If you are looking for an excursion from Playa Del Carmen on the Yucatan coast the ruins at Tulum are a must see option. Tulum is unique in offering a combination of spectacular Mayan ruins , a terrific sandy white beach and startling turquoise green sea, making it one of the the most popular Mayan sites for visitors.
Tulum is offered as an excursion by tour operators, often as a combined trip to Coba, but buses depart regularly from Playa Del Carmen's bus station and it is an easy excursion to organise for yourself. The journey on an air air conditioned tourist bus takes about an hour from Playa Del Carmen. You are freer under your own steam to take things at your own pace and stay, or not, as you fancy. Tulum is 135km from Cancun so a reasonably easy excursion, taking around two hours, from there too. Its advisable to get there early in the day or late in the afternoon as there are many coach tours and Tulum can get very crowded. The bus drops you on the main road at the intersection with the access road to the ruins. It is an easy (i.e. flat) one mile walk from there.
The town itself Tulum Pueblo is spread around the highway and the intersection with the access road to the ruins. It has little to commend it but Tulum also has an extensive beach area, Playa Tulum we didn't get to with characterised by boutique hotels and cabanas palm lined cabins that can be hired.
Tulum is a relatively small compact site compared to nearby Coba but its spectacular coastal location make it well worth a visit. You can get around the site in well under an hour. The beach immediatly beneath the ruins is accessible and very beautiful but popularity with visitors means it can also be quite crowded.
The tallest and most striking building on the site is a watchtower named El Castillo (the castle) by the Spanierds. Other notable features include a recognisable main street, the Palace of the Halach Uinic and the House of the Columns. Iguanas basking in the sun add to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the site.
Tulum was the only Mayan city built on the coast and is unusual in being protected on three sides by a wall. The fourth side was the cliffs and the sea. Tulum came to prominence in the 13th century and controlled martime commerce along this stretch of coast. It was one of the smaller cities that came to prominence when mayan civilisation was in decline. There are interesting accounts on site of Tulum's 'discovery' by the Spanish as detailed in the writings of Diego De Landa, first bishop of the Yucatan.