Tulum On a Budget
Built near the end of Mayan era, the ruins of Tulum served as a port before the arrival of the Spanish. It may have been called Zama, meaning City of Dawn, given that these ruins face the sunrise. Because of Tulum's access to both land and sea routes, this spot was an important hub for the trade industry. It may have had another claim to fame, too. According to some murals and other works around the site, it seems this spot was an important site for the worship of the Diving or Descending God. Today, the area is the third most visited archaeological site in all of Mexico with daily tour buses dropping off visitors.
This area is usually packed with people looking to get a glimpse of the seaside ruins. To avoid crowds and capture the best view of the day, try to arrive as early as possible. Of course, Tulum is only one of several archaeological sites in the region, and you can see a comparison of Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan here.
SightsOnce you've visited the ruins of Tulum, there are other things to see and do in this area. For example, the Coba Ruins are not far. These ruins may not be as cleaned up as Tulum, but it is home to "El Castillo," the tallest Mayan ruin. Climb to the top of this ruin just above the treetops of the jungle for a magnificent view.
The Sian Ka'an Biosphere is acres of wetlands and swamp for a tour of some of the native flora and fauna. Ask about a guided tour of the area - especially later in the afternoon.
NeighborhoodsBefore visiting travelers should know that there are actually three different sections of Tulum. The Tulum Pueblo, also known as "El Pueblo" to the locals, is where most of the workers and stores are located. Here is where you'll find the bus stations, hotels and hostels. Don't expect to find much local culture, as this section of town feels like it only exists to serve the tourists.
The Tulum Playa is for those seeking a more chic getaway. It's nestled right along the coastline of white Caribbean beaches, and includes the fancier boutiques in town.
The Tulum Ruinas is the archaeological site where the actual ruins are. There are a handful of hotels, restaurants, a small bus station and one huge parking lot.