The conundrum of where to stay in Tulum as a first-timer is real. The experiences you get between Tulum Beach and Tulum Town are so different that it can be like visiting two entirely other places.
Both offer unique daytime entertainment options. When it comes to nightlife, it’s a matter of preference between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach. Additionally, you may be wondering which of the two boasts the best location, convenience, and accommodation options. So, let’s get into it!
🏖️ What’s the difference between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach?
The main difference between Tulum and Tulum Beach is the type of experience you get. Tulum town (also called Tulum Pueblo or downtown Tulum) is a more authentic local experience with traditional food stalls, more affordable hotels, and easy access to nightlife.
On the other hand, Tulum Beach leans more towards catering for tourists, with luxury hotels (often offering direct access to a private beach within walking distance) and pricey everything.
It’s important to note that Tulum Beach is split into separate areas along the coast: The north beach zone, the Beach town, the Middle beach zone, and the South beach zone. These zones all differ slightly in the categories that we are looking at.
Like Tulum’s beachfront, the town also has a separate area, known as Aldea Zama, a residential area closer to the beach than the rest of the town and is known for its luxurious resorts.
☀️ What daytime entertainment is available?
In the center of town, you will find colorful streets lined with happy faces, quirky cafes, Mexican food stalls, souvenir shops, and fantastic restaurants.
There are also several adventure shops where you can organize some super fun day trips and activities.
Here are some of the things you can do during the day when visiting Tulum town and its surrounds:
- Take a trip to Tulum National Park. Take a boat trip to admire the diverse animals and gorgeous lagoon, or go kayaking or scuba diving.
- See Mayan ruins (also called the Tulum Ruins), where you can climb the ruins of Coba.
- Explore downtown Tulum on a bicycle
- Find the street art murals, bright houses, and stylish photo spots!
- Go shop-hopping!
- Explore a cenote (These stunning turquoise caves and sinkholes will put any plunge pool to shame). You can snorkel, swim, zipline over, and scuba dive in these.
Tulum’s Beach area is somewhat more nonchalant during the day than downtown. Here, you’ll find white sands on beautiful beaches, boutique shops, and a laid-back atmosphere.
Here are some of the things you can do in the Tulum Beach area during the day:
- Relax on the beach, sunbathe, and swim in the ocean.
- Go snorkeling in the ocean.
- Try a craft cocktail at one of the many restaurants.
- If on North Beach, you could walk to the Mayan ruins.
- Visit Sian Ka’an Reserve/Biosphere near the Southern end of the beach.
- Take a yoga class.
Which has the better nightlife?
Although geographically close to each other, the nightlife scenes are worlds apart in terms of who they are geared towards. Those seeking an underground electronic music experience should head to the beach! And for those looking for cheap alcohol deals, the Pueblo is calling.
Recommended reading: Tulum nightclubs by area guide
Nightlife in Tulum Pueblo
In Tulum Pueblo, you’ll find a variety of bars that charge affordable prices, local restaurants, dance clubs and street parties.
Here the restaurants and clubs lean more towards local flavors, their rates are more budget-friendly, and the experience is more urban.
The only downside to some of the restaurants in town is that they don’t have a great view, which is hardly a downside if you’re partying. But it may matter if you want a relaxed dinner overlooking a beautiful beach.
Here are some of the best bars and restaurants to check out if you find yourself in downtown Tulum:
- Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar. They are known for yummy fruit mojitos, live music, and a chilled atmosphere.
- Pasito Tun Tun. A local and tourist hotspot with two sides; a vibrant, busy bar area in the front and a more relaxed outdoor area at the back. They have trendy swings for chairs near a few of the tables.
- Kiki. The best nightclub in Tulum Town. Best to go after 12 AM
- Ki’bok. A coffee shop with a rooftop patio. It transforms into a bar in the evenings that offers a colourful view of the happenings down below.
Nightlife in Tulum Beach
If you are looking for world-renowned underground electronic music and nightlife on your trip to Tulum, then the beach strip is the place to go. So much so that Tulum Beach is thought of in the same league as Ibiza and Mykonos.
It may be quieter during the day, but this place is buzzing at night. You’ll find trendy beach clubs, rooftop patios, great restaurants and, best of all, the partying goes on all night! (Well, at least at some of the places).
Here are some of the best bars and restaurants to visit if you’re visiting Tulum Beach:
- Papaya Playa Project (Beach Town)-The biggest party happens once a month here during the full moon, and there are smaller but still fabulous parties every Saturday, with dancing, well-known DJs and wicked cool lights.
- Casa Jaguar (middle beach zone)– Gorgeous outdoorsy Caribbean restaurant by day and jungle nightclub by night (on Tuesdays and Thursdays)
- Kin Toh(Beach town)– This is a bougie bar and restaurant with a unique design. There are hammocks and comfy areas with pillows on little islands overlooking the jungle.
- Gitano (middle beach zone) – Mexican restaurant with a vibe. Live music, jungle feel, and lots of drinking and dancing.
- La Zebra Hotel (South Beach)– Sunday Salsa Night is a fun night of salsa dancing. There are free lessons, a bar and a restaurant, and craft cocktails.
You could also go on a walking food tour in the evening, where you can sample all sorts of foods, from Mexican delights to street food to old local recipes.
Related article: Tulum’s best hotels for partying
📍 Which has the best location, convenience, and accommodation options?
Location & Convenience
Tulum Pueblo allows for cheap and easy access to transport in town and day trips. Shopping is easy and convenient. Busses constantly run, making it super convenient to get around.
The town is easily walkable. But if you need to get to the beach, you should rent a bike or catch a taxi because it can be a far walk depending on where you are staying. It is also easy to get to the town from Cancun International Airport.
The hotels in Tulum town are significantly cheaper. You are much more likely to find affordable accommodation here and might even find a budget hostel that is as nice as a beach hotel but for a price tag that doesn’t break the bank. There are tons of options to choose from, and here are a few:
Location & Convenience
The location is gorgeous. But convenience takes a slight knock here because transport is super pricey along the beachfront.
It is more of a tourist area, so the prices reflect that. The options for transport are also slim- there are a few costly tuk-tuks or taxis you can take into town, but that’s about it.
Tulum Beach has the most luxury resorts at a more costly price point. So, if you visit Tulum for a vacation and have the budget, then it is well worth choosing your accommodation along the beach strip.
But bear in mind all the beachfront hotels attempting to monopolize the stretch of beach in front of their resorts.
Aldea Zama deserves mention for this section because it is uniquely situated and is its own experience.
Location & Convenience
Aldea Zama is in the prime spot in Tulum. It is right on the edge of town, with easy access to both the town and the beach via the beach road. This makes it the perfect base for the best of both worlds.
Aldea Zama comprises the best luxury hotels and high-end accommodation options and is also debatably the safest area in Tulum.
Accommodation options in Aldea Zama:
⚖️ So what’s the verdict?
|More activities and things to do.
|Slower-paced, relaxed holiday environment.
|Chilled atmosphere with a local vibe.
|NYC hipster classy with a jungle twist.
|Location & Convenience
|Best budget hotels, affordable transport, and ease of access for day trips.
|Luxurious, pampering hotels with higher costs.
Ladies & gentlemen, we have a tie result! Tulum Pueblo (Town) is better for budget travelers who like a high-paced, bustling feel with better access to convenience and a touch of the local culture.
Tulum Beach is better for those willing to spend a bit more to get a relaxing vacation and have easy access to the nightlife without worrying about how to get back home each night.
Tulum is a great location, and if you want to experience it to its fullest, I recommend staying in town for the first part of your stay- go to all the local spots, enjoy the clubs, and make a few day trips.
Then, once you are weary, make your way to the beach to spend the second half of your trip rejuvenating, sipping cocktails on the beach, and checking out the nightlife.