Tulum Ruins


How often do you get to walk back centuries in time? Tulum provides a unique experience that allows visitors to walk in the footsteps of a civilization that once thrived here.

The ruined holy city sits some 12-meters (39 ft) above the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Earliest inscriptions date back as far as AD 564, but the civilization hit its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries. It is believed to be one of the last Mayan cities built and inhabited. The former name of the city was Zama, meaning “City of the Dawn”, appropriately named for its eastward view. The modern name Tulum is also fitting, meaning “wall”.

In addition to the breathtaking location, one of the things that makes these ruins different from other Mayan sites is the fact that it was once a walled city. It is unclear exactly why walls were constructed here and not in other cities. Theories suggest that perhaps a Spanish prisoner educated the residents on the building process or perhaps since the city served as a center for religion, the walls protected their religious leaders.

The walls varied in height and thickness, but averaged 5 meters (16 ft) high and 8m (26 ft) thick. On the southwest and northwest corners, there are small buildings that are believed to have been watchtowers, making the city a secure defense.

In the early 16th-century, the Spaniards first made contact. As a result they introduced disease to the city, decimating the estimated 1,000 to 1,600 inhabitants. By the end of that century, the city was abandoned.


You can find your own transportation (taxi, bus, rental car), and take a self-guided tour through the ruins. Or you can make reservations on this site. Inquire at your concierge desk for times and points of departure. There is a registered guides association that is available to take your group on a educational tour as well. (It’s worth the fee.)

Most tour buses arrive around 11:00am, so if you plan a self-guided tour you may want to come early to avoid crowds.

The ruins are open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm. The parking lot for cars is a bit of a hike from the entrance but a tram will save you walking.


  • It can get very HOT! Bring bottled water and perhaps a hat or umbrella for some shelter from the sun.
  • Bugs are not usually a problem, but you might want to bring some repellent just in case.
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and secure. There is a fair amount of walking involved to properly see the site. Flip-flops are not the best
  • There is access from the ruins to a beautiful sheltered beach (requires taking stairs), so you may want to wear swimsuit and bring a towel.
  • There are restaurants and shopping available at the entrance, as well as restrooms. However, there are no amenities once you enter the ruins.


Like Tulum, Xel-Ha has a rich history, but unique as a important trade center. It also boasts some beautiful murals not found at Tulum.

The name Xel-Ha is Mayan for mixing of the waters–appropriate due to the convergence there of fresh underground springs and salt waters.
This phenomenon creates the appearance that the sea water is foggy.

The city was inhabited between 100 BC and 400 AD. Located on the Caribbean Sea but not directly on the coast, the site sits beside a lagoon that was once used as a maritime port. That port later became an important hub for the growth of the Yucatan region.


The ruins are located across the highway from the Xel-Ha Eco-park. If you are thinking of combining both, we recommend that you visit the ruins first thing in the morning (it only takes about an hour), and then go to the Eco-park after for a fun day of snorkeling, sites and history.

The ruins are located directly off Highway 307, just south of the entrance to the Eco-park.

If you are taking the collectivo (a shuttle van that runs between Tulum and Playa del Carmen), ask your driver to let you off at the Xel-Ha Ruins. It’s just a short walk to the entrance.

Picture ID, room key or cash is needed as a deposit for towels, lockers and snorkeling gear at Xel-Ha.

For more information see: Xel-Ha


Tulum Undiscovered
Tulum & Akumal
Tulum Discovery
Tulum & Xel Ha