Playa del Carmen vs Tulum

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Tulum Vs Playa del Carmen - Ultimate Guide

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Tulum vs Playa del Carmen – An Honest Guide

Tulum and Playa del Carmen are popular tourist destinations located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. They both offer amazing beaches, magnificent Mayan ruins, and plenty of beachfront hotels, restaurants, and bars to choose from. However, it can be very challenging to decide which of these two destinations is best.

In this article, you can learn about the similarities, differences pros and cons between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It covers the advantages and disadvantages of both destinations, and examines key factors to consider when deciding where to go for a holiday.


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Straight to the Point

  • Tulum has a natural and bohemian atmosphere with untouched jungle, small unique shops, and a strong focus on environmental preservation. It also has high-end eco-lodges, which can be expensive, so your experience there will depend on your budget.
  • Meanwhile, Playa del Carmen is a larger, more urban city with stunning beaches, shopping malls, and all-inclusive hotels offering various comforts. Unlike Tulum, it is a more affordable option to choose from.

Tulum vs Playa del Carmen – Overview

Although Tulum and Playa del Carmen are only 1 hour apart, they have distinct vibes. If possible, I suggest visiting both places to experience what each town has to offer, even if it’s just for a day trip. However, if you’re short on time and need to choose where to spend your vacation, here’s a brief summary of each destination.

About Playa del Carmen

Located on the majestic Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and just 1 hour south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, is a relaxed beach destination. Once a small fishing village, the town now has a population of about 310,000, including a significant expat and international community.

Playa del Carmen is popular for its beautiful turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and vibrant downtown area called Fifth Avenue or “La Quinta Avenida” in Spanish. Additionally, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and stores situated in the downtown area and near the beach, giving visitors lots of opportunities to explore and unwind.

About Tulum

Tulum, Mexico is a highly sought-after travel spot for many, including celebrities, influencers, and wealthy individuals. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, around 2 hours away from Cancun by car, Tulum boasts pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and ancient Mayan ruins near the seashore. Even though it’s not very populous, with around 50,000 residents, the town remains popular.

Tulum has created a unique spiritual ambiance that is a mix of hippie and chic styles. The town is filled with many trendy hotels, restaurants, and boutiques that are all designed with earthy elements. These design elements focus on eco-friendliness and the bohemian style. Tulum’s design aesthetic makes it a great place for photography enthusiasts.

Tulum vs Playa del Carmen: Who are they suited for?

The following is a summary of which types of travelers are best suited for each beach town:

Tulum is a great choice for :

  • those who love nature
  • yoga enthusiasts
  • Eco-friendly travelers
  • Those on a spiritual journey
  • Laid-back vacation
  • Off-the-beaten-path exploration
  • Foodies
  • Travelers with a higher budget

Who is Playa del Carmen suited for?

On the other hand, Playa del Carmen is best suited for

Playa del Carmen is better for:

  • Budget conscious travelers
  • Small City lovers
  • Digital Nomads
  • Those who looks for more variety
  • Families
  • Couples

Tulum vs Playa del Carmenn- The Pros and Cons

Next, let’s take a look at some of the Tulum Playa del Carmen pros and cons that I’ll discuss further in this post:

Tulum’s pros & cons



More authentic feel and less touristy

Very few big hotel chains

Relaxed atmosphere and bohemian vibe

Poor infrastructure and Internet

Untouched nature and beaches

Hotels on the beach are expensive

Amazing food (better than Playa and Cancun)

Very few All-inclusive hotels

Next to Mayan Ruins

Poor quality of most streets

More quiet during Spring Break

Feels a bit less safe

Active Nightlife

Not as walkable

Luxury Boutique Hotels

Further away from Cancun airport (90-minute drive)


Accessibility is more limited

Very Close to Sian Ka’an Biosphere


Very Instagrammable


Playa del Carmen 



Walkable with access between the beach and town

Not the nature destination that Tulum is

More budget friendly

More noise and touristy

Feels a bit safer

Doesnt have the chill vibe and boho atmosphere of Tulum

Closer to Cancun International Airport (40-minute drive)

Beaches in Tulum are better

More choices for accommodation and prices

Beaches in Tulum are less crowded

Different boutiques for a variety of budgets

Not as Instagrammable

Feels more tourist-friendly

Not the eco-conscious destination that Tulum is

Better for Families and Couples

More hawkers on the street bothering you

All-inclusive hotels


It has a wide plenty of restaurants and a better variety of food


More Shopping Opportunities


2 Large Malls


Better access to both private and public transport


Beaches Comparison


The beaches in Tulum are more beautiful than the beaches in downtown Playa del Carmen. The turquoise waters and white sand are spread out and natural. The atmosphere is laid-back, and there are fewer people, so you can easily lounge and relax.

Playa del Carmen

Getting to Playa del Carmen beach is hassle-free compared to other beaches because there are no resorts or restaurants blocking the way. Plus, you can directly access the beachfront via certain roads, and it’s just a short walk away. However, keep in mind that the beach may be narrow, frequently crowded, and not as unspoiled or picturesque.

If you prefer a quiet beach day, Playa del Carmen may not be the best option as there is typically a lot happening. However, if you enjoy a vibrant beach atmosphere, Playa del Carmen is the perfect destination for you.

Budget and Cost

Tulum Cost

Playa del Carmen is generally more affordable than Tulum. The cost of hotels, restaurants, and transportation in Tulum is around 30% higher than in Playa del Carmen. This is due to the fact that Tulum has become a popular spot for wealthy individuals and celebrities, causing prices to rise. Despite being in Mexico, Tulum’s prices can be compared to those in much larger cities worldwide.

Playa del Carmen Cost

Compared to Tulum, Playa del Carmen usually has lower prices. Additionally, you can get better value for your money when it comes to accommodation in Playa del Carmen since the beach is accessible to everyone and there are no major differences in prices depending on whether you stay near the beach or in the town.

Although Playa del Carmen still has great food options, there are also many international chain stores and restaurants. This can help to balance out the overall cost of food. In summary, Playa del Carmen has more affordable options, while lower-priced options are limited in Tulum.

Hotels and Accommodation

Hotels in Tulum

Tulum hotels and vacation rentals prioritize sustainability and eco-friendliness. As a result, they offer rustic jungle accommodations like tree houses, bungalows, and luxury glamping, which provide a unique experience compared to typical hotels or resorts. These types of accommodations usually include outdoor showers, communal bathrooms, mosquito netting, and limited technology, such as air conditioning, TVs, and Wi-Fi.

The accommodations in Tulum have a minimalist design that aligns with the environment. The aim is to provide a retreat that has minimal impact on the surroundings. You are essentially paying for an exclusive vacation experience that enables you to escape from the everyday life. Furthermore, it’s important to note that most hotels in Tulum don’t offer all-inclusive packages. Hence, you will have to pay for your meals and alcohol separately, in addition to your nightly room rate.

Hotels in Playa del Carmen

However, if you’re looking for more affordable all-inclusive hotels, Playa del Carmen and the surrounding Riviera Maya region have a diverse selection to choose from. These options include modern and luxurious hotels, family-friendly hotels, and small boutique hotels.

If you want to simplify your vacation with an all-inclusive booking that provides meals and alcohol, staying at Riviera Maya resorts in Playa del Carmen is a great option. The resorts boast stunning landscaping, various restaurants, large pools, and swim-up bars.

Food Scene

Tulum’s Food Scene

If you want to indulge in high-end dining during your Mexico vacation, Tulum is the better choice. Their restaurants are famous for their creative menus and chic ambiance, but they are also more expensive compared to Playa del Carmen. Tulum also has some of the best and most authentic tacos in Mexico.

Playa del Carmen’s Food Scene

If you want many dining options in a small area, Playa del Carmen is a good choice. This town is a very popular tourist destination with various restaurants ranging from affordable taco places to fancy international cuisine. Though not as refined as restaurants in Tulum, Playa del Carmen still offers delicious meals at lower prices.

Nightlife, Clubs and Bars

Tulum and Playa del Carmen offer distinct nightlife experiences.

Tulum Nightlife

Tulum’s bars and nightclubs have a dark and mysterious ambiance, set against an outdoor jungle backdrop. The town is known for hosting famous DJs from all over the world who spin house or techno music, creating a hardcore party atmosphere. While there are still laid-back bars in Tulum, the main draw is music festivals and special events, as well as high-end party experiences like the legendary Full Moon Party at Papaya Playa Project.

Playa del Carmen Nightlife

In Playa del Carmen, you can find both high-end nightclubs with indoor/outdoor settings and casual local hangouts, as well as rooftop bars and the popular Coco Bongo Show. These establishments are mostly situated on or near the well-lit and busy 5th Avenue, which gives a sense of safety when going out at night.


Shops in Tulum

If you enjoy shopping during your vacation, Tulum may not be the ideal destination for you. It has limited small boutiques and local stalls, which are great for buying souvenirs and some casual shopping.

Shops in Playa del Carmen

In Playa del Carmen, there is a street full of shops and two large malls. If you enjoy having access to familiar stores and spending time in malls, then visiting Playa del Carmen would be a great choice.

Transportation and Getting Around

When comparing Tulum and Playa del Carmen, it is important to take into account factors such as transportation affordability and accessibility.



You can walk around the beach and in the Pueblo (Center) and you can also walk between the Pueblo and Beach. Just make sure you avoid walking alone at night.

Playa del Carmen

You can easily walk on 5th Avenue and around the beach. Just make sure you are always aware of your surroundings, especially at night.


You can easily find taxis in both towns, but they are more expensive in Tulum. Keep in mind that Tulum is not as pedestrian-friendly as Playa del Carmen, so if you choose to stay in downtown Tulum, you will need to hire a taxi to get to the beach or the popular Tulum beach hotel zone. Uber service has been on and off and we recommend not using in this part of the world.

Public Transportation

It is easier to access public transportation in Playa del Carmen because it is more developed. ADO bus, colectivos (shared vans), and city buses are available in Tulum town, but they are more frequent and readily available in Playa del Carmen.

Airport Transportation

Getting to Tulum from the Cancun Airport takes approximately 2 hours, which is almost twice as long as the journey to Playa del Carmen. Additionally, the cost of an airport transfer to Tulum will be almost double the cost of getting to Playa del Carmen.

  • The current rates for airport transfers are:
  • – Private transfer to Tulum costs $115 USD per trip.
  • – Private transfer to Playa del Carmen costs $75 USD per trip.

Activities and Things to Do

Tourists can enjoy various activities in Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Things to do in Tulum

There are many outdoor activities and day trips to enjoy near Tulum. These include visiting the Tulum Ruins, swimming in cenotes, relaxing in hidden lagoons, and exploring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Things to do in Playa del Carmen

You can find plenty of fun activities near Playa del Carmen that can be reached by a short drive. These include the Xcaret adventure parks, Ce

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