The battle is on for Playa del Carmen vs Tulum for digital nomads!
On the Caribbean coast of Mexico lie two beautiful beach towns famous for the sun, beaches and relaxation…
Two SUPER different towns.
Each town has its unique characteristics which make it hard to choose between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum.
For digital nomads and remote workers, there is an extra level of care that needs to go into this decision. Which town will be best for productive work, meeting other like-minded people and reliable internet?
In this article, I will look at the pros and cons of both coastal Mexican towns to see who will win.
And yes, I am going to name a winner because it’s not helpful to say both works depending on what you need.
Thankfully, in this battle between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum for digital nomads, remote workers and online entrepreneurs – there’s a clear winner.
What Are The Main Differences Between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum?
The main difference between both towns is this:
Tulum is WAY more expensive than Playa del Carmen for digital nomads.
If you’re on vacation then Tulum might be the right choice as money might not be so tight.
If you’re a digital nomad, working online and traveling, then Playa del Carmen will be more cost-effective for you.
While price is a big factor when choosing between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum, it’s not the only factor. You have things like:
- Cost of Living
- Internet (super important for us digital nomads)
- Coworking and
- Activities to do
In the rest of this article, we will go through all of these things and weigh up the pros/cons and choose a winner for the round. There are a total of 6 rounds.
Who will win the battle of Playa del Carmen vs Tulum? Find out by reading more below.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Accommodation
Accommodation is a big deciding factor for most people when choosing between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum.
Because they are so different in every way:
Which wins? Keep reading.
What’s the accommodation like in Playa del Carmen?
The main types of accommodation in Playa del Carmen are apartment buildings or complexes. If you book on Booking.com, Airbnb or VRBO, you’ll likely stay in an apartment.
The style of Playa del Carmen is more urban chic. The apartments will be modern, luxurious and have all the amenities you could possibly want.
We stayed in a beautiful apartment for 3 months that had an indoor gym, rooftop pool, billiard table and a movie theater. Seriously!
If you want proof, check out our apartment tour here (we only paid $684/month)!!
While we were there, construction was non-stop and Playa del Carmen continues to keep growing. Playa del Carmen boomed during the pandemic and the prices have soared since. The average price you’d pay for accommodation in Playa del Carmen is between $800-1,200 for a decent space.
What’s the accommodation like in Tulum?
Tulum is one of the top destinations in Mexico – if not the top spot. Tulum is famous for its white beaches, clear water and stunning beach clubs.
Accommodation in Tulum is more on the expensive side. Although if you search hard enough, you can find some deals as low as $10,000 pesos ($500 USD).
The style in Tulum is much more bohemian chic. The vibe is much more relaxed and aesthetic, unlike Playa del Carmen which is mainly modern designs.
When booking accommodation in Tulum, you have to watch out for the internet and electricity bills. It seems like these are not included sometimes and/or the internet speed might be horrible. Just double-check.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Accommodation Winner: Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Food / Restaurants
The food scene in Playa del Carmen vs Tulum is very different. For more authentic Mexican food, Playa del Carmen will be your choice. While Tulum does have good Mexican food, we found it was way too touristy to have the ‘good’ stuff.
What’s the food scene like in Playa del Carmen?
One of the things we were looking forward to most was the food. Matthew and I both love Mexican food and finally, we were trying the REAL thing in Mexico! You just can’t beat it.
Read This: 4 Must-Try Tacos In Playa del Carmen
We had our staple restaurants for tacos, tortas and street foods. Playa del Carmen never fell short on the level of tasty food. We even wrote an entire blog of our 4 favorite taco places here.
The prices were cheap – about $20 pesos ($1 USD) per taco. You had your choice between the delicious al pastor tacos, sirloin tacos, birria tacos and consomé. Ooooph!
Local Tip: If you want super local/authentic food, walk over to 30th street and beyond for the best street tacos!
What’s the food scene like in Tulum?
The food in Tulum can be considered a little more upscale. You’ll get more fine dining options and the portions tend to be smaller/more curated.
The prices in Tulum were WAY more expensive than Playa del Carmen on average. For example, we had a hamburger at Selina which set us back $450 pesos ($22 USD). That’s just as much as it would cost in the States.
And this was the cheapest option from the restaurants we looked at…
There’s a lot of instagrammable spots in Tulum which is a big reason people go. Matcha Mama is a popular choice for photos.
Again, I’d say the food is better in Playa del Carmen and it doesn’t cost nearly as much.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Food Winner: Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum – Internet
Ahhh. This is a big one for digital nomads and remote workers because it could be the difference between choosing one town over the other. Thankfully…this is an easy choice if you need fast, secure and reliable wifi/data.
Wifi in Playa del Carmen
The wifi in Playa del Carmen is much faster and more reliable. This is one of the reasons we chose to be digital nomads in Playa del Carmen rather than Tulum.
Another thing to note: we had steady 4-5 bars of cell signal all across Playa del Carmen. This meant that data like 3G/4G were available everywhere if a cafe had horrible wifi for instance.
What’s the average wifi speed? At our modern apartment, we got 10-15 Mbps which is normal for Mexico. We often worked at our favorite cafe, Midogo Cafe, because we got wifi speeds of 200 Mbps (yes, 200!).
Read This Next: Top 5 Cafes To Work From In Playa del Carmen
Wifi in Tulum
While we didn’t stay in Tulum, we were there long enough to know that this town just wasn’t going to work for digital nomads that work for real.
As soon as we reached the Hotel Zone, the popular tourist spot (with only 1 road), we lost cell signal like ZERO. No way to call anyone, no way to use our 3G data. NADA.
We were shocked and couldn’t understand how people could live here and work remotely?! Ultimately, we put it down to always being connected to wifi if you stayed at Selina for example.
If you stay in the Tulum center, you might have better luck with the wifi. I think our friends were getting around 5-10 Mbps.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Wifi Winner: Playa del Carmen. Easy!
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Cheap or Expensive? Average Prices
Is Playa del Carmen Expensive?
The short answer: yes and no.
You can save money in lots of areas for your stay in Playa del Carmen such as food/eating out, gym and coffee. You might have to splurge in areas like rent, coworking and more so it can even out.
Our total cost of living in Playa del Carmen for one month is $1,869 USD.
Our favorite taco places were very cheap at $1 USD per taco and we also decided against taking coworking so we worked from cafes instead.
If you want a full price breakdown of our cost of living in Playa del Carmen, click here.
Is Tulum Expensive?
The short answer: yes and yes.
We were shocked at how expensive Tulum was but we understood why. Tulum is a top honeymoon and vacation destination. For this reason alone, it could put digital nomads off.
Our original plan was to spend one month in Playa del Carmen and one month in Tulum but… I couldn’t find a decent (like comfortable living) Airbnb for less than $1,500 USD.
Food in Tulum is expensive even for US prices. We paid $22 USD for an average hamburger. We couldn’t find a hamburger that expensive in Playa del Carmen if we tried.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Pricing Winner: Playa del Carmen (less expensive)
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Coworking Options
Coworking spaces are a great place to get work done, meet new friends and build your community especially if you just arrived. Both coastal Mexican towns have great options if you want to take coworking for the day, week or month.
Playa del Carmen Coworking
Your coworking options in Playa del Carmen are endless. You have popular go-tos for many digital nomads like Nest and Bunker. We have a friend that regularly goes to Playa del Carmen and he says there’s a new coworking spot in Playa del Carmen every time!
The cost for Playa del Carmen coworking is usually between $160 – $200 USD depending on the coworking space you choose.
Read This Next: 3 Best Playa del Carmen Coworking Spaces For Digital Nomads
Tulum has fewer options for coworking spaces. However, they are pretty nice. The popular ones are Coworking Tulum and Los Amigos Tulum.
Most will be located in the Tulum center and might be something to consider if you’re looking to live closer to the Hotel Zone which we don’t recommend again because you’ll lose cell signal/have NO data.
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Coworking Winner: Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: Things To Do
Wondering if there are enough activities to keep you busy? That won’t be a problem with Playa del Carmen or Tulum! There are just so many fun things to do along the Riviera Maya and Yucatan – you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Best Things To Do In Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is in a great location because it’s just between Cancun and Tulum. It’s also easy to visit Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Merida.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen:
- Swim at Cenote Azul or Cenote Cristalina
- Relax on the Beach
- Visit the Frida Kahlo Museum
- Eat at the 4 Best Taco Spots
- Visit Mayan Ruins like Chichen Itza
- Day Trip to Valladolid
- Weekend Trip to Merida
- Weekend Trip to Tulum
- Weekend Trip to Cozumel
Best Things To Do In Tulum
Tulum has one of the best beaches we’ve seen on the Riviera Maya coast. With tons of boho-chic beach clubs to choose from, you’ll find yourself relaxing and soaking up the sun.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the best things to do in Tulum:
- Visit Akumal Beach and Swim with Turtles
- Spend the Day on a Sunbed by the Beach
- Visit Mayan Ruins like Coba or the Ancient Tulum Ruins
- Swim in Cenote Dos Ojos or Gran Cenote
- Explore the Sian Ka’an Biosphere
- Weekend Trip to Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Things To Do Winner: Tulum
Playa del Carmen vs Tulum Winner is… Playa del Carmen!
Digital Nomad? Remote Worker? Online Entrepreneur?
If you said yes to any of that – Playa del Carmen would be your winner too! For the internet speeds alone, you’ve got to choose Playa.
We spend 3 months in the beautiful beach paradise and something weird happened…
…We didn’t want to leave!
Our time in Playa del Carmen was comfortable, convenient, relaxing and fun! Tulum was great for a day trip or weekend getaway, but it pales in comparison when it comes to the needs of digital nomads.
Choosing between Playa del Carmen vs Tulum can be a hard choice but I hope this blog post clears a few things up for you and makes your decision more clear.
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We want to hear from you…
Join the debate! Which one do you like more for the digital nomad lifestyle? What’s your favorite things about Playa del Carmen or Tulum? What ultimately led you to one over the other? We’re curious! Comment below and let us know.