Tulum vs. Cancun: which destination is the best?

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Planning a Riviera Maya vacation in Mexico and wondering if you want to keep exploring Tulum or Cancun? Well, both cities are top vacation destinations, especially when it comes to beach life. Over 2.4 million travelers visit Cancun each year and Tulum receives over 1.5 million tourists. There are obvious reasons why these Mexican cities are the most popular in the country. They both offer incredible white sand beaches, accessible Mayan ruins, lush forests and fantastic views. When two destinations are so good, choosing one can be a difficult task. Ideally, visiting both cities would be great, but it’s not an option for every tourist. While these two gorgeous cities have a lot in common, they offer travelers very diverse vacation experiences. Here is a guide to help visitors choose the right destination for their next vacation.

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Tulum vs. Cancun

About Tulum

Tulum is known for its relaxed atmosphere. This means that visiting Tulum is for travelers looking for a completely relaxing experience. Its atmosphere is so relaxed and people are not rushing to do staff. The place is full of trendy hotels and upscale restaurants, serving great food, hostels and colorful food stalls. Despite its laid-back atmosphere, Tulum guarantees lively nightlife and there are lively places to explore. The destination attracts families, backpackers, as well as A-listers. Yogis can also have a wonderful vacation in Tulum, thanks to the many yoga classes offered across the city.


The beaches of Tulum offer something special for beach lovers, especially snorkelers and divers, as there is a beautiful underwater scene to discover. The reef fish are colorful and the marine life is breathtaking. Travelers can take day trips and explore Tulum’s ancient ruins, blue holes, and scenic spas.

In terms of development, Cancun is more developed, and travelers are less likely to find high-rises in Tulum.

About Cancun

On the other hand, Cancun is full of skyscrapers and a plethora of beautiful restaurants serving great food. This destination is famous for its lively nightlife and has become a favorite spot for partygoers. Nightclubs are almost everywhere in Cancun, and most travelers come here for spring break.


While Cancun is popular for its big party scene, there are other great experiences travelers can have in this gorgeous destination. Luxury hotels and beautiful resorts are affordable, and travelers of all budgets are always catered for.

The resorts are spectacular and offer the tastiest cocktails and incredible views of the Caribbean. Cancun is a popular destination for couples and a perfect getaway for visitors looking for a break from city life. Those who visit this city have the beautiful Caribbean Sea right next to them, giving them plenty of opportunities to experience most of the place. Tourists can take multi-day trips and indulge in enjoyable underwater activities.


Tulum and Cancun are amazing to visit any time of the year as there is so much to explore and each season offers different attractions.

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Getting to Tulum Vs. Cancun

Cancun International Airport serves the entire Riviera Maya and every visitor traveling to the Yukutan Peninsula must make their way to the airport. Tulum, on the other hand, does not yet have an airport, although there are plans to open Tulum International Airport by 2023. Without an airport, it takes a bit longer to get to Tulum because you have to connect via Cancun.

  • The time it takes to get to Tulum from Cancun, by mode of transportation: That’s about two hours.

Travelers can use private shuttles, rent a car, or take a taxi from Cancun International Airport to Tulum.

When it comes to getting to either city, getting to Cancun is definitely faster, more affordable, and easier than Tulum.

Tulum vs. Cancun: Accommodation

In both cities, tourists will have no difficulty in finding accommodation. The difference is that visitors will find Cancun’s large all-inclusive resorts and other incredible condos for chilly nights. Downtown Cancun, hotels ranging from business hotels to resort hotels, come in a variety of sizes.

  • Top hotels in Cancun: Turquoise at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Presidente Cancun

On the other hand, Tulum has small boutique hotels and not large resorts and hotels like in Cancun. In these small hotels, travelers can encounter nature at its most impressive, and they are also luxurious. Some of Cancun’s finest hotels are set up around Tulum Beach.

  • The top hotels in Tulum: Shambala Petit Hotel, Azucar Hotel Tulum, Papaya Playa Project

While Cancun is more developed than Tulum, when it comes to accommodation cost, Tulum is more expensive. Travelers can spend around $250 to stay in a 5-star hotel per night and around $70 for a three-star or lower. Budget hotels can cost around $30 on average.

In Tulum, one is more likely to spend around $400 per night to sleep in a luxury hotel, $80 for a mid-budget option, and $20 for a budget hotel.

Cancun is a better option when deciding which destination to visit based on accommodation, as there are plenty of luxury hotels at affordable prices and various budget options.

Tulum vs. Cancun: the cost of the trip

Tulum is one of the most expensive destinations in Mexico, making it the second option when traveling on a budget. It is however possible to explore both cities on a budget, especially if one is visiting for a long time.

Use couch surfing to stay homestay for free. This keeps travel costs down and also gives travelers a chance to interact with the locals and learn about their way of life.

A local meal will cost around $4.5 in Tulum and $4 in Cancun. It will cost you about $50 on average to stay a day in Cancún, and $80 in Tulum.

Cancun is a destination when comparing the two cities based on travel costs.

Which Mexican city is the best for a vacation?

Cancun is the best destination, and not just because of its vibrant nightlife and affordability. There are plenty of activities and attractions to explore in Cancun. But if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere with not-so-busy nightlife and beautiful sandy beaches, consider Tulum.


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