Playa del Carmen vs Tulum

Tulum Vs Playa Del Carmen: How To Choose The Best One

Playa del Carmen and Tulum are two of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. Both offer beautiful beaches, a variety of activities, and plenty of sun.

These two towns on the coast of Riviera Maya are quite different in a lot of ways, though.

We’ve stayed in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo for several months and have been to Tulum over the past couple of years.

While it may seem like the two are similar for those that have never visited either one, we can say that our experience lead us to notice some of the small and big contrasts between them.

But which one is right for you? Here’s a quick guide to help you decide between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Tulum vs Playa del Carmen

What Playa Del Carmen Offers Visitors

The beaches in Playa del Carmen are some of the best in Mexico. You can find plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs along the beach.

There are also many shopping opportunities in this bustling town.

Playa del Carmen is a great place to experience nightlife. There are many bars and clubs that stay open late.

There are several Maya ruins nearby, including Chichen Itza, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico.

Close proximity to one of the best Pueblos Magicos, Valladolid is a plus when staying in Playa del Carmen as well.

Additionally, there are plenty of things to do in Cozumel on a day trip and all you need to do is take a 30 minute ferry across.

Playa del Carmen is a very walkable city. If you want to be where all the action is and not have to worry about getting around, this is where you should consider having your base.

This is a city that is well-developed for tourists.

The city center is right next to the beaches and you can find all levels of accommodations, dining, and an incredible array of shopping areas and malls.

Playa Del Carmen compared to Tulum

One of the key factors for the case to pick Playa del Carmen would be that it is very kid and family friendly.

There are playgrounds and small parks scattered all around and you can find the perfect family hotels, resorts, or vacation rental easily.

  • Pros:
    1. Close to the airport
    2. Many restaurants and nightlife options
    3. Shopping opportunities galore
    4. Family friendly
  • Cons:
    1. More crowds
    2. Touristy feeling

Who would enjoy Playa del Carmen: Playa del Carmen would be better for families and those traveling with children or big groups. There is something for everyone here!

Tulum Playa Del Carmen comparison

What Tulum Offers Visitors

Tulum is known for its quiet and relaxed atmosphere that attracts both vacationers and digital nomads working remotely.

The beaches in Tulum are beautiful and wide and there are not as many people on them as you will find in Playa del Carmen because it is so spread out and away from the town.

There are fewer dining and nightlife options on the coast of Tulum, but you can still find some good restaurants and bars in the boutique hotels.

Tulum is not as close to the airport as Playa del Carmen, but it is still a reasonable drive.

One of the best things about choosing Tulum is the proximity to the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve and Bacalar which offer loads of things to do and see.

The Mayan Ruins at Tulum are an incredible sightseeing experience and there are countless cenotes (sinkholes) to take a dip into nearby as well.

Tulum Playa Del Carmen Guide

The key factor that sets Tulum apart is the wide variety of boutique hotels that offer trendy architecture and vibes.

Eco-tourism in Tulum is another element that separates Tulum from tropical destinations in the Riviera Maya that usually offer all-inclusive resorts to serve the masses.

  • Pros:
    1. Quieter and more relaxed atmosphere (on the beaches)
    2. Beautiful, large beaches
    3. Mayan ruins nearby
    4. More trendy vibe
  • Cons:
    1. Less developed than Playa del Carmen
    2. Fewer dining and nightlife options
    3. Not as close to the airport and other key towns
    4. More costly
    5. Town is not walkable from beaches
where to go in Mexico

How To Get To Playa Del Carmen and Tulum

The best way to get to Playa del Carmen is by flying into the Cancun airport.

From there, it is about a 45 minute drive to Playa del Carmen. You can also take a bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. The ride takes about an hour and a half.

The best way to get to Tulum is by flying into the Cancun airport. From there, it is a about a 1.5 hour drive to Tulum.

You can also take a bus from Cancun to Tulum. The ride takes about two hours.

There are also buses that go from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, but the ride is much longer (about 3 hours).

Key Differences Between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen

The beaches in Tulum are considered to be some of the best in Mexico, while Playa del Carmen has great beaches, they are more compact.

Tulum is quieter and more laid back, while Playa del Carmen is more developed.

Tulum is not as close to the airport as Playa del Carmen so getting there will take longer.

Choosing Between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum

1. The Vibe

Playa del Carmen has a more touristy feel than Tulum. You will find many bars, restaurants, and clubs along the beach.

The nightlife is lively and there are many shopping opportunities.

Tulum has a more relaxed and laid-back vibe. The beaches are beautiful and quiet.

There are not as many dining and nightlife options, but you can still find some good restaurants and bars in town.

With the town center being separate from the beach and boutique hotel area, visitors get a more secluded atmosphere in Tulum.

2. The Beaches

Playa Del Carmen has beaches that are within walking distance from pretty much any location around town.

The beaches in Tulum are considered to be some of the best in Mexico. They are quiet and relaxing, but further from the town center.

To get to the beaches of Tulum if you are staying in town, you will either have to taxi or bike ride.

Tulum offers more high end, chic beach clubs that are also more pricey than those in Playa Del Carmen.

how far is Playa Del Carmen from Tulum

3. Things To Do And Activities

In Playa del Carmen, you can spend your days lounging on the beach, shopping, or exploring the Maya ruins or cenotes nearby or visiting Cozumel for some great snorkeling adventures.

In the evening, you can enjoy the lively nightlife. These are only some of the many things to do in Playa del Carmen.

There are fewer things to do in Tulum than in Playa Del Carmen, but you can find still have great access to Mayan ruins and find way more cenotes to try out around town.

The beaches are beautiful and there are many activities to enjoy, such as swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

Tulum is closest to the Tulum Ruins, offering stunning ocean views. Playa del Carmen is closer to the Coba Ruins, perfect for exploring ancient pyramids.

differences between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen Mexico

4. Cost And Budget Considerations

The cost of visiting Playa del Carmen is similar to the cost of visiting other popular tourist destinations in Mexico. You can find many affordable hotels, restaurants, and activities.

Long-term rentals are more affordable in Playa del Carmen when compared to Tulum simply because there are more options available.

The cost of visiting Tulum is slightly higher than the cost of visiting other popular tourist destinations in Mexico.

This is because it is a more remote location and there are more boutique hotels that cater to the luxury traveler.

However, backpackers are still able to find some cheaper places to stay away from the beach. Keep in mind that the cost of dining in Tulum is also higher.

5. Accommodations Offerings

When deciding between Tulum and Playa del Carmen for a Mexican getaway, consider the location, budget, and amenities offered.

Look for accommodations that suit your travel style and preferences.

There are many places to stay in Playa del Carmen, from luxury resorts to affordable hotels.

There are places to stay farther away from the beach that are more budget friendly and you can still get to the beaches easily.

Most of the top accommodations are located near the beach and come at a higher price tag (usually not kid friendly).

We stayed at Dune Boutique Hotel and really enjoyed the vibe there. The food in their restaurant was amazing and so was the personalized service. The views are out of this world!

Tulum Mexico compared to Playa Del Carmen

The Final Decision

We hope to have made it easier for you to decide where to stay when comparing Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Tulum and Playa del carmen are both safe and give visitors an amazing Riviera Maya vacation experience.

While Tulum is more expensive than Playa del Carmen, it does give the option of picking some of the most unique and chic hotels on the beach.

So, what’s the verdict? Playa del Carmen is a great place to visit if you want more options when it comes to different budgets and are traveling with kids.

Tulum is more expensive than Playa del Carmen but better suited for those who appreciate peace and quiet and stunning beaches.

Both locations have their own unique appeal, so which one will you choose for your next visit to Riviera Maya?

FAQ: Playa del Carmen vs. Tulum

How many days is good for Playa del Carmen?

3-5 days in Playa del Carmen is enough time to explore the beaches, Quinta Avenida, and nearby attractions like cenotes and Mayan ruins.

Is it safe to go off-resort in Playa del Carmen?

Yes, it’s generally safe to explore Playa del Carmen beyond the resorts. Stick to well-populated areas, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.

Which is nicer, Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

We prefer Playa del Carmen over Cancun for its smaller size, walkable downtown area (Quinta Avenida), and proximity to other attractions on the Riviera Maya. Cancun is known for its large all-inclusive resorts and nightlife scene.

Which is better, Playa del Carmen or Cozumel?

Playa del Carmen is a mainland town with a variety of attractions, from beaches and cenotes to Mayan ruins and nightlife. Cozumel is an island known for its world-class diving and snorkeling. After visiting Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel felt more serene and relaxed. The slower pace of Cozumel compared to Playa Del Carmen was a nice contrast for us.

Is Cabo better than Cancun?

Cabo San Lucas, located on the Baja Peninsula, offers a different vibe than Cancun. It’s known for its desert landscape, luxury resorts, and world-class fishing. Cancun is on the Caribbean Sea and boasts beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, and a vibrant nightlife scene. The choice between Cancun and Cabo depends on your interests.

Where else is better than Tulum?

There are many alternative destinations on the Riviera Maya, depending on your preferences. Some popular options include Bacalar (known for its lagoon), Holbox (a laid-back island), and Merida (a colonial city with Mayan heritage). There are amazing things to do in Bacalar, such as the stunning Seven Color Lagoon, the Cenote Azul, and the San Felipe Fort.

How many days is good in Tulum?

3-5 days is a good amount of time to explore Tulum’s beaches, cenotes, ruins, and town center.

Why is Tulum so expensive?

Tulum’s popularity as a bohemian-chic destination, combined with limited infrastructure and a focus on eco-luxury accommodations, has driven up prices in recent years.

Is Riviera Maya different from Playa del Carmen?

Playa del Carmen is located within the Riviera Maya, which is a stretch of coastline south of Cancun. The Riviera Maya encompasses many towns and attractions, including Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel, and Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza.

Is Tulum known for partying?

While Tulum does have a nightlife scene, it’s generally more relaxed and focused on beach clubs and bars than large nightclubs. Playa del Carmen, on the other hand, has a wider variety of nightlife options.

Travel resources to plan your trip:

Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Which One Is Better?

Family Travel Planning Resources

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Rob and Taiss

Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.