the ruins is not open to the public, so make sure you read signs to avoid wandering off into an area that is off-limits.
Overflowing with outdoor adventures and breathtaking scenery, Akumal is one of those places you really have to see to believe, and the good news is, it’s only a short day trip away from Tulum.
For starters, there are plenty of beaches to lay out your towel and you can spend the entire day relaxing on its pristine sandy shores alone.
The most popular choice is Central Akumal Beach, which is located at the heart of Akumal and is surrounded by endless shops, restaurants, hotels, and more.
Here you will most likely be sharing the soft, white sand with a crowd of other people, so if that’s not really your style, head over to North Akumal Beach for a more private experience.
Consider going for a swim or partaking in some snorkeling to really appreciate the clear, turquoise water and the abundance of marine life that live in it.
Bring snorkeling gear of your own or rent some from one of the many shops and head out on an adventure to the second largest coral reef on the globe.
The name Akumal means “Place of the Turtles,” and you will find plenty of these majestic beauties regardless of whether you venture out on a boat or hang back in the shallow waters.
Support the care of injured animals with a visit to the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Rescued Animals. Here you can interact with a large variety of animals that have been rescued from abusive environments like circuses.
This town is also where you will get to experience the amazing feeling of swimming in a cenote. Once thought to be a portal to the underworld, these natural sinkholes are now one of the most popular attractions in all of Mexico.
You will find these cenotes in Aktun Chen, which is a national park that is broken down into three parts- The Limestone Cave Complex, the Underground River, and the Zipline.
The Limestone Cave Complex is where you will find the park’s most iconic cenote. Walk through the depths of an ancient cave and enjoy the reward of a refreshing swim at the underground cenote found at the end of your journey.
But you shouldn’t overlook the other parts of the park either, since the snorkeling experience in the Underground River is extraordinary and zip lining over the jungle is equally amazing.
4. Coba Mayan Ruins
Known as one of the most iconic ruins on the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, the Coba Mayan Ruins is a day trip from Tulum that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Although this is considered to be one of the most important ruins to the ancient Mayan civilization, it still doesn’t see as much foot traffic as some other ruins thanks to its remote location.
Thanks to this fact, the Coba Mayan Ruins is one of the few places where you can still climb to the top of the historic pyramids and admire the views of the surrounding jungle down below.
Plus, no part of the ruins has been exposed to excavation, which means that you really feel like you are exploring an untouched world during your visit.
It is one of the few places that display the Mayans’ creation of stone causeways with more than fifty of them connecting parts of the deserted village to one another.
Although there is no direct access to all of these roads, visitors can cross over nearly twenty of the causeways which further adds to the excitement of exploring here.
Keep in mind that even though this looks like a remote wilderness, it has operational hours and entrance fees, so make sure to do your research before planning your journey.
The most popular pyramid stands tall above the rest, at the center of the city, with an impressive height of nearly one hundred forty feet.
You can still climb to the top of Ixmoja for a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart.
The steps leading to the top are extremely steep, making it even more difficult to come back down than it is to go up, but luckily ropes have been installed to help visitors with the process.
If you build up the courage to make the ascent, you will be rewarded with incredible views overlooking the ancient city and the canopy of greenery that makes up the jungle that engulfs it.
5. Punta Allen
Although Punta Allen is often used as a gateway to other attractions like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, visitors should dedicate some time to actually explore the sleepy fishing town and its many wonders.
The village itself is quite small with very little cell service and limitations on available electricity, but this just adds to the charm of its remote nature.
Spending time here will be one of the most relaxing things you do in Mexico, with lazy beach days, swimming galore, and endless opportunities to eat delicious fresh seafood.
Punta Allen Beach is the best place to lay out your towel and although it is the main beach in town, it sees very little foot traffic so you can enjoy pristine conditions and quiet afternoons.
One of the most popular water-based activities in Punta Allen is snorkeling because of its incredibly clear waters and abundance of marine life such as sea turtles, lobsters, and a variety of tropical fish.
Don’t miss a chance to visit the hidden gem that is El Blanquizal at Punta Allen and marvel at how such a unique natural pool could be surrounded by vibrant coral reefs in the middle of the sea.
Soft, white sandbanks surround El Blanquizal at Punta Allen, so you can spend the day relaxing amongst its shallow waters and taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds it.
Since the village is known for its fishing, it only makes sense that you can go on a fishing tour with one of the locals, but what makes it even better is the fact that you can take your catch back to a restaurant in town and they will cook it up for you.
Not into catching your own dinner? There are plenty of quaint, local restaurants boasting authentic Mexican cuisine and featuring the freshest seafood dishes you’ll ever feast on.
Consider spending a night in the village for a chance to take in its night sky. The limited electricity paired with its remote location makes Punta Allen one of the very best places to admire a starry sky.
Located off the coast of the Yucatán peninsula, the island of Cozumel has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in this part of Mexico, and it is not hard to figure out why.
For starters, the island is located along the edges of the world’s second-largest coral reef and the opportunities to explore this extensive beauty are endless.
If you don’t plan to fly directly into the Cozumel airport, the best way to visit the island is by hopping on the ferry that departs from Playa Del Carmen and round-trip tickets cost as little as seventeen dollars.
The island used to be an untouched paradise, but over the years it has become a popular resort location with hotels, tourist attractions, and more lining its beaches.
However, if you head over to the Wild East Side of the island, you will be blessed with the pristine, untouched conditions that brought Cozumel to fame.
And although you will feel like you are in a remote wilderness made up of wild, white sand beaches, you will have easy access to amenities like local beach bars for a quick bite and tasty drink.
Regardless of your experience level, a trip to Cozumel should definitely include an afternoon of scuba diving to explore the second largest coral reef in the world.
You will be blown away by the vibrant colors of the reef and the endless variety of tropical fish that live within it.
If you enjoy the amenities of its busy resort strip, stay over on the West Side and consider spending the day at one of the many beach clubs.
Depending on your budget, you will have your pick of beach clubs ranging from simple but private amenities to all-inclusive packages that offer all you can eat and drink.
And since Cozumel has become such a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of local shops to spend an afternoon of shopping after a relaxing morning on the beach.
7. Felipe Carillo Puerto
A hidden gem just a short day trip away from Tulum, Felipe Carillo Puerto is the place to go if you want to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in a truly authentic part of Mexico.
The city is a significant part of Mayan history and was considered to be the capital of both war and change for the Mayan people.
It is here that the Mayans fought the Spanish and then continued on to fight against the Mexicans. Although the Mexicans won the battle, the governor, Felipe Carillo Puerto, ensured that all Mayans were given equal rights.
Unfortunately, Felipe Carillo Puerto was only governor for a couple of years before he was executed for his beliefs, but the city was later named after him to honor his efforts.
Today, the people who live here still hold true to their Mayan roots and many will be seen wearing traditional Mayan clothing and speaking the ancient language of the Mayan people.
You’ll notice that there are many local dogs wandering around wherever you go and while it may be tempting to pet these furry friends, it is highly discouraged since you never know how a dog might react.
Although the town is relatively small, there are plenty of places to eat with the most popular being Dharmata Cafe for late-night fun, La Abuelita for something sweet, and La Placita Mata for an authentic Mexican dish.
During your stay, consider learning more about the culture by participating in activities like language lessons, cooking classes, and even spending the night at a homestay with a local, Mexican family.
Another Yucatán gem that is located off the beaten path is the vibrant city of Valladolid and one visit here will have you begging for more.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Valladolid, but endless cenotes, historic significance, and quaint cobblestone streets are definitely its main highlights.
As mentioned earlier, the Yucatán peninsula is home to a unique natural wonder known as a cenote and it just so happens that Valladolid boasts some of the most interesting variations.
The Cenote Zaci is located right in town. The Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman has a fun rope swing for visitors to enjoy. A visit to the Cenote Zazil Tunich comes with a three-course dinner. But the most impressive is the Cenote Suytun, which is located completely underground in a picturesque cave system.
Swing by the Casa de los Venados to visit a local home that operates like a museum and offers daily tours of its impressive Mexican art collection.
Immerse yourself with Mexican culture at the Mercado Municipal where you can browse between a large collection of vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handcrafted goods.
Go for a stroll down Calzada de los Frailes to admire the brightly colored houses and feel free to stop at as many boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants as your heart desires.
Although you can visit the ancient Convent of San Bernardino of Siena at any time, it is best enjoyed at night with the five-hundred-year-old structure lit up by a colorful light show.
One of the first things you’ll notice when reaching Valladolid is the towering cathedral known as the Iglesia de San Servicio, and you are free to explore its grand interior whenever services are not being held.
Make sure to stay until sunset, because this is when the Nightly Traditional Dance Performance is held in the town square.
9. Ek Balam Ruins
There are a plentiful number of ruins scattered throughout the Yucatán peninsula, but the Ek Balam Ruins is a great choice for people who hope to avoid the crowds that are normally found at other archeological sites like Chichén Itzá.
Part of the reason that this ruin has managed to stay a hidden gem is because of its remote location, but if you plan on visiting Valladolid, you can easily stop here along the way without adding much time.
Another great feature of the Ek Balam Ruins is that even though it has been under archeologists’ eye since the late 1980s, it has seen very little excavation.
In fact, only the center temple of these ruins has been excavated, so you really get to experience the beauty of an untouched, ancient civilization amongst a picturesque jungle.
Although the entire ruins are quite extensive, there is only about one square mile that is open to the public, so this makes it a great addition to any day trip visiting the surrounding area like Valladolid and Temonzon.
One of the most impressive structures within these ruins is the El Torre Temple that rises up to an impressive height of one hundred feet and overall size that has labeled it one of the largest temples in the Yucatán peninsula.
Not to mention the fact that this is one of the few places where you can still climb to the top of the temple.
Aside from the beauty of the structures themselves, you will also get a chance to see ancient wall paintings and statues during your exploration.
Just keep in mind that the entrance fee is a bit pricey compared to other ruins with an average cost of twenty two-dollars (or 413 pesos), but you definitely get your money’s worth.
There is just something about being able to explore ancient ruins without having to share that experience with hundreds of other tourists that is truly magical.
When most people think of Mexico, their mind almost immediately goes to Cancun, so you can probably guess how busy this city can be – but it is still definitely worth a visit.
Keep in mind that this is also known as the Party City of Mexico, so this may not be the place for you if your ideal vacation revolves around peace and quiet.
But if you can look past these obstacles, there are many ways to enjoy your time here and they don’t all revolve around a night of partying (although you won’t find a better place in Mexico to do it).
The “Hotel Zone” of Cancun is where all the excitement happens, and you can easily spend the entire day wandering around resorts, shopping amongst endless boutiques, dining at a large variety of restaurants, and relaxing on countless sandy beaches.
Speaking of beaches, Playa Delfines is the largest beach in Cancun, and it is nestled away from all of the resorts, so it provides a relaxing feel in a rather busy city.
The calm waters of Playa Tortugas make it perfect for families, an abundance of rental shops makes Chac Mool Beach a hotspot for water-based recreation, and Playa Forum is the place to go if you want to stay close to bars and restaurants.
For something a little more authentic, head to Downtown Cancun where you can indulge in traditional Mexican cuisine, mingle with the locals, and even catch a Mexican wrestling tournament.
To take things even further, consider partaking in a Temazcal Ceremony, which is a traditional Mayan ritual that helps people cleanse themselves both physically and mentally.
The Temazcal Ceremony takes visitors into a sweat lodge where they can sweat out their impurities in total darkness while a shaman recites a variety of chants that are said to summon spirits to help with the process.
11. Chichén Itzá
Easily the most popular ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula, if not all of Mexico, Chichén Itzá can get extremely crowded – but you shouldn’t let this deter you from planning a visit.
Besides, it is not every day that you get to visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
Established as a wonder of the world back in 2000, it is clear that Chichén Itzá earned this title for being one of the most extensive, well-preserved sites with endless artifacts and cultural significance.
The ruins see more than two million visitors each year, but it is easy to forget about the crowds when you are admiring the grand beauty that is the Chichen Itza Pyramid.
Since it is so busy, it is highly recommended that you buy your tickets ahead of time online or you can spend hours waiting in line to gain admission.
There are twenty-six ruins to check out in total and they are divided up into two sections – Old Chichen Itza and New Chichen Itza.
Although the towering Chichen Itza Pyramid is the most popular structure because of its grand size, there are plenty of other notable structures at these ruins like the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Osario Pyramid.
It is important to note that although visitors were once able to climb to the top of the Chichen Itza Pyramid, this activity is now off-limits in efforts to preserve the beauty of the structure.
And since it is such a popular destination, the archeological site has made adaptations to accommodate such large groups of people like an on-site restaurant serving up authentic Mexican cuisine.
Just make sure to come prepared with things like bug spray and sunscreen as you will be wandering through a humid jungle that is often exposed to the elements.
Located along the second largest lake in all of Mexico, Bacalar has plenty of mesmerizing attractions to offer, and it also just so happens to be less than two hours away from the bustling city of Tulum.
Established as a Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Town) by the Mexican government, Bacalar is sure to take your breath away. One of its major highlights is the seven shade lagoon.
This strip of lake boasts seven different tones of blue, and you can easily spot the difference in colors from just about anywhere you stand along the water’s edge.
Not to mention the fact that the floor of this lake is made up of white limestone, which can be seen from the surface because of how crystal clear the water is.
Because the water is one of the town’s greatest features, it should come as no surprise that one of the most popular activities is going for a boat ride.
There are plenty of different tour guide businesses that will be happy to get you out on the water, but the very best option is Bacalar Lagunakristal Tours.
This establishment not only takes you on an informative tour of the pristine waters, but it also lets travelers participate in a variety of other activities like mud facials, trying native fruits, and going for a refreshing swim.
Or you can always opt to explore the colorful waters on your own by renting a kayak and spending the day paddling around the lagoon.
If you decide to spend a night here, many of the hotels offer free kayak rentals with any stay, but there are also plenty of rental shops to choose from if you are only visiting for the day.
Step back into the 1600s with a tour of the Fortress of San Felipe where you can imagine what life was like during pirate raids while enjoying the beautiful view overlooking the lagoon.
Then head over to the San Felipe Museum to learn more about the fort’s rich history and even get to see the skeleton of a pirate up close and personal.
Just make sure you save some time to indulge in the cuisine because the town’s ideal location between the ocean and the lagoon makes it a haven for fresh seafood dishes.
13. Puerto Morelos
If you want to enjoy a large variety of beachside attractions but are hoping to beat the crowds that pile up in places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, then you should definitely be planning a day trip to Puerto Morelos.
Once home to a crocodile farm, the Croco Cun Zoo has been transformed into a safe haven for rescued animals of all shapes and sizes ranging from massive albino pythons to adorable little spider monkeys.
And even though gazing at the unique variety of animals is enough to warrant a visit, the zoo goes a step further by offering experiences like holding a crocodile, interacting with a boa constrictor, and hanging out with a bunch of hairless dogs.
This seaside town is also perfectly located near Mexico’s extensive coral reef system and there are plenty of ways to explore it like taking a guided scuba diving adventure with an experienced marine biologist.
Take a guided tour of the country’s most biodiverse botanical garden and admire the lush greenery as you walk along suspended bridges that hang within a canopy of trees and learn about the environment with the help of a local botanist.
Going for a boat ride out on the turquoise waters should be on everyone’s list of things to do but anyone looking to take things up a notch should consider sailing out to Isla Mujeres or another nearby island.
Here you can enjoy an untouched island of pristine sandy shores and if the timing is right, you’ll even get the opportunity to swim with the friendly whale sharks.
Spend some time exploring the town’s main square and get lost hopping between an abundance of local shops, cafes, restaurants, and more.
Just make sure you come with your appetite because there are so many delicious and unique places to eat like the part Mexican, part Greek-inspired restaurant known as La Sirena.
Known for being one of Mexico’s famous Magic Towns, Izamal is overflowing with enough history and scenic beauty to keep travelers coming back for more.
Nicknamed the “Yellow City,” Izamal is mainly known for its downtown area, and you can spend an entire day alone walking amongst its vibrant yellow structures.
Part of what makes this city so unique is the fact that just about every single building within its limits is painted the exact same shade of yellow, and it also just so happens to make for some pretty awesome photoshoots.
Built from the remains of one of Mexico’s largest Mayan temples, the Convento de San Antonio de Padua is the most popular attraction in the city and it’s not just because it is one of the largest Christian places of worship across the entire globe.
Most people who visit this monastery head straight for the grand courtyard that stretches out to such an extent that it has been labeled one of the largest of its kind.
Although much of the city’s Mayan culture was replaced in the late 16th century by Bishop Diego de Landa, a short hike through the jungle will take you to the little bit of Mayan influence that still remains.
The Kinich Kakmó Pyramid is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, and this Mayan ruin is one of the few places left that you can still climb to the top of the temple.
And once you have finished exploring some of the city’s main attractions, head to the colorful downtown square for an afternoon of shopping and restaurant hopping.