Last Updated on October 18, 2022 by Wandering our World
There are so many great destinations in Mexico, and Cabo and Tulum are two of the best.
However, both offer very different vacations, so making the choice between Cabo and Tulum is as important as it is difficult.
Thankfully we’re here to help! Below we pit Cabo vs Tulum, letting you know what to expect in each, comparing the beaches, culture, and nightlife.
We then give you a run down of some of the best natural sights and things to do in each destination to help you decide which one is better for your holiday.
So let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- How Does The Natural Scenery & Outdoor Activities Compare
- Where To Stay According to Your Budget
- Which Is The Better Holiday Choice
A Quick Overview Of Cabo vs Tulum
Many people think these destinations will be quite similar as they’re both in Mexico and quite near to each other. However there are notable differences.
We believe that Tulum beats Cabo when it comes to which destination has the better beaches for sunbathing and swimming. There are some gorgeous stretches of white powdery sand in Tulum and warm aqua water, whereas the sand in Cabo tends to be more golden and not as soft. That’s no surprise considering Tulum sits on the Caribbean Sea, whie Cabo is on the Pacific. But can you swim in Cabo and Tulum? The answer for both destinations is yes!
Tulum is also very close to some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins in the region, so is a destination that often attracts tourists that are looking for a little more than just sun, sea, sand and shopping.
While Cabo has its fair share of all-inclusive resorts (like Tulum), we have found that it does have a certain rustic authentic feel to it, and is a great place for walking, exploring, hiking and even whale watching! So Cabo may be better suited to tourists who want to explore as much as they want to sunbathe.
Cabo is a safe destination for tourists too – as is Tulum – but as always you must be vigilant in regards to petty crime in both destinations, and be careful of leaving drinks unattended.
Below we look at what things you can see and do in Cabo and Tulum in more detail, so you have an idea of what excursions are possible.
How Does The Natural Scenery & Outdoor Activities Compare?
This famous Mexican destination has some wonderful beaches, and Lovers Beach is probably our favourite. This beach is remote and secluded as it can only be reached by boat – but it’s well worth the trip. The water is clear and great for snorkelling, while the sand is soft, pristine, and flanked by stunning dramatic granite cliffs that are 30 million years old.
Another favorite is El Medano Beach, which is one of the best beaches in Cabo for swimming. With several beach bars and eateries, it’s a great place to enjoy a cocktail or two in the sun.
The landscape of Cabo has lots to offer too. Visit the Santa Rita Hot Springs to bathe in the natural hot springs that have sprung up in nature. It’s a tropical oasis.
Or make your way to Cabo Pulmo National Park for whale watching opportunities and snorkeling amongst reef fish and sea turtles at the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean. A great underwater camera – like this one – is a must. Keep an eye out for the sting rays that jump out of the water too!
If you’re looking for something a bit more energetic, then head to Mt. Solmar. A short, but moderately difficult hike will bring you to the summit where there’s breathtaking views of Cabo and the Pacific Ocean. It’s well worth it.
There’s lots of adventurous excursions here too, with opportunities to dive with sharks, skydive, go on a sunset party cruise, or even use a flyboard – a crazy looking device that allows you to dive into the water and also fly above it.
After a long day exploring Cabo or enjoying the beach, then head to Baja Brewery for great beer and good food. We recommend coming here at sunset as it’s a rooftop bar and the views are exceptional.
Another favorite spot is The Jungle Bar – expect good music, drinks, and friendly service. For something a little different, head to the cozy Two for the Road Cabo JAZZ Spot – this little jazz joint has great musicians and equally great drinks. An absolute must in Cabo.
One of our favourite beaches, Playa Ruinas, sums up culture-rich Tulum well. This stunning beach with palm trees and aqua water is interspersed with Mayan ruins. It’s essentially an archeological site and beach in one!
Playa Paraíso is another beautiful beach which has a real Caribbean feel. It’s large, the sand is soft, the water is shallow, crystal clear and perfect for swimming. There’s also a few beach bars which are perfect to grab a cocktail beside the gently swaying palm trees.
If you head around 30km north from Tulum you will find Akumal Bay. At this wonderful white sand bay you can swim with dolphins, sea turtles and snorkel with colorful fish and rays.
A worthwhile excursion would be a trip to Parque Nacional Tulum which mixes turquoise blue sea with Mayan ruins. The dramatic position of the ruins on the cliff edge is breathtaking, while the countless iguanas that make this place home certainly adds to the atmosphere!
However our favourite excursion in Tulum is visiting the nearby cenotes. The large natural sinkholes have filled with water and are beautiful places to swim and scuba dive as there’s around 300 miles of interconnected underwater tunnels. The rock formations are other-worldly, the water crystal clear and warm, and the experience of swimming here one of a kind. A great underwater camera – like this one – is a must.
After a day enjoying the sights and swimming, a few drinks in the evening is a must. Although Tulum isn’t nightlife centric, there are several great evening spots. One of our favorites is Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar. This bar has an energetic vibe, beer garden, and live music – the different flavored mojitos are delicious.
Another favorite is Xibalbar. Expect great service and music at this rooftop bar, as well as a nice selection of food and drinks, and the best hookah in the city. It’s usually open until 1am.
Cabo vs Tulum: Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Shoestring: Set in the heart of Cabo within walking distance of the beach, restaurants and nightlife, Sofia Hostel Cabo is a friendly hostel with a lovely garden and activities.
Budget: Sirena del Mar is spectacularly located on top of a cliff, but still just three minutes walk to a beach, and 15 minutes drive to downtown Cabo. There you’ll get incredible seaside views, a private beach area, terraces to soak up the sun and an outdoor swimming pool.
Luxury: Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection has to be one of the top five-star hotels in the world. The exceptional service, landscaped grounds, beachfront infinity pool, spa, and even free yoga sessions – all set right beside the sea and beach – make this place an unbelievable Cabo getaway.
Shoestring: Decked out in old Tulum style, Caribeña may be a cheap accommodation choice but it doesn’t look it. You’ll be just a few minutes walk from downtown Tulum, and close to the beach and archeological sites. And when returning back after a day of exploring there’s a lovely outdoor pool to enjoy.
Budget: The beach isn’t the only reason you should visit Tulum, the jungle is just as tropical and picturesque. Nahouse Jungle Lodges give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in Tulum’s breathtaking natural landscape, but in stylish decorated villas with access to a big pool to cool down on warm evenings.
Luxury: Everything about Hotel Ma’xanab Tulum is photogenic. From the gorgeously decorated rooms, to the jungle garden. As well as the private beach and huge outdoor pool. There’s a reason this five-star hotel is so popular – you can even get rooms with their own private infinity pool!
Tulum vs Cabo: Which Is The Better Holiday Choice?
Both of these Mexican holiday vacations will provide unforgettable memories but for very different reasons.
Tulum has better beaches than Cabo, is relaxed and has an authentic vibe. So if you’re looking for spectacular beaches, some great natural and archeological excursions, then Tulum may be the better choice than Cabo.
Cabo has some lovely beaches too, and great wildlife and hiking excursions. So if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand in a unique location, and also wish to explore the surrounding area, then Cabo might be the better choice than Tulum.