Ocean Tours Mexico Review: Tulum Ruins, Snorkeling, plus Cenote
When planning our trip to Mexico, I wanted to see more of the Mayan ruins than just Chichen Itza. I also knew that Mexico was rather well known for their awesome snorkeling and diving spots, so that was on my to do list as well. When I came across a tour that offered not only a tour of Tulum, but also a chance to go snorkeling and explore one of Mexico’s many cenotes, I figured, why not? In the end, it turned out to be one of the best things we did during our time in Mexico! Find out what it’s like to go on the Snorkeling, Tulum Ruins, and Cenote tour in this Ocean Tours Mexico Review!
- The Tour: Package & Inclusions
- Tour Additions – Photo Package
- Would I Do it Again?
- How Can I Book this Tour?
- What to Wear and Bring?
- Things to Know
The Tour: Package & Inclusions
Hotel Pick Up
Ocean Tours Mexico offers to pick up its guests from hotels and popular locations in the Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum areas of Mexico. Since it is a group tour, the van that picks you up will likely make several stops around town as it picks up the other members of your tour group.
In my opinion, this is one of the most boring parts of tour packages in Mexico. I’m a morning person, and most times I’m excited to wake up and get started on the day’s adventure. However, if we are one of the first guests picked up, it can be a little while before we actually head out on our adventure.
Thankfully though, we had Victor as our tour guide, who made our list of best tour guides in the world! He kept us entertained and got to know, asking where we were from, things we planned on doing while in Mexico, and other small talk.
If you happen to visit the Tulum Ruins after going to Chichen Itza (like we did), you actually might be a bit disappointed by these ruins. They’re not quite as grand as the Temple of Kukulcan. However, with the Tulum Ruins being right on the ocean, they have their own sense of beauty.
When we arrived, Victor led us through a secondary entrance and then showed us some of the ruins that would have originally been houses for the wealthiest of the Mayans. He also talked about the governor and how he was the head not only of politics, but also their religion.
Next he explained a bit about Mayan history, specifically the three periods: pre-classical, classical, and post-classical. Then he proceeded to inform us of how Mayan city of Tulum was built during the post-classic era, and how it was different from some of the other Mayan ruins in the area.
Lastly, he talked a bit about the fall of the Mayans. From there, we were given a bit of free time to further walk around the ruins, or head down to the beach.
Snorkeling at Playa Maya
After the archaeological site, we went over to Playa Maya just outside of the Tulum Ruins. There we donned our snorkeling gear and life vests (all of which was provided by Ocean Tours Mexico unless you brought your own) and headed out to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere. Here, we were able to have a school of fish blow past us, swim with some sea turtles, and even see some sting rays! It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Tulum!
After we went snorkeling, we made our way to Cenote Caracol. Here, we were served lunch cooked by some of the locals and had a bit of a break.
Once lunch was over, we explored the “dry” portion of the Cenote. After heading down several steps, we were able to walk through a sort of open cavern, and see some of the greenery that had managed to grow within. A little bit behind this, we entered the actual cavern. Here, we walked on a bridge just above the water where we were able to appreciate all the stalactites and stalagmites. Victor told us a bit about how they were formed, and how tree roots would often break through, actually cracking and splitting the stones.
After the “dry” portion of the cenote, we headed over to the “wet” portion. We put our life vests back on and then descended the very steep steps down into the cavern. Here, we were able to jump off of the deck and into the water, definitely scaring the many fish in the area. Once everybody was in the water, Victor led us through the cavern, once again talking a bit about the history of the caves and the importance of various aspects for the ecosystem. The caves are eternally dark — this means that there is zero light and your eyes will never adjust to the darkness. Thankfully, there are a few lights installed within the cave, and Victor had a flashlight to help us through some of the darker areas.
The wet Cenote was probably my favorite part of the day. I’d been to various caves with stalactites and stalagmites, but being able to swim among them and through them was truly amazing. Just be careful not to whack your foot!
Hotel Drop Off
Similar to the hotel pick-up, at the end of the day, the van will take guests back to their respective hotels, or drop them off at popular locations around town. It takes about an hour to get back to the Playa Del Carmen area from Cenote Caracol, and about 2 hours to get back to Cancun, so sit back, relax, and maybe even take a nap after your long, adventurous day.
Tour Additions – Photo Package
Also accompanying us on this tour was Leandro, our professional photographer. He joined our group at the end of our tour of the Tulum ruins, and stayed with us for the rest of the tour. As we went snorkeling and explored the various areas of Cenote Caracol, he took pictures not only of the tour members, but also of the various things we passed along the way.
For just $40 USD, we got copies of not only the photos he had taken that day, but also copies of photos from his personal galleries, which consisted of stunning photos of Tulum, the stalactites and stalagmites of Cenote Caracol, and the beautiful fish seen near the Mesoamerican Reef. Compared to some of the photo packages available on other tours throughout Mexico, this is an amazing price and 100% worth it.
Would I Do it Again?
Most definitely. I don’t know that there was a single thing we disliked about this tour. We had an absolutely amazing tour guide. There was a good mix of information sessions as well as time to just explore. Plus, we had a good sized tour group – not too large, but not too small. Tulum Ruins was a bit crowded, but we seemed to have the place to ourselves when it came to snorkeling and exploring Cenote Caracol. Overall, it was probably one of the best tours we did while in Mexico.
How Can I Book this Tour?
We booked most of our Mexico tours through Viator. I found that most times booking through Viator was the same price as booking directly with the tour operator, so there wasn’t any additional cost. Plus, by booking everything through Viator, I had all of my tickets and tour information in one place, so I just found it easier to do it this way. Book your tickets now!
If you want more information about this tour or other tours offered, you can check out the Ocean Tours Mexico website.
What to Wear and Bring
Ocean Tours Mexico will provide bottled water and soft drinks, but I recommend bringing some of your own water bottles as well. The Tulum Ruins especially can get really hot, and if you’re not used to hotter climates, you’ll want the additional water.
Bathing Suit & Cover Up
You’ll want to have regular clothes for when you visit Tulum (such as shorts and a t-shirt), but I recommend wearing your bathing suit underneath. After visiting the Tulum Ruins, you’ll head straight to the beach for snorkeling. They have bathrooms, but they’re more like outhouses, and aren’t the easiest to change in.
For girls, I also recommend bringing a bathing suit cover up to wear after you go snorkeling. It will be useful for when you are exploring the “dry” portion of Cenote Caracol. It’s just not worth putting your clothes back on after snorkeling since you’ll eventually be getting back in the water for the “wet” portion of Cenote Caracol. Guys could probably just throw their t-shirt back on and be fine.
What always goes with a bathing suit? A beach towel. Definitely going to want to bring one with you since you’ll be getting in the water on more than one occasion during this tour.
Tennis Shoes & Sandals
As for shoes, you may want tennis shoes for when you walk around Tulum Ruins as the path is somewhat rocky. However, after this you’ll likely want to wear sandals the rest of the day as you will be getting in and out of the water.
If you are someone who burns easily in the sun, you may want to look into rash guards. Due to conservation efforts, most places won’t allow you to put on sunscreen right before you get into the water. I found out from our tour guide that even sunscreens claiming to be “biodegradable” or “reef safe” can still potentially be harmful to the environment. For this reason, many beaches and cenotes will actually require you to take a quick shower before getting in the water to wash off any potentially harmful chemicals. Rash guards are a great alternative for protecting yourself from sunburn without harming the environment.
If you are big into photography, an waterproof camera or waterproof sleeve for your phone may be beneficial on this tour. You could likely get some awesome photos of the reef and fish while you are snorkeling and some cool pictures of stalactites and stalagmites while swimming in the cenote. However, thanks to the professional photographer on the tour, you won’t miss out on too much if you don’t bring one.
Lastly, I recommend bringing some pesos with you. There aren’t too many places to buy souvenirs throughout this tour, but you may find a vendor or two in the Tulum area selling souvenirs. Plus, it’s common practice to tip your tour guide.
Things to Know
The first and most important thing to know is that there is an additional $10 USD natural reserve fee that is not included in the tour price. A lot of the public beaches in the Riviera Maya are now charging this fee to help with conservation efforts, so be prepared for this when visiting some of the beaches in the area.
Also, you will go on a very short boat ride to get to the snorkeling area. If you are somebody who gets sea sick or motion sick easily, you may want to take some medication beforehand.