Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with This Tour of the Tulum Ruins

The Maya ruins of Tulum

The Maya ruins of Tulum

Early last year, a friend of mine who’d recently returned from a trip to Mexico told me I absolutely needed to visit Chichén Itzá and the seaside ruins of Tulum if I ever made my way down to the Yucatan Peninsula. I jotted this down and filed it away at the time, never once thinking I would make it south of the border anytime soon. To my surprise, here I sit, not even one year later, fresh off my own trip to Mexico, filled with a new wealth of knowledge about a small section of the U.S.’s southern neighbor.

While our primary purpose in visiting the Yucatan was to escape Michigan’s cold and live it up for a few days in Cancún, we used one morning/afternoon to take a day trip down to Tulum, which sits just under 80 miles to the south. Not feeling the need to rent a car and risk running into hidden fees, gas station scam artists, or corrupt cops, we opted to take a bus tour to see the ruins — and it was one of the best experiences of our trip.

Much of the reason for that is because of the staff at Cancún Sightseeing, the company that provided our excursion to Tulum and Cenote Dos Ojos, a nearby swimming hole. Having operated on the Yucatan Peninsula since 1995, the folks over at Cancún Sightseeing offer a handful of tour options to travelers visiting Cancún and the adjacent stretch of the Caribbean coastline known as Riviera Maya, which includes Puerto Morelos, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum.

After spying the company’s well-reviewed Tulum tour on Expedia for $57 per person, we hardly hesitated in giving it a shot. Sandro, our tour guide, and his partner in crime, Cristian, quickly let us know we had made the right choice. Things got underway when a shuttle picked us up from Hotel Casa Maya at about 7:30 a.m. From there, we traveled slightly south to Captains Cove, a seafood restaurant along the southern portion of Cancún’s infamous Hotel Zone, so that we could meet up with the rest of our tour group and pile into the bus.

What’s nice is that the company is willing to pick you up from multiple locations, whether that be your hotel in Cancún or elsewhere in Riviera Maya or at one of several other designated pickup locations in the area.

Once we had time to settle in on the bus (I recommend bringing your neck pillow to get a little extra shuteye), Sandro got things rolling by giving a brief overview of the day’s itinerary and then deployed Cristian to pass out ham sandwiches, cookies, and guava juice. Pulling into the parking lot that serves the site of the Tulum ruins shortly thereafter, we were given about 15 minutes to check out the shopping district before regrouping and making the short trek out to the actual archeological site.

Come on in, the water’s fine at Cenote Dos Ojos

Come on in, the water’s fine at Cenote Dos Ojos

Inside the low stone walls of the Maya’s only seaside city, Sandro started hitting us with the facts: the largest structure in any Maya city was always referred to as “El Castillo” (The Castle), though that did not necessarily mean it was the most important place in town; the Maya were big on honey and worshipped the Descending God, a deity associated with honey bees that is always depicted upside down; class was muy importante in Maya society and the well-to-do often distinguished themselves by encrusting their teeth with jewelry, altering the shapes of their skulls by force, or via other means — you know, all that fascinating stuff you completely forgot about from your ancient world history class.

After he’d learned us a thing or two, we had about 25 to 30 minutes to wander about the site on our own, which doesn’t sound like much, but Tulum isn’t that large of a place so it wound up working out just fine. Whatever you do with that free time, though, be sure to walk up toward El Castillo and take in the coastline. If you’re so inclined, you can even take the stairs down to the beach and dip your toes in the ocean.

Speaking of getting wet, the second stop on the tour is Cenote Dos Ojos, that swimming hole I mentioned earlier. Situated inside Parque Dos Ojos, which, as property of the Mexican government, charges a $3 USD entrance fee separate from the cost of the tour, the cenote provides an opportunity for tour-goers to get more than just their toes wet; you can go ahead and jump right in. With a full hour to kill, there’s ample time to shower off (as required), perform multiple cannonballs off the rock platform that stands maybe 8 or 9 feet above the water, and dry off while you relax in the sun afterward.

If you’re still having trouble justifying $57 for the history lesson at Tulum and your dip in the cenote (though I find this rather unlikely), not to worry, my friend, because the ride back to your hotel/pickup location is when the party really begins. Perhaps other tour guides do things differently, but when we got back on the bus after swimming, Sandro pulled out a seemingly endless supply of tequila and cerveza and things got lit. And by things, I mean me. By the time we pulled back up to Hotel Casa Maya, I was three sheets to the wind and couldn’t have been happier.

It was a great way to finish an afternoon of exploring, and if you’re ever down in the Yucatan and in search of a good time (short of getting blasted at the club), I’d definitely recommend Cancún Sightseeing’s Tulum and Cenote Dos Ojos tour. Just to be safe, though, maybe request Sandro as your guide?