A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Accessibility in Tulum
White sand beaches, Mayan ruins, and coconut water straight from the shell are some of the many things that entice travelers to visit Tulum. But among the ice cream shops and vegan cafes, yoga studios and beachside hammocks, you might be wondering, just how wheelchair accessible is Tulum?
Since pictures speak louder than words, this post is packed with photos to help you visualize what an accessible visit to Tulum might look like for you.
General Wheelchair Accessibility in Tulum
Like so many places in Mexico, Tulum wasn’t built with wheelchair users in mind. Furthermore, the town is spread out. In fact, many people refer to Tulum as there being “three Tulums”: the downtown center, the Tulum ruins, and the beach zone.
Let’s take a look at each.
There isn’t much to write home about when it comes to downtown Tulum. It has a bit of a run-down feel, but it’s a great place to find cheaper meals (which is a rarity around the ruins and beach zone).
In terms of wheelchair accessibility, downtown Tulum has wide pedestrian paths. However, the paths aren’t well maintained, so you’ll hit bumps, encounter places where drop down curbs don’t drop down all the way, and find items blocking a portion of the path.
Nevertheless, the main Highway 307 has a bicycle path you could hop on if you get in a bind. I don’t recommend wheeling off of Highway 307, as the sidewalks become more narrow and even less maintained.
That said, there’s not really anything to do in downtown Tulum, so you’ll likely want to spend your time at the ruins and beaches anyway. Speaking of which…
The Tulum Ruins are partially wheelchair accessible. The majority of this article focuses on how to get around the Tulum Ruins with a wheelchair, so hang tight because I’ll be sharing a step-by-step photo explanation of the journey.
Tulum does a decent job when it comes to wheelchair accessible beaches. They even have large signs indicating beaches designed for wheelchair accessibility. I’ve got a lot more information to share with you about this, too, so stick with me through the ruins and then get yourself ready for beach bum mode.
Tulum Ruins: How Accessible Are They?
A visit to Tulum isn’t complete without seeing the ruins. I won’t beat around the bush here: visiting the Tulum Ruins in a wheelchair isn’t easy.
But it’s not impossible, either.
On the surface, wheeling around the ruins seems like it should be pretty simple—ramps are in (most of) the right places to arrive at the ruins, the paths around the ruins are spacious and (mostly) flat, and the terrain is (mostly) firm.
However, once you get up to those ramps you’ll realize that they’re ridiculously steep, the paths fill up with puddles if it rained recently, and the terrain is only firm in the front portion of the ruins.
As I approached the Tulum Ruins, I realized that a mostly written account of the process involved for arriving wouldn’t do this article justice. So, I backtracked and took step-by-step photos of the process. I hope that they, and the descriptions I’ve included, help you feel better prepared.
Before we begin, however, I don’t want to scare you off—the Tulum Ruins are beautiful and are very much worth the effort to see them.
Photo Journey of Arriving in the Ruins
Photo Journey Within the Ruins
Phew, what a workout!
Once you’ve made it to the start of the ruins, things get easier from there. The path is packed down dirt with small, loose rocks through the right half side of the ruins. The leftmost side gets trickier with some deep sand in some areas, as well as staircases leading to Tulum’s iconic ocean views. But we’re jumping ahead of ourselves here.
As a word of caution, all paths at the Tulum Ruins are prone to puddles, so if you have the flexibility with your travel dates, try to hit it on a day when it hasn’t rained.
I know, easier said than done in a tropical climate!
Photo Journey of Arriving to the Ocean View
If you’ve ever seen a photo of the Tulum ruins, you’re surely thinking, what about the ocean? In case you’re out of the loop, this is the most iconic view of the Tulum Ruins, taken from the top of a small hill:
Unfortunately, this view is not inherently accessible. What’s even more frustrating is that it wouldn’t be difficult to make it accessible—the hill isn’t that long, and even if they threw a steep-ish ramp together like the ones you will have passed to arrive in the ruins, at least it would be something.
That said, if you’re a manual wheelchair user and are experienced at popping up staircases, you can likely get up to the top of this view. I’ll show you some photos next so you know what to expect.
If you have an electric chair, you’ll need to battle a bit of sand, but you can get a glimpse of the ocean from the ground floor.
With that overview, let’s dive into a photo journey of seeing ocean views at the Tulum Ruins as a wheelchair user.
Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in Tulum
With so much talk about the ocean, you might be ready to hit the beach at this point. In happier news, Tulum offers a handful of wheelchair accessible beaches. The two that I visted included:
- Playa Maya (specially designed for wheelchair users)
- Playa Santa Fe
When you’re driving around Tulum, you can look for the following sign to know if the beach is designed for wheelchair users:
Such beaches offer accessible parking, a ramp leading out to the beach, and might have a beach wheelchair you can borrow.
Below are some photos so that you can get a feel for beach accessibility in Tulum.
Accessible Parking in Tulum
By now, you’ve gathered that getting around Tulum by vehicle is best. So, you might be wondering: how’s the accessible parking situation?
In downtown Tulum, you’ll come across occasional accessible parking spots. They don’t always lead to drop curbs though, so you might have to roll down the street a bit to get to one.
Accessible parking at wheelchair-designated beaches in Tulum is your best option when you’re exploring the coastline. Parking around the beach is tricky for non-wheelchair users due to limited parking spaces, and parking on the side of the street is common in those cases.
Accessible Restrooms in Tulum
Wheelchair accessible restrooms are few and far between in Tulum. The only one I came across was at the Tulum Ruins, and even then, it wasn’t truly accessible. Below are a couple of photos of what you can expect:
Wheeling Around the Yucatán?
If so, good news!
We’ve put together a number of other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s stunning Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Got Your Bags Packed?
It’s true—Tulum isn’t a wheelchair user’s paradise. But given its worthwhile ruins and beautiful beaches, it’s definitely a contender for a modified Yucatan visit. There aren’t tons of wheelchair accessible hotels in Tulum, so you may want to base yourself out of Cancun or Playa del Carmen, as you can easily take a day trip there from these destinations.
If you’ve already had experience with accessible travel in Tulum, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section; your words will no doubt help future wheelchair travelers. Have lingering questions about accessible travel in Tulum? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.