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Cancun vs Tulum: Which is Better And Where Should You Stay?

Should you travel to Cancun or Tulum? Explore the best of both Mexican destinations and discover what each place has to offer for you and your other half.

Today I am going to be taking a deep dive into two Mexican vacation destinations that you may be familiar with: Cancun and Tulum. In this article, I am going to show you the pros and cons of each so that you can decide which spot makes for the best place for you and our partner and you can make a more informed choice about where to stay together.

Whether looking for activities, accessibility, ambiance, amazing beaches, or the best pricing, this brief overview of each place will give you all the information that you need. 

Location and distance

So where are these destinations? Let's take them one at a time so you can get a better idea of the area. Both are located on the Yucatan peninsula, in the Quintana Roo state on the Eastern Caribbean coast of Mexico, however, they are 1.5 to 2 hours apart from each other. 

Where is Cancun on the map?

Cancun is the main hub of activity where Cancun International Airport is located. 

This is likely where you will fly into for either location meaning that anywhere you stay in Cancun is going to be a lot closer to your flights. Cancun is right at the end of the Yucatan peninsula on the map almost as if pointing towards Florida. 

How to get to Tulum

Tulum airport does exist and you can fly there if you choose but a lot of flights go straight to Cancun. This could extend your journey slightly. How far is Tulum from Cancun? About an hour and 40 minutes by car. You will be traveling down south but you are still on the peninsula and you will still stick by the coastline. 

Atmosphere and ambiance

People travel to each destination for different reasons. Cancun is known more for its shopping malls, busy areas, numerous attractions, and lively atmosphere. Cancun is a large and prospering city which means that it is more about excitement and entertainment. It is also very well known as a vibrant center for nightlife.

On the other hand, Tulum is a very small place that holds a quieter ambiance more suited to nature lovers. There is not a lot going on here but that is sometimes the ambiance that people desire. It does maintain good cultural aspects with a very laid back vibe. Overall it offers an ecofriendly experience with an almost hippy tropical feel. 

View of the ruins of Tulum and the natural surroundings

What to do in each destination

Looking for activities and attractions? Here are some things you can do… 

  1. Take a Chichen Itza tour: This wonder of the world is a 2 hour car ride from Tulum and half an hour more from Cancun. So it is slightly closer to Tulum, but only a bit. 
  2. Day trip to Isla Mujeres: The island of Isla Mujeres is only a 20 minute boat ride from Cancun. If traveling from Tulum, you are better off traveling to Cancun first and then getting the boat from there, or else it may be quite a long boat journey. 
  3. Visit Cozumel Island: You can enjoy a more or less equal distance to Cozumel from both locations though it may be slightly closer to Tulum. 
  4. Walking or biking: Overall Cancun is more walkable than Tulum even though it's bigger. This is because it's not as split up as Tulum is. But, if you rent a bike you can likely get around to most areas that you need to. 
  5. Bars and restaurants: Some of the best spots may already be in your resort but if you are searching around to see what else is available then both locations do offer some variety. Although, there is a lot more in Cancun than in Tulum. 
  6. Other tours and attractions: There is so much to do in Cancun and the surrounding areas. For the best and most exciting activities you may find that you have easier access from Cancun than Tulum or that a lot of the tours start from the city since it is an easy center for everything around. 
  7. Online activity: Though you should avoid using your devices all the time on vacation you may want to live stream on social media or check your emails from time to time. If so, you are better off in Cancun for reliability reasons. Tulum is an eco spot where the electricity can go out for a variety of reasons. 

Beaches comparison

Both Cancun and Tulum are famous for their beautiful golden beaches. But which one is better? Well in many ways, they are similar in quality and color since they are on the same coast. However, they do offer a different feel.

  • Tulum is more rusticly beautiful. It gives off a more natural feel. It is more like a real beach that has been created by the ocean itself. This means that you are going to find more imperfections such as pieces of driftwood etc but these set the tone for a very environmentally friendly location. 
  • Cancun beaches are more perfect. I do not mean that they are better, just that they are designed to be more pristine and clear. The hotels and resorts work hard to clear the beaches regularly of anything that is not powdery white sand. 

What about the waves? Is one spot harder to swim in than the other? In reality, the water is equal for both locations since they are not that far away from each other, meaning that you can expect relatively calm waters in both spots. But, there are areas like Playa Mujeres in Cancun that have the natural protection of an island barrier in front of them helping to keep the water calm. 

Couple walking through the waves of a beach in Cancun

Which is most cost effective?

So will you get better value for money in Cancun or Tulum? Now that is a hard question to answer. With the knowledge that tours and attractions will remain equal in expense, let's break it down into 3 other main costs.

Transportation: Tulum is slightly further away from the main events and activities including the airport meaning that it may cost you slightly more on transport than if you had stayed in Cancun. 

Bars and clubs: If you are looking for a drink by the beach or some nighttime refreshments you will find that there are a lot more options in Cancun. As a result of having fewer options in Tulum, you can find yourself paying more. 

Accommodations: This one I cannot easily answer because it depends on what kind of hotel or resort you are searching for. What can be said, though, is that you will have a lot more options in Cancun which may lead to more possibilities for deals and discounts on your suite. 

Oceanfront accomodationss in Cancun for couples

So what's the verdict?

While there seems to be little difference between the two, overall Cancun can be more cost effective than Tulum. Obviously, this also depends on your choices but on an equal comparison, the pricing is driven up slightly more in Tulum. 

Which one is better?

Ok, now we get to the really hard questions. Cancun Vs Tulum. The real question is not which one is better but which one would be better for your next escape. Let's review the main things we have learned…

  • Cancun is a busier and more lively area with more activities, attractions, and options. It can be slightly more cost effective and has easier access to most places. 
  • Tulum is a quieter spot with a more natural feel with fewer options, more travel time, and a slightly higher price range. 

So what is the solution? You probably expect me to tell you to stay in the Hotel Zone of Cancun, don't you? Well, there is a better option that has not been covered. There exists a place where you can get the quiet tranquility of Tulum whilst remaining close to everything you need in Cancun. 

Come and discover Playa Mujeres! Only 40 minutes away from the airport, which is an hour less than Tulum, Playa Mujeres is a double gated resort community that sends you up north to some of the best beaches and most secluded spots in the state whilst keeping you at arm's length of all the most exciting activities and attractions.

You put yourself on the edge of Cancun so that the best of both worlds can be yours to enjoy. But that is not to say that you shouldn't visit the center of Cancun or Tulum. In fact, from Playa Mujeres, you can easily take a day trip to both locations so you get to enjoy everything together during the same vacation. 

Where should you stay?

There are Tulum All Inclusive resorts just as there are plenty of places to stay in the Cancun Hotel Zone. But bearing in mind my recommendation of Playa Mujeres just north of Cancun, there is a wonderful paradise you may wish to consider for an intimate couples' escape.

This haven of romance and relaxation is called Beloved Playa Mujeres

Beloved Playa Mujeres hotel for couples in Cancun

Known as a quiet hideaway and a hotel exclusively for couples, this little haven of serenity is an oasis of All Inclusive luxury in one of the best and most coveted locations in the Mexican Caribbean. 

Don't believe me? Go ahead and have a look for yourself!

Then, all that is left is to pack your bags and start looking forward to your upcoming getaway!

Tags: Beloved Playa Mujeres, Caribbean travel tips

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