Tulum or Cancun: Which Mexico City is Better to Visit?

tulum or cancun
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Are you looking at where to vacation in Mexico? Well, Tulum and Cancun are two of the most popular areas to consider for your next Mexican getaway. Both reside on the east coast, and each offers an abundance of picturesque beaches, lush jungles, and breathtaking views.

Picking either destination would be a brilliant choice, and ideally, we would suggest visiting both. In a perfect world we would recommend staying in Cancun for ten nights, and another seven to eight days in Tulum. However, we understand this isn’t an option for everyone.

Despite their similarities, Tulum and Cancun offer two very diverse experiences. Which is why we have created this comparison guide: to help you decide which holiday destination is better for you.

Tulum vs Cancun: Accommodation

cancun hotel
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

When it comes to accommodation, both Tulum and Cancun have an abundance of hotels and resorts available. From inexpensive hostels and guesthouses to luxury villas and five-star resorts, it’s safe to say that it won’t be difficult in finding somewhere to rest your head.

In Cancun, you can expect to pay roughly $250 per night for an extravagant 5-star hotel; $70 for mid-budget options (three stars and less); and as little as $30 a night for low-budget hostels and guesthouses.

If you are looking for where to stay in Cancun, then we highly recommend the following:

Luxury: Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun ($270 per night)
Mid-range: Emporio Cancun ($70 per night)
Low-budget: Hotel Kavia ($20 per night)

Tulum is marginally more expensive than Cancun, but still has plenty of options to suit all types of budgets. You can either stay in Pueblo (the town) or on the beach (Playa). For travellers on a budget then we would recommend staying in Pueblo, as you can pick up some incredible bargains on Airbnb and hotels. For holiday-goers with a bigger budget, then staying on the beach would be an excellent choice.

For Tulum, we recommend these options:

Luxury: Hotel Ma’xanab Tulum ($400 per night)
Mid-range: Orchid House Tulum ($80 per night)
Low-budget: Joy Tulum ($20 per night)

Winner: Cancun

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Tulum vs Cancun: Prices

tulum and cancun prices
Image by josemiguels from Pixabay

Generally, Cancun is cheaper than Tulum. Tulum is one of the most expensive parts of Mexico; however, it is possible to visit both destinations on a small budget.

If you spend long enough in Mexico, you can pick up some great bargains on accommodation. Also, you can websites such as couchsurf to stay for free, which is a great chance to learn about the local way of life. Getting to know the locals is always a terrific idea, and you can find cheap local places to eat for as little as $4.

Average costs of living in Cancun:

Local Beer – $2
Bottle of Water – $0.60
Local Meal – $4.50
Meal at a mid-range restaurant – $15
Apartment (One Month) – $370

Average costs of living in Tulum:

Local Beer – $2
Bottle of Water – $0.60
Local Meal – $4
Meal at a mid-range restaurant – $15
Apartment (One Month) – $500

A rough daily budget for visiting Cancun with a low-cost accommodation choice will be around $50 per day. For Tulum, you should budget a minimum of $70 – $80 per day.

To travel for less, avoid eating out and cook at home whenever possible. If you are staying for longer than one month, then you can usually save by booking a long-term rental on Airbnb.

Winner: Cancun

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Tulum vs Cancun: Food

mexico food
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Cancun and Tulum is a food lovers paradise. Prepare for your taste buds to be catapulted to a different level. When most people think of Mexican food, they think of tacos and burritos, but authentic Mexican cuisine is so much more!

Some popular dishes that you must try in Mexico include Chilaquiles, which are esentially tortillas topped with salsa, fried eggs, pulled chicken, as well as cheese and cream. Pambazo, which is a type of Mexican sandwhich dipped in Salsa. And of course Mole, which is a national dish that is made from chocolate, spices, garlic, seeds, and a variety of chillies.

In both Tulum and Cancun, you will find an array of food restaurants, from authentic Mexico taco places to raw vegan joints to familiar fast-food chains and everything in-between, there is really something for everyone in Mexico.

Best restaurants in Tulum: 

  • Chamicos
  • Taqueria Don Beto
  • Aguacate Limon
  • CrisPac

Best restaurants in Cancun: 

  • Lorenzillo’s
  • The White Box
  • Black Hole
  • Restaurante Benazuza

Winner: Draw

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Tulum vs Cancun: Beaches

Tulum beach
Image by tekukuno from Pixabay

There is no shortage of white sandy beaches in either Tulum or Cancun. However, in our opinion, Tulum has a better choice of beaches. Although Cancun has the beautiful aqua water that is second to none, the beaches tend to be smaller and usually filled with tourists.

The beaches in Tulum still have that stunning aqua water, and there is just more to choose from – plus, they are usually less packed. The beaches in Tulum are world-class, and it’s certainly something that makes the town stand out from the crowd.

Best beaches in Cancun:

  • Playa Chac Mool
  • Playa Delfines
  • Playa Maroma
  • Akumal Beach

Best beaches in Tulum:

  • Playa Paraíso
  • Playa Ruinas
  • Secret Beach
  • Las Palmas Public Beach

Winner: Tulum

Tulum vs Cancun: Attractions

tourist attractions mexico
Image by Darvin Santos from Pixabay

Whether you visit Tulum or Cancun, you won’t run out of activities at either destination. Although there are plenty of things to do at both, it seems like Tulum comes out the winner this round. From awe-inspiring cenotes, stunning beaches, ancient ruins, water activities, and exploring the town – Tulum is filled with incredible things to see and do.

Cancun is the party central of Mexico, but there is still plenty to do besides partying! Days can be spent exploring the Mayan pyramids, lounging by the Caribbean waters, or exploring the magnificent underwater world. Of course, the nightlife scene in Cancun is also thriving, so you have plenty to do in the evening time.

Winner: Tulum

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Tulum vs Cancun: Nightlife

nightlife in tulum and cancun
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Cancun is the party central, and there is an unlimited array of bars, clubs, and party resorts. It’s to no surprise that Cancun is the number one spring break destination. During the daytime, the city of Cancun is all about beautiful white sandy beaches, but in the nighttime it becomes one giant party.

The best nightclubs in Cancun:

  • Coco Bongo
  • The City Nightclub Cancun
  • ANTIQUE Puerto Cancun
  • Congo Bar Cancún

There’s not a heap of nightlife in Tulum, but the vibe is so laid-back that you probably won’t mind partying in one of the local bars. Most of the Tulum nightlife sits in the areas of Pueblo or Middle Beach Zone. For a more upscale and classier vibe, then Pueblo is a great pick. If you’re looking for an affordable night out with a laid-back vibe, then check out Middle Beach Zone.

The best nightclubs in Tulum:

  • Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar
  • Pasito Tun Tun
  • Fruity Cocktail Bar
  • Amapola Tulum

Winner: Cancun

Tulum or Cancun : Where is better?

tulum or cancun
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Cancun is our destination of choice, but Tulum is also worth visiting. If you’re looking for comfort, great nightlife, an abundance of activities, and somewhere affordable – then Cancun is the destination for you.

For a more laid-back, quiet destination; with beautiful white sandy beaches and tame but enjoyable nightlife – then why not check out Tulum?

Let us know in the comments your favorite destination! If you enjoyed reading, why not check out some of our other travel guides?

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