Cancun vs. Puerto Vallarta vs. Cabo: A Destination Breakdown

Is that a spray tan, or are you blushing to see us? It’s a spray tan, because you’re headed south for some time under the caliente sun. When you’re ready for a vacation that’s as hot as a Beyonce pregnancy announcement, Mexico is the place to be. Margaritas on the beach and homemade tortillas for every meal? Yes, por favor. Now for the biggest decision: In which city will you explore ancient cultures and order dos tequila shots with dinner? Is it Cabo or Puerto Vallarta or Cancun for vacation? Here is a guide to help you decide.

Beaches

Like a toddler heading to the sandbox with a spade and bucket, you’ll skip toward golden grains with squeals of glee (unlike a toddler, you’ll be fuelled in part by a fruity mimosa from breakfast). So, who wins in the Cabo vs. Cabo San Lucas vs. Puerto Vallarta beach showdown?

Cabo

Cabo has the most beachfront of the three cities, including Chilleno Beach. This sometimes-crowded spot is perfect for snorkelling in calm waves and spotting tropical fish through your plastic mask. Don’t be surprised if they just keep swimming, just keep swimming (they’ve seen the movie, too). Medano Beach is considered the safest place to swim in Cabo San Lucas, and you’ll find scads of restaurants nearby. The undercurrents are strong in much of Cabo, so watch for caution signs.

Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta, a bayside location means the beaches are a bit narrower and a lot of rocky coastline awaits. Still, Los Muertos Beach downtown and Playa Camarones in the Hotel Zone offer space to plant a colourful umbrella and worship the sun like the good little vacationer you are. This destination is perfect for vacations where beach time occupies less of your itinerary than other land activities.

Cancun

Cancun has picture-perfect clear turquoise gulf water at North Beach, and most of the resorts offer private beach space. If you don’t want to compete for a patch of sand like a commoner, book a room at the Ritz-Carlton, La Blanc, or another resort and stretch out in style.

Drinks and Eats

Whether you’re in the Puerto Vallarta region or Cancun or Los Cabos, the plates of good food keep coming. They’re as reliable as crying fits on “The Bachelor,” and usually less salty.

Cabo

In Cabo, the constant influx of tourists means you can choose from authentic local places and Americanized eateries. Staples like flour tortillas and enchiladas are among the favourite menu items, and licuados juices are popular in this part of Baja.

Puerto Vallarta

Over in Puerto Vallarta, international chefs have been setting up shop. In total, more than 400 restaurants grace the streets here. Give the pescado embarazado (pregnant fish) a try or go for a bowl of Birria stew with goat or lamb and a splash of cumin and ginger.

Cancun

The culinary scene is also excellent in Cancun, otherwise known as spring break central for U.S. college students (don’t worry, visit from April to January and the rowdy crowds will be back in the classroom). Flavours on the Yucatan Peninsula blend European and Mexican influence, and something is fishy. By that we mean seafood is well represented on the menu, so bring your lobster bib. What, you don’t have one?

Stuff to Do

There ain’t no vacation like a beach vacation because a beach vacation leaves sand in places you don’t talk about in public. Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, and Cancun all offer loads of ways to play in and near the water, but landlubbers aren’t left in the spray. Each of these destinations have plenty of land activities, too.

Cabo

Once you’ve gotten in a morning at the beach, consider going on a canopy adventure along a zipline or getting a drink at the Cabo Wabo (preferably in that order). Be sure to take a water taxi to the Land’s End rock formations while you’re in town, and keep your eyes peeled for sea lions. Spend a few bucks at the flea markets picking up do-dads to hand out to your co-workers.

Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta, on the Bahia de Banderas, your flip-flops were made for walking… along the El Malecon Boardwalk. Snap pics of the public art, sing along with the buskers, and get a free kayak rental near the Hotel Rosita. Take a boat ride over to the Islas Marietas National Park, a bio-diverse sanctuary where you can swoon over the cool geography and cave-like atmosphere at Love Beach.

Cancun

Cancun is known for its nightlife, but you don’t have to wait until sundown to take a bite out of life—you’re not a vampire. When you’re not hanging out on the sand, you can visit the Coba Mayan ruins or exploring the Xcaret Park, an eco-archaeology park with caves galore.

Viva Mexico! If you’re wondering, “Puerto Vallarta, Cabo or Cancun: which is better?”, the answer is you can’t lose. Visit Puerto Vallarta for amazing food and unfettered national parkland, Cabo for miles of beachfront and cool geological sites, or Cancun for lots of drinking and a splash of ancient history. Just make sure you bring some pain relievers for the hangover.

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About Author

Lara Vukelich

Lara is a writer, runner, and advocate of all things chocolate. When she isn’t binge-watching a new Netflix series or exploring the world, she’s trying to convince you to get out beyond your own backyard. Her favourite place to be is a quiet corner of London’s Hyde Park, but she would (and has) also considered herself happy while eating her weight in Roman pasta and hiking the forests of Greece.

1 Comment

  1. Perfect timing, my wife and I are looking at going to Mexico in early August and wonder which place to go to. I am amazed at how much more Cancun is vs. PV for the total cost.

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