When it comes to deciding whether to visit Cancun or Tulum, many people find themselves wondering which one is better.
Both destinations offer stunning beaches and plenty of activities, but some key differences can make one or the other more appealing depending on your interests.
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In this guide, we’ll look at each destination’s pros and cons so you can decide which is right for you. We’ll also compare different elements so that you can learn more about both destinations.
Cancun VS Tulum Overview
Cancun is a well-known resort town in Mexico that’s famed for its beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters, and lively nightlife.
It’s a popular destination for spring breakers and young travelers looking to party, but there’s also plenty to do if you’re not interested in that scene.
Cancun is home to several luxury resorts and many affordable hotels and hostels. It’s easy to find flights to Cancun from most major airports in North America and Europe.
Cancun is perfect for travelers who want to be able to do a little bit of everything on their vacation, with plenty of options for activities, dining, and nightlife.
Tulum is a smaller town located on the Riviera Maya, about an hour and a half drive from Cancun. It’s become increasingly popular in recent years for its bohemian vibe, beautiful beaches, and nearby ruins.
Tulum is less developed than Cancun, with fewer high-rise resorts and a smaller selection of hotels and hostels. However, there are still plenty of places to stay, and the town is slowly growing.
Tulum is less accessible than Cancun, as there are no direct flights from North America or Europe. You’ll have to fly into Cancun and then take a bus or transfer to Tulum.
Tulum is perfect for travelers who want a more relaxing vacation with plenty of time to enjoy the beach and nearby ruins without big city vibes. It’s also an excellent option for expats and digital nomads.
Cancun Pros And Cons
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of staying in Cancun.
- Beautiful beaches with clear turquoise waters
- Lively nightlife and party scene
- Easy to find flights from most major airports
- Many luxury resorts as well as affordable hotels and hostels
- Plenty of activities, dining, and nightlife options
- It can be crowded and touristy
- Beaches can be packed with people
- Loud music at night can be disruptive
- Not as authentic of an experience
Tulum Pros And Cons
Now let’s take a look at the pros and cons of staying in Tulum.
- Beautiful beaches with clear turquoise waters
- Bohemian vibe and less touristy than Cancun
- Many affordable hotels and hostels
- Nearby ruins to explore
- Less developed than Cancun with fewer resorts and dining options
- No direct flights from North America or Europe
- Transportation can be difficult and time-consuming
Cancun VS Tulum: Things To Do
Both Cancun and Tulum offer plenty of things to do, but there are some key differences between the two destinations.
Cancun is a larger city with more development, so there are more activities, nightlife options, and hotels or restaurants to choose from.
Cancun can be a good base to explore Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, or the nearby ruins of Chichen Itza or Coba.
Tulum is a smaller town, but it’s located close to the ruins of Tulum, which are some of the best-preserved ruins in Mexico.
The town of Tulum is also growing, so there are more things to do now than there were in the past. However, it still doesn’t have as many options as Cancun.
That said, Tulum is an excellent base to organize day trips from. You can read our guide to the best day trips from Tulum to learn more.
For example, you could easily visit the nearby town of Playa del Carmen or take a day trip to the island of Cozumel. You could also use Tulum as a base to visit Akumal or Bacalar.
Finally, you can use Tulum as a base to explore the nearby cenotes.
Cancun VS Tulum: Weather And When To Visit
Cancun and Tulum’s weather is similar, as they’re both located in the Yucatan Peninsula.
However, there are some slight differences. Cancun is a bit further north than Tulum, so the weather is slightly warmer in Cancun.
The best time to visit Cancun is from December to April, when the weather is warm and dry. The rainy season runs from May to November, and while it’s still possible to visit during this time, you may experience some rain.
The best time to visit Tulum is also from December to April, when the weather is warm and dry. However, Tulum is a bit further south than Cancun, so the temperatures are slightly cooler.
Cancun VS Tulum: Prices
Prices in Cancun and Tulum are similar, but there are some slight differences.
Cancun is a bit more expensive than Tulum, as it’s a larger city with more development. However, you can still find affordable hotels and hostels in Cancun.
Tulum is less developed than Cancun, so there are fewer luxury resorts. However, it’s possible to find affordable accommodations in Tulum.
In terms of activities, Cancun is more expensive than Tulum. For example, a tour of the Chichen Itza ruins costs about $30 in Cancun, while a tour of the Tulum ruins costs about $5.
But if you want to visit Chichen Itza from Tulum, you’ll have to factor in the cost of transportation.
Cancun VS Tulum: Safety
Now that you know the differences between Cancun and Tulum, you might be wondering which one is the safest place to visit.
In general, both Cancun and Tulum are safe places to visit. However, there has been an increase in crime in the Riviera Maya in recent years. In particular, there have been reports of shootings in Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
These are usually linked to cartel crimes and are not directed toward tourists. Although, travelers can be caught in the crossfire.
To stay safe, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and not flash any valuables in public. It’s also a good idea to avoid walking alone at night or taking taxis that are not from a reputable company.
If you’re planning on partying in Mexico, you must be aware of the dangers of drinking too much alcohol. There have been reports of travelers being drugged and robbed after accepting drinks from strangers.
So, it’s best to only accept drinks from people you know and trust.
There have been cases of police arresting drunk people in the streets for disturbing the peace. You will likely have to pay a bribe to be released if this happens.
How To Decide Between Tulum And Cancun
Now that you know the differences between Cancun and Tulum, you might be wondering how to decide which one is right for you.
If you’re looking for a lively party scene, then Cancun is the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, then Tulum might be a better option.
Cancun is also a good choice if you want more development and amenities. However, Tulum is better if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more natural setting. That said, Tulum is also known for its high traffic, so make sure to pick a place to stay close to the beach.
When it comes to prices, both Cancun and Tulum are similar. However, Cancun is slightly more expensive.
Regarding safety, both Cancun and Tulum are relatively safe places to visit. However, there has been an increase in crime in the Riviera Maya in recent years. So, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings.
Ultimately, visiting Cancun or Tulum depends on your personal preferences and the day trips/activities you wish to experience during your stay in Mexico.
To help you decide, we suggest you list the places you wish to visit during your trip to Mexico.
Once you know the sites and attractions you wish to visit, take a look at the map to see where they’re located. Is it closer to Cancun or Tulum? Then, you’ll be able to see which city is the best base for your holidays in Mexico.
Cancun Vs Tulum: Final Verdict
In the end, it really depends on what you are looking for when visiting Mexico.
If you want a lively party scene or a luxury resort, then Cancun is probably your best bet.
However, if you are looking for a more relaxed atmosphere and easy access to ruins or cenotes, Tulum might be better suited for you.
Either way, both cities are relatively safe to visit and have their own charms. It just comes down to personal preference in the end! Think of it as a city vs. a small town.
Visiting Mexico soon? You might also want to read one of the following guides: