Skip to main content

Minding the Mayans in Tulum

Connect with thousands of years of rich cultural history, world-renowned cuisine, and modern luxuries of a beach vacation in Tulum.

Tulum, the popular island of Cozumel, and the surrounding Yucatan region is a place where you can travel deeper than geographically. You can step through time and experience the ancient Mayan civilization and traditions too! Learning such history makes the world feel smaller, especially when you realize we’re still using many Mayan creations today.

Beyond ancient man-made Mayan marvels, Tulum offers fascinating natural wonders—from blinding white beaches to fresh-water sinkholes in the jungle. Best of all, Mexican food of the Yucatan and traditional Maya cuisine is so good you’ll be booking your return trip before you even leave the lunch table. 

Here’s how to experience Mayan culture in Tulum:

The Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichén Itzá is a Mayan architectural marvel.

Experience the Mayan era

Tulum and its surrounding areas are rich with Mayan history and architecture. Chichén Itzá, was once one of the biggest Mayan cities and is now one of the seven man-made wonders of the world. Inside this ancient city you’ll find the Pyramid of Kukulcan (also called “El Castillo”), a massive pyramid built for the Mayan’s feathered snake god, with an impressive series of terraces. It’s so well preserved you’ll hardly believe it was finished between the years 800 and 900 C.E. and built by hand! 

Traveler’s tip: Get there early for the beautiful morning light and to get a jump on the crowds.

Playa Ruinas is another famous Mayan attraction, where you can walk around the ruins of what was once a coastal watchtower. Perched above a white sand beach and glowing Carribean water, it’s one of the most scenic Mayan ruins in all of Mexico.

These incredible swimming oases are a major draw of the Yucatan!

See the cenotes

Cenotes are natural sinkholes found all across the Yucatan Peninsula. True natural marvels, these holes have formed over centuries from limestone collapsing to expose flooded caves. Gran Cenote is a popular destination from Tulum, and you can book tours there and spend a few hours swimming and lounging on the wooden platforms.

But with more than 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan, your exploration is endless. Be careful when you look over the edge—some cenotes are extra large. One of the most well-known is called “El Pit” and it’s almost 400 feet deep!

Made with cornmeal and pork or chicken, tamales come from Mayan cooking traditions.

Feast on Yucatan delicacies 

The Yucatan is world-renowned for its amazing food and Tulum is a haven for food tourists. Ceviche, fresh fruit, Sopa de Lima (chicken soup), Yucatecan Antojitos (street snacks), and of course tacos are the staples people come for. 

But there are some traditional Mayan dishes worth seeking out. The Mayans created dishes by hunting and gathering locally, and growing crops—like maize. Ancient Mayan cuisine used simple ingredients to make flavorful, nutritious meals. Some Mayan favorites? Guacamole, tamales, and corn tortillas are some globally popular foods today that stem from Mayan culture. Oh yeah, and chocolate! 

While Tulum and the nearby island of Cozumel have many modern draws—like beach clubs, lounges, dancehalls, late night cocktail bars and more—one of the most unique parts of the Yucatan peninsula is the Mayan heritage. After you let your hair down and dance the night away, you can see truly unique architecture created by an ancient civilization the next day, all in a tropical climate. Talk about paradise!