Tulum vs Cancun | Picking Your Next Vacation Destination

Cancun beach

Torn between Cancun and Tulum? This Tulum vs Cancun guide will give all the information you need to choose your perfect Mexican getaway!

From tumbleweed desserts to pristine beaches, Mexico is an ever-changing chameleon offering unique and diverse experiences.

Filled with a fascinating culture, interesting history, and gorgeous scenery – the various parts of this sun-drenched country are an adventure like no other.

While every region in Mexico is worth a visit, the Yucatán Peninsula truly encapsulates a tropical paradise that will put your carefree daydreams to shame.

Cancun Vs Tulum
Mayan Riviera Paradise, Cancun

Cancun, also known as Cancún, and Tulum are two of the best spring break destinations for families in the region.

Between a white-powdered idyllic space and a Caribbean treasure, which Mexican destination is your perfect fit?

We’ll guide you through these spectacular spaces to help you make an informed decision.

Related post: Things too know before traveling to Mexico this year

Cancun Vs Tulum – FAQ

Torn between Cancun and Tulum? This Tulum vs Cancun guide will give all the information you need to choose your perfect Mexican getaway!

The Quintana Roo state is a hidden gem of lush landscapes to explore, but it can be challenging to navigate these areas without any guidance.

Before I deep dive into what makes these holiday hot spots so fantastic, some basic questions need to be considered while looking at these regions. 

Cancun or Tulum? Photo of a rocky coast in Cancun
Rocky Coast in Cancun

Is Tulum in Cancun?

No, the town of Tulum is not located in Cancun. Tulum and Cancun are, however, in close proximity to each other, which is perfect for travelers planning visits to both destinations.

Is Tulum Near Cancun?

These two locations are approximately 81 miles from each other, making it the perfect distance for two trips in one experience.

Tulum beach; Cancun vs Tulum
Tulum beach

The drive from one to the other takes around 2 hours depending on various factors, such as traffic.

Is Tulum Better Than Cancun?

The answer often depends on what you hope to get out of your vacation, as both locations have very different atmospheres.

Temple of the Frescos, Tulum
Temple of the Frescos, Tulum

Cancun is a city filled with gorgeous beaches and a lively atmosphere. Tulum, on the other hand, is more about the unhindered beautiful nature settings of the Mayan jungle with a low-key and small-town feel. There are so many unique things to do in Tulum you can’t miss!

What Are the Similarities?

As mentioned before, Cancun and Tulum are both situated in the Yucatán Peninsula and provide exquisite beaches to experience the ultimate seaside vacation.

Beach sunrise at Riviera Maya
Beach sunrise at Riviera Maya

Plenty of aquatic adventures and gorgeous vistas are on the menu at these destinations.

Pack in your swimming trunks and your thirst for exploration, because you’re in for a memorable time.

Cancun or Tulum | The Breakdown

If you’re asking yourself, ‘is Cancun or Tulum better?’, there is an abundance of things to consider before deciding on your chosen destination.

Tulum vs Cancun? Photo of a rocky coast in Tulum
Rocky coast in Tulum

One thing is for sure: You’ll have a fantastic time whichever you choose. 

What it ultimately comes down to is a personal preference. Take a look at a detailed snapshot of what each beachy wonderland entail:

Related post: Here is how to get around Mexico


Known as a luxury resort and party-filled haven, Cancun is a Mexican vacation destination that packs a (tropical) punch.

Maya Indians initially discovered this region and dubbed it Cancúne, which means “vessel at the end of the rainbow”. 

Colorful Cancun Letters, Mexico
Photo by jiawangkun / Depositphotos

Many will be surprised to discover that this tourist-filled area was a mere tiny fishing village before 1970.

But, in 1969, the government chose this sleepy hollow as a prime location for a newly constructed resort, and the rest is history.

Filled with all-inclusive resorts, top-tier restaurants, shopping destinations, and hip-swaying nightclubs — Cancun is all about serving an opulent experience on a platter.

Cancun beach
Cancun beach

Enveloped by the rustle of swaying palms, aquamarine waters, and a fluttering shoal of rainbow-colored marine life — the beaches in Cancun are the real star of the show. 

Cancun can be divided into two categories: downtown Cancun and Cancun Island.

The downtown area has fewer hotels to frequent and is the main hub where the city’s local residents reside.

Dolphin Beach, Cancun
Dolphin Beach, Cancun

Cancun Island is also known as Zona Hotelera, which translates to ‘hotel zone’ and is filled with a network of beachfront accommodation.

If you’re looking for an adventure of a lifetime, this city has tons of adrenaline-fuelled and amazing activities to experience.

This region will provide an unforgettable trip, from the otherworldly sights of Cancún Underwater Museum to the heart-pumping endeavor of an ATV and zipline tour.


So, why is Tulum so popular? This seaside town is a swirl of picturesque landscapes sprinkled with remains of ancient worlds that once lived here and is a magical destination filled with engaging experiences. 

Tulum colorful sign

Tulum is the ultimate vacation destination for travelers seeking to explore the off-the-beaten-path journey, a small oasis bespeckled with seemingly endless beaches and Mayan ruins. 

The Maya built the ancient town of Tulum, which featured as a significant trading center and port city around the 12th-century up to the early 15th-century. 

The riveting ruins in the area are situated on a 39-feet (12-meter) cliff that overlooks the stunning ocean, providing a historical outing with a view. One of the top sites to explore is  El Castillo, meaning “The Castle.”

Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico.
Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico.

Near these preserved relics of history is Tulum Town, also known as Tulum Pueblo, which is a downtown beachfront area that tourists tend to flock to.

While Tulum is known for its historical significance, there is an abundance of activities and adventures to embark on.

From exploring its magnificent beaches to bar-hopping in the downtown area, this beachy dive has something for every type of traveler.

Most of the Tulum, Mexico resorts can be found on the waterfront and is the ultimate place for a relaxing vacation.

Beach at Mayan fortress and temple, Tulum

This coastal town is also known for providing a slice of peaceful heaven away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Whether you are following the endless signs of beach yoga or planning a Tulum spring break, this town is the perfect escape from your everyday reality.

Related post: The ultimate guide to visiting Mexico

Final Thoughts on Cancun vs Tulum

Whether you’re planning your next journey or have already booked your flight, these destinations will be sure to cultivate a thirst for an overseas adventure.

So, while the question of picking Tulum or Cancun might seem near impossible, these regions will certainly not disappoint whichever one you choose. 

Tulum beach, Riviera Maya
Tulum beach, Riviera Maya

If you’re seeking a party paradise or a yogi sandy sanctuary, these Mexican vacation picks are catered to fulfill your ultimate getaway checklist.

With sublime natural landscapes, crystal clear waters, and a sense of breezy island living in the air — you can’t go wrong.

Travel Tip: If you’re not able to travel to Cancun or Tulum just yet, check out these staycation activities to embark on a fun-filled journey at home.


Sara Rodríguez

A passionate traveler with a mission: Help you plan your next trip easily and enjoy it to the fullest.

In this travel blog you will find everything you need to get inspired and organize your next adventure. Read more about my story here.

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