One Day in Tulum Itinerary: The Perfect Itinerary (First Time Visit)


How to Visit Tulum in a Day: A Complete Guide for First-Time Visitors

You’re planning to spend one day in Tulum, in the heart of the Riviera Maya?

Great idea!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect itinerary to visit Tulum in a day.

You will start your day at the impressive Mayan ruins, then cool off in peaceful cenotes. Next, enjoy lunch and boutiques on the Tulum Beach Strip, relax on the sandy beaches, and finish with Tulum’s lively bar nightlife.

But how do you fit all this into 24 hours? Don’t worry! Let me guide you through it in this optimized and detailed one-day itinerary.

In addition to the best places to visit and activities for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Tulum in 1 day? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

Discover Tulum in Just One Day: The Ultimate Travel Itinerary

Although I recommend arriving the night before to make the most of your one-day trip in Tulum – especially to visit the ruins early –, you can totally visit Tulum on a day trip.

It’s easily accessible by car, ADO bus, or even colectivo, being just an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen and about 1 hour and 40 minutes from Cancun.

Following that advice, here’s my suggested itinerary to help you fully experience the best of Tulum in just one day.

Morning: Exploring the Archaeological Site of Tulum

Start your day early by visiting the archaeological site of Tulum.

The gates open at 8 a.m., and being one of the first visitors not only helps you beat the crowds but also allows you to experience the site in cooler temperatures.

Spend around 1 to 1.5 hours marveling at the ancient Mayan ruins set against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea.

This archaeological site is one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya and stands as a testament to their ingenuity and culture.

The main attraction, El Castillo, is a striking temple that offers panoramic views of the coast. Don’t miss the Temple of the Frescoes, known for its well-preserved murals depicting Maya deities and ceremonies. The Temple of the Descending God, with its unique inverted figure, adds to the site’s mystique.

Tulum Runis

Mid-Morning: Refreshing Dip in a Cenote

After exploring the ruins, it’s time to cool off.

Head to Gran Cenote, one of Tulum’s most famous cenotes, easily accessible by car or bicycle.

Here, you can swim in crystal clear waters surrounded by natural beauty. It’s a sanctuary for both snorkelers and divers, offering a glimpse into the underwater world.

Nearby, Cenote Calavera, also known as the ‘Skull Cenote,’ welcomes you with a trio of holes resembling a skull, offering a unique swimming experience.

For those seeking a more secluded experience, several lesser-known cenotes around Tulum offer tranquil settings, surrounded by lush vegetation and teeming with wildlife.

To discover all these hidden gems, make sure to check out My list of the 15 best cenotes in Tulum!

My Advice
When heading out to explore Tulum’s enchanting cenotes, make sure to pack aquashoes.

They are essential not just for protecting your feet from rocky bottoms, but also for providing grip on slippery surfaces. 

cenote calavera tulum
cenote calavera in tulum

Afternoon: Tulum’s Beach Strip and Beach Time

In the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll along Tulum’s Beach Strip (hotel zone) a vibrant stretch along the coastline known for its laid-back yet chic atmosphere. This area is dotted with chic boutiques and cozy restaurants, perfect for a leisurely lunch.

boutique beach strip tulum
boutique beach strip tulum

After some exploration, head to one of Tulum’s pristine beaches.

If you opt for Playa Paraiso, don’t miss Cinco Tulum. This quaint spot on the beach offers delicious food and exceptional service, enhancing your beach day experience.

For a more tranquil setting, head to Playa las Palmas.

Located farther from the ruins, this beach offers a peaceful getaway with fewer crowds. It’s a serene spot perfect for those looking for a quiet day by the sea.

playa paraiso tulum
Playa Paraiso, Tulum

Evening: Experiencing Tulum’s Nightlife

As the sun sets, Tulum transforms. The town boasts a vibrant nightlife scene.

If you’re looking for a lively atmosphere, Papaya Playa Project is a popular choice, known for its beach parties and music scene.

For a more intimate setting, Casa Jaguar, nestled in the jungle, provides a cozy ambiance perfect for enjoying creative cocktails.

Another must-visit is Gitano, a bar that blends modern style with a jungle backdrop, offering a unique experience under the stars.


papaya playa project tulum
papaya playa project tulum

Map of the best things to do in Tulum in one day

The best hotels for 1 day in Tulum

If you’re short on time, remember, Tulum is easily accessible from Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

Perfect for a day trip, you can soak in its beauty without needing to stay overnight.

But, if you do decide to linger, Tulum offers fantastic hotel options for every budget:

  • Mayan Monkey Tulum: an excellent value for money. Nice modern hostel with a good atmosphere, a pool, bar and garden. Including fast wifi, kitchen access, yoga classes, coworking spaces, and bike and motorcycle rentals. Dorms and private rooms starting at only 24 $usd per night.
  • Casa Almendro: if you are looking for a little more comfort, you will like this small cheap hotel in the center of Tulum. It’s a green oasis with a rooftop terrace with chairs and hammocks. There are king size beds and breakfast is included, from only 50 $usd per night!
  • Diamante K: is a high-end hotel but at a very fair price, which is exceptional in Tulum, especially for a hotel with direct access to the beach in the hotel zone! Bohemian chic atmosphere, including a restaurant, hammocks and beds on the private beach, and a massage service. Bungalows are 207 $usd per night.
  • Habitas Tulum: this small eco-friendly hotel with a chic design is ideal for a romantic stay in Tulum. It is a true oasis of peace, hidden among the palm trees, with a magnificent swimming pool and a private beach. There are also yoga classes on the terrace at sunset. From 371 $usd per night!
  • Kanan Tulum- Adults Only: this is the ultimate option for a luxury stay in Tulum. It is an ecological hotel for adults only, located on a beautiful private beach with hammocks and beds. With a fantastic rooftop terrace with a bar; the hotel also has an excellent restaurant, great rooms and a very friendly welcome. From 566 $usd per night!
kanan hotel tulum
Kanan Tulum

What’s the best way to reach Tulum for a one-day trip?

Tulum is strategically located and easily reachable from Cancun and other major destinations of the Riviera Maya, such as Playa del Carmen, making it a convenient choice for travelers

1. Car: Renting a car is a great choice as it offers flexibility and convenience, especially since attractions in Tulum are spread out.

  • Click here to compare the best car rental options for your Tulum trip!

2. Private Shuttle from Cancun Airport: A convenient option for direct travel to Tulum right after your flight

  • Click here to book your shuttle to Tulum from Cancun Airport

3. ADO Bus: A comfortable and cost-effective option, ADO buses provide regular services from various locations.

4. Colectivo: These shared minibuses are an economical choice, perfect for budget travelers, and they run frequently between Tulum and nearby cities.

  • From Playa del Carmen, take the colectivo to Tulum from Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 Norte (click here to see on map)
  • From Cancun, head to Playa del Carmen first, as there’s no direct colectivo to Tulum. You can take the colectivo Playa Express (in front of the ADO station)
colectivo riviera maya
colectivo riviera maya

What’s the best way to travel around Tulum in one day?

Since Tulum’s attractions are not close to each other, having a car is ideal for getting around. However, if a car isn’t an option, I recommend renting a bike or a scooter for a convenient and enjoyable way to explore the area.

For instance, walking from the ruins to Gran Cenote takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, compared to only 12 minutes by car or 20 minutes if you’re biking!

Also, for a hassle-free experience, consider joining a day tour to Tulum which conveniently includes transportation from your hotel.

What guided tours in Tulum are best for one-day visitors?

There are numerous fantastic tours to explore Tulum. For a comprehensive list of the best tours, you can refer to my complete guide on Tulum by clicking here.

But for a quick visit, here’s the best one-day tour in Tulum, including round-trip transportation from your hotel (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya), a guided visit to the Tulum ruins, a stop in a beautiful cenote and some free time in Tulum.

Book it here:

My Pro Tips for Your Day Trip in Tulum

Let me share some insider tips to make your day in Tulum unforgettable:

Get Moving Early: This isn’t just a tip; it’s almost a rule, especially for the Tulum ruins and the cenotes. Starting early not only lets you beat the crowds at these popular spots but also gives you more time to pack in all the fun and exploration.

Rent a Bike: Think distances in Tulum are short? Think again! Unless you’re planning to rent a car, biking is the way to go. Tulum is more spread out than it seems, and a bike lets you cover these distances efficiently. But hey, don’t forget a hat or cap – you don’t want to turn into a lobster under the sun!

Traveling Smart in Tulum: If you’re relying on public transportation and planning to hop over to another destination, like the enchanting Bacalar, here’s a tip you’ll thank me for. The ADO terminal in Tulum offers luggage storage. You can explore without the hassle of dragging your bags around.

Eating Out – Choices Galore: Craving something fancy? Tulum’s hotel zone boasts trendy bars and restaurants with amazing ambiance, albeit a bit pricey. On a budget? Downtown Tulum offers equally delicious but more affordable dining options. It’s all about matching your mood and budget.

Is Spending Just 1 Day in Tulum Enough?

If you’re short on time, one day in Tulum can give you a taste of its magic.

You get the ruins, the cenote, the beach, and the nightlife. But, if you can, stay a bit longer. There’s so much more to explore, and who knows, you might just find your new favorite spot in this beach paradise.

Check out my other Tulum guides and itineraries:

Rent a car in Tulum

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Tulum and make the most of your day!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

rent a car tulum
Rent a car to explore Tulum

How to find a cheap flight to Tulum

You have two options to fly to Tulum: the Cancun airport or the Felipe Carrillo airport.

The Cancun airport (CUN) has more flights, but you need to travel 3.5 hours by car to reach Tulum.

The Felipe Carrillo airport (TQO) is new and closer to Tulum, only 40 minutes by car, but it has fewer flights.

I suggest you compare the prices and stopovers for both airports from your departure location. Currently, there are few direct flights to Tulum, and Cancun may be a preferable option for the time being.

To find a cheap flight to Tulum or Cancun as well as the best domestic flights in Mexico, I recommend using our flight comparison tool in partnership with Skyscanner. It is guaranteed to get you the best price!

My tip
Once you arrive in Cancun, you can rent a car, take an ADO bus, or book an airport transfer to get to Tulum
Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

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best places to visit in Tulum in 1 day
best places to visit in Tulum in 1 day

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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