When you think about exploring the Riviera Maya Ruins you will most likely think first of Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, and Coba Ruins. I totally get it and I’ve personally been and love all three. But they all have one thing in common. They are full of people and pretty commercialized, especially Tulum. There are so many Tulum Mayan ruins tours and they all go to the same places and offer pretty much the same thing.
Off the Beaten Path Riviera Maya Ruins
In search of a more authentic experience for my Tulum ruins excursion, I contacted my good friends at Koox to do one of their cultural ground tours so I could see some Riviera Maya ruins that most tourists don’t get to see. Koox is one of my favorite tour companies as their company ethics as very aligned to my own and I love the authentic experiences they offer people.
Although they can take you to Coba and Chichen Itza, in all honesty, you can do those tours easily yourself if you don’t mind doing a bit of extra work. What I wanted was to go somewhere no one else would be going and to be shown around by a local person as my guide.
Koox offers 6 different ground tours to choose from including Las Coloradas Pink Lakes and Sian Ka’an two places high on my list!
What I love about their ground tours is that even if they take you to Chichen Itza or Coba they team it up with visiting somewhere other companies don’t go. For example, almost every tour company that takes you to Chichen Itza takes you to cenote Ik Kil. But not Koox, they take you to Cenote Oxman a much better option as you will likely have the cenote to yourself.
Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So when looking for travel insurance it’s important to check it covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, Hey Mondo, Passport Nomads, Safety Wing, and Travel Insurance Master all provide cover for this.
Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover. You even have the option to start the cover when you are already on your trip, although you won’t be covered for the first 72 hours. For me my favourite feature is their app which offers you a 24/7 Dr chat and the ability to file a claim direct in the app.
Passport Nomads provides the most comprehensive cover for Digital Nomads. The game changer with them is that you have a red card and if you find yourself in need of medical care you just contact them and they will pre load your card with the funds to cover your treatment, meaning you won’t need to pay out of pocket and then put in a claim later.
Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. They have an excess of $250 and it’s simple to make a claim through their website. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy and I like that it renews on a monthly basis, so I don’t have to pay out a big lump sum up front.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation type trips.
If you are doing shorter trips or an extended backpacking trip then Hey Mondo or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for Passport Nomads or SafetyWing.
Visiting El Naranjal Archeological Site Tulum
As I have already visited Coba and Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins we decided on a visit to El Naranjal and Cenote Choj Ha. Known as the Hidden Mayan Wonders Tour if you are interested in learning more about Mayan history and exploring a relatively unexcavated site with a local guide then I can’t recommend this tour enough.
Our group was the only one on-site and our local guide was full of fascinating stories and information about the site. At no point did I have to fight for a tourist-free photo, feel rushed, or feel unable to ask questions. It was the perfect Mayan Ruins tour for me. I wasn’t able to understand all of the local guide’s stories but that wasn’t an issue as the Koox tour guide was able to perfectly translate everything I didn’t understand into English for me.
The site itself is fascinating and pretty huge! There are secret cenotes and I even saw some baby monkeys playing in a tree.
Visiting Choj Ha Cenote
After exploring El Naranjal it was time to cool off in true Riviera Maya style… in a cenote! Cenote Choj Ha is actually pretty newly discovered, making now the perfect time to go before everyone finds out about this hidden gem.
At the cenote, there is a place to change and lockers to store your things. You will need to take a shower before entering the cenote. And please remember NO SUNSCREEN! It is undercover anyway so you won’t need it. All of the chemical products on your body wash off when entering the water and cause damage to the ecological system in the cenote. So please make sure you wash everything off in the shower.
I was amazed at how beautiful the cenote is. Unfortunately, it is pretty dark in there so I wasn’t able to really capture its beauty. But you can take a watch of this awesome video Koox made which gives you an idea. However, to really appreciate it, you need to see it for yourself!
Why Do This Cultural Day Tour From Tulum
Personally, if you want an authentic Mayan experience there are three tours I would highly recommend, because of the interaction with local people and the authenticity of the whole experience.
Those tours are this one, their tour to Sian Ka’an and Aktun Chac-Mool and Villa Guadalupe. On all three of these tours, you will get to visit small Mayan communities in the Tulum area and explore Mayan ruins with them and their families before enjoying lunch with the family (not Sian Ka’an).
You will get to glimpse back in time as well as experience what life is like today for the Mayan people still living in the Yucatan Peninsular.
How to Book a Cultural Tour in Tulum
This is the easy part! All booking can be done online via their website. Simply click here. They also have a handy chat feature in case you have any questions.
In all honesty, I don’t do a lot of organized ground tours. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like being rushed and I’m not a fan of paying for a tour I can easily do myself with a little bit of research and effort. But for me these tours are different and it just wouldn’t be possible to do them without a tour company.
If you are looking for an authentic cultural tour in Tulum then book one of these tours with Koox, you will not be disappointed.
If you are looking for other kinds of excursions and car rentals in Riviera Maya, take a look at what my friends from Turismo Channel have! You can check out their tours by clicking here and using the following discount codes for the best prices clairecaroff (car rental), claire10off (for 10% off group tours), claireprivate (for a discount on private tours).
Need Somewhere to Stay In Tulum?
I wrote a whole post to help you decide the best area in Tulum to stay with my recommendations depending on your budget. I also wrote a guide to the top boutique hotels in Tulum, Where to stay in Tulum, and The Best Hostels in Tulum Mexico.
Before booking, I always check booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia.com to get the best deals on accommodation. Here are my top picks, click on the links to check current prices.
- Top Budget Pick: Chill Inn
- Top Boutique Pick: Elements Tulum Boutique Hotel
- Top Resort: Nah Uxibal Villa and Casitas
- Top Luxury Pick: Nomade Tulum
Traveling in the Riviera Maya? Click to read my guides to accommodation in Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Holbox, and Cancun
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This post was proofread by Grammarly