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Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta – Which Vacation is Better?

Last updated on January 28th, 2023 at 09:44 pm

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta – While Cancun is a top choice for a lounge-type beach trip, Puerto Vallarta offers a more vibrant and traditional trip.

Cancun is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and all-inclusive resorts, making it a popular destination for family vacations and romantic getaways. It has a wide range of activities for all ages, from swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving, to theme parks and water parks, and adventure parks. Additionally, Cancun offers a variety of family-friendly restaurants and shopping centers.

On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta is known for its charming old town, beautiful beaches, and outdoor activities. It has a more authentic Mexican feel and offers a wide range of cultural experiences, such as traditional markets, festivals, museums, and art galleries. The city also offers a variety of outdoor activities for families and couples, such as hiking, horseback riding, and water sports. The Malecon, a seaside promenade, is a great place to take romantic walks and enjoy the sunset.

Read here Puerto Vallarta vs Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta vs Mazatlan, Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta and Cancun vs Acapulco

Table of Contents

Comparing Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are Mexico’s top vacation spots. Honestly, both are an experience you’d love and if you can visit both of them – it’s definitely good. Based on what you’re looking for in your beach experience, one will be better than the other. Cancun is the better choice for laidback days in the sun with active nightlife, while Puerto Vallarta is perfect if you want the traditional Mexican feel in your beach trip – festivals, vibrant nightlife, activities, and more.

If sandy white sand ad blue beaches are your priority, and you’re happy with what Cancun has to offer in its famous beaches and hotel strip, you’d be happy with a vacation in Cancun. Puerto Vallarta in comparison has a more local feel to it, more personality, and other things to do like museums, festivals, and art galleries.

Cancun is more popular for spring breakers and has many all-inclusive resorts. For extra activities in Cancun, you can also do snorkeling, scuba diving, and visiting ancient Mayan ruins.

Marina in Puerto Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun
Marina in Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

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.

Both Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are great beach destinations, although the vibes they offer are different. While Puerto Vallarta is a more traditional and local vacation, Cancun is much more touristy. If you prefer the traditional and cultural atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta, that’s a better choice for you.

Weather

Both destinations have warm and sunny weather throughout the year, with temperatures averaging around 85-90°F (29-32°C). The peak tourist season in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta is from December to April, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the beaches are at their best. The summer months of May to October, considered the off-season, have a higher chance of rain, but also offer less crowded beaches and tourist attractions.

Beaches – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

Both destinations have beautiful beaches, with clear waters and great swimming conditions. Cancun’s beaches are known for their white sand and crystal-clear waters, while Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are known for their natural beauty and lush tropical scenery. Cancun’s beaches tend to be more crowded than Puerto Vallarta’s beaches during peak season.

Accommodation

Both destinations have a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels and budget hotels to mid-range hotels and vacation rentals, to luxury resorts. Cancun is known for its all-inclusive resorts, which can be a great option for budget travelers as they offer the convenience of having all meals and activities included in the price. However, it’s worth noting that all-inclusive resorts can be more expensive compared to other options in Cancun.

Activities

Both destinations offer a wide range of activities and excursions, such as swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, hiking, and sunset cruises. Cancun also offers a wide range of theme parks and water parks, while Puerto Vallarta offers more cultural experiences such as traditional markets, festivals, museums, and art galleries.

Food and Drinks

Both destinations offer a wide range of food and drink options, from budget-friendly street food vendors to high-end restaurants. Cancun’s restaurants tend to be more expensive than Puerto Vallarta’s restaurants.

Nightlife

Both destinations have a vibrant nightlife scene, with a wide range of bars, clubs, and entertainment options. Cancun is known for its lively party scene, while Puerto Vallarta offers a more laid-back and authentic nightlife experience.

Overall, both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are great destinations for different types of travelers. Cancun is known for its beautiful beaches, all-inclusive resorts, and wide range of activities and entertainment options, making it a popular choice for family vacations and romantic getaways. Puerto Vallarta is known for its charming old town, beautiful beaches, and outdoor activities, as well as its cultural experiences, making it a great choice for those looking for a more authentic Mexican experience. Both destinations offer something for everyone and it depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation.

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Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

A total of $20 USD would be the range of your budget for accommodation in Cancun 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 CANCUN OR PUERTO VALLARTA BEFORE YOUR TRIP WITH BOOKING

Book Your Travel Insurance – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

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Pros and Cons – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Let’s look at Pros and Cons between Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Please remember that these pros and cons are for comparison purposes. Both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are proven to be touristy and spectacular vacations and each has its own merits.

Cancun Pros

If you’re leaning more to Cancun, the pros are:

• Cancun is a well-established tourist destination and has a wide range of accommodations and activities to offer. This includes all-inclusive resorts, vacation rentals, and boutique hotels.
• Cancun is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, with white sand and crystal clear waters.
• The area is known for its nightlife, with many bars and clubs to choose from.
• Cancun offers many opportunities for adventure activities, such as snorkeling, diving, and visiting Mayan ruins.
• There are many options for food and dining, with a mix of traditional Mexican cuisine and international options.

Cancun Cons

• Cancun can be quite crowded, especially during peak tourist season.
• The area is heavily developed, so you may have to travel a bit to find more secluded beaches.
• The prices for accommodations and activities can be higher than in other parts of Mexico.
• Cancun is known for its party atmosphere, which may not be suitable for everyone.

Puerto Vallarta Pros

• Beautiful beaches: Puerto Vallarta is known for its beautiful beaches, with clear waters and great swimming conditions.
• Old Town (El Centro): The historic center of Puerto Vallarta, known for its charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant nightlife.
• Outdoor activities: Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking and horseback riding in the Sierra Madre Mountains to water sports on the beaches.
• Cultural experiences: Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of cultural experiences, from traditional markets and local festivals to museums and art galleries.
• Affordable: Compared to other tourist destinations, Puerto Vallarta is relatively affordable, making it a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

Puerto Vallarta Cons

• Crowded during peak season: During the peak tourist season, the beaches and tourist attractions can be quite crowded, making it difficult to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
• Traffic: Traffic in Puerto Vallarta can be heavy, especially during peak season, making it difficult to get around.
• Pollution: Some beaches and areas of Puerto Vallarta have a problem with pollution, especially during peak season.
• Safety concerns: As with any tourist destination, it’s important to be aware of the local safety concerns and take precautions to stay safe.

Beaches and Activities – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Cancun Beaches – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Cancun is home to many beautiful beaches, each with its own unique features. Here are a few of the most popular beaches in Cancun and some top hotels to stay in each area:

Playa Delfines

Playa Delfines - Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta - Which Vacation is Better? Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun
Playa Delfines – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun Which is Better Vacation?

This beach is located on the southern end of Cancun’s hotel zone and is known for its clear blue waters and long stretches of white sand. It is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Some top hotels in this area include: The Ritz-Carlton Cancun, The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort, and The Grand at Moon Palace.

Playa Marlin

This beach is located in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone and is known for its lively atmosphere and water activities. It is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and parasailing. Some top hotels in this area include The Grand Fiesta Americana, The Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun, and The JW Marriott Cancun Resort.

Playa Tortugas – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta - Which Vacation is Better?
Playa Tortugas in Cancun

This beach is located on the northern end of Cancun’s hotel zone and is known for its clear waters and family-friendly atmosphere. It is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Some top hotels in this area include: The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, The Hyatt Ziva Cancun, and The Paradisus Cancun.

Playa Langosta

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta - Which Vacation is Better?
Playa Langosta in Cancun – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

This beach is located on the eastern end of Cancun’s hotel zone and is known for its calm waters and secluded atmosphere. It is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. Some top hotels in this area include: The Le Blanc Spa Resort, The Live Aqua Beach Resort, and The Beloved Playa Mujeres.

Other Top Things to Do in Cancun – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the coral reef and tropical fish in Cancun’s clear waters. You can rent equipment or take a guided snorkeling tour to some of the best spots. Popular snorkeling spots include the Underwater Sculpture Park, located just off the coast of Cancun, and the MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), an underwater art museum.

Scuba diving

Cancun is home to some of the best scuba diving spots in Mexico, with a variety of dive sites to choose from. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, located just off the coast of Cancun, is home to a wide variety of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even sharks. You can take a guided dive tour or enroll in a certification course if you’re new to diving.

Parasailing

Parasailing is a popular activity in Cancun and allows you to fly above the water while being towed behind a boat. It’s a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of the area and the beaches. Most parasailing companies offer single or tandem flights, and the activity is suitable for all ages.

Jet skiing

Jet skiing is a popular water sport in Cancun, and it’s a great way to explore the coast and see the beaches from a different perspective. Jet ski rentals are available at many beaches, and you can usually rent them by the hour.

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the coast and mangrove swamps of Cancun, or you can also do it in some of the lagoons in the area. You can rent equipment or take a guided tour to explore the area.

Windsurfing and kitesurfing – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

Cancun offers some of the best conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing, with steady trade winds and calm waters. Many beaches in Cancun offer equipment rentals and lessons for these sports.

Fishing

Cancun is a great destination for sport fishing, with a variety of species to catch, such as sailfish, marlin, and tuna. You can take a fishing charter to explore the waters and try your hand at catching some of the local species.

Boat tour

Take a boat tour to explore the coast and some of the nearby islands. You can take a sunset cruise and enjoy the view of the Caribbean. Some boat tours include snorkeling or diving stops, or even lunch or dinner on board.

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 - Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta - Which Vacation is Better?
Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

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 - Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta - Which Vacation is Better?
Mismaloya in Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

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)

Malecon, the seaside promenade in Puerto Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun, Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta
Malecon, the seaside promenade in Puerto Vallarta

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

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

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.

Cost of Travel – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

How much is Cancun for One Week for One Person

Accommodation: A one-week stay in a budget hotel in Cancun can cost around $300 to $500, while a one-week stay in a mid-range hotel can cost around $500 to $1000. A one-week stay in a luxury hotel can cost $1000 or more.

Food: The cost of food in Cancun can vary depending on where you eat. Eating at street vendors or local restaurants can cost around $5 to $10 per meal, while eating at mid-range restaurants can cost around $15 to $30 per meal. Eating at high-end restaurants can cost $30 or more per meal.

Activities: The cost of activities in Cancun can vary depending on what you choose to do. A day trip to the Mayan ruins can cost around $40 to $60, while a snorkeling or diving excursion can cost around $50 to $100. Water sports such as jet skiing or parasailing can cost around $50 to $100 for a few hours.

Transport: Taxis and buses are the most common form of transportation in Cancun, and they are relatively cheap, with prices ranging from $5 to $15 for most rides.

All in all, a one-week vacation in Cancun for one person could cost anywhere from $800 to $2000 or more, depending on the factors mentioned above. It’s recommended to have a budget in mind and plan ahead, to make the most of your vacation and avoid overspending.

How much is Puerto Vallarta for One Week for One Person

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

Which one is Better for Family Trips – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

If your family is interested in adventure and outdoor activities, Cancun may be the better choice. If your family is looking for a more local and traditional vacation and seeing more of Mexican culture, a better option is Puerto Vallarta. Ultimately, both destinations are great options for family trips, and it depends on the preferences of you and your family.

Cancun is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a wide variety of activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving, as well as adventure activities like zip-lining and ATV tours, and cultural activities such as visiting ancient Mayan ruins. Cancun also offers a wide variety of family-friendly hotels and resorts with amenities such as kids’ clubs and activities.

Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, is known for its charming old town, beautiful beaches, and outdoor activities. It has a more authentic Mexican feel, and offers a wide range of cultural experiences, such as traditional markets, festivals, museums, and art galleries. The city also offers a variety of outdoor activities for families, such as hiking, horseback riding, and water sports.

Which one is Better for Couple Trips or Romantic Getaways – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Cancun offers a wide variety of romantic accommodations, including luxurious resorts and intimate boutique hotels, many of which offer spa services and couples packages.

Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, is known for its charming old town, beautiful beaches, and outdoor activities. It has a more authentic Mexican feel and offers a wide range of cultural experiences, such as traditional markets, festivals, museums, and art galleries. The city also offers a variety of outdoor activities for couples, such as hiking, horseback riding, and water sports. The Malecon, a seaside promenade, is a great place to take romantic walks and enjoy the sunset.

Both destinations offer something for everyone and it depends on what you and your partner want to do during your vacation. If you’re looking for a more traditional beach vacation with lots of romantic activities and amenities, Cancun might be the better choice. But if you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican experience with a mix of culture and outdoor activities, Puerto Vallarta could be a better choice. Both destinations are great options for romantic couples trips, and it depends on the preferences of you and your partner.

Which is Better for Budget Travel – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta can be great destinations for budget travel.

Cancun offers many budget-friendly accommodations, including hostels and budget hotels, as well as food options like street food and local restaurants. Additionally, Cancun offers many free or low-cost activities like visiting ancient Mayan ruins and temples.

Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, have many budget-friendly options such as budget hotels, vacation rentals, and hostels that can be more affordable than all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. Additionally, it’s worth noting that food and drink in Puerto Vallarta tend to be cheaper than in Cancun.

In terms of activities, both destinations offer a wide range of options that can suit different budgets. However, activities in Cancun tend to be more expensive than in Puerto Vallarta.

Overall, both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta can be great options for budget trips, but it depends on the type of accommodation and activities you choose. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive vacation, Cancun might be the better choice, but if you’re looking for budget-friendly accommodation and food, Puerto Vallarta could be a better choice.

Best Time to Visit – Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta

Best Time to Visit Cancun – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

The peak tourist season in Cancun 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. This is 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 Cancun, 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. This time of year is also known for the occasional tropical storms and hurricanes, so it’s important to check the weather forecast and be prepared if you decide to visit during this time.

Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun

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.

Final Thoughts – Which One is Better, Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta?

While each is spectacular on its own, for our type of travel, Puerto Vallarta is better. Compared to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta offers more in terms of a traditional Mexican culture vibe and a variety of options for accommodations and activities.

How about you? Let us know which destination between Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun you ended up choosing and see you in our next guide!

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.