Tulum vs Cancun

Is Cancun or Tulum Better To Visit?

cancun vs tulum _ Is Cancun or Tulum Better To Visit pinterestTulum vs Cancun

Is Cancun or Tulum Better To Visit?

Despite the fact that Tulum and Cancun are both located in the state of Quintana Roo, these two destinations could not be more diverse.

Like chalk and cheese, Tulum and Cancun are so different from one another offering two completely different travel experiences that will appeal to two completely different types of travelers

Therefore, in this Tulum vs Cancun blog, we examine all the differences between these two popular travel destinations in order to help you decide whether Tulum or Cancun is better to visit.


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What Is It Like In Cancun?

For many travelers, Cancun represents the perfect holiday destination. With year-round perfect weather, flawless tropical beaches and a vibrant nightlife scene, it’s not hard to understand why Cancun is so enticing. As a top destination for spring breakers, honeymooners and one-week vacationers, Cancun’s vast assortment of fancy yet affordable holiday resorts and completely rambunctious nightclubs offer many people the perfect escape from reality.

Absolutely filled to the brim with an assortment of different bars, clubs and party resorts there is no surprise why party obsessed spring breakers flock to Cancun for a week of pure mayhem. In addition to the spring break crowd, Cancun is also a mainstream destination for tourists (notice I did not say backpackers) expecting to do nothing more than lounge by the pool sipping cocktails all day at their boujee high-end resort.

In other words, despite Cancun’s undeniable popularity amongst one-week holiday tourists, for those looking for a more authentic and less westernized travel experience, Cancun is certainly not it. As a mainstream travel destination, everything about Cancun is super touristy and there is absolutely no escaping that.

playa chac mool cancun beach best instagram spots in the riviera maya mexico

What Is It Like In Tulum?

On the other hand, Tulum is the polar opposite of what you will find in Cancun.  In fact, these two cities are like night and day in terms of the atmosphere and surroundings they provide, despite their one common similarity that everything is overpriced.

Absent of all the skyscraper resorts, chain restaurants and massive nightclubs found in Cancun, Tulum showcases a completely different side of the Riviera Maya focused around lazy bohemian beach vibes seamlessly blended with a trendy upscale ambiance.

The undeniably hippie-chic vibes of Tulum is a large part of the widespread appeal.  Filled with a plethora of Instagrammable boutique hotels and trendy high-end restaurants, Tulum draws many comparisons to the popular Southeast Asian island of Bali.

Attracting a very diverse crowd ranging from famous celebrities and entrepreneurs to thrifty backpackers and yoga enthusiasts, Tulum is a place that has something for everyone.

Whereas the atmosphere in Cancun is very one dimensional, Tulum is a destination that can be whatever you want it to be.

If you are there for sightseeing and exploring, then Tulum offers enough cenotes, beaches and Mayan ruins to fill up a bucket list. On the other hand, if you are expecting a more leisurely and tranquil experience overflowing with boutique villas, fine dining and relaxing spa retreats on the beach than Tulum is perfect for this as well.

Azulik Hotel & Maya Spa best instagram spots in the riviera maya mexico

How Many Days Do You Need In Tulum vs Cancun?

How Many Days In Cancun 

If you are traveling to Cancun for either Spring Break or a quick holiday away from the cold, then this is the perfect place to spend a week in paradise.

However, if neither of these two categories sounds like you, then I recommend you don’t visit Cancun for the conventional one-week holiday and instead only stay for around 3 days. This is the perfect amount of time to experience the electrifying nightlife and beautiful tropical beaches that Cancun is famous for before you inevitably become frustrated with the over-tourism.

Conversely, if Cancun’s relentless party scene and super touristy vibes sound like a major turn off for you, then I suggest you stay for even less time.

cancun nightlife from above _ cancun vs tulum

How Many Days In Tulum

Given Tulum’s, ability to cater to a wide range of travelers, I recommend spending at least 5 days in this jungle beach paradise. Tulum has so much to offer travelers that spending any less time here would prove quite difficult to experience the majority of its best attractions.

Backpackers will want time to explore the natural wonders of Tulum, while nonetheless immersing themselves in the trendy bohemian atmosphere that Tulum is renowned for.

papaya project most instagrammable places in the riviera maya mexico

Papaya Project

Who Has The Better Location Tulum vs Cancun?

Cancun Location

Cancun is located towards the top of the Riviera Maya and quite isolated from the majority of top attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Aside from the airport being located in Cancun along with the popular tourist destination of Isla Mujeres only a short boat ride away, Cancun is situated very far from all of the other top things to do in the Riviera Maya.  Practically any attraction you decide to visit is going to be a hop and a skip away from Cancun, which will always require you to drive at least an hour away.

isla mujeres riviera maya instagram spots

Tulum Location

On the contrary, most of the popular Riviera Maya attractions like the Tulum Ruins, Gran Cenote, and Playa Paraiso are all located directly in Tulum. Not to mention, other famous Yucatan attractions like Cenote Ik Kil, Cenote Suytun and Chichen Itza are all located only an hour away.

Which by comparison, these same Yucatan attractions are located well over 2 hours away from Cancun.

tulum ruins best instagram spots in the riviera maya mexico


cenote cristalino most instagrammable places in the riviera maya

Are The Beaches Better In Cancun Or Tulum?

Cancun Beaches

 With luminous aquamarine waters and sand as soft and white as flour, Cancun beaches are every bit as amazing as they appear in postcards.

Despite the large number of tourists that frequent these shores each day, the beaches in Cancun have managed to maintain their unique tropical allure. With that being said, in spite of their undeniable charm, most Cancun beaches are indeed as I mentioned above, overrun with tourists.

Among the most popular Cancun beaches Playa Tortugas, Playa Chac Mool, and Puerto Morelos.

canucn beach chac mool drone _ tulum vs cancun

Tulum Beaches

On another note, Tulum beaches are every bit as beautiful as Cancun beaches except with a fraction of the tourists.  On Tulum beaches, you won’t have to worry about being hassled by vendors trying to convince you to rent a jet ski or people constantly kicking sand in your eye as they walk by every 2 minutes.

Instead, travelers can enjoy a nice secluded section of beach all to themselves and find a sense of true relaxation in this Mexican paradise.

Among the most popular beaches in Tulum are Playa Ruinas, Playa Paraiso, and Secret Beach.

tulum beach _ tulum or cancun


secret beach tulum riviera maya

Is Nightlife Better In Cancun Or Tulum?

Cancun Nightlife

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that the nightlife in Cancun is second to none.

Known as “Vegas on the beach”, Cancun’s world-class nightlife is comprised of some of the biggest bars and clubs in the world, all surprisingly located within walking distance of each other. Coco Bongo, The City, Senor Frogs, and Mandala Beach Club are among the most popular venues, however, partygoers will have a myriad of other options to explore as well.

Not to mention the several different party resorts in Cancun like Grand Oasis and Hard Rock Hotel.


When it comes to Tulum vs Cancun, the nightlife is by far one of their biggest differences.


Tulum Nightlife  

On the other end of the Riviera Maya, the nightlife in Tulum is much different.

Tulum nightlife can be best visualized as chilled out and sophisticated beach bars with an occasional music festival sprinkled in the mix. The hippie chic vibes of the Tulum nightlife scene are perfect for dinner and a casual drink or two, however, don’t expect anything too much wilder than this.

Unless you decide to visit during Day Zero or another techno beach festival, your wild party nights should be saved for either Cancun or Playa del Carmen.


Is Tulum Safer Than Cancun?

The entire region of Quintana Roo is officially ranked Level 2 by the US Department of State Travel Warnings.

Therefore, despite all the negative media on Mexico, the United States government does not deem it to be any more of a risk than visiting other popular destinations such as Germany, France, and Australia, all of whom have the exact same travel advisory level.

Tulum vs Cancun | Riviera Maya Travel AdvisoryUS Department of State Travel Warnings

However, like any travel destination, travelers should follow normal safety precautions when in either Tulum or Cancun.  Such as not walking down dark alleyways at night or straying outside of the designated tourist zones.

Though quite difficult to officially determine whether Tulum is safer than Cancun or vice versa, after spending time in both areas, I do find Tulum to be a bit safer given its relaxed and easygoing beach vibes.

On the other hand, the general rambunctious drunken party atmosphere of Cancun without a doubt contributes to some of its more dangerous moments.

follow that dream sign tulum most instagrammable places in the riviera maya

Is Tulum or Cancun Better To Visit?

As different as a potato and a pineapple, it is difficult to conclusively say which is better between Cancun and Tulum.

If you enjoy lavish high-end resorts who cater to your every desire while partying until the sun comes up, then Cancun is the place for you.

However, if you prefer a more relaxed yet fancy bohemian beach atmosphere with some of the best attractions of the Riviera Maya located just down the road than Tulum is where you need to be.

With that in mind, because Cancun and Tulum are so different from one another, I highly recommend backpackers visit both destinations and experience it all for themselves. Though I suggest spending more time in Tulum vs Cancun, both destinations have much to offer travelers that it would be a huge missed opportunity if you only chose one.

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