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Best Areas To Stay in Tulum: Centro (Aldea Zama etc) vs Zona Hotelera

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Tulum area guide
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In this blog post, I’ll tell you a bit more about the best areas to stay in Tulum and what to expect from Aldea Zama, La Valetta, Tulum Centro or Zona Hotelera. I will also describe which area is better suited for what purpose, from working remotely from Tulum to spending a weekend and partying on the beach. 

If you’re new to this blog, hi! We are Liza and Jose, a Russian-Mexican couple based in London, UK. We try to go to Mexico every year and each time, I try to share the most useful city guides, tips and advice on this blog. Are you interested in more blog posts about Mexico? Read our Mexico destination page.

Here’s what you can expect to find in this post!

Let’s get started!

Where is Tulum / how to get there?

Tulum is a Mexican town located circa 1.5 hours driving from Cancun International airport and only 40-50 minutes driving from Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya’s most famous city. Tulum is also a part of Riviera Maya and has stunning nature, from cenotes to fantastic jungle.

You can check the prices and availability of flights to Cancun (to get to Tulum) here.

For the best ways to get to Tulum – the cheapest way would be renting a car (if you’re coming for 1-2 weeks or less). You can do it via Rentalcars.com (make sure to avoid National and Hertz, as they are known to scam people in Mexico) or Expedia with their new full-insurance policy.

If you’re coming to Tulum for longer or don’t want to deal with driving there, I recommend pre-booking a transfer, as it might be a lot cheaper.

You can also take a bus to Playa del Carmen and a taxi/bus from there. You can buy tickets here.

The cheapest way would be taking that bus to Playa del Carmen and then a collectivo (public minibus) all the way to Tulum! However, minibuses have to place for big bags, so you can only take it if you have very small luggage or a backpack.

Best areas to stay in Tulum: Aldea Zama, La Veleta, Tulum Centro or Zona Hotelera

The most important thing to do about Tulum is that it’s split into two very different parts, Tulum town and Zona Hotelera – the beach area of Tulum. Tulum town is actually pretty far from Zona Hotelera! Also, Tulum town is pretty large, and it keeps growing in all directions. Most people get around Tulum by hiring/buying a bicycle. Some hotels also have bikes provided to hotel guests for free / small fee.

It can take up to 50 minutes to cycle to the beach from the most remote parts of Tulum town, so make sure to take that into account when booking a vacation in Tulum!

Let’s talk about each area in more detail!

La Veleta

La Veleta is the newest part of Tulum with a lot of construction going on. It’s probably the most affordable part of Tulum due to its remote area. In order to get to the town centre, you need to cycle for about 10-15 minutes. In order to get to the beach from La Veleta, you need to cycle for almost an hour (depending on how busy the road is and which beach are you cycling to).

La Veleta is home to a lot of Instagrammable yoga-spa-themed hotels like era hotel & spa and there are more and more businesses opening in the area, so you don’t need to go to the centre every time you want to eat.

Pros of staying in La Veleta:

  • it’s affordable
  • Stylish instagrammable hotels or new apartments
  • New businesses opening every week

Cons of staying in La Veleta:

  • Far from Tulum Centro
  • Far from the beach (around 45 minutes – 1-hour cycling)
  • Ideally, you need a car or a motorbike if you’re staying there and you want to go to the beach every day

Some of the best hotels and apartments in La Veleta: era hotel and spa, Hotel Holistika Tulum

Aldea Zama

Aldea Zama is one of Tulum’s newest developments that is located much closer to the beach than La Veleta. It’s also a bit more expensive due to its proximity to both Tulum Centro and Tulum beach.

If you’re planning to be a digital nomad in Tulum, renting an apartment in Aldea Zama would cost much more than in La Veleta, but it will be still very affordable compared to Zona Hotelera.

It takes around 30 minutes to cycle to Zona Hotelera from Aldea Zama (depending on the beach club)

Pros of staying in Aldea Zama:

  • More convenient location
  • Still, some savings compared to Zona Hotelera

Cons of staying in Aldea Zama:

  • a lot of construction going on might be noisy
  • still some connectivity issues
  • 30 minutes by bike is still a lot of time

Amazing places to stay in Aldea Zama: Artia by Moskito, Orchid House Tulum

Tulum centro

Another area to consider in Tulum when choosing a place to stay in Tulum Centro. Tulum Centro is quite a large area that stretches even beyond the main road (Cancun – Tulum highway). However, the main area with the most cafes, bars and restaurants is located around the Batey bar and Laylo Tulum restaurant.

Tulum centre is where most of the local residents live, it’s an area full of contrasts where you see a fancy new building on one side of the street and a tiny wooden house with chickens on the other.

Pros of staying in Tulum Centro:

  • Plenty of things to do: from street food to shops, bars and restaurants
  • Affordable place to stay: you can rent a place from a local, and it would be the cheapest way to stay in Tulum

Cons:

  • It’s very crowded and also very loud
  • A lot of drunk people
  • A lot of people selling drugs
  • Still far from the beach

However, all this doesn’t apply if your hotel is above the main road – in this case, the area is tranquil (however, it’s far)

Amazing places to consider in Tulum Centro: (Instagram-sensation hotel Bardo), Biwa Tulum

Tulum beach: Playa Paraiso

If you’re coming to Tulum for a short period of time (up to 2 weeks) and your budget allows, I strongly recommend staying in the beach area. The beach area is split into two parts – a free area close to the Archeological ruins where most of the public beaches are located and the zona hotelera.

Most of the fancy hotels are located around the Zona Hotelera. However, there are a few stunning hotels close to the Playa Paraiso as well.

Pros of staying near Playa Paraiso:

  • Much quieter than Zona Hotelera
  • Amazing beach
  • More affordable than zona hotelera

Cons:

  • Not many shops
  • Not many food options and places to go out

Excellent hotels to consider near Playa Paraiso: Mi amor, Kai Tulum

Tulum

Tulum beach: Zona hotelera

Finally, there is my favourite part of Tulum – Zona Hotelera. Zona Hotelera is a proper tropical paradise with unique hotels, stunning beachwear boutiques and very impressive restaurants. However, most importantly, Zona Hotelera has a massive stretch of a gorgeous white sandy beach!

Zona Hotelera is also a party destination, and the party never stops there. If you don’t want to visit nightclubs and want to stay at a quiet hotel, make sure to check the reviews thoroughly, as some places are very noisy until at least 2 am every single night.

Bagatelle Tulum is one of the worst and noisiest places in the entire Tulum Zona Hotelera, so if you want quiet nights, unfortunately, hotels nearby won’t be an option (as we found out ourselves).

Perhaps, you can look at the hotels located a bit further away like Rosa del Viento or Libellula.

However, if you want to party or don’t mind going to sleep very late, then you can stay pretty much anywhere. Delek Tulum, Ahau or Nomade would be great (and very Instagrammable options). Check my guide to the most Instagrammable hotels in Tulum here!

Summary of the best areas to stay in Tulum: from Aldea Zama to La Veleta, Tulum Centro and Zona Hotelera

I hope that this post has cleared up all the confusion you had about Tulum and it’s very clear now what to expect from each of the areas. Just to summarise, I recommend staying in Aldea Zama or La Veleta if you are coming to Tulum for longer or you’re on a budget. If you’re on a very tight budget, you can stay around Tulum Centro! If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday on the beach, I recommend staying at a hotel near Playa Paraiso or at the edge of Zona Hotelera (e.g. Hotel Libellula or similar) and if you want to be in the heart of the nightlife, then Ahau would be a great option.

I hope you enjoyed this post and should you have any questions, send me a message on Instagram @lizatripsget!

Some of our other posts about Mexico you might find useful:

The guide to Riviera Maya in Mexico – what is the differences between different areas

The most Instagrammable hotels in Tulum

Driving to Chichen Itza

Or check our Mexico travel category!

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