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Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo – Which is the Better Vacation?

Last updated on January 25th, 2023 at 10:08 pm

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo – Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas are often compared because of their popularity as the top beaches in Mexico. While Cabo offers lux vacations with nature, Puerto Vallarta is the vibrant and more affordable trip of the two. Read here Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta vs Playa del Carmen

Puerto Vallarta has beautiful beaches, colonial architecture, and great nightlife, and while Cabo has great beaches as well, it’s more on the quieter and more luxurious side of things. You can’t go wrong with either, but choosing the right vacation for you will give you the experience you want. Let’s compare more in the rest of the article.

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Table of Contents

Getting a SIM Card at Puerto Vallarta Airport

I wouldn’t recommend you to buy a sim card at Puerto Vallarta airport. If you wish comfort you can buy eSim online and if you aren’t in a hurry just go around phone shops in the city and compare prices to buy the cheapest sim card in Puerto Vallarta. Read here best Mexico eSim and best Mexico sim card for tourist

You can buy the cheapest eSim in Mexico with Nomad eSim Mexico prepaid for $8 USD with 1 GB data valid for 7 days. And with Airalo eSim Mexico prepaid with similar data packages (USING DISCOUNT CODE GAMINTRAVELER 10%).

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Where to Stay in Cabo

A total of $20 USD would be the range of your budget for accommodation in Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta. There are hotels mid-budget for $50-70 USD and you can find luxury accommodations starting from $120 USD.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN PUERTO VALLARTA OR CABO

Book Your Travel Insurance

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Comparing Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

Beach in Puerto Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Beach in Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

Comparing Puerto Vallarta and Cabo, Puerto Vallarta has the charms and authenticity of a colonial, Mexican town. It has beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife – two things that make Puerto Vallarta a top vacation choice. Puerto Vallarta has a bustling downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s also home to many outdoor activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and zip-lining. The town also has a great mix of all-inclusive resorts and more affordable accommodations, which makes it an option for budget travelers.

Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, is a more upscale and luxurious destination, known for its world-class resorts, world-class golf courses, and stunning natural landscapes. The area has a more desert-like landscape and is known for its beautiful beaches and popular activities like sport fishing, snorkeling, and swimming with dolphins. The nightlife is also more upscale, with plenty of high-end bars and restaurants to choose from.

Both Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are great beach destinations, although the vibes they offer are different. While Puerto Vallarta is a more traditional and laid-back destination, Cabo San Lucas is more upscale and active.

If you prefer the traditional and cultural atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta, that’s a better choice for you while Cabo is better if you like the more luxury and nightlife scene of Cabo San Lucas.

Comparing Things to Do – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas both offer a wide range of activities and attractions. Here is a more detailed comparison of the top things to do in each destination:

Puerto Vallarta

Beaches

Puerto Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Puerto Vallarta Beaches

Puerto Vallarta is known for its beautiful beaches, with options for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports like snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Some popular beach options include Playa Los Muertos, Conchas Chinas, and Playa de Oro.

Old Town

The historic center of Puerto Vallarta, known as “Old Town,” is a charming area filled with colonial architecture, shops, restaurants, and bars. Visitors can take a stroll along the Malecon boardwalk, visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or take a sunset cruise on the Bay of Banderas.

Outdoor activities – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

Puerto Vallarta is a great destination for outdoor activities, with options like zip-lining, horseback riding, and ATV tours through the jungle. Visitors can also take a boat trip to the Marietas Islands, a protected wildlife area home to a variety of bird and marine life.

Nightlife

Puerto Vallarta has a lively nightlife scene, with options for dancing, live music, and drinks. Some popular options include the bars and clubs in the Zona Romantica neighborhood and the open-air bars along the Malecon boardwalk.

Cabo San Lucas

Beaches

Cabo San Lucas is known for its beautiful beaches, with options for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports like snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Some popular beach options include Medano Beach, Playa del Amor, and Playa Palmilla.

Sportfishing

Cabo San Lucas is a world-renowned destination for sport fishing, with options for deep-sea fishing, fly fishing, and more. Visitors can catch a variety of species like marlin, tuna, and dorado.

Natural Landscapes

Cabo San Lucas is home to many natural landscapes like the famous El Arco (The Arch) and the beautiful desert landscapes of the Baja California peninsula. Visitors can take a boat tour to see these natural wonders or take a guided ATV tour through the desert.

Nightlife

Cabo San Lucas has a lively nightlife scene, with many high-end bars and clubs, such as El Squid Roe, Mandala Nightclub.

Top Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is known for its beautiful beaches where you can do a range of activities.

Playa Los Muertos

Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta - Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta

This is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta, known for its clear waters and lively atmosphere. It’s located in the heart of the city and is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and people-watching.

Conchas Chinas

This is a secluded beach located south of the city, known for its clear waters and beautiful natural setting. It’s a great spot for swimming and snorkeling, and it’s also a popular spot for sunset watching.

Playa de Oro

This is a wide, long beach located on the south side of the bay, known for its great swimming and sunbathing.

Playa Mismaloya

Mismaloya in Puerto Vallarta - Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Mismaloya in Puerto Vallarta – Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta

This is a beautiful beach located south of the city, known for its crystal-clear waters and lush tropical setting. It’s a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

Playa Camarones

This is a wide and long beach located on the north side of the bay, known for its great swimming and sunbathing. It’s also a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding.

Other Top Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of activities and attractions beyond its beautiful beaches. Look at some to not miss in things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Visit Old Town (El Centro)

Old Town is the historic center of Puerto Vallarta and is known for its charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Visitors can take a stroll along the Malecon, a seaside promenade lined with shops, restaurants, and street performers.

Take a boat tour

Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay, which offers a wide range of boat tours, from sunset cruises to snorkeling and diving excursions. Visitors can see the beautiful coastline, watch for marine life, or take a trip to the nearby Marietas Islands.

Explore the Sierra Madre Mountains

The Sierra Madre Mountains offer a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking and horseback riding to zip lining and ATV tours. Visitors can also take a trip to the small villages and experience the rural side of Mexico.

Visit the Botanical Gardens

The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a great place to visit, with more than 3,000 species of plants and animals, including tropical birds, butterflies, and monkeys.

Visit the Museum of Arts

The Museum of Arts is located in the heart of Old Town, it showcases contemporary and traditional artworks from the region, as well as temporary exhibits by Mexican and international artists.

Take a Culinary Tour

Puerto Vallarta is known for its delicious and diverse culinary scene, visitors can take a food tour to explore the local flavors and learn about traditional Mexican cuisine.

Visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo - Which is the Better Vacation?
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

This church is located in the heart of Old Town, it is a beautiful and historic place of worship, known for its intricate architecture and beautiful stained glass windows.

Beaches in Cabo / Beaches in Cabo San Lucas

The beaches in Cabo are known for their clear waters and rocky coastline. The water is generally warmer than the Caribbean, and the beaches of Cabo are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports. Some of the most famous beaches in Cabo include Medano Beach, Lover’s Beach, and Santa Maria Beach.

Medano Beach

Medano Beach - Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo - Which is the Better Vacation?
Medano Beach – Cabo vs Cancun

This is the most popular beach in Cabo and is located in the heart of the town. It’s known for its clear waters, and lively atmosphere and is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. You can also find many vendors on the beach selling food and souvenirs.

The beach has plenty of options for water sports like jet skiing, parasailing, and banana boats. Some top hotels in this area include: The Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas, The Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos, and The Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Golf & Spa Resort

Lover’s Beach / Playa del Amor

Playa del Amor -  Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta
Playa del Amor – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

This beach is located on the southern end of Cabo San Lucas Bay and can only be accessed by boat. It’s known for its clear waters and secluded atmosphere, and is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing. Lover’s Beach is also a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, as the waters are home to a wide variety of marine life. Some top hotels in this area include: The Montage Los Cabos, The One&Only Palmilla, The Cape, A Thompson Hotel

Santa Maria Beach

This beach is located on the Pacific side of the peninsula, just a short drive from Cabo San Lucas. It’s known for its long stretches of white sand and calm waters, making it a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. You can also find many vendors on the beach selling food and souvenirs. The Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection, The Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa

Chileno Bay

This beach is located on the Pacific side of the peninsula and is known for its clear waters and variety of marine life. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. The beach offers rentals for kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment.

Palmilla beach

Located on the Pacific side of the peninsula and is known for its peaceful atmosphere and clear waters. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. The beach offers rentals for kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment.

Other Top Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

While Cabo San Lucas is known for its beautiful beaches, there are also many other things to see and do in the area. Here are some other top things to do in Cabo San Lucas:

Visit the Arch

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo - Which is the Better Vacation?
The Arch in Cabo San Lucas – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

The Arch is a natural rock formation located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, and it is one of the most iconic landmarks in Cabo. You can take a boat tour to see the Arch up close or take a walk along the beach to see it from a distance.

Take a sunset cruise

A sunset cruise is a great way to see the beautiful coastline of Cabo and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Many cruise companies offer dinner and drinks on board, making it a perfect way to end the day.

Go on a desert safari

Cabo is home to a beautiful desert landscape that can be explored by taking a desert safari. These tours can include activities such as ATV riding, camel riding, and even zip-lining.

Visit the Cabo San Lucas Marina

The Marina is a popular spot for shopping, dining, and people-watching. You can take a walk along the marina, browse the shops, or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants.

Visit the Mision San Jose del Cabo – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo - Which is the Better Vacation?
Nightlife in San Jose Cabo

This 18th-century mission church is one of the oldest buildings in the area and is a great spot to learn about the history of Cabo.

Visit the Art Walk

Cabo San Lucas has a vibrant art scene, and the Art Walk is a great way to see it. It takes place on Thursdays, and you can see art exhibits, live music, and street performers.

Take a day trip to Todos Santos

Todos Santos is a charming town located about an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas, known for its art galleries, restaurants, and colonial architecture.

Nightlife – Cancun vs Cabo

Cancun is known for its bustling party scene and is particularly popular among college students and young adults. The hotel zone in Cancun is home to many bars, clubs, and discos that stay open late into the night. Some of the most popular nightlife spots in Cancun include The City, Coco Bongo, and Dady’O.

Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, has a more laid-back nightlife scene. While there are still plenty of bars and clubs in the town center, the atmosphere is generally more relaxed and casual. The Marina area is known for its nightlife in Cabo.

Nightlife in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is known for its vibrant nightlife scene, with a wide variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. The nightlife scene in Puerto Vallarta can be quite lively and party-oriented, especially during peak tourist season. Be aware that noise levels may be high and crowds may be large and be prepared for a fun and lively night out.

Old Town (El Centro) is a particularly popular spot for nightlife, with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. The Malecon, a seaside promenade, is also a great place to go out at night, with street performers, live music, and outdoor bars to choose from.

Some popular bars and clubs in Puerto Vallarta include:

La Santa: This is a popular club and music venue, known for its lively atmosphere and great music.

Mandala: This is a popular club, known for its electronic music and VIP bottle service.

Incanto: This is a popular gay bar and club, known for its fun atmosphere and drag shows.

Gringo Gus’: This is a popular bar and club, known for its live music, great drinks and casual atmosphere.

La Bodeguita del Medio: This is a popular bar and club, known for its live music, great drinks, and casual atmosphere.

Puerto Vallarta also offers a variety of entertainment options, such as theater shows, comedy shows, and cultural performances, for those looking for a more relaxed night out.

Nightlife in Cabo

Cabo San Lucas is also known for its vibrant nightlife scene, with a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. The downtown area is a particularly popular spot for nightlife, with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Cabo San Lucas has a lot of luxury resorts, many of which have bars, clubs, and other nightlife options, but be mindful that these places can be more upscale and exclusive.

Some popular bars and clubs in Cabo San Lucas include:

Mango Deck: This is a popular beach club and bar, known for its lively atmosphere and great music.

The Giggling Marlin: This is a popular bar, known for its great drinks and lively atmosphere.

El Squid Roe: This is a popular bar, known for its lively atmosphere and great music.

The Office: This is a popular bar, known for its great drinks and lively atmosphere.

The Jungle Bar: This is a popular bar, known for its great drinks and lively atmosphere.

As in Puerto Vallarta, the nightlife scene in Cabo San Lucas can be quite lively and party-oriented, especially during peak tourist season. Visitors should be aware that noise levels may be high and crowds may be large and be prepared for a fun and lively night out.

Cost of Travel – Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta Cost of Travel, One Person for a Week

The cost of a one-week trip to Puerto Vallarta for one person will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the time of year, the type of accommodation, and the activities you plan to do while you’re there.

For accommodation, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 per night for a budget-friendly hostel or budget hotel, to $100 to $500 per night for a mid-range hotel or vacation rental, to over $500 per night for a luxury hotel or resort.

For food and drink, you can expect to pay around $5 to $15 for a meal at a budget-friendly restaurant or street food vendor, $15 to $50 for a meal at a mid-range restaurant, and $50 or more for a meal at a high-end restaurant.

For activities and excursions, prices will vary widely depending on what you choose to do. For example, a day trip to the Sierra Madre Mountains for hiking or horseback riding could cost around $50- $100, while a snorkeling or diving excursion could cost around $80- $150, and a sunset cruise could cost around $50- $100.

Based on these estimates, a rough estimate of budgeting for one week in Puerto Vallarta for one person could be:

Accommodation: $700 – $1000
Food and drinks: $150 – $350
Activities and excursions: $200 – $400
Total: $1050 – $1750

Cabo Cost of Travel – Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta (One Person for a Week)

For accommodation, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200 per night for a budget-friendly hotel or vacation rental, to $200 to $500 per night for a mid-range hotel or vacation rental, to over $500 per night for a luxury hotel or resort.

For food and drink, you can expect to pay around $10 to $20 for a meal at a budget-friendly restaurant or street food vendor, $20 to $50 for a meal at a mid-range restaurant, and $50 or more for a meal at a high-end restaurant.

For activities and excursions, prices will also vary widely depending on what you choose to do. For example, a day trip to the desert or mountains for ATV or horseback riding could cost around $80- $150, while a snorkeling or diving excursion in the Sea of Cortez could cost around $80- $150, and a sunset cruise could cost around $50- $100.

Based on these estimates, a rough estimate of budgeting for one week in Cabo San Lucas for one person could be:

Accommodation: $700 – $1000
Food and drinks: $150 – $350
Activities and excursions: $200 – $400
Total: $1050 – $1750

While these are estimated prices, Cabo San Lucas is considered to be a more developed and well-known destination compared to Puerto Vallarta, so you should expect prices to be higher than Puerto Vallarta for some things, such as luxury accommodations and activities, such as golfing.

Best time to Visit – Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta

Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta

The peak tourist season in Puerto Vallarta is from December to April, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the beaches are at their best. This is also the busiest time of year, with higher prices for accommodation and flights, and more crowded beaches and tourist attractions.

The summer months of May to October are considered the off-season in Puerto Vallarta, when the weather is hot and humid, and there is a higher chance of rain. However, this is also the best time to find deals on accommodation and flights, and the crowds are much smaller. The sea can be rough during this time, but it’s still a good time for swimming and snorkeling.

Check here for daily weather updates in Puerto Vallarta

Best Time to Visit Cabo San Lucas

The peak tourist season in Cabo San Lucas is from November to April, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the beaches are at their best. This is also the busiest time of year, with higher prices for accommodation and flights, and more crowded beaches and tourist attractions. It’s also the best time for water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving, as the sea is calm and clear.

The summer months of May to October are considered the off-season in Cabo San Lucas, when the weather is hot and humid, and there is a higher chance of rain. This time of year is also known for the famous “Cabo summer storms” which can bring a lot of wind and rain, but also can bring amazing sunsets and less crowded beaches.

Check here for daily weather updates in Cabo San Lucas

Final Thoughts – Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, Which is Better for Vacation in Mexico?

While you can’t go wrong with either Puerto Vallarta or Cabo, Puerto Vallarta is better for an upbeat beach vacation while Cabo is the for luxury and solace. Both have a variety of daytime activities like beautiful beaches and swimming and have a decent amount of nightlife for both as well. Puerto Vallarta offers a colonial and vibrant Mexico beach trip while Cabo is your luxurious Mexican beach trip. Puerto Vallarta wins for us, but Cabo is definitely a good option too.

What will you choose for your vacation between Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta? Let us know!

Ruben Arribas is the co-founder of Gamintraveler and a Spanish traveler who has traveled to more than 100 countries around the world. He is now a full-time digital nomad.