Cancun Vs. Tulum - An Honest Comparison with Pros & Cons
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Cancun Vs. Tulum: Which one is Better for you?
Exploring the pristine beaches of Mexico can be an absolute dream. Yet with so many choices in the Yucatan, you may find yourself debating between Cancun and Tulum. As someone who has experienced both destinations multiple times, I can offer insight into their pros and cons to assist your decision-making process – enabling you to pick out which one is ideal for you!
Before diving into the finer details of visiting Cancun or Tulum, I have compiled this chart providing you with a comprehensive view of what advantages and disadvantages each destination offers.
Proximity to Airport
10 KM distance
140 KM distance
City vibes and lots of concrete
Immerse in nature, laid-back boho hippy vibes
Expat and family friendly.
More for couples, and affluent travelers
Bus, Taxi, Rental Car
Bike, Walk, Taxi, Bus, Rental Car
Amazing sandy turquoise beaches. Crowded beaches in Hotel Zone. Be mindful of strong currents
Amazing beach that are note very crowded. Be mindful of strong currents.
You need to be staying in one of the hotels (very few offer Day Passes)
Most Beach hotels have a Beach Club that is accessible to all.
Big Nightclubs, crowded Bars and massive parties. Only a few laid back and chill in bars
Fewer nightclubs and bars but very active nightlife.
Good food with fair prices. Some budget options in the town, but higher-end options in the hotel zone.
Amazing food but pricey Lots of high-end restaurants, also budget options in Tulum town center.
Ok for every budget but not a cheap destination. All affordable lodging and dining options are available in Downtown Tulum (Pueblo)
Ok for every budget but not a cheap destination
Typically expensive, unless staying in Downtown
Comparable to Cancun but typically more expensive.
At least 1 hour drive
Biking distance from town
Cancun or Tulum? Pros and Cons
With Cancun and Tulum, you might find a variety of opinions depending on who you ask. But there are some constants when it comes to these destinations that can make or break a trip for anyone: I’m covering ten such items here so that you can get an idea of what your experience may be like. Of course, my favorite item will be revealed at the end too!
Accessibility Note: If you’re considering a vacation to either Cancun or Tulum, and require wheelchair access, then make sure you look no further than Cancun! To get more information on the accessibility of each location, read our posts on Cancun and Tulum. Planning your dream trip has never been easier with this helpful guide!
1. Cancun is famous for its All Inclusive Resorts
Are you a fan of hotel chains and have many complimentary stays to make use of? Then Cancun is your ideal destination over Tulum! From luxury suites spread along the beachfront, resembling Vegas more than Mexico, it’s no wonder this city offers much variety for brand-loyal travelers. Take advantage of its world-renowned resorts that offer every amenity one could imagine – from entertainment centers and swimming pools to spas and onsite dining – all dedicated towards ensuring an unforgettable stay in Cancun.
2. Tulum is famous for its Luxury Boutique eco hotels
Tulum is home to a variety of locally owned boutique hotels and lodges that prioritize sustainability and respect for the natural environment. You won’t see many high-rises here, but rather small facilities tucked away in the jungle or along the beach. Plus, many lodgings place an emphasis on being eco-friendly!
3. Cancun has the best Beaches … hands down
Cancun’s beaches are a paradise-like dream, renowned for their glittering white sands and electric blue waters that make it an ideal destination for any tropical vacation. Its captivating shorelines boast snow-white sand beneath dazzlingly turquoise waves that soothe the soul like no other place on earth. You won’t find this level of beauty anywhere else! For the finest beaches in Yucatan, Cancun is the obvious decision.
Conversely, beaches in Cancun can become quite crowded and hectic during peak season times.
4. Tulum’s beaches are also gorgeous … and less crowded
When comparing Cancun and Tulum, many people find that the latter offers a much more serene experience. The beaches of Tulum are lined with natural foliage like seaweed, rocks populated by iguanas, and tiny thorns from adjacent shrubs – all part of the unique atmosphere that one can only find at this destination!
5. Cancun is a Shopper’s Paradise
Are you a shopping enthusiast seeking the ideal vacation destination? Look no further than Cancun! Staying in the Hotel Zone provides ample opportunities for retail therapy, with multiple large malls, such as Forum By the Sea and La Isla Shopping Village full of boutique stores and souvenir shops. To access an even wider variety of items, take a quick taxi or bus ride to Plaza Las Americas. With its unparalleled selection, there is something here that will please every shopper’s taste!
Expert Tip: don’t anticipate finding inexpensive clothing in Cancun. If you venture to the market, you may find some bargains; however, do keep in mind that the items will not be of top-notch quality and merchants could charge more upon realizing that you are a foreigner.
6. Tulum Is a Natural Paradise
If you are looking for a gateway next to nature and deciding between Cancun and Tulum, the answer is clear – Tulum! Feel at one with nature as you explore its vibrant forests full of birdsong and majestic iguanas. Lucky adventurers might even spot an anteater or jaguar in this idyllic paradise on earth. There’s no shortage of eco-friendly restaurants and accommodations to make the most of your journey, either. To top it off, don’t forget to bring a snorkel or book a diving tour to witness Tulum’s miraculous underwater biodiversity firsthand!
Tulum is a prime destination due to its many gorgeous cenotes, like Dos Ojos and Casa Cenote. To truly make the most of your trip in terms of nature exploration, rent a car so you can explore some lesser-known off-the-beaten-path spots too! Although there may be an entry fee for each cenote, I guarantee it will be worth every penny spent!
7. Cancun Is Easier To Get To
Cancun is a breeze to get to, with an expansive international airport and even exclusive public and private bus stations in every terminal at the airport. Booking a local ADO bus that takes you straight to downtown Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Merida or Tulum has never been easier! Be sure not to miss out on this convenient way of traveling while visiting Mexico’s Caribbean paradise.
Jumping on a large, modern ADO bus is convenient if you want to go downtown Cancun; however it won’t take you along the Hotel Zone. Therefore, if your accommodation is located in this renowned beach district area, pre-booking a private transfer or booking a shared shuttle upon arrival at the airport will be necessary to reach your desired destination. With plenty of options available once at the airport, there’s no need to worry about making transportation arrangements prior to arriving in Mexico!
8. Tulum Is not just for boho hippies and Yogis
While Tulum is renowned for its yoga culture, this breathtaking paradise has far more to offer than just downward dogs. Whether you’re a yogi or not, anyone can bask in the blissful vibes of this beachside getaway. From cozy cafes and luxurious spas to awe-inspiring ruins, let yourself soak up the buenas vibras and embrace all that Tulum has waiting for you!
Unsurprisingly, Tulum’s strong yoga presence has cultivated a more accepting and less judgmental environment for people from all backgrounds. On the contrary, Cancun’s Hotel Zone tends to have a much shallower vibe where individuals seem obsessed with their clothing choices or striving to appear affluent. In conclusion: leave your high heels back in Cancun – it’s time to get closer to yourself in Tulum!
9. Cancun Is the Party Capital of the Caribean
Cancun offers a paradise for party-goers. With the world’s most renowned clubs and electrifying nightlife at your fingertips, you’ll experience an unforgettable celebration destination. On the other hand, Tulum brings its own unique take on partying – more on this soon!
Experience a blast from the past and head to Coco Bongo, a nightclub owned by none other than The Mask’s star Jim Carrey. Make sure to snag your tickets early on in advance as they’re known for selling out quickly during peak season! If you’re looking for a more luxurious outing, then Mandala is definitely worth checking out with its plush sofas and sophisticated ambiance. And if size matters, venture over to The City–boasting an impressive capacity of 5,000 people–it is hailed as the largest club throughout Latin America!
If you are looking for an unforgettable night, why not go all out and get the open bar package? You will have unlimited access to your favorite club along with a never-ending supply of drinks throughout the entire evening.
10. Tulum Nightlife is Very VERY Vibrant as well
Tulum is home to more than just its tranquil and peaceful atmosphere – it also offers a unique nightlife that cannot be found in larger cities like Cancun. Imagine swaying your body along the beat of Bob Marley on the beach, instead of being squished up against strangers at an intense rave!
With so many options available within this gorgeous Mexican town, you can be sure that everyone will find something they’ll love doing while they’re here.
If you’re searching for a more unconventional experience, Tulum could be the ideal place. Here you can find ayahuasca ceremonies and other natural treatments to explore. You may even have the chance to sample some…unexpected substances – like licking a toad (yes, that’s real!). On the flip side though, if your idea of partying is just hanging out at bars with beers in hand, there are plenty of great options right along the beach too!
11. Food in Tulum is just mouthwatering
Are you seeking delectable and genuine cuisine? Look no further than Tulum! While Cancun has some excellent eateries, the food in Tulum is superior. From lavish fusion dishes to mouth-watering tacos – it’s all available here with something for every taste bud and budget. However, be aware that a few of the best restaurants can come at quite an expensive cost!
12. Cancun vs. Tulum: Weather
The proximity of Cancun and Tulum make the two destinations practically mirror images. With hot, humid weather in summer months with a heightened risk of hurricanes and dry air during wintertime, both destinations have nearly identical tropical climates.
Maximize your travel experience and save money by visiting in the “shoulder seasons”: May, September, October or November. You will be rewarded with fewer crowds and discounted prices – the perfect combination for a memorable journey!
Are you dreaming of the perfect climate and blue skies? Then, pick peak season from December through April – although be aware that it might come with more people and costlier prices. To really make sure that this is your ideal vacation period, check out these helpful posts for information about weather patterns each month as well as special events:
Mexico is usually a budget-friendly destination for most American travelers, however there are certain locales that have been known to be exceptionally pricey – Cancun and Tulum being the main culprits. In fact, I would venture to say that out of these two spots, Tulum can even be pricier than Cancun! Why you ask?
When it comes to Cancun, the majority of tourists have their sights set on the Hotel Zone. While there are numerous hostels and hotels inland as well, Tulum’s scenic landscape offers a unique opportunity to explore its small town atmosphere with accommodations that may not be quite as luxurious but still charge exorbitant prices for what they offer.
If you’re planning a beach getaway to Cancun or Tulum, be prepared for expensive food prices. However, if you venture downtown in either of these two Mexican cities, there are plenty of delicious and budget-friendly street food options available!
Is Cancun or Tulum More Expensive?
When it comes to selecting a destination, cost can be an important consideration. In the case of Cancun and Tulum in Mexico, which is more expensive? Based on my research, I would say that Tulum takes the cake when it comes to costs. This conclusion is drawn from several factors – including accommodation prices and dining options.
For a more exclusive experience, Tulum is the perfect spot to stay. However, if options and affordability are key components of your trip planning process then Cancun may be better suited for you. With its expansive selection of hotel choices ranging from chain hotels to AirBnBs – there’s something to suit any budget! Ultimately though it all depends on what best fits your preferences and needs for an unforgettable getaway.
Additionally, the food prices in Tulum can be somewhat steep. While the food is certainly delicious and definitely better than Cancun, there are not quite as many options available compared to other places you may have visited before. But if you rent an Airbnb for your stay and decide to cook during that time, then what kind of experience you will get out of this place is completely up to you!
Finally, consider transport expenses when planning a trip to Tulum. The airport is only 15 minutes away from Cancun while the drive to Tulum takes an hour. A taxi ride will be necessary for your journey there and remember that it’s worth paying extra for reliable transportation!
Exploring the Yucatan wouldn’t be complete without visiting a ruin. And of course, if you have to pick one, it has got to be the renowned Chichen Itza – an iconic landmark that is part of the 7 New World Wonders. Added bonus? Tulum is just a two-hour drive away from Chichen Itza while Cancun is roughly 2 ½ hours away!
When considering a Cancun to Tulum excursion, it’s critical to bear in mind that they cannot be flown between – the drive is approximately 1.5-2 hours depending on traffic conditions. The charming town of Valladolid typically marks this route as well. So while picking Tulum over Cancun solely due to Chichen Itza visits may not seem prudent, these two destinations undeniably make great bases for day trips!
Isla Mujeres is a mere 20 minute ferry ride away from Cancun, while Cozumel lies between Tulum and Cancun (1 hour to Playa del Carmen plus another 30 minutes by ferry). In addition, if you’re looking for cenotes or chances to snorkel with sea turtles in Akumal, then Tulum is your ideal destination. With the perfect combination of land and water activities available here, it’s no wonder that travelers flock to this area time after time!
15. Tulum is next to the majestic Cenotes and the Natural Parks
Tulum is a nature haven, boasting lush vegetation and ample outdoor activities. It’s known for its cenotes – limestone sinkholes that become caves which you can explore by swimming! And it also lies near Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, an UNESCO World Heritage Site with the distinction of being Mexico’s largest protected area. Experience the grandeur of this unique ecosystem through guided eco tours, where you may even get to observe some wildlife in their natural habitats.
The captivating cenotes scattered throughout Tulum are just minutes away and offer a plethora of attractions. Furthermore, you don’t need to leave the city to witness the monumental ruins – they are perched atop a cliff on one end of the beach zone! Aside from its natural beauty, travelers also flock here for its wellness offerings like yoga classes, vegan restaurants and delicious smoothie bowls. Simply put: Tulum is an all-around paradise awaiting your arrival!
Cancun vs. Tulum: Similarities
Despite their notable distinctions, Tulum and Cancun have much in common. Let’s investigate these shared traits!
Downtowns are not Great!
If you’re looking for an enjoyable tourist experience, Cancun and Tulum may not be your ideal destinations. Both of the downtown areas are in a rather poor state, and their respective beaches aren’t within walking distance from them either. However, if it’s walkability that you seek – then Cancun is better than Tulum as its layout consists of only three parts: the beach, ruins and downtown area!
In contrast to Tulum, Cancun is divided into two sectors – the Beach (Hotel Zone) and Downtown. Although downtown doesn’t have much for sightseeing or entertainment, if you’re staying in one of the hotels near the beach zone, then you’ll be right near multiple restaurants, stores, and nightlife spots. This means that during your vacation, there’s no need to rent a bike or car when all these attractions are within reach of your hotel!
Tulum, though becoming increasingly popular, remains a tranquil and peaceful town which feels much safer than the hectic Cancun. However, if you don’t practice proper caution while visiting either of these cities, petty theft can be an issue. As long as you stay in the more populated beach zones and use basic logic during your vacation, you should have no problem having an enjoyable yet secure trip. Tourist police forces are rampant in both places along with Mexico’s national guard to guarantee that guests feel comfortable at all times.
When exploring downtown Cancun and Tulum in the evening, it is crucial to take extra precaution. However, if you remain in well-lit areas and carefully store away your most valuable possessions, you should stay safe. For solo female travelers who’d like a better understanding of what they will experience while traveling here alone at night time, I have written articles that go into great detail about safety precautions in both Cancun and Tulum.
Exploring Cancun and getting around Tulum is a breeze, thanks to the plentiful public transportation options. Taxis are always available in both towns, while ADO bus stations can be found downtown—though they won’t take you all the way to the beach! Fortunately, it’s just as easy to transfer onto a smaller local bus or hail one of those trusty taxis for your journey right up to your seaside stay.
Cancun boasts a streamlined, modern bus station while Tulum is stuck in the past with its rundown and tiny transit hub. With more departure options available from Cancun than Tulum, you might have to make your way up there even if it means taking an inconvenient detour for your next destination.
Seaweed Season – Sargassum
Every year from May to October, unsuspecting tourists are met with a heartbreaking surprise on the beaches of Cancun and Tulum. Thick masses of brown seaweed called sargassum wash ashore in an almost unstoppable Caribbean-wide phenomenon. The locals do their best to clear the beach by wheelbarrows and bulldozers, yet it’s not always successful – as the deteriorating odor of rotting eggs permeates throughout this season!
If you are looking to explore the beaches of Yucatan during seaweed season (May-October), I suggest traveling to either Isla Mujeres or Cozumel instead. Both Tulum and Cancun experience similar severity when it comes to seaweed intrusion, so these two islands make for an ideal choice due to their eastern side being prone to more severe occurrences while the western shore remains mostly unaffected.
Staying connected in Cancun and Tulum is quite easy due to their good cellular reception. However, the further you travel from the main beaches or town of Tulum, this may not be as reliable. Although WiFi can vary depending on your accommodation plan, it’s no need for despair; there are plenty of nearby cafes and coworking spaces offering excellent internet access if needed!
In my experience, Cancun offers more dependable WiFi than Tulum due to its less frequent power outages. Even on the sunniest of days, electricity in Tulum can still be unreliable in tourist areas as compared to Cancun.
FAQs About Tulum vs. Cancun
Is Cancun cheaper than Tulum?
When it comes to budget-friendly vacations, Cancun has the upper hand over Tulum. While both locations offer pricey extravagances, you can visit Cancun and save substantially more than in its coastal counterpart—Tulum. This is due to the abundance of accommodations available downtown for a fraction of what you would pay in Tulum where hotel options are scarce and limited.
Which one is better: Tulum or Cancun?
Selecting between Tulum or Cancun boils down to personal taste. Those who seek the tranquility of nature and a leisurely nightlife scene should opt for Tulum, while those looking forward to an epic party experience with effortless access to some of the region’s most sought-after day trips would be better off in Cancun.
Is Cancun in Tulum?
Although Cancun and Tulum may be close geographically, they are two different places with distinct characteristics. Located approximately two hours apart in Mexico, while Tulum is a tranquil town of fewer than 50,000 people, Cancun is an ever-growing metropolis of almost one million inhabitants.
Is Tulum safer than Cancun?
Contrary to popular belief, Tulum is not any more secure than Cancun. The U.S. Department of State has indicated that both destinations are rated as Level 2 for cautionary safety measures, meaning you should take extra care during your travels in either location since they fall within the Quintana Roo state boundaries.
How many days do you need in Tulum and Cancun?
Dedicating a minimum of two to three days to both Tulum and Cancun is highly recommended if you’re looking for an idyllic beach getaway or would like to use either city as the starting point for your Yucatan adventures. Plan ahead and add more than just two days if time permits- it’s worth every second!
Are Cancun and Tulum safe?
Visiting Cancun and Tulum is safe as long as you exercise typical cautionary measures. For your own protection, steer clear of deserted roads during daylight or nighttime hours, refrain from wearing expensive pieces of jewelry and do not flaunt costly electronics. To be sure, drug cartels are present in both locations; however, they generally leave tourists alone.
Does Cancun or Tulum have better beaches?
If you’re looking for endless stretches of pristine sand with luxurious amenities, then Cancun is your spot; however, if a more rustic beach experience that doesn’t include towering high-rises and iguanas sunning on the rocks sounds like paradise to you, Tulum cannot be beaten.
Why is Tulum so trendy right now?
Boasting a variety of undiscovered beauty, Tulum has become the destination du jour for influencers and tourists alike. From the captivating ruins to the iconic Ven a la Luz sculpture, visitors are attempting to recreate the Instagram-worthy pictures their favorite stars have posted in this stunning location.
Tulum vs Cancun Final Verdict
Ultimately, it is up to you to determine whether Tulum or Cancun is better for your needs. I imagine at this stage that, you have already come to a conclusion.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I am utterly in love with Tulum – it’s a 100% preference. The tranquility of the city is unbeatable for me, as well as its stylish boutique hotels and renowned gastronomy scene. But what really completes my perfect getaway there are all the opportunities to truly immerse myself into the culture by visiting ruins and cenotes – an experience you won’t find just chilling out at the beach!
Without a doubt, Tulum is my top pick, but that doesn’t mean I would not relish in the beauty of Cancun. Whether you’re traveling with your family or friends or just need an unforgettable vacation for your bachelor/bachelorette party – this spot provides it all! Minutes away from the airport and encompassed by resorts, Cancun’s popularity amongst tourists isn’t surprising at all. Depending on what kind of getaway you seek – either tranquil or wilder – there’s something here to satisfy everyone’s style!
What type of trip you plan to take should be determined when deciding between Tulum and Cancun. For intimate trips such as couples getaways, honeymoons, romantic breaks and wellness retreats then Tulum is ideal. It’s also great for low-key bachelor or bachelorette parties. When it comes to bigger groups like families on vacation, spring breakers or those looking for an all-inclusive experience, then head over to Cancun!
Ready To Hit the Beach?
I hope this post has given you an understanding of the differences between Cancun and Tulum. If there are any inquiries that remain unanswered, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and I’ll be more than willing to provide assistance!
Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com 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.
🚙 CancunAirport 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.
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