The Caribbean coast of Mexico is one of the most exciting beach getaways in the world. Cancun has become the ultimate Spring Break destination for a lot of tourists in the past years. Because of this, many travelers want an alternative that isn’t overrated but is just as fun as Cancun. The good news is they don’t have to look any further. An up-and-coming tourist town called Tulum is the place to be.
Tulum is another town along the Mexican Caribbean coast that has gorgeous beaches and warm weather all year round. This ancient Mayan port city has plenty to offer. Thus, it also has a variety of accommodation options. It can be quite overwhelming to choose where to stay in Tulum. But don’t worry, it all boils down to deciding if you want to stay on Tulum Beach or in Tulum Town.
If you’ve never been to Tulum before, its unique layout is a bit tricky to understand. To put it simply, Tulum consists of a beach and a small town. Tulum Town is about three to five kilometers from the beachfront. The Avenida Coba road connects the town and the beach. This means they aren’t within walking distance from each other. Choosing where to stay in Tulum will make all the difference.
In this post, I will guide you through each choice. I’ve listed some pros and cons to help you pick between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach. I also included the top 5 best hotels in Tulum.
Where To Stay In Tulum:
Tulum Beach stretches along the eastern front of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Its northern end is home to the Mayan Ruins in Tulum National Park, and its southern tip is where you’ll find the Sian Ka’an National Biosphere Reserve. Learn more about the best time to visit Tulum.
The beach is where you should be if you want more of the sun, the sand, and the sea. The soothing sound of the waves will wake you up in the morning and lull you to sleep at night. Because it’s closer to nature, this side of Tulum has fewer traffic jams.
This ten-kilometer coastal path can be roughly divided into two sections: the private and the public beach.
People call this section “the private beach” as it’s occupied mostly by private resorts. Some refer to it as the beach hotel zone. Its idyllic stretch of white sand is perfect for lounging on and soaking up the sun. This beach area is also lined with chic boutique hotels that are on the pricier side. Since the beach is less rocky on this side, accommodations here can get booked very far out in advance.
|Note: The private beach area has an eco-friendly initiative going on. This means some areas (not all!) don’t have electricity past midnight. You may also be asked to save water as much as you can. It’s better to ask your hotel about the electricity situation before booking a room.|
This family-friendly part of the beach is the closest to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Tourists with children are going to enjoy its wide stretch of white sand beach. The shore has no rocky parts, safe for kids and yoga-practicing visitors. The South Beach Zone also gives off a fancy aura, perfect for luxury travelers and couples on their honeymoon.
- has a lively nightlife
- has a good assortment of shopping options
- can be quite expensive
- journey to Tulum Town can be long due to distance and traffic
The Middle Beach Zone has a convenient mix of shops, restaurants, bars, and beach clubs. It is best when traveling with friends. It’s also a good choice for older travelers and those looking for both convenience and quiet. Since it’s the center of attraction, it is the most convenient part of the beach for when you want to visit Tulum Town.
- best location
- has a vibrant nightlife; nightclubs in the jungle
- access to the beach is difficult if you’re not a guest
This zone is between the north (public) and middle (private) sections. The beach here is mostly sandy and swimmable, especially in its north end. Expect a few rocky patches at the south end. If you’re a fan of biking, this zone is your best bet. The bike path going to Tulum Pueblo starts here.
- has a variety of dining and shopping options
- the most affordable area in the beach hotel zone
- has patches of rocky sand
- all-night beach parties may be quite loud
Public Beach (North Beach)
The North Beach Zone lies in the Public Beach section. Being the northernmost end of the beach, it’s the closest to the Mayan Ruins. It’s a quiet and romantic zone, an ideal honeymoon getaway for newly-wed pairs.
This part feels more resort-like compared to the south beach zones that are full of luxury hotels. The beach is rockier and has less white sand, so the hotel rates are more affordable. You’ll find a handful of cheap yet stylish boutique hotels here.
- has public parking lots
- within walking distance from the Tulum Ruins
- more accommodation deals and more affordable rates
- patches of rocky sand
- less idyllic beach; can get crowded at times
- you’ll need to take a cab to get to the private side
El Pueblo (or ‘The Town’) is where many travelers stay when they visit Tulum. A lush tropical rainforest separates downtown Tulum from the beach. Depending on which part of the beach you’re going to, Tulum Pueblo is usually a ten to fifteen-minute drive away. It is about three to five kilometers from the beachfront.
Tulum’s main settlement offers a more local taste for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture. The town is also close to bus stations. This means you can take a trip to other neighboring tourists spots such as the Chichén Itzá or Playa Del Carmen. Filled with authentic taco kiosks and yoga studios, you’ll have no dull moment here. It’s the ideal place for long-term visitors, partygoers, budget travelers, and backpackers. Tulum town has a variety of accommodation options, too – from boutique hotels to budget hotels.
Although Tulum is generally safe, I would suggest you be more mindful of your belongings when in town. Like any other place in the world, there are pickpockets in the area.
- amazing nightlife
- more budget hotels
- easy access to markets, restaurants, bars
- less chic restos
- some security concerns
- you’ll have to take a cab or a bike to go to the beach
Aldea Zama is a budding neighborhood in the Southern part of the town. This new development is between the beach and downtown Tulum. The area has plenty of luxury hotels and condominiums. There are also several high-end Airbnb accommodations.
Since most establishments are still under construction, there’s currently not much going on here. Its private and posh atmosphere is perfect for those looking for a staycation or a long-term visit. But if you ask me, with the price of the accommodations here, I’d rather book a nice hotel on the beach.
- safer than town
- closer to the beach than Tulum Town
- construction ongoing; might cause some noise during the day
After all these options, you might wonder how many day in Tulum you’ll need to see it all. Any amount of time is great, but we recommend no less than 36 hours (see our itinerary), since it takes a little bit of effort to get there.
Some of the Best Hotels in Tulum:
Be sure to see our top picks on the best hotels in Tulum, for whatever type of vacation you’re planning:
- 9 Best Hotels in Tulum for Families
- 8 Best Luxury Hotels in Tulum, Mexico
- The Best Tulum Beach Hotels [A MUST-READ Before You Visit Tulum]
- The Best Yoga Hotels and Yoga Retreats in Tulum, Mexico
- Boutique Hotels in Tulum
Choosing where to stay in Tulum shouldn’t be difficult. Start by deciding what you’ll spend most of your time doing. Do you intend to relish its famous white sands? Are you planning to see The Tulum Ruins or Sian Ka’an? Then book in one of Tulum’s beach resorts. Do you want to party with locals and tourists alike? Are you backpacking all over Mexico or Riviera Maya? Then stay in Tulum Town. There are a ton of great condo and villa rentals through Airbnb and local agencies.
Once you’ve decided what to do during your trip, it’ll be easier to decide on a budget and narrow down your hotel options. Want tips on how to choose the best hotel?