Let's face it. The only reason you decided to go to Tulum in Mexico is that you wanted a respite from the crowds in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and you wanted to stay in a Cabana off a white sand beach and an aqua blue sea. Thus, more than ever, the choice of which Cabana hotel you choose will impact how you will enjoy your trip. I just made that same decision three weeks ago, when I chose the hotel for my Tulum vacation.

I spent two nights there in what is the best beach vacation I have ever experienced. I went to bed and arose to the sounds of the ocean. I took long walks on the beach barefoot. I swam in Cenotes. I saw Mayan ruins on a cliff overlooking a beach. I'm never going back to one of those Cancun all-inclusive resorts. Below are some questions you should ask your self before you choose a Cabana

How much are you willing to “rough” it?

Twenty years ago, all you could do was rough it on the beaches of Tulum, with just a wooden shack over your head, a swinging bed, mosquito net and no more. Ten years ago, I might have been able to rough in a basic cabana (Sand floors, saggy bed with mosquito net, plastic desk, and NO electricity).

But today, as a seasoned traveler who likes his electricity and wifi, I just can’t do it. For the purposes of this article, I am going to assume that you want the typical comforts of a three-star hotel – maid service, clean sheets, electricity, and wifi. Even some hotels that do have electricity will turn it off around 10pm. If you want electricity full time make sure the hotel provides it. My hotel had electricity round the clock.

What is your budget?

Tulum is a hot destination. Tripadvisor ranked it as a Top 25 destination in Latin America last year. It is considered as one of the greatest beaches in the WORLD. The Cabana hotels KNOW that so trying to get a nice cabana under $80 is almost close to impossible these days.

You’ll only get close to $100 in the low season. The good thing is that over $250 doesn’t really get you that much more quality for something that costs $450. It might get you an extra bedroom. It’s safe to assume that a nice Cabana for two people will be at least $150 a night.

The hotel rates in Tulum (as in the Riviera Maya) vary drastically based on the season. Since everyone is trying to leave the cold from November to April, that is the high season in Tulum. Hotels rates are about 50 to 70% higher during this season.

Sometimes prices dip from May to June and then increase again in July and August (summer break season for Mexicans and Europeans). Expect to pay the highest around the holiday season and the least from September to November (hurricane season). Obviously, Tulum is going to be more popping during the high season, but if you came to Tulum for pure relaxation, then the season won’t matter AT ALL.

Oceanfront, Ocean view, Garden View – What does all this mean?

When choosing a Cabana, you will likely see the position of it labeled as ocean front, ocean view and garden view. Oceanfront typically means that your cabana is right on the sand smack in front of the water. For people who love the immediate sight of blue water and sound of crashing waves, this will be ideal. If you plan to lounge in a hammock right in front of your cabana all day then remember there will not be much privacy.

The beach crowd will have a full view of you and your cabana. Oceanview (which I prefer) means that you have a view of the ocean, but you are not right in the sand. Typically this means there might be a garden in front of your cabana or perhaps you are in a two-story cabana that is behind vegetation but on the top floor. Garden view means just that – you have a view of the garden.

Don’t think that it’s as bad as it seems. Typically, cabana hotels try to make the garden as appealing as possible. And really, it’s not like you are too far from the ocean…But I have heard that garden view can get rather hot with no winds from the ocean.

Where to Stay?

Tulum town is unfortunately not right on the beach. It’s about a 10-minute taxi ride from the beach. Hotels are much cheaper in town and there are some good ones, but really…did you come to Tulum to stay in the town? No, you came to stay in a CABANA!

The beach area is divided into two areas, the north, and the south. If you want to take long walks along the beach with no rocks to impede your stroll, then try to go south. You don’t have to be right on top of the Sian Kaan Reserve but that’s the direction you want.

What’s Included in Your Stay?

There are some things that you should look out to see if it is included:

1) Breakfast: It makes a big difference when you can wake up in the morning to a decent breakfast. Hotels that don’t include it will likely charge $10 a person.

2) Outside food/drinks and a cooler: This will impact your budget greatly as the food on the beach is EXPENSIVE. Well, expensive is all relative. You’ll basically be paying American prices. Imagine being able to bring back some ice, beers, fruit, and snacks for the room. My room at La Luna came with a cooler in which I stored juice and cheap Mexican beer.

3) Water: Believe it or NOT, some outrageously expensive hotels don’t even include drinking water. La Luna included a 5-gallon jug of purified water in the room. If not, I would have been paying $10 a day just to drink enough water! Some hotels will give you a liter a day (for brushing teeth) but that is NOT enough. Always ask before you finalize your reservation.

Make sure you know what type of beach is in front of your cabana and that it meets your expectations. Some hotels were built in very rocky areas, making it difficult to cross them and take walks. Other hotels have a little strip of a beach. You came for a wide white beach, so make sure you get it! Read the reviews and ask questions.

Since the hotels are small, most of the charge you up front in full to reserve a room. Choose your hotel wisely because it will be hell to get your money back with a last minute cancellation.

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