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Ancient Mayan Costal City
The Tulum Ruins can be found immediately (~a mile) north of the town of Tulum and are on the right-hand side of the highway. There is plenty of signage to guide you to the spot. They can be reached by car, bus, or if you are staying at a hostel that rents them; bicycles. If you drive a rented car, be prepared to pay (and negotiate a reasonable price for) parking. There is an additional ~1/2 mile walk from the parking area to the park's entrance. Tourist busses run this 1/2 mile for those not inclined to walk it. Tour guides can be hired at any point from the parking lot to the actual park gate. We did not hike with a guide for this site, but the ones at the park entrance seemed more professional (and more reasonably priced).
Fees (as of 2020)
The entrance fee is 80 pesos per person, the optional (you can walk) shuttle from the parking area is an additional 20 pesos. Parking can vary quite a bit but is generally around 120 pesos. Tour guides also vary in price but can be had for ~600 pesos.
The entrances to the ruins are at two gates on the north wall of the complex. Several interconnected paths can be taken to see various structures, but the general route is from North to South along the coast. The exit is a gate in the south wall.
No challenges here, just follow the paths. If it is open, the beach is lovely to visit, and it is behind El Castillo. The Iguanas like to sun themselves on the west wall (well away from the tourists and well-trafficked structures) if you are looking to see some local wildlife.
We explored Tulum at the end of December, arguably the coldest part of the year, and it was still quite hot. We did have something of a warmer day but the recommendation of going early in the morning, preferably when the park is opening, to beat the heat (as well as the crowds) was still valid. I would not want to visit this spot in the summer. The beach was closed when we were there on account of high winds and rough (at least by Caribbean standards) surf.
The paths around the site are clear and smooth. Sensitive areas are roped off, but the more inland sections allow for a bit of wandering.
General Comments and Musings
The Tulum ruins are a cool beachside archeological zone. It is not a large site and doesn't take too much time to explore. Most of the structures are in a restored state and are in close proximity to each other. Access to the interior of the buildings is restricted, and in most cases, a few feet around each structure is roped off. The area is very popular (often crowded), and it is best to get there as soon as the park opens to avoid the crowds and high midday temperatures. There is a beach at the site, which is a good place to cool off after exploring when the water conditions are calm. This site is easy to get to, hence its popularity, but other sites nearby are more interesting and less crowded. It's very picturesque and worth a visit if you are in the area and have never been there before.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.