Where to stay in Tulum Mexico

Where to Stay in Tulum – Beach or Town? [2021 Guide]

Figuring out where to stay in Tulum doesn’t need to be hard. The hardest part is deciding if you want to be based in the town or on the beach.

I’ve been visiting and writing about Tulum, Mexico since before its beautiful beaches blew up in international popularity. My partner Clara and I are currently based nearby in Playa del Carmen. We make frequent trips to Tulum to tour, photograph, and rank all the Tulum hotels we can.

But, before you can decide on a hotel, you decide to decide where in Tulum you want to stay. In this post I will guide you through everything you need to know to pick where to stay on your trip!

What’s in This Post:

Where to Stay in Tulum – Best Places

Just want a quick answer on where to stay in Tulum? Here are our current top choices, depending upon what kind of traveler you are:

  • ✨ Best Luxury Place to Stay – Casa Malca, Pablo Escobar’s old mansion.
  • ⛱️ Best Beach Resort – Hotelito Azul (Clara’s personal favorite resort).
  • πŸ›ŽοΈ Best Boutique Hotel – The uber-stylish Dune Boutique Hotel (see photo below).
  • πŸ‘‰ Best in Tulum Town – Coco Hacienda, an oasis offering the perfect blend of budget and luxury.
  • πŸ›οΈ Where to Stay in Tulum on a Budget – the bungalows at Joy Tulum. Cheap, popular, no A/C.

πŸ‘‰ Need a Different Hotel? Then read our article on the 16 Best Hotels in Tulum

Best Areas to Stay in Tulum Mexico

Woman standing in front a pool near Tulum beach area
My partner Clara checking out the fantastic Dune Boutique on the beach

Tulum isn’t a very big place. So, no matter what area you choose to stay in, you’ll be be pretty close to the action at all times. Basically, Tulum consists of a small town (or “pueblo”) that is set back about 3 kilometers from the beachfront. The town is connected to the beach by Avenida Coba (Route 109), which in turn connects to a beachfront access road (Route 15) which runs parallel to the playa.

When considering the best areas in Tulum, there is really only one question you need to decide on:

Tulum Town or Beach?

Tulum town is the recommended area to stay for travelers on a budget, long-term stay visitors, or partiers who prioritize proximity to bars and nightlife. If you are on vacation and can afford it, however, the beach zone offers the most memorable Tulum experience. You’re going to Tulum for its stunning beaches after all!

Pros of staying on the Beach:

  • ⛱️ Many beach hotels have private beach access.
  • πŸš• You avoid the nightly post-sunset traffic jams of people fighting for taxis going to and from the beach.
  • 🌊 Hear the sounds of the waves at night.

Pros of staying in town:

  • πŸ₯‚ Closer to nightlife and restaurants.
  • πŸ’² Accommodation is significantly more affordable.

Now, while the beach and town tend to be pretty similar within themselves, there are some differences within each area, so in the next sections we’ll break down where to stay in Tulum beach and where to stay in Tulum town.

Decided where to stay, yet? If no, read on. If yes, don’t miss our other helpful guides:

Staying in Tulum Beach Zone

Beach club in Tulum
I mean, you can’t beat these views

Tulum really only has a single 10 kilometer long stretch of beautiful beach. It’s bounded roughly on the north by the Mayan ruins in Tulum National Park, and on the south by the entrance to the Sian Ka’an National Biosphere Reserve.

Tulum’s Beach zone can be roughly divided into three areas: north, middle, and south. The north beach zone is my personal favorite becuase of the proximity to the Tulum ruins, and the availability of public parking. But the middle and south beach zones have a wider offering of shops and restaurants.

North Beach

Drone shot of north Tulum beaches
The north beach area from my drone

πŸ“ Where: From the intersection of Avenida Coba and the beachfront road, stretching to the Tulum ruins. This area is centered around the white sands at the public beach of Playa Paraiso. [Google Map]

βœ”οΈ Pros:

  • walking distance to the Tulum Mayan ruins
  • public parking lot near Playa Paraiso
  • best white sand beaches in Tulum (in my opinion)
  • relatively less expensive accommodation options.

❌ Cons:

  • only a handful of restaurants
  • very little nightlife or shopping
  • public beach area can get crowded at times

πŸ‘‰ Best For: couples and honeymooners, travelers looking for the most affordable (a relative term in Tulum these days) boutique accommodation on the beach.

🍽️ Restaurants:

  • Maia Restaurant [Map] – one of the few places open from breakfast to dinner, Maia offers a variety of seafood and other fare at marked up prices.
  • Common Ground Playa Tulum [Map]a fun pop up beachside bar that’s open during the high season only.

πŸ›οΈ Best Hotels in Tulum North Beach:

  • Mi Amor [Check on Booking] – a higher-end boutique hotel that is as close to the beach as you can get. Some cabanas even have private plunge pools.
  • Villa Pescadores Tulum [Check on Booking] – highly-rated and moderately-priced boho chic style beachside accommodation.
  • Hotel El Paraiso [Check on Booking] – My personal favorite hotel on the beach, this is a good-midrange option and one of the best places to stay for couples or families looking for quiet and proximity to the beach.

Middle Beach Zone

Drone shot of white sand beach in Tulum Mexico
Tulum’s middle beach area has lots of great clubs

πŸ“ Where: the stretch of beach roughly between Avenida Coba and Avenida Kukulkan along the beach road. Centered around the beach town area near the Zamas Hotel. [Google Map]

βœ”οΈ Pros:

  • Center of the action, giving you the best location in town
  • Good mix of beach clubs, restaurants, bars, and boutique shops
  • Best nightlife on the beach (check out party schedule at Casa Jaguar or Gitano)
  • Most convenient beach base for trips to Tulum town

❌ Cons:

  • Hotels can get a bit expensive
  • Beach access can be difficult if you aren’t a guest here

πŸ‘‰ Best For: groups of friends, older travelers, couples, and anyone looking for a good mix of convenience and quiet.

🍽️ Restaurants:

  • Boccanera PizzerΓ­a y CervecerΓ­a [Map] – Highly reviewed pizza joint offering some of the more affordable meals along the beach.
  • Kin Toh [Map] – High-end jungle treehouse overlooking the ocean. Prices match the quality of the views. (Notes: customer reviews praise this restaurant as one of few in Tulum to fastidiously observe social distancing protocols).

πŸ›οΈ Best Hotels in Tulum Middle Beach Zone:

  • Papaya Playa Project [Check on Booking] – Worth getting a daybed at the beach club even if you aren’t staying here, this mainstay of the Tulum beach is still one of the best resorts in town. Check to see their nightly event schedule.
  • Zamas Hotel [Check on Booking] – Large clean rooms right on the beach. Guests love the hammocks on room porches and the pool. The attached restaurant has solid food and drinks.
  • Tunich Jungle Cabanas [Check on Booking] – Small rooms, but one of the more affordable boutiques on the beach.

South Beach

Boutique store in Tulum
One of the many boutique shops in this area

πŸ“ Where: the long stretch of beach road running south of Avenida Kukulkan towards the Sian Ka’an biosphere. Center point near La Zebra. [Google Map]

βœ”οΈ Pros:

  • Best mix of beautiful beaches and lots of restaurants, bar, and shopping options
  • TONS of great restaurants in this area
  • Best nightlife on the beach (check out party schedule at Casa Jaguar or Gitano)
  • Lots of (albeit pricey) boho chic accommodation options

❌ Cons:

  • Traffic can back up along the beach road at peak periods, making journeys to town annoyingly long.
  • Prices are high (this is the place to stay, after all!)

πŸ‘‰ Best For: luxury travelers, honeymooners, families

🍽️ Restaurants:

  • NU Tulum [Map] – high end restaurants in a relaxed outdoor environment.
  • Rosa Negra Tulum [Map] – lively Latin atmosphere and succulent bites (with prices to match).
  • Raw Love [Map] – beachside vegetarian joint with jungle vibes. Many come just to see the artistic statue of a giant.

πŸ›οΈ Best Hotels in Tulum South Beach Zone:

  • The Beach Tulum [Check on Booking] – This uber popular 5 star Tulum beach hotel is one of the most popular Tulum hotels owing to its stylish rooms, impeccable service, and beachside location.
  • Nativus Glamping [Check on Booking] – One of the most popular eco friendly glamping spots near the beach, complete with a private cenote.
  • Selina Tulum [Check on Booking] – One of the few hostels in the Tulum beach area, this is the Tulum branch of the popular chain.

Staying in Tulum Town

Batey Bar Tulum
Batey bar serves up the best mojitos in Tulum

Many travelers choose to stay in Tulum town to save some cash. Usually this is my choice when I visit as well, as you are really never that far from the beach in Tulum – and you can always whip down to the playa in a taxi, bike, or by foot. Plus, the town is a better base for getting out and checking out all the day trips from Tulum.

The town “or pueblo” offers lots of great bars and restaurants and everything from high end boutique hotels with stunning swimming pools to budget hotels and hostels. There is also a separately named part of the town called Aldea Zama, which is a booming residential area with luxury condominiums, high-end Airbnbs, and a handful of luxury hotels.

Tulum Pueblo

πŸ“ Where: The main settlement in Tulum Mexico, bisected along the middle by Route 307. [Google Maps]

βœ”οΈ Pros:

  • Most affordable accommodation and boutique hotels in Tulum
  • Easy access to shopping, grocery stores, restaurants, and bars
  • Close to bus station, making trips to Coba, Valladolid, or Chichen Itza easier

❌ Cons:

  • Getting to the beach can involve long waits in traffic at peak periods
  • Possible security concerns (Tulum is generally safe, but the town is definitely not crime free)

πŸ‘‰ Best For: budget travelers and backpackers, large groups or families, party animals

🍽️ Restaurants:

  • La Fonda [Map] – popular Italian restaurant serving fresh seafood and pasta in a relaxed backyard ambiance.
  • El Camello Jr. [Map] – a renowned local seafood joint so popular that you’ll likely have to wait in line.
  • Burrito Amor [Map] – A great place to eat in Tulum on a budget. I still to this day swear that I had the best burrito of my life at this place. Tons of vegan and vegetarian options.

πŸ›οΈ Best Tulum Hotels in Town:

  • Coco Hacienda Tulum [Check on Booking] – A tranquil retreat from the chaos of Tulum town, with two stunning pools set in a lush jungle. Very luxurious considering the super reasonable prices (if this place was on the beach, it would easily go for 5x what they charge per night).
  • Mimosa Tulum [Check on Booking] – One of the highest rated boutique hotels in Tulum, with clean stylish rooms, an incredible swimming pool, and a strategic location for getting to the beach.
  • Maka Hotel Boutique [Check on Booking] – An absolutely stunning design hotel that probably exactly what you picture when you think of Tulum luxury.
  • Joy Tulum [Check on Booking] – A great budget hotel in Tulum. Clean but basic rooms, great service, and a solid location near the bus station.

Aldea Zama

πŸ“ Where: Aldea Zama is a newer development on the south part of Tulum town, towards the beach. [Google Maps]

βœ”οΈ Pros:

  • Arguably one of the safer areas in Tulum town
  • Lots of luxury hotels and modern apartment rentals
  • Location means easier access to the beach

❌ Cons:

  • Area still under construction as of spring 2021
  • For the price you’ll pay, you might find a better spot on the beach

πŸ‘‰ Best For: families, long-term stays

🍽️ Restaurants:

  • The Pitted Date Vegan Restaurant [Map] – The Pitted Date (also with locations in Playa del Carmen) is one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants anywhere. So good even carnivores will find something to like.
  • Bejuco Restaurant [Map] – Steak, seafood, and more. Tulum-style ambiance and highly reviewed service.

πŸ›οΈ Best Hotels in Aldea Zama:

  • Hotel Panacea Tulum [Check on Booking] – A good mid range hotel with a great pool. Prices start at $100 per night, which is pretty solid for Tulum these days.
  • NΓ‘ay Tulum Curamoria Collection [Check on Booking] – Another good option for luxury at a reasonable price.

Tips for Where to Stay in Tulum

Woman on balcony at the Dune Boutique Tulum
Clara checking out the Dune Boutique hotel

Should you stay in Tulum or Playa del Carmen?

Tulum is usually the preferred destination for travelers looking for a beach-focused vacation. The white sand and turquoise waters mean the beaches are better in Tulum. Playa del Carmen, by contrast, is more affordable and, because it is larger than Tulum, offers more amenities like nightlife and all-inclusive resorts.

Is it better to stay in Tulum or Cancun?

Since it has an airport, Cancun is a better choice for travelers who only have a few days or long weekend. It is also usually the preferred destination by families and groups. Tulum offers better beaches plus the chance to experience Mayan ruins.

How long should you stay in Tulum?

We recommend staying at least 3 days in Tulum, which gives you enough time to visit the Mayan ruins and enjoy the beaches. With that said, many travelers stay in Tulum, Mexico much longer.

Does Tulum have an airport?

Tulum does not currently have an airport, but the Tulum International Airport started construction in 2021 and is purportedly expected to be finished in 2023. In the meantime, the closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International Airport. See our article on going from Cancun to Tulum.

Can you surf in Tulum?

Tulum has several excellent kite and windsurfing locations right off the main beach. However, traditional surfers are likely to be disappointed as most breaks in Tulum are chest high.

When is best to go to Tulum?

The best time to visit Tulum is November through January, when hurricane season has subsided but before prices spike during Tulum’s peak tourist months of February through April.

Is downtown Tulum safe?

Tulum is generally safe, however there are ocasional incidents of crime targeting tourists. Additionally, note that the state of Quintana Roo has recently experienced an uptick in drug and cartel-related crime. Exercise reasonable precautions and get trip insurance for Mexico.

Is it better to stay in Tulum town or beach?

If you are on a budget, it is better to stay in Tulum town. If you can afford it, staying on the beach provides the most memorable Tulum experience. See our full guide for more info.

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That’s it for this guide on where to stay in Tulum, Mexico. Get planning your trip to Mexico with our related guides:

Enjoy your visit to Tulum!

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