The Clifftop Ruins
Tulum, Quintana Roo
Dramatically situated, Tulum ruins have become an icon of the Mayan culture in the Mexican Caribbean. This trip will fit your bill if you don't want to spend a whole day at ruins as the site is small, leaving you plenty of time to stay afterwards at one of the top beaches in Yucatán, or a swim at Gran Cenote. This trip is for eco-conscious travellers in search of life’s simple pleasures.
The tropical beach backdrop is the main attraction of this picturesque 13th century Mayan site. The Mayan walled city served as a major port for Cobá and the ruins are situated on 12m cliffs. Where else would you find a pyramid that also served as a lighthouse! The Mayan city was formerly known as Zamá, 'City of Dawn', because it faces the sunrise. Needless to say, the best time to visit is early in the morning, to get those vistas against the sunny horizon (and avoid the crowds).
Tulum beach (Hammocks)
Lonely Planet describes it as the beach with 'confectioner-sugar sands, jade-green water and balmy breezes'. I couldn't agree more. You can have a swim on the beach right under the ruin cliffs, within the historic site (the beach is open to the public only in the mornings). Another option is to walk a couple of minutes from the site's exit gate to the public Santa Fe Beach (first turning left). You can also eat at one of the many restaurants of the town. The town is ugly but has a bohemian soul and a hippie vibe.
Gran Cenote (Hammocks)
Gran cenote (sink hole) is not grand in size but because of its underwater wonderland. It is suitable for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving (for great underwater stalactites and stalagmites). There is an open lagoon part and a cave section. You can swim through a tunnel from one pool to another. The shallow pool has soft white sand and is suitable for children, which makes this cenote family-friendly.
How to get there:
You can take a colectivo (minibus) to Tulum ruins. From Highway 307 a mile-long road leads into the ruins, flanked by a commercial area. To reach the beaches (if you are not accessing them from the ruins), take the Cobá road east in the direction of Boca Paila and turn right for the eco hotel/beach clubs (and miles of continuous beach).
Gran Cenote is located on the highway to Cobá just outside the city, on km 4.