Trying to decide where to vacation in Mexico? Tulum and Cancun are two of the main (and most popular) areas to consider for your next Mexican escape. Both are in close proximity to Playa Del Carmen and the many mesmerizing ruins that are scattered throughout the cultured country.
Seeing as Tulum and Cancun offer two very different atmospheres, we’ve briefly outlined what you will expect to find in each place to hopefully make your decision a little easier!
What to do in Cancun?
Many people consider Cancun to be the ideal place to party because it’s been a Spring Break hot spot for many years, however Cancun was built for the tourists! It sits at the head of the Riviera Maya, a mature, luxe city that has proven itself well beyond its spring breaker reputation.
1. Beautiful and Popular For a Reason – Cancun Beaches
If you’re taking a trip to Cancun, it’s expected that you’ll be spending quite a bit of time lounging on one of the city’s many attractive beaches! Although, since the downtown area is much closer to Cancun than Tulum, you’ll discover that the immaculate beauty of these beaches comes with a price and that price is sharing the white sands with the many tourists!
2. A Taste of Home – Cancun Food
This city has plenty of foodie experiences to explore with a variety of incredible restaurants to choose from; not to mention their bustling street food scene which is quite favorable amongst tourists.
Cancun provides assorted aspects of Mexican and international cuisine, however you’re never too far from home when it comes to food. If the local dishes aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of North American options to choose from. Simply put, you can get your hands on pretty much anything food wise in Cancun. From street tacos to impressive fine dining to your well known fast food favorites, there is something for everyone (even the picky eaters!).
3. Fun Loving and Lively – Cancun Activities
The city of Cancun is divided into two sections: the Hotel Zone and Downtown Cancun (where the locals live). Most visitors will often stick to the Hotel Zone for the simplicity of having everything you need in one place, but for the more adventurous traveler, Downtown Cancun has so much to offer in terms of attractions and activities.
The downtown area displays a lively and friendly social scene complete with great shopping options and some of the cities best local bars and restaurants. If you’re looking to do some souvenir shopping, Market 28 (Mercado 28) is the place for you. It’s a flea-market style shopping area that is littered with unique handmade items, t-shirts and various souvenirs; perfect for gifts or vacation keepsakes.
4. Dance the Night Away – Cancun Nightlife
Having been the destination for Spring Break party goers for many years, there is no doubt that Cancun has one of the liveliest party scenes in Mexico. There are over 25 incredible night clubs to choose from, where you can let loose and dance the night away.
A notable favorite among tourists, the Coco Bongo, is situated right in the middle of the Hotel Zone and has a popular stance for a reason. Known for its nostalgic music, wild shows and acrobatic demonstrations, this club is highly recommended for a true Cancun nightlife adventure!
Cancun Vacation Rentals
If you want to be near all the party action, getting a beautiful villa near the Cancun Hotel Zone might be a good idea. While you’ll still have plenty of privacy, those who want a more low-key experience would do better by renting a villa in Playa del Carmen (just a short one hour drive away from Cancun)
6 Bedrooms • 7 + 1/2 Bathrooms • Sleeps 21 people.
Included Staff: Chef, Housekeeper(s)
From the moment the gate opens, Villa Punta Sam’s spectacular facade elevates your eye, your mind and your spirit, transmitting a solid and harmonious connection with the earth and you know that you are about to live an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.
6 Bedrooms • 6 + 1/2 Bathrooms • Sleeps 16 people.
Included Staff: Chef, Gardener, Housekeeper(s), Bartender ($), Driver Optional ($), Yoga Instructor Optional ($)
Located on Cancun’s idyllic northern coast, the spectacular Villa Sha is everything you need for a dream vacation by the sea. This luxurious six-bedroom property boasts state-of-the-art technology combined with sumptuous decor that will excite, soothe, and refresh its guests with every turn.
6 Bedrooms • 6 + 1/2 Bathrooms • Sleeps 12 people.
Included Staff: Chef Optional ($)
Albatros Villa is a private, full service oceanfront mansion located in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. This stunning villa offers luxury accommodations that can create a unique Cancun vacation.The property is just steps away from fine dining, shopping, world-renowned scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, beautiful natural reserves and only a short 15-minute drive from Cancun’s international airport.
What to do in Tulum?
Tulum is one of Mexico’s hottest areas for an upscale vacation and has avoided the touristic reputation that other local destinations have received. Just a short hour and a half drive from Cancun International Airport, this ecochic tropical destination is definitely one to add to your bucket list and is ideally suited for a romantic escape, an adventure-filled family vacation, or an entertaining trip with friends.
1. Get Away From It All – Tulum Beaches
A combination of the ruins and the pristine beaches are what make Tulum so picturesque. The sand is extremely soft yet firm enough for leisure walks, a brisk morning run, sunset yoga or even a horseback ride. The turquoise waters are mesmerizing and most hidden, uncrowded areas are easy to come by.
Although the beach is a bit of a distance from the central town, walking along the shore in Tulum is a serene experience in itself, perfect for the traveller who is ready to relax and unwind.
2. Fine Dining and Local Flair – Tulum Food
This chic, coastal town is a food lovers paradise. When the sun goes down, be prepared for Tulum’s delectable cuisine to transport your taste buds to another level. Unlike Cancun that caters to the standard tourist, the cuisine in Tulum is exquisite.
Don’t know where to start? Hartwood is a popular place to eat in Tulum. This restaurant depends on local, fresh seafood and produce; It is so good that there is often a line to get in.
Tulum truly delivers a Mexican culinary experience, so if you’re searching for a Mcdonalds, you won’t find it here!
3. For the Love of Nature – Tulum Activities
For the eco-conscious traveller, you’ll be glad to know that Tulum is considered an official sustainable tourist zone with many activities to explore that reduce environmental impact.
The city supports all activities that are powered by the locals and that help maintain the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya. There are a wide variety of delightful opportunities to immerse yourself in the wilderness there, such as visiting the Mayan ruins, getting a massage at a green spa, exploring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Preserve and snorkeling among the stalagmites in underground limestone cenotes.
4. A Little Bit of Chill – Tulum Nightlife
The relaxed yet vibrant hippie culture in Tulum really sets the tone for their nightlife setting. In comparison to party central Cancun, Tulum offers a more laid back party vibe. There is not much of a lively club scene here, instead you’ll find upscale local bars and animated beach parties that pull inspiration from New York City and Los Angeles.
Tulum Vacation Rentals
While large resorts inhabit the rest of Mexico, Tulum offers an array of boutique hotels, beachfront cabanas, and private luxury villas. Renting a property on or near the beach for a week is one of the most authentic and quiet vacation options in Mexico.
4 Bedrooms • 4 Bathrooms • Sleeps 8 people.
Included Staff: Gardener, Housekeeper(s), Maid, Driver Optional ($)
Villa Verde is an architecturally designed tropical retreat with care and attention in every detail to give you the ultimate sense of comfort, peace and tranquility. The beauty of the Mayan Riviera is at your fingertips. The home is close to Tulum beach, beautiful cenotes, and the town of Tulum. Designed by Co-lab design team from Los Angeles, this home showcases the ultimate in tropical living. With long expanses of wide open space, a beautiful lap pool, and a gorgeous rooftop patio, it has all the features you could want in a luxury home.
10 Bedrooms • 10 + 3 half Bathrooms • Sleeps 20 people.
Included Staff: Housekeeper(s)
Hacienda 21 was created out of love and passion and made for family friends & groups who want to gather and create memorable moments. The hacienda, made in a u-shape modern design, is made for you to feel at home. All rooms have a private entrance, a full private bathrooms, 5 of them have individual pools. The common areas count a 15 meter pool, a fire pit, a yoga room, a full gym (cardio and weights), an open outdoor kitchen, and a very large garden for your events and gatherings.
5 Bedrooms • 10 + 3 half Bathrooms • Sleeps 20 people.
Included Staff: Housekeeper(s), Security Guard(s)
Perched at the front of a large property with incredible views of the beach and a private seaside pool, this house is perfect for groups and families. You are steps from one of the most stunning beaches in the world. The beach is a long stretch of powdery soft white sand and crystal clear Caribbean sea. The Zorba beach area in front has palms for natural shade as well as palapas, loungers and sea kayaks for you to use. The water is warm and turquoise, perfect for swimming.
Are You More Tulum or More Cancun?
Of course, either destination offers a top notch, glamorous and luxurious vacation. At the end of the day, the choice boils down to what you really want to get out of your Mexican experience.
For those looking for more of a tranquil and relaxing getaway, Tulum is lovely. While larger travel groups, families and those itching to let loose would probably find Cancun to be more to their liking.
We can help you to create and customize your experience. From booking the right villa to travel logistics to organizing special events or personalized tours, our experts will get you fully set up. All you have to do is pack your bags and enjoy the view from your luxury villa in Mexico. Contact us toll free at 1-800-208-5097 or email us at [email protected] and let’s get started on planning the ultimate luxury getaway of your dreams.
What a great informative write-up on both areas. I am sort of interested in Tulum. Just wondering if there are smaller places for 2 people? I would be looking for a monthly rental, was wondering about pricing etc. A rough estimate is fine as I am just window shopping right now but Tulum is where I would want to be.
Hi Dana, thanks for your comment! We have indeed villas for 2 people in Tulum, take a look at our collection through this link: https://www.rentalescapes.com/rentals/luxury-vacation-rentals-mexico/riviera-maya/tulum?sort=bedrooms:asc
Have a great day!