Puerto Vallarta vs. Tulum: The Ultimate Vacation Guide

Are you dreaming of a beach vacation in Mexico but can’t decide between Puerto Vallarta and Tulum? Both places have stunning beaches, delicious foods, and exciting outdoor activities, which can make deciding where to go a bit tricky.

But don’t worry because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in both locations and have insights into which destination is better suited for your vacation. 

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Related Post! Cozumel vs. Puerto Vallarta

Which is Better? Puerto Vallarta vs. Tulum?

If you are looking for a vacation with white sand beaches, ancient ruins, and gourmet cuisine, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Tulum. However, it’s not a cheap destination, so expect to pay a pretty penny for your resort and activities. Puerto Vallarta is a big city and tends to be more budget-friendly. The beaches are very beautiful in their own unique way too, with lush landscapes, golden sands, and a spectacular mountain backdrop. 

But deciding between these two places in Mexico can be more difficult than you might think. Which is why I’ll compare them in more detail based on other factors like weather, cuisine, and nightlife! 

Location and Weather

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The city of Puerto Vallarta is located on the Bay of Banderas – the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. For this reason, it has a pleasant climate that makes it an ideal destination for beachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts. Summer temperatures are in the mid-80s to the low 90s, while winters can be a little cooler in the 70s

Tulum can be found on the eastern coast of Mexico on the Caribbean Sea. Like Puerto Vallarta, Tulum also has a tropical climate with warm temperatures (mid-80s to the low-90s in the summer and 70s in the winter). 

Both cities experience a wet and dry season at the same time. The wet season lasts from May to October, while the dry season spans from November to April. During wet season, the humidity is high, and showers usually come during the afternoon or evening.

Hurricane season also occurs during this time. While they may cause rainfall and storms, hurricanes rarely touch down in Mexico, so it’s not a huge threat to your vacation if you travel during this time.

Related Post! Puerto Vallarta or Riviera Maya?


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Regardless of which city you choose, both destinations have some great beaches.

But because of its location on the Caribbean coast, I think Tulum may have a slight advantage, as the beaches are famous for their soft white sands and clear turquoise waters.

Playa Paraiso, Playa Pescadores, and Tulum Beach are three of the most famous in the area. However, you can’t miss a visit to Ruins Beach, which sits right beneath the historic Tulum Ruins.

However, some travelers may prefer the natural beauty of the beaches in Puerto Vallarta. Backed by the rugged Sierra Madre mountains, the coastline is a striking landscape of lush forest and golden shores. It’s truly unique to the Pacific Coast and a great choice for beach lovers and adventure seekers.

One thing to note is that the waves at Puerto Vallarta’s beaches can be rough in the winter. If you’re traveling during this time, I recommend going to Tulum (or other resort destinations along the Riviera Maya), as they are suitable for swimming or watersports at any time of the year.

Activities and Attractions

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A day at the beach is always a good idea, but there are so many other fun things to do while you’re on vacation. And when it comes to activities and attractions, Tulum and Puerto Vallarta are two places that offer a wide range of exciting experiences.

Here are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta:

  • Scuba Diving Los Arcos
  • Watching the sunset from the Malecon
  • Hiking Up to Mirador de la Cruz
  • Taking a walking tour or food tour in Zona Romantico
  • Visiting the Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
  • Ziplining the Superman – the longest zipline in Mexico!
  • Whale watching from December to March
  • Golfing at the Vista Vallara Golf Club

And if you’re traveling to Tulum, here are a couple of activities you have to look forward to:

  • Visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum
  • Swimming in the El Gran Cenote
  • Snorkeling in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
  • Exploring the caves at Aktun Chen Park
  • Ziplining at Xel-Há Park
  • ATVing through the jungle
  • Taking a day trip to Coba or Holbox Island


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Where you choose to stay can have a huge impact on your vacation. Thankfully, accommodation options are plentiful in Tulum or Puerto Vallarta, regardless of your travel preferences or budget. 

If you’re on a budget, both cities have wallet-friendly hostels and hotels or family-run guesthouses that are surprisingly affordable. But if you’re looking to splurge, you can also find numerous beachfront resorts and quaint boutique hotels.

Staying at an all-inclusive hotel is another good option, although there are more in Puerto Vallarta than in Tulum. If you want to stay at an all-inclusive on the Caribbean Sea, you’re better off going to Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

But to help you choose where to stay, I’ve put together a list of accommodation options in both areas. 

Here are a couple of options if you want to stay in Puerto Vallarta:




And if you plan to visit Tulum, you can choose one of the following accommodation options:




Related Post! The Best Hotels In Tulum On The Beach


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When it comes to food, it’s a toss-up between Tulum vs. Puerto Vallarta. Both cities are excellent culinary destinations, especially if you love Mexican cuisine.

PV has a wide range of dining options. You can find fine-dining establishments, casual seafood restaurants, and even mouthwatering street food stalls! Don’t forget to try some of the regional specialties, which include Pescado Zarandeado (grilled fish), Birria (stewed meat), and ceviche. 

The dining options in Tulum are just as diverse (and, in my opinion, just as delicious!). Some of my favorite Yucatan dishes include Cochinita Pibil (slow-cooked pork), Salbutes (fried tortillas), and Tamales. Seafood is also very popular, especially grilled shrimp and ceviche.

Tulum also has a prominent vegan and vegetarian scene. Therefore, it’s not hard to find a creative and delicious dish if you or anyone in your party is on a strict plant-based diet!


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If you value a fun nightlife, you’ll be happy visiting either Tulum or Puerto Vallarta for vacation. 

As a big city, PV has a vibrant nightlife scene that consists of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues. You can find a lot of the bustling places along the Malecon, which is the waterfront promenade in the Romantic Zone. However, there are also some great places located in the downtown city center area as well.

Although Tulum isn’t as big, the nightlife here is still quite fun. From beachfront bars to laid-back cocktail lounges, there are lots of places where you can spend a nice evening.

Tulum is also famous for its Bohemian-style beach parties. If you want to dance outdoors to some of the region’s best electronic DJs, then you’re guaranteed to have a fun night out in Tulum.

Travel Costs

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Before deciding on which part of Mexico to visit, it’s important to calculate travel costs for your vacation. 

As a working city, Puerto Vallarta can be relatively affordable. There are lots of budget accommodation options and restaurants in addition to the expensive ones. For this reason, it’s a better place to visit if you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Tulum, on the other hand, is considered to be a luxury vacation destination. Accommodation, excursions, and food generally cost a lot more here than they do in PV, which is something to keep in mind while booking your trip. 

Although you can find cheaper hotels or local restaurants, things here are more on the pricey side.


  • Mid-range hotel: $50 – $100 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $200 – $400 a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $5 – $10
  • High-end meal: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $40 – $60
  • Zip Line Tour: $35 – $50
  • Food Tour: $40 – $60


  • Mid-range hotel: $100 – $150 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $400+ a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $10 – $15
  • High-end meal: $40 – $60
  • Cocktail: $12 – $18
  • Local beer: $4 – $8
  • Snorkeling Trip: $60 – $80
  • Zip Line Tour: $50 – $70
  • Ruins entrance cost: $5 

As you can see, Tulum and Puerto Vallarta offer distinct experiences. Both places are popular tourist attractions and would make excellent backdrops for your relaxing beach vacation. I love both places, but the choice is ultimately up to you and what type of adventure you’re seeking! 

FAQs: Navigating Your Dream Vacation – Puerto Vallarta vs. Tulum

Which destination offers the best beaches, Puerto Vallarta or Tulum?

Tulum boasts white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, ideal for beachgoers seeking beautiful scenery and swimming. Puerto Vallarta, while known for its golden sands and lush landscapes, offers beaches with a unique mountain backdrop on the Pacific coast of Mexico, perfect for nature lovers.

What kind of activities and attractions can I expect in Tulum and Puerto Vallarta?

Which destination offers the best beaches, Puerto Vallarta or Tulum?
Tulum boasts white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, ideal for beachgoers seeking beautiful scenery and swimming. Puerto Vallarta, while known for its golden sands and lush landscapes, offers beaches with a unique mountain backdrop on the Pacific coast of Mexico, perfect for nature lovers.

How do the dining options in Tulum and Puerto Vallarta compare?

Both destinations offer a rich culinary scene. Tulum is celebrated for its fresh seafood and Yucatan flavors, including tacos al pastor. Puerto Vallarta is a gastronomic city with a variety of international cuisines and street food options.

What’s the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta and Tulum for optimal weather?

The best time to visit both destinations is during the dry season from November to April, offering pleasant weather suitable for all visitors. It’s worth noting the wet season and hurricane season could affect travel plans from May to October.

Are Tulum and Puerto Vallarta family-friendly destinations?

Yes, both Tulum and Puerto Vallarta offer numerous family-friendly accommodations and activities. Puerto Vallarta, with its larger population and city amenities, may offer more diverse attractions for families, while Tulum provides a more relaxed environment with nature-oriented activities.

Can budget travelers find affordable options in Puerto Vallarta and Tulum?

Puerto Vallarta tends to be more budget-friendly due to its wider range of accommodation and dining options catering to all price ranges. Tulum, known for its luxury resorts, also offers budget accommodations, but daily expenses might be higher on average.

Is it easy to travel to Tulum and Puerto Vallarta?

Both destinations are accessible via the Cancun International Airport for Tulum and direct flights to Puerto Vallarta. The upcoming new Tulum International Airport will make travel even more convenient for visitors seeking the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean coast.