Several years ago I would have described downtown Tulum as a dusty one-horse town, worthy of maybe a quick curious glance but I wouldn't have listed it as a necessary "must see". No longer--this town is really beginning to boom! In the evening it is colourful and beautiful. New fancy well-designed open-air restaurants line the main street, reminiscent of what Playa Del Carmen was like several years ago. I was surprised to see a nightclub pumping music. Prices have gone up downtown; there are new cobblestones on the sidewalks, more stores, craft vendor and food stalls, and a new central bus station. If you're lucky they'll have the midway open on one of the corners. One VTer's tip on this web site says downtown Tulum is ugly--that's absolutely not true anymore.
Tulum may not have the biggest or asthetically pleasing structures as some of the other Mayan ruins in the region but it has a tropical beauty of it's own that no other Mayan ruin can claim. Take the time to fully explore Tulum and see for yourself the tropical paradise that surrounds the ruins. Many tourist simply take the guided tour or just head right for the beach, my advice is to take a view hours and stroll around the ruins and find the type of awe inspiring views that Tulum offers. These views are what make Tulum unique but like anything worthwhile in life it will take time and patience to see it for yourself. But its well worth the effort.
This is the Yucatan's most visited Maya ruin. It attracts more than 2 million people annually (I think they were all there the day we went!). The ruins aren't spectacular themselves, but it's where they are situated that makes them so unique. The location is breathtaking. We took an all day tour that also included Xel-Ha. You don't need anymore than 2 hours at this place unless you plan on snorkelling in the cove. You're not allowed to climb or go in most of the ruins. There is a shuttle to the ruins from the entrance which costs $1 US each way or you can walk the 1/2 km to the site. This pic is of the Castle.
The long strip through downtown Tulum is worth a stroll to shop for necessities or grab a bit to eat. There are several souvenir and silver shops -- while not the cheapest, I'm sure, the selection was decent enough. Tulum was strangely deserted though, save the shopkeepers and occasional tourist.