Making a solid list of reasons as to why Tulum, Mexico should your next tropical destination is easy not just because there are so many, but because you can tack the phrase “the best” to pretty much any line on the list, and it would be completely true. Like the best spot to snorkel with sea turtles, the coolest natural swimming holes called cenotes, and the most pristine white sandy beaches with every crazy shade of blue imaginable — you get the idea. We spent a few slower days cycling through Tulum and swimming in cenotes, but we wanted a day completely packed with adventure. We found just the type of action-packed Tulum excursion we were looking for with Edventure Tours Tulum. We were hosted on the Edventure Xtreme tour, where we got to experience all of the natural wonders of Tulum, from swinging through the jungle treetops down to snorkeling in the Yucatan’s underground river.
Edventure Tour Tulum Logistics
We were promptly picked up from our hotel in Tulum at 8 am (on the dot – I’ve never had a pickup be so precise before). Our awesome driver Jorge took us to Edventure Tours Tulum headquarters where we were outfitted for the gear we’d need that day – mainly a snorkel, fins and a wetsuit. Since we were going to be heading out for a full day in the jungle, we put on some natural insect repellant and reef-safe sunscreen.
We met our tour guide Nelson and the three other travelers in our group before we hopped back in the van and drove to the first stop on our Tulum excursion. The tour lasted about 8 hours. After the final adventure, we were dropped back off at our hotel a bit after 5 pm. The pace of the tour was great; we did a ton of stuff, but never felt rushed. Plus, there is no way we would’ve been able to do everything from the tour if we’d done it ourselves. We never had to worry about parking or how to get anywhere because everything was seamlessly planned and executed.
What to Bring
Since the snorkel, fins, and wetsuit are already provided, there are only a few things you need to bring with you on your Tulum excursion.
Swimsuit – We were in the water for most of the day, so I just wore my swimsuit under my shorts and t-shirt.
Close-toed shoes – I wore tennis shoes for the morning portion of the tour that included zip lining, rock climbing, and rappelling, but switched to flip flops once we started swimming and snorkeling. Another couple on our tour had these close-toed water shoes that seemed like a great option (plus really cute and come in lots of colors) and transitioned perfectly from ziplining to swimming.
Natural sunscreen – In order to not damage the fragile marine environments in the cenotes and ocean, bring a reef-safe sunscreen. This means a sunscreen that does not include harmful chemicals including Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Octinoxate, Avobenzone, Ethilexil and Metoxi. Find a sunscreen with safe minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide that provide a physical sunblock. Try Thinksport sunscreen for a great all over cream, or Sun & Earth for a thick tinted paste.
Microfiber Towel – We got in and out of the water a lot, so we brought a towel to dry off in between. These microfiber towels are compact and dry quickly which makes them perfect for traveling.
Ziplining through Tulum’s Jungle
Our adventure officially started when we reached a jungle area near Tulum called the Selva Maya Eco Adventure park, which shares an owner with Edventure Tours Tulum. We hopped onto a Polaris and raced a few miles down a bumpy dirt road until we were deep into the trees. After a quick safety orientation, we spent the next hour swinging through the trees or trying to race across crazy bridges without letting the swinging steps force us to do the splits. The staff and guides at Selva Maya (who are actually Mayans which is pretty cool) were so friendly and remembered everyone’s names. They kept things running so smoothly, I never felt like I had to wait for the next zip line. I also never once felt unsafe, which is pretty important when you’re 100 feet up off the ground.
Though we took this tour as a couple (this was an anniversary trip!), they typically allow children as young as five to do the ziplines.
Cenote Celestial and Cenote Bonita
After the zip lines and suspended bridges, we did a bit of rock climbing and rappelling before we made it to the cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes or caves filled with groundwater, and our tour guide Nelson gave us a mini history lesson on the importance of cenotes to the Mayans. The word means “sacred well,” and Mayans often went to the cenotes to communicate with the gods. There are thousands of cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula, but each one is so unique. The only way to visit Cenote Celestial and Cenote Bonita is to book an Edventure Tour since they are located on private property.
Cenote Celestial feels like you’re entering an enchanted underwater world; you descend deep into an underground cave with stalactites, stalagmites, and teal blue waters. This may be the prettiest cenote we saw during our time in Tulum, and we visited six different cenotes, not including the two included in this tour.
After the underwater swim and snorkel, we made our way back to ground level and walked to the nearby Cenote Bonita. We dove into this stunning cenote from the wooden diving board and swam a bit more before heading to lunch.
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Akumal Bay
I thought the afternoon snorkeling was going to be the highlight of the tour before we started, but after the morning, I wasn’t sure if it could get better than the amazing fun we had ziplining and exploring cenotes. But when we saw not just one, but ten or more sea turtles, it pretty much became my favorite day snorkeling ever.
Akumal Bay is an especially popular snorkel spot because of the number of turtles that come to feed on the sea grass. Unfortunately, tourism has taken its toll and the turtle population is now endangered, which is why there are a number of regulations with regard to snorkeling in the bay. Our guide Nelson took care of the entrance fees and knew all of the new rules, so we just had to follow along and enjoy watching the turtles eat and chase each other around. We also saw a lobster, a huge barracuda, and lots of tropical fish.
Snorkeling at Yal-Ku, a natural aquarium
Yal-Ku is a small estuary just a few minutes from Akumal Bay, where the warmer seawater mixes with the cooler fresh groundwater seeping out of nearby cenotes. This coastal lagoon is the perfect places to snorkel since the waters are calm, the visibility is excellent, and there are hundreds and hundreds of fish in every color. You can actually see and feel the difference between the salt and fresh water; spots where it’s mixing look almost oily, and if you dive a few feet below the surface, it feels like you’ve found a little hot spring where the warmer and denser sea water settles below. These conditions give way to incredible biodiversity, which makes snorkeling in Yal-ku such a unique experience.
After the final stop, we were completely exhausted but had oh so much fun on this Tulum excursion. Each part of the tour was so incredible and well organized, and every person involved with putting the tour on made such a huge effort to make it a great experience for every single person there. If you’re interested in going on the same adventure, you can book the Xtreme Tour here.
We were hosted by Edventure Tours Tulum, and based on our experience and the experience of others in our group, we would highly recommend booking a tour with them. Let us know if you have any questions or comments below.
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