Cancun vs. Tulum- family of 4

Old Aug 16th, 2018, 07:20 AM
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Cancun vs. Tulum- family of 4

Hi all- Family of 4 (kids 12 and 13) with tickets to Cancun on hold for January for a 5 day/4 night trip. We're a fairly intrepid family and have driven in many places in the world, but also know there's growing (albeit small) security concerns now in that part of Mexico.

Here's what we're looking for:
- beachside resort
- activities for kids... note... we do not want a 1,000 room all-inclusive. Been there/done that, and not looking for that kind of trip
- 1-2 mornings diving
- 1/2-day to a full day visiting the Tulum ruins
- Access to local restaurants (vs. eating all meals at a resort)

We are considering 2 options:
1) Staying in Cancun (and using local dive shops) and taking private transport for day trip to Tulum ruins
2) Staying in Tulum (using dive shop there)

So looking for some help on options for a medium-size luxury resort (fewer than 300-400 rooms, price under $600/night).

In terms of safety and getting to town, what's the current views on renting a car? Personally would feel safer with a driver. What about getting the 3 miles from the Tulum resorts (if that's where we choose to stay) into town for meals?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Aug 16th, 2018, 08:43 AM
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We were in Tulum a year ago - no problem then driving anywhere (to and from Cancun airport, to Coba, to the Tulum pueblo and ruins, etc.).

That said, there are no luxury "resorts" in Tulum - everything beachside in Tulum is boutique-y (which is why we stayed there, at the Colibri La Zebra, which we loved).

Also, FWIW, the Tulum ruins are pretty compact - not a whole day trip at all. But you could combine them with a few hours at the beach or the in the pueblo, or drive out to Coba, which are other ruins that a lot of people on this board find more than the Tulum ruins (we enjoyed both, and liked the fact that at Coba, you could rent a bike at the entrance to get around inside).
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Old Aug 16th, 2018, 06:58 PM
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You shouldn't have any trouble taking taxis to / from the Tulum coast (and its hotels) and Tulum pueblo (with its restaurants and bus connections to various sites).
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Old Aug 17th, 2018, 04:44 AM
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Have you considered staying in Playa del Carmen area rather than Cancun? Lots of resorts there and the town to explore as well. It is also closer to Tulum.
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Old Aug 17th, 2018, 01:31 PM
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There are no AIs in Tulum except Kore Wellness which is on a rocky beach and is Adults Only.- most of the hotels there are small boutique hotels. If you don't have a rental car and want to travel back and forth between the beach hotel zone and the pueblo, you'll need to take taxis, should cost about 100-150pesos one way.
For diving you want to go to Cozumel or maybe Akumal or Puerto Morelos.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 05:35 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Leaning towards Tulum, as some of the small boutique hotels look really great. We're looking to escape the very touristy areas (yes, I understand Tulum will have tourists, but seems a bit quainter than Cancun and Playa del Carmen). Will probably dive 2 mornings and visit the ruins another, so we likely don't need the big amenities of a large resort to keep us busy.

Some questions...
- Any hesitation renting a car from CUN airport to Tulum, and transporting ourselves?
- Looks like most of the waterfront properties are around 4-8km from the center of town. I assume that's the best place to find good restaurants for lunch and dinner?

Thanks again.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by dave_261 View Post
- Any hesitation renting a car from CUN airport to Tulum, and transporting ourselves?.
That depends! Is there any chance that you would have jet lag? If so, it is a terrible idea!
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 09:47 AM
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Renting a car and driving down is a piece of cake if you do it in the daytime. At night, the highway is quite dark and there can be bicyclists or animals in the road. The drive takes about 90 minutes, and the only traffic you may hit is around Playa Del Carmen. Rent from one of the local agencies likes Easyway or Avant - much cheaper and nice to deal with. Tulum and Cancun are vastly different. With kids, you might want to look at Akumal, which has a pleasant calm water bay loaded with fish. The beach at Tulum is beautiful, but can get rough. Playa del Carmen is also a good option if you want more of a party atmosphere, and Puerto Morelos is also very nice. Go to locogringo.com for lots of info on the whole area.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
That depends! Is there any chance that you would have jet lag? If so, it is a terrible idea!
Won't have jetlag. Arriving around 11am after a 3-hour nonstop flight from North Carolina.

And I know to watch the speed limit! Anything else to be mindful of on the road?
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 01:12 PM
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I have either rented a car, or taken a private transfer and met up with one of my travel buddies who rented one and paid my share. I will second both Easyway and America Car Rental, and Avant also gets good reviews. Just rent directly from a local company and do not use a third party site like Expedia or Kayak as they usually will not include the necessary insurance. Expect to pay about $40 or so for a small sedan like a Nissan Tsuru or Tilda or VW Gol.
Drive the posted speed limit (appoint the navigator to watch for the signs as they change a lot around Playa del Carmen) and stay right and wear seat belts.
You might also like a nice condo in Akumal on Half Moon Bay, more room for the kids and privacy, many have pools (not real common in Tulum) and it is handy to have a fridge for drinks and snacks and a microwave to heat leftovers. I'll second Zootsi to check out Locogringo, I loved Playa Caribe condos and my friend swears by La Joya. Both have pools and AC. There are also two dive shops in Akumal.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by dave_261 View Post
Anything else to be mindful of on the road?
Perhaps things have changed, but I remember a lot of topes -- various types of speed bumps that can be high enough to do serious damage. IIRC, most were signed, but not all, and some were hard to see if there were shadows on the road.

Too, when I was there, the unwritten rules-of-the-road were different than in the U.S. As I recall, to turn left, one pulled all the way to the right and waited for the road to clear -- otherwise, cars would pass on your left. And if at an intersection where the right-of-way is not clear, flicking headlines meant "I'm not stopping!" rather than "you go first." But it's been a while since I was there, so things could easily have changed.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 04:30 PM
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kja, if you haven't driven 307 lately, it's now a lot wider and more like a US highway. Yes there are topes (speed bumps) as you approach populated areas, but they are well marked. I'm not sure about the 'pull over to make a left' rule any more - I don't think it's that common now. Another tip - as you approach busy Playa Del Carmen, keep to the left lanes on the highway so you can get on the overpass that bypasses most of the busy local traffic. You also want all the necessary insurances as your credit card coverage is not adequate with Mexico's stiff motor vehicle laws. The local companies usually include it in your rate.If you choose Tulum, realize there are two parts to it - the pueblo on 307 which is lined with restaurants and shops; and the beach road 1.5 miles to the east which is lined with small beachfront hotels, yoga retreats and restaurants. Needless to say, the pueblo offers more authentic and reasonable food options, and the back streets are still local Mexican. As for Akumal, there are two bays - Half Moon and Akumal Bay. Both are great, but Half Moon is not ideal for swimming due to rocks, coral and seaweed. Half Moon is much quieter than Akumal Bay. There are about 8 very good restaurants in Akumal, a few are right on the beach.
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Old Aug 18th, 2018, 07:16 PM
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@ zootsi: Thanks for the update! Even if 307 is much improved, the OP might want to drive to some local sites, which could involve less commonly used roads, so I thought even out-dated information might be of use.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2018, 02:24 PM
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Hi-
I'm about to take my 9th trip to Tulum next month. I always stay on the beach road and I tend to go back and forth to the Pueblo often, both to eat and to shop. The beach road offers MANY amazing options for lunch and dinner, so do not worry about going to town. One of the reasons I love to go to Tulum is to EAT!!!! I actually have trouble choosing where to go because now there are countless option on the beach road, and within every budget. Most of the hotels have free parking. I highly recommend Tulum vs. ANY large resort along the Maya Riviera. Most of the hotels have breakfast included. On my next trip I will be at Nomade, which has AMAZING restaurants, but there are MANY great places to stay. January is one of the busiest months, so Im not sure if you will have trouble booking something. NV de Ramiro is a great choice with kids and has an amazing restaurant across the street where breakfast is included (Casa Banana). Tulum is just a really nice experience, and I travel extensively throughout the world and I keep coming back to this place!!!! Tons to do with kids (Sian Kaan, snorkeling in cenotes, ruins, exploring the nearby areas), etc..... Regarding car rental- i always rent a car and drive to town, cenotes, the shops, Coba, Akumal, lunch at Chamicos, etcccc. Easy to drive to Tulum, freedom to go where you want and pretty cheap. I like America car rental and Avant because the required insurance is included and you don't have the shock at the rental counter when you realize that the actual price is 3 times what your Expedia rental quote was!!!
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Old Sep 4th, 2018, 06:07 PM
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Appreciate all the replies and advice. We've settled on a nice looking place in Tulum (Cabanas Tulum). Really happy to be escaping the madness of Cancun for a more peaceful getaway.
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Old Sep 5th, 2018, 12:34 PM
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Great choice, several of my friends have stayed there and I have visited the rooms, free breakfast included at adjacent Ziggy Beach Club.
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Old Sep 5th, 2018, 02:51 PM
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We stayed at Cabanas Tulum a few years ago and really liked it. The included breakfast is very good - basically any entre off the menu, plus a hot beverage, and I think a juice. Definitely a cut above the standard hotel included breakfast.

And I agree that there are plenty of places to eat on the beach road - lots in town too - but you don't need to go into town if you don't want to. We like to spend most of our time at the beach when we aren't out sightseeing, since the beach is really what we come for. Town is fine, but it isn't anything out of the ordinary. It's just a normal Mexican town with a highway running through the middle and all the stuff you'd expect - restaurants, shops, grocery stores, local businesses, etc.
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Old Sep 6th, 2018, 04:30 AM
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Please be mindful that they often include the tip (propina) on your bill, especially at the beach bars all along the beach area. Many will unknowingly add the tip to the existing total which is already done...the cabanas is a great little place and a fantastic beach...
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Old Sep 14th, 2018, 07:07 AM
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Tulum is, in my opinion, better than Cancun generally but it's fast becoming overcrowded and over-hyped. I live in Yucatan and have really noticed the difference between Tulum over the last few years. Last time we went (March) we had to queue in the car for ages before we hit the beach.

The ruins are small but they aren't the only ones. I'm new to Fodors and think I'm not allowed to paste links to my blog so I won't but there are other sites that I highly recommend around Tulum - Muyil and Coba.

Also, I wonder if you might enjoy cenotes with your kids. Coba and cenotes is an amazing day out. Muyil plus Sian Kaan biosphere is also a fabulous day.
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