Cancun vs Playa del Carmen vs Tulum 

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Cancun vs Tulum vs Playa del Carmen - 2023 Guide

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Cancun vs Tulum Vs Playa del Carmen

Aaaa … the great debade! Cancun vs Tulum vs Playa del Carmen. It just is very hard to choose which one of these Mexican paradises should be your next vacation getaway in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

Cancun vs Playa del Carmen vs Tulum

All three of these stunning places look amazing in the photos and they are even more stunning when you visit them. But don’t worry! We have been visiting the area for the past 7 years and this comparison guide of Quintana Roo’s most beautiful locations should help you make up your mind with confidence and ease.

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Where to visit – Cancun or Tulum or Playa del Carmen?

Let’s start with the big brother of the three. The famed city of Cancun.


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:


Cancun beach Mexico
Cancun Beach is just stunning

Cancun Highlights:

  • Great for beach lovers, there are many stunning stretches of sand that offer the perfect getaway
  • Though you won’t find any good surfing due to the currents
  • You can explore a variety of attractions. Most of them are a 90 minutes road trip away from Cancun.
  • Lovely small boutique hotels nestled among large resorts
  • Plenty of family and kid-friendly amenities in the resorts and in town
  • The largest airport in the area is Cancun International Airport and it is just 20 minutes away. Very convenient. You need to use the same airport for Tulum and Playa del Carmen but its a longer trip
  • Great high-end shopping and great shopping in general!
  • While most restaurants provide subpar service and food, those willing to search will be rewarded with some authentic and delicious food (and some great tacos and local Mexican beer) 
  • Vibrant nightlife and plenty of entertainment options, international Dj set and large venues and clubs
  • Cancun is not suitable for walking or biking enthusiasts
  • The stunning Coba ruins or Chichen Itza are two hours away by car
  • The magnificent Cenotes are 90 minutes away. Trust us and make the trip to cenote
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen Beach

Let’s go to Playa del Carmen now.

Playa del Carmen Highlights:

  • Stunning beaches
  • Perfect for taking a leisurely stroll or just biking around
  • Not good for surfing due to the currents
  • The beach and city are next to each other
  • Several resorts very close to the town
  • You can choose from luxurious seaside hotels to smaller and more intimate lodging options
  • Just 50 minutes by car from Cancun International Airport
  • Fantastic restaurants and food
  • Plenty of shops and local souvenir items in the shopping districts 
  • Vibrant nightlife and great bars and clubs
  • A great family-friendly destination
  • Great for tours and day trips: 90 minutes away from Coba ruins and 2 hours drive away from Chichen Itza ruins!
  • You can visit some of the best cenotes that are just 15 minutes away by car

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

Last but not least the famed Tulum.

Tulum Highlights:

  • Truly immerse destination in the Mexican culture. 
  • More authentic experience than Cancun and Playa del Carmen
  • Bohemian and laid-back atmosphere and vibe
  • Idyllic beach paradise
  • The best of both worlds: enjoy a vibrant town atmosphere and soak up the sun on beautiful beaches!
  • Amazing (yet more expensive) boutique hotels,
  • Delicious restaurants
  • Very close to Mayan Ruins and some of the best cenotes in the area
  • Tulum is located just 1 hour and 45 minutes south from Cancun International Airport
  • Lively nightlife at bars and beach parties that are sure to captivate the younger and adult crowds

  • Family-friendly options also. Even though Playa del Carmen is our favorite family destination in the area.
  • Easy to move around and take leisurely walks along stunning coastal paths
  • Great for biking …its a lot of fun
  • If you wish to explore further Chichen Itza awaits 2 hours away by car and Coba ruins 40 minutes away!

In all honesty, you can’t really go wrong with any of these destinations. Whether you are a family, a solo traveler, or are looking for a romantic getaway all three of these beautiful destinations are sure to leave you in awe and with some lasting memories.

Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?

I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:

🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!

✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.

🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.

🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.

🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.

🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.

📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.

☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.