Every traveler has their own idea of what makes for the perfect trip.
For some, it’s about finding adventure and the opportunity for new experiences.
For others, it’s about relaxing on a luxury vacation with friends or family.
And when it comes to Cabo vs Tulum, these two dreamy destinations have very different vibes.
In this article, we’ll compare the two to help you decide which one is best for your next Mexico getaway.
Cabo is crafted for those who have a taste for the finer things and want more than just adventures on sea.
The tourist mecca that is Los Cabos is everything the magazines advertise: an upscale Mexican getaway.
Being a city that caters to international crowds, Cabo has become synonymous with shopping, dining and partying.
The celebrity-studded resorts and surprises appearances at restaurants feed into its party reputation.
Of course, Cabo boasts the usual Mexican allure too; a beautiful coastline with generous marine bounty.
If you’re looking for pure R&R, Tulum lets you step away from the hustle.
Authentic and ancient, Tulum’s cultural depth cannot be ignored.
It appeals to two vastly different crowds: the laidback traveler and adventurous spirit.
As the gateway to the Riviera Maya, Tulum merges ancient history with natural beauty.
The list is endless: Caribbean beaches and lush forests, cenotes, and Mayan ruins.
But at the heart of it is a call for everyone to slow down and appreciate what’s out there.
Between the swells of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean’s sultry charm, the beaches in Cabo and Tulum play a huge role in drawing tourists in.
Cabo beaches are brushed golden under the sun and the Pacific Ocean’s passionate nature.
What some may not realize (due to the various water sports on offer) is that the Pacific’s turbulent waters make Cabo a dangerous swimming destination.
Instead of picking beaches at random and throwing yourself into the surf, always check for a blue flag!
The 19 swimming-safe beaches are denoted by a blue flag.
Tip: Check out this guide on resorts with swimmable beaches in Cabo.
Consider what you’re looking for in a beach too; remote and secluded Lovers Beach is reachable only by boat.
The dramatic, 30 million years old granite cliffs are a photographer’s dream.
On El Medano are beach bars and eateries for sunset lounging.
Playa el Suspiro is lovely during sunset, but not made for swims.
Beaches in Tulum, however, are all about frolicking through the waves.
The warmer and calmer waters wash gently onto the shore, where you can lounge on sugary sand all day.
Cat naps are highly encouraged!
Some of the best Tulum beaches include Playa Ruinas, which feature Mayan ruins scattered throughout palms and soft sand.
Playa Paraiso exudes real Caribbean vibes; picture large, shallow waters for swimming and numerous beach bars.
For colorful reefs and picturesque snorkeling, hit up the white-sanded Akumal Bay.
If we're talking pure beach quality, the beaches in Tulum are some of the best in the world.
They're the Caribbean promise – fine, white sand and sparkling waves.
Cabo isn't so much about the beaches than adventures on and underwater.
Like most Mexican retreats along the coast, Tulum and Cabo are known for its watery delights.
But there’s so much more that differentiates them from each other!
Cabo is actually a Los Cabos triple threat: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and the 18-mile long Corridor which links these sister cities.
Where Cabo is a unique resort city, San Jose del Cabo is a charming town with classic Mexican flavor and traditional ambiance; perfect for evening strolls.
The Corridor makes for a great day out, home to top-rated resorts and a celeb-dotted coastline. Excursions are a must here.
Cabo itself is famous for beaches, activities at sea, nature expeditions and rustic city wanders.
Thanks to its Pacific location, Cabo is known as the ‘aquarium of the world’.
The Sea of Cortez covets an abundance of marine life.
For whale watching, reef snorkeling and jumping stingrays, visit Cabo Pulmo National Park.
You can also experience adrenaline-pumping excursions like diving with sharks, sky diving and using a flyboard.
Charter fishing boats in Cabo for slower-paced days.
On land, hop between distinctive natural attractions like Santa Rita Hot Springs to the Arch of Cabo San Lucas at Land’s End – an iconic Cabo landmark.
The short but challenging hike up Mt. Solmar also offers breathtaking views!
Don’t forget Cabo’s 18 championship golf courses either.
It’s golf, golf, and more golf at El Dorado Golf and Beach Course, Chileno Bay Course, and Cabo del Sol.
In comparison, Tulum ditches the ‘tourist city’ label for something more authentic.
Less commercialized than cities like Cancun, this seaside destination focuses on natural and historical attractions.
The best things to do in Tulum center on beaches, cenotes, Mayan ruins and archeological digs.
Parque Nacional Tulum is one such highlight, mixing sea and archeological ruins for a super dramatic setting.
Then there are the Cenotes dos Ojos! These large, natural sinkholes are pure magic.
Swimmers and scuba divers alike will be awed by their 300 miles of interconnected underwater tunnels.
You can make a day of zip-lining across these blue holes and exploring other-worldly rock formations.
Speaking of cliffside ruins, do learn the history and cultural significance behind them.
If Tulum’s jungles seem like an overwhelming challenge, ask around for the best day trips.
From caves to ATV rides, and spotting wildlife that ranges from scorpions to jaguars – you’ll find something for you.
Of course, you can always unwind at the town center or on a beach.
Tulum beach clubs are perfect for cultivating that tan.
Cabo takes the lead when it comes to variety in things to do – from cosmopolitan highs to golfing and deep-sea fishing.
If you're looking for a jam-packed Mexican holiday, Cabo treats you to outdoor adventures in the day and fun parties at night.
Cabo can rival Cancun in terms of partying! Nightlife in Cabo goes full swing when the sun goes down, especially downtown.
From beachfront bars to nightclubs and lounges, you’ve got plenty of choice.
Happy hour at Baja Brewery combines beer and sunset views, while The Jungle Bar offers great music and drinks.
El Squid Roe, Pinky Kitty and Blue Marlin Ibiza are some of Cabo’s best clubbing experiences.
Party hours last well into the morning, so plan for a slow morning after.
Pro Tip: Purchase a Cabo nightlife party pass! Forgo the long lines and enjoy free drinks at top nightclubs.
In comparison, Tulum is not nightlife centric. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy several chill evening spots.
The Beach Zone and Downtown Tulum accommodate with upscale, jungle-themed clubs in the former, cheaper clubs in the latter.
The clubs do close earlier than their Cabo counterparts, however.
Mostly, people gather at cozier bars and rooftop haunts.
Batey Mojito and Guarapo Bar is one such example; this energetic beer garden offers live music and mojito orders that triple.
For rooftop views and hookah, drop by Xibalbar.
Cabo! There are simply more options (for every budget) and much longer play time.
You can choose to relax at a cocktail bar or release your party animal until 3AM.
While both Cabo and Tulum can go from ‘beachside cheap’ to ‘fine dining’ in a snap, turn your focus away from the price tag to the types of cuisine they serve.
Cabo’s internationalized city vibes apply to its food scene too.
Plenty of French and Italian restaurants are scattered around downtown, alongside continental fare.
This global approach is replicated in the drinks menu as well.
But the most popular cuisine by far is regional: Baja Med.
A fusion between traditional Mexican dishes and Mediterranean cuisine, Cabo’s cuisine revolves around local produce from Baja California Peninsula.
Expect seafood dishes with a twist!
Common dishes include tempura fish tacos, fried marlin, octopus and prickly pear cactus risotto, camaron enchiladas and more.
Seafood and authentic Mexican flavors make the cornerstone of Tulum dining.
More specifically, many restaurants serve Yucatecan cuisine.
Drawing on the natural produce available in Riviera Maya, typical fare look like papadzules (egg enchiladas), huevos motuleños (breakfast tortillas) and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork).
There are some international options around Tulum Beach; mainly Thai, Italian and Japanese restaurants.
Many beach clubs also come with lunch, dinner and drinks menus.
These tend to be more seafood-based or American grill, with drinks adding a citrusy bite.
Let your taste buds decide between Cabo and Tulum because both destinations heavily feature Mexican staples and seafood.
If you like a sprinkle of international flavor, Cabo is your pick.
For traditional bites, Tulum is a tiny bit more localized.
In terms of accommodations at these two popular beachside destinations, price and style are the most common deciding factors:
Cabo, the tourist hub that it is, is one of Mexico’s most expensive holiday destinations.
While hostel rooms go for $45 per person per night, a typical hotel room averages $300+ a night.
This means top-tier resorts can hit $500 and more.
All-inclusive packages for families and honeymooners are the norm; with obvious downsides when it comes to uniqueness.
Because Cabo mostly comprises of upscale resorts, it lacks diversity.
What you do get in popular hotel zones (like Medano Beach) are beach access, on-site restaurants and open views.
For inexpensive options, head downtown to find Airbnbs and hostels.
The Corridor also features private villas and condos for rent, while the older San Jose del Cabo hotels come at a cheaper price.
Tulum is much cheaper thanks to competition. Hostels start at $39 per person a night, while midrange hotels average $150-200 per night.
That’s not to say you won’t find expensive stays; 5-star resorts can also cost up to $500 for a night’s stay.
What makes Tulum a great place to stay are its unique boutique resorts! They’re pretty rare across Mexican holiday spots.
Boasting a rustic-luxe feel, these boutique stays are clustered within the hotel zone.
Lucky for us, this means over 8 miles of beach and lush jungle surround the area.
Tulum Pueblo is further away from the beaches but has affordable lodging for budget travelers.
You may also find condos and Airbnbs downtown.
It really depends on what you’re looking for!
Cabo and Tulum both have a variety of accommodations to fit your budget, even if Cabo is more expensive in general.
Cabo is recommended for families and honeymooners who want a no-fuss, everything-accessible stay.
Tulum, however, is best for a unique retreat within nature.
As any seasoned traveler would tell you: the budget is all up to you.
Don’t want to spend? Stay at hostels. Munch on street food. Do self-guided tours.
Celebrating a special occasion? Hit up the shiny restaurants. Ask for petals and hot tubs. Sip champagne on a yacht.
But for the average couple, your 1 week in Mexico will have a budget like this:
The average one-week Los Cabos trip budget for two is approximately $3,910.
Here is how it breaks down:
Flight Cost – Depending on departure location and time of the year, economy round-trip costs an average of $450-$600 per person.
Prices jack up during peak season, which is between December and April.
Accommodation – Hostel stays cost approximately $50 per person while Cabo hotels float between $300-480 per night.
That’s anywhere from $700 to $3,360 a week.
Food – Food is cheap in Mexico, but Cabo tends to be more expensive.
Breakfast bites lean towards $5 while full meals can cost up to $27-30 a head.
The average weekly food cost for two amounts to $490.
Activities – You can easily budget by doing self-guided tours or spending time on the beach!
Admission tickets and typical sightseeing expenses cost an average of $30 per person, per day.
If you’re doing one tour every day, expect to spend around $420 for two.
The average one-week Tulum trip budget for two is approximately $2,180.
Flight Cost – Depending on departure location and when you’re traveling, economy round-trip averages $320-500 per person.
Prices jack up during peak season, with December being the most popular month of visit.
Accommodation – Hostel stays start from $39 per person while mid-range hotels are priced around $130 per night.
That’s anywhere from $546 to $910 a week.
Food – Tulum is cheaper, with budget meals averaging $5 and midrange eateries sitting at around $15.
The average weekly food cost for two amounts to $350.
Activities – You can save money by doing self-guided tours or doing free activities such as spending time on the beach.
Regular museum visits and day tours average $21. If you’re doing one activity every day, expect to spend around $280 for two.
Tulum is a lot nicer to your wallet and is definitely the cheaper option.
Cabo's touristy vibe simply means higher prices in all aspects.
You also have more budget stay options in Tulum, which brings down your average spending by a mile.