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How to Maximize 8 Hours in Tulum, Mexico

If you’re considering Mexico as your next vacation spot, I’m gonna go ahead and advise you to DO IT! I may have only spent 8 hours in Tulum, Mexico (I was on an excursion for a Carnival Cruise) but it definitely was enough to make me want to go back! Let’s jump right into how I spent 8 hours in Tulum, Mexico eating tacos, embracing in the history, experiencing the culture and shopping!

Here’s a bit of Tulum & Playa del Carmen…

Bit of Background

So if you’re wondering why I was only in Tulum, Mexico for 8 hours, it’s because I spent 4 days on my first Carnival Cruise and our ship pulled into the dock about an hour late. The ship docked in Cozumel but I had NO interest in the island of Cozumel, no matter how gorgeous. My eyes were on the ruins and tacos! I just didn’t realize it was an hour ride by taxi boat to the main land, smh. That’s 2 hours down the drain. But once we were free off the ships, we were free to explore!

Or so we thought.

The Ruins

Once we docked from the taxi boat, we were separated by the excursion type we had selected. Little did I know, we pulled right into Playa Del Carmen and were ushered unto a coach bus for an hour long drive to Tulum. That wasn’t ideal but they did offer us Mexican snacks including water, chips, and cookies!

Fast forward an hour and we arrived at the Mayan Marketplace. We walked through tons of shoppes featuring local textiles, shirts, and other types of souvenirs. For $2US we hopped on a short trolley ride out to the Ruins. You’re more than welcome to walk but with that heat, we opted for the ride.

After a 5 minute ride, we arrived on the Holy grounds. We were given tons of background info on the Mayan people and their contributions to civilization—most notedly, the Mayan Calendar but also advancements in math, technology, irrigation, chocolate, etc. These people were dope AF!

Check out the Ruins!


Lawddddd, these beaches are gorgeous! We spent way too much time taking photos by the water that we never actually made it down to the beach (whoops) but be mindful we started an hour behind schedule.

What made me want to choose this particular excursion package was the proximity of the beach to the Ruins so that definitely made it worth while. I would definitely pack a bathing suit, towel, and change of clothes!


After you’ve spent some time soaking in the culture and the beach, you’ll be transported back to the the marketplace to get your fill of tacos!

For $7 you can get 3 tacos, rice & beans, and a soda. I think it was priced for tourists but hey, I’ll take authentic Mexican tacos any day! PLUS, because we were there, we ended up with a quesadilla, too. No regrets!

Can we just talk about these tacos for a sec? Just look at it!!


Although, I didn’t buy too much, we actually had 3 opportunities to pick up souvenirs so there’s actually no need to grab everything at first glance. So here are the 3 places we got to shop and a little bit about each location

The Mayan Marketplace in Tulum, Mexico:

Conveniently located between the coach bus drop off and the Ruins themselves. Meaning, we had to pass by tons of family owned shoppes and tell multiple people that “We’re not buying just yet,” before we even saw the history of the place. I wasn’t a super fan of that but I understand tourism. From these local shoppes, I purchased an Obsidian Mayan statue, a few shot glasses, and other small trinkets with Tulum written all over.

The Playa del Carmen Mall & 5th Avenue:

So these are actually 2 different locations but offer similar items. 5th Avenue is sort of like a main street with small, boutique type shoppes. We didn’t get to shop here because they shut down the street for a parade and we were MUCH more interested in that!

The mall, much to my surprise, was very Americanized. It just looked like a large, luxury outdoor mall with tons of brands you might find in the States. I’m talking about Urban Outfitters, Banana Republic—get what vibes they’re going for?

Cozumel Port of Call:

The last place to pick up any remaining souvenirs is right before you board the ship, which just makes the most sense. Why buy tons of stuff and carry it around with you? Wait to make your purchases at the end—just don’t miss the port call time otherwise you might get stuck in Cozumel!

So, as you can see, there’s TONS of opportunities to buy gifts for your loved ones!

Local Culture

So once we arrived back in Playa del Carmen, we had about 90 minutes to walk around before the last taxi boat to the Cozumel. In this time we witnessed this parade on 5th Avenue and have no idea what it was for. I’m gonna let this video speak for itself.

I’d definitely say the culture is dope. The people are very friendly, maybe a bit too friendly at times, but most of the time it wasn’t an issue. Just be prepared for anything once the sun goes down!

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, more time is definitely needed to truly feel the Mexican vibes. But I was super happy with all that I did experience—gorgeous views, a mini history lesson, and bangin’ tacos! What more could you ask for in such a short amount of time? Not much, I’ll tell you that!

Have you been to Tulum? What’d you love the most? Would you visit if you haven’t been? Let me know in the comments down below!

Want to visit someplace else? Try out:

Until next time, stay blessed and unstressed!

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