One of the things I’ve noticed after living in Quintana Roo for 7 months now is that I’ve almost become like a travel agent to you guys. Every day my DMs are filled with questions on how to plan the perfect itinerary, where to stay, top recommendations, and is Tulum safe.
If you’re planning a trip you’ll want to start with reading my Tulum Travel Guide. This is a complete Tulum travel guide of everything you need to know when planning a trip to the most popular Mexican destinations.
And because you didn’t really come to Tulum unless you get the photos to prove it, make sure to check out my Most Instagrammable places in Tulum blog post. Add my list of the Best Cenotes in and near Tulum to layer in some epic adventures while here!
One of the most common questions I get is ‘where should I stay in Tulum?’ And it really depends on what you’re after and how long you plan to stay. After living in each one of these areas I have a pretty good understanding of what each one can offer you. In this blog post, I’ll try to break it down for you.
The Best Area to Stay in Tulum
There are two distinct parts of Tulum: Tulum Pueblo and Tulum Playa, separated by one long road through the jungle. If I’m being honest, I had never heard of it referred to as Playa vs Pueblo so I’m going to break it up into the 4 main municipalities in Tulum.
But first, let me give you a little idea of Tulum’s layout. Tulum has 2 main roads that run through the city. Av. Coba is one of those main roads which connects the beach to the main intersection in town. If you take a left at this intersection (driving away from the beach) from Av. Coba onto 307, it will take you through the most populated strip in downtown Tulum.
Av. Kukulkan is another popular road among locals, located just south of Coba. This road is a shortcut from Centro right to the hotel zone beach, and you’ll end up right in front of Amansala Hotel. This road was recently paved and is now a dream to ride down!
Now let’s dive into each area and what they have to offer.
Beach Road Tulum
Tulum Hotel Zone
Hotel Zone is probably exactly what you think of when you see photos of people on the beach or partying in Tulum. The hotel zone is like the Las Vegas strip or South Beach Miami. It’s lively, energetic, and doesn’t sleep. The scent of copal fills the streets with bougie clubs blaring music and showy restaurants lining the dirt road.
The benefit of booking a stay in the hotel zone is that you are within walking distance from the beach, with great restaurants, dance parties, and tons of boutique shops. Some of the most photogenic places you see flooding your IG newsfeed are located in the hotel zone.
This is the heartbeat of Tulum. The downfall is that it will come at a price. The hotels on the beach are very expensive and wifi in this area isn’t always reliable. You’ll often find yourself in a dead zone somewhere along the beach.
I would also keep in mind the time of year you are planning to visit. November-March would be ideal times to visit and stay on the beach. However April-September you can plan for extreme heat and for the beach to be covered in seaweed. In this case, if being in the hotel zone is where you want to be, I’d consider something on the jungle side like RadHoo.
Taxi’s in the hotel zone will also try and overcharge you. This is where if you know a little Spanish it will really help. Anything to try and prove you’re not a tourist, even if you are.
To give you an idea, if you’re staying in Centro, to get to the beach will cost you around 400 pesos ($20 USD), but as soon as the sun goes down the prices go up. So expect to pay anywhere from 600-800 pesos to return depending on your haggling skills.
Some of my favorite hotels in the hotel zone are:
Tulum Public Beach (Playa Paraiso)
Instead of turning right to get to the hotel zone, if you take a left at the roundabout, it brings you to the Public Beach. A quieter side of the beach where locals mainly go and there is no order minimum to enter. This area is also the closest to the Tulum Ruins on a map.
While there are more affordable properties to be found, there isn’t as much nightlife going on this side of the beach. However, there are a few new restaurants and beach clubs that have opened up within the past year including Gitano Beach and Mezzanine. The downside is you’ll still have to taxi/ drive to get to the hotel zone or Centro where you’ll likely want to hang out, eat and shop.
Now I’ve never actually stayed in a hotel on this side of the beach, so I can’t give you specific recommendations. But here are a couple of cool spots I like to hang out at.
Some of my favorite hotels in the hotel zone are:
Ikal, Poc Na, Mezzanine, Cinqo Tulum (if you want a unique glamping experience)
After the hotel zone, Aldea Zama is the next closest area to the beach. Located just off Coba road, and built-in the jungle, Aldea Zama is a new development and feels the most Americanized. It’s like a little suburbia with cobblestone roads and with roundabouts that all look the same, it’s extremely confusing.
Here you can find a ton of newly developed Airbnb properties and lots of upcoming development projects. People staying in Aldea Zama are mainly short-term renters for a few reasons but you can also find long-term places available. For one it is closer to what North American living looks like so it doesn’t feel like a big culture shock for visitors and a lot of the properties within this area are gated communities.
Because of this taxis will charge more just for entering Aldea Zama, even if your place is right on the cuff because they know it means tourists are living in there.
Since this is an up-and-coming area, there is a high probability of construction during the day. So if you’re looking to relocate as a digital nomad and are looking for a quiet space to work/ take calls from, more often than not, you’ll want to look outside of this area.
Some of my favorite Airbnb properties here are Trinity, Tribuu, BeachPlease (a luxury vacation rental company, I have stayed in 5 of their villas and loved each one).
Tulum Centro is completely different from the beach area and has a visibly more local flair. The city center is filled with authentic taco stands, locally owned souvenir shops and has an overall more budget-friendly vibe. If you’re looking for something more affordable layered in with some Mexican culture this is a great location. In Centro, you’ll find a mix of boutique hotels, Airbnb, and hostels.
This is where you’ll notice Tulum can be much more inclusive than you think. You can do Tulum extra bougie or on a budget.
As you’re right in the heart of the city, you can expect the streets to be busy late into the evening and not as quiet as Aldea Zama or La Valeta. But you are right in the center of all the action with lively bars, live music, and cheap eats.
Taxis getting around town will be very fairly priced (50-150 pesos) depending on where you’re going and likely a little bit more to get down to the beach.
Some of my favorite hotels in the hotel zone are Esmerelda, Downtown Tulum, Hotel Bardo
La Valeta is my personal favorite as it’s the most authentic with tons of little cafes and restaurants nestled along the unpaved dirt road. It feels kinda like Canggu in Bali whereas it’s a small community filled with great restaurants. And they are building so much! So in just a few years, it will likely look completely different.
Since most people staying in La Valeta are expats living long term in Mexico, immediately the taxi prices are the fairest. However, most people staying here will rent a scooter or a bicycle because you are also the farthest away from the beach. To get to the beach a taxi will cost you about 400-450 pesos (roughly $20 USD) but you can rent a scooter for 24 hours for the same price.
Some of my favourite properties in La Valeta are: Maia, Central Park
In conclusion, Tulum can be for everyone, you just need to first decide what your budget is and what you value most. Do you value waking up by the ocean? Do you value nightlife? Do you value culture?
I hope this post will help you better understand the layout of the town and help you make the best decision possible when figuring out where to stay in Tulum!
As always, if you have any more questions, make sure to leave them in the comments below!
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