Tulum is a beautiful Mexican town. It is located on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and is blessed with beautiful white sand beaches, calm warm waters, and a great climate all year-round.
Tulum is known for its turquoise waters, magnificent cenotes, intense party scene, and for its luxurious hotels. Tulum is also a popular destination for scuba divers, as the town’s turquoise waters are also home to a tremendous variety of marine life and stunning coral reefs.
Tulum is also known for the town’s laid-back, bohemian atmosphere and is very popular with eco-conscious travelers that are looking for a more authentic vacation than Tulum’s famous and touristy neighbor – Cancun.
Beach or Pueblo Town in Tulum?
Now the main dilemma for most first-time visitors in Tulum is whether to stay in the Beach or in the Town Center (Pueblo).
Let’s start with the majestic beach. The Beach Tulum offers visitors posh hotels, a stylish party scene, fine dining restaurants, and boutique shopping. The beach zone as it is called by locals is divided into four distinct areas … the zones:
Confusing? Don’t worry…we will make everything easy for you…just keep reading.
Let’s have a look at Tulum town now.
The Town (Pueblo) is ideal if you are on a budget or are looking for a more authentic Mexican experience … Tulum is not an affordable destination so every $ counts. Pueblo has a large selection of affordable lodging, more casual food and dining options, casual pubs, and unpretentious dance clubs.
Now that you know all the Tulum basics, let’s take a deeper dive into this amazing vibrant town. There are three Tulum areas that are popular with travelers. And the good news is that each area offers a very unique and different vibe and ambiance.
The “Tulum Pueblo” or “Tulum Town” is located 2 miles off the coast. It’s a short 10-15 minute drive from the beach and everything here feels more authentic and traditional. You can find authentic Mexican food and local fresh produce, cheaper accommodation and casual dining and a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.
Pueblo has a very nice central plaza that is easily accessible and offers a selection of excellent, authentic, and genuine Mexican restaurants and many entertainment options (night dance clubs, bars, and parties). There is also a large selection of midrange and budget hotels and hostels.
You will also find many small local shops selling local crafts, delicious produce, and other goods and services.
The Pueblo is also makes for a great base to explore all the amazing and exciting things that the surrounding area has to offer. Mayan ruins, cenotes (natural sinkholes filled with water), and several other activities are just a short bike ride away. The area is also popular with wellness travelers because of the yoga studios, gyms, and wellness centers that are operating in Pueblo.
Overall, Tulum Pueblo is a great choice for those who want to experience good old Tulum and have a more authentic and traditional experience or for travelers that are on a budget.
Great for nightlife, bars, cheap beer and affordable restaurants, quiet cafes, small local shops, gyms and a more authentic Mexican experience
You can move around with your bike (rent or get one from your hotel)
Overall, Tulum Beach is a great choice if you want to be close to the beach, enjoy watersports, have a bigger budget, and are looking for a more upscale vacation experience.
Tulum Beach Highlights
White sandy beach with turquoise water …at your very feet
Great for watersports: swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, boat tours, and many many others
Biking distance from some of the popular cenotes: Encantado, Corazon del Paraiso, and cenote Escondido
Vibrant beach clubs
Generally a safe area in Tulum
Aldea Zama zone has come to life very recently. It is an upscale development located just outside of Tulum downtown. It boasts modern large homes and luxury amenities. We have stayed in Aldea Zama many times and if you are looking for a quiet, private, and secluded vacation then Aldea Zama might be perfect for you.
It is located just south of downtown Tulum Pueblo (halfway between the heart of the Pueblo and the Beach). This is a very peaceful suburban area, that many expats call home. There are a few luxury hotels and restaurants. The area I still under development so we will be updating this section very frequently to give you the latest and greatest.
The area is also home to a growing number of luxury villas, rental homes, mid-range hotels and restaurants, and small shops.
The Tulum ruins are just a short drive away from Aldea Zana.
Overall, Aldea Zama is great for those who are looking for a more private and secluded type of vacation experience, or for luxury hotel, Airbnb and Vrbo homes and amenities.
Aldea Zama’s Highlights
The area is a short walking distance from the beach and Caribbean sea waters
Very close to Tulum Mayan Ruins and Archeological Zone
Several restaurants and dining options (more being developed)
Quiet coffee shops
Many options for inexpensive eco-hotels and ecolodges
Can feel a lot more quiet and relaxed than in other areas of Tulum
Ultimately, choosing the best area for you to stay in Tulum will depend on your personal preferences and vacation style, your budget, and the type of vacation experience you’re looking for.
Should you stay in Tulum or Playa del Carmen?
For those looking for a posh the perfect beach getaway, Tulum has it all! Breathtaking white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Tulum is also more expensive than some of its neighbors. Playa del Carmen is more economical in comparison, but the larger city provides plenty of entertainment options such as nightlife activities and an abundance of all inclusive resorts to choose from.
Is it better to stay in Tulum or Cancun?
If you just have a weekend or less than 3 days then Cancun with its airport will likely be the ideal choice for you. Cancun is also Ieasier for families and groups looking to party. Yet if it’s pristine beaches and Mayan ruins that capture your heart, then Tulum should undoubtedly top your list of places to consider!
How long should you stay in Tulum?
We suggest that you spend a minimum of three days in the in Tulum to have enough time to properly explore its ancient Mayan ruins and stunning beaches. That being said, we highly recommend at least 5 days here to experience the countless attractions and sites and have enough time to unwind and take everything in!
Kite and windsurfers, get ready – Tulum offers some of the most idyllic spots to enjoy your favorite sport.
When is best to go to Tulum?
Best time to visit Tulum is between November and January. In that window of time, you’ll avoid the unforgiving hurricane season and the crowds while benefiting from lower prices and deals.
Is downtown Tulum safe?
While Tulum is generally safe, there has been an alarming increase in crime rate. Recently, the state of Quintana Roo has seen a worrying rise in drug and cartel-related criminal activity. For your safety, it is wise to take sensible precautions when traveling to Mexico – specifically by acquiring travel insurance for peace of mind.
Is it better to stay in Tulum town or beach?
For those looking for an affordable trip to Tulum, staying in the town is your best bet. That said, if you have a bigger budget, living on the beach provides is definitely the way to go.
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.
The Pueblo, Beach Town, or Middle Beach Zone are the finest places to stay in Tulum for a night out, the Tulum Beach South Zone or Aldea Zama are great for families, and the North or South Beach Zone are best for romance and honeymoons (though pretty much every part of Tulum is perfect for a honeymoon holiday). Tulum Beach Hotels and beach resorts are more posh and expensive.
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