Swim Next to Ancient Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Tulum, Mexico, has a few things in common with its northerly neighbors, Cancún and Playa del Carmen: warm weather, white-sand beaches, and tons of spots for snorkeling. But you won’t find neon lights and thumping nightclubs here. Instead, there’s something much rarer: ancient Mayan ruins. The main structure, a massive stone fort known as El Castillo, sits on a cliff looking out on the Caribbean Sea. It’s surrounded by palm trees and inhabited by iguanas, and just below the cliff—accessible by a sturdy staircase—is one of Mexico’s most exquisite beaches.
Why it’s worth the trip: The juxtaposition of haunting ruins and a gorgeous beach is unforgettable. These are the only Mayan ruins situated on the Caribbean Sea, so you won’t see this anywhere else.
How to get here: Fly into Cancún International Airport. From there, you can rent a car (the drive to Tulum takes about two hours) or take a bus to Playa del Carmen, where you can then catch a bus to Tulum.
Best time to go: October and November—after hurricane season and before tourists really start pouring in.
What to bring: In addition to a camera, bring a swimsuit and a towel. Many tourists come unprepared, not knowing that the beach is perfectly suited for swimming. If you get there early in the morning, you could have the beach to yourself.