If you are trying to plan a vacation to Mexico two popular destinations you might be choosing between are Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. The good news is when comparing Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta bother have what Mexico is known for with close proximity to the USA, delicious food, rich culture, and beautiful beach resorts.
There are several factors that go into deciding which is better, Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. You’ll want to consider what kind of trip you’re taking, what activities you’re interested in, and who you’re traveling with. Are you going to Mexico for a honeymoon? Do you just want to lounge on beaches, or do you want to explore? Are you traveling with family?
In this article, we will compare Puerto Vallarta vs. Cancun to help you decide which one is better for your vacation. We will break down significant factors such as the beaches, cost, weather, resorts, and crime rate.
Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun: Overview
Before we compare Puerto Vallarta vs. Cancun in detail, let’s take a look at each city’s background. Cancun is a relatively young city; it was officially recognized in 1974.
However, it didn’t take long for the city in the state of Quintana Roo to get tourists’ attention. Now, you will see a long stretch of all-inclusive resorts, nightclubs, and casinos, which is a big contrast to the Mayan fishing village it once was.
Each year millions of tourists flock to Cancun for spring break, destination weddings, honeymoons, and family vacations.
Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, was established in 1851. Starting as a fishing village, the city began to get an influx of tourists in the 1960s when the movie “Night of the Iguana” was filmed there.
Since then, Puerto Vallarta has become a popular destination not only for visitors but also for those looking for a place to retire. Since Puerto Vallarta has a smaller population than Cancun, you will find a more authentic Mexican experience when visiting.
Nonetheless, you will still find all-inclusive resorts, nightclubs, and beaches that offer incredible sunset views.
Since both towns have a lot to offer, it can be tough to choose Puerto Vallarta or Cancun. Let’s take a closer look.
Puerto Vallarta vs. Cancun: Beaches
Both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta have picture-perfect beaches and lots of watersports.
Located along the Caribbean, Cancun is known for white-sand beaches and turquoise-colored water. Watersports like jet skiing, paddleboarding, and parasailing are offered on every beach. You can also book a deep-sea fishing trip or go scuba diving or snorkeling at cenotes or coral reefs.
Another option is taking a 30-minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, which is a tiny island near Cancun. While there, you can rent a golf cart and explore the island or chill on the beach sipping a cold cerveza (Mexican beer).
However, since Cancun is such a popular place for tourists, the beaches can get busy. If you want to check out a local beach off the beaten path, then we recommend going to Isla Blanca. You will need to rent a car, and the road can get rough, but it’s a secluded beach away from the crowd.
If you are looking for Instagram-worthy beaches, then Cancun has an advantage over Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta Beaches
Since Puerto Vallarta is located on the Pacific coast, you will find gold sand beaches, which are beautiful in their own right. This area is great for surfing, deep-sea fishing, and diving, but you can also find all the other watersports you would in Cancun.
The Bay of Banderas is a picturesque spot to relax and take photos. If you visit during the winter, which we recommend, you will have a good chance of seeing the humpback whales.
Like Cancun, there are several public beaches to check out, each with its own atmosphere and vibe. The most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta is Los Muertos, located in the Zona Romantica area. Here you will be near the downtown scene, where the nightlife happens.
While Puerto Vallarta’s beaches and water aren’t as beautiful as Cancun, the sunsets are stunning and some of the best in Mexico. You can’t really beat watching the sun go down over the Bay of Banderas.
Puerto Vallarta vs. Cancun: Cost
When it comes to cost, Puerto Vallarta vs. Cancun is a tie. During peak season, you can expect to pay expensive rates for accommodations in both places. However, both beach destinations offer incredible deals if you are willing to visit during the shoulder or off-season.
When it comes to food and drinks, if you stay near the hotel zones in either place, you will pay close to American prices. If you are willing to wander into the more local areas, you can find authentic street tacos, tortas, and alcoholic beverages for much less than you would pay in the U.S.
Of course, it all depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. If you want to stay at an all-inclusive resort, then it doesn’t make sense to go into the city as everything is already provided.
For a cheaper trip, you can look for an inexpensive Airbnb, eat local street food, and buy your own drinks to take to the beach. By doing the latter, you will be able to budget for more activities versus staying at a resort.
Cancun vs. Puerto Vallarta: Weather
You may think it’s strange to compare weather conditions when both destinations are in Mexico, but there are slight differences because they are located on different coasts. Cancun can be more humid than Puerto Vallarta, which can make a real difference when you’re spending a lot of time outside.
If you want to avoid high humidity, visit either Cancun or Puerto Vallarta during the months of December through April when it isn’t as bad. Visiting during the shoulder season (April to May and October to November) is best if you want to beat the crowds but still enjoy nice weather. Both places can get very busy around spring break, so try to avoid those times.
Prices are cheapest in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta during the summer, but the weather could have negative impacts on your trip. Puerto Vallarta is notorious for flooding, which could delay your departure flight.
Cancun in the summer has frequent thunderstorms and overcast days. The beaches can be windy and muggy, and the water is rough. Hurricane season is June to November, so if you plan a trip to Cancun during those months, you will want to get trip insurance.
Cancun vs. Puerto Vallarta: Resorts
Puerto Vallarta and Cancun both have a wide range of resorts to choose from. You will find all-inclusive resorts, family resorts, adult-only resorts, and boutique hotels. We would say that Cancun has more “party” resorts geared toward young adults, while Puerto Vallarta is more laidback.
Cancun has a beachfront “hotel zone” with a long strip of resorts and hotels. However, you can also find great resorts just outside of Cancun in Riviera Maya or Playa Del Carmen.
Any of these resorts in Cancun will offer day trips to nearby Mayan cities such as Tulum. While in Tulum, you can explore ancient Mayan ruins or cenotes, which are water-filled holes in the earth made by a meteor shower.
While Puerto Vallarta has an assortment of all-inclusive resorts, including some wonderful romantic adult-only all-inclusive resorts, the city is also great for boutique hotels. There are plenty of options both on the beach and in the city.
Puerto Vallarta has more of an authentic vibe than Cancun. Here you can explore the historic area, stroll the beachfront promenade El Malecon, and mingle with locals. Puerto Vallarta also has a thriving art scene, excellent restaurants, and great nightlife
What Is Safer, Cancun or Puerto Vallarta?
When it comes to safety, Puerto Vallarta is the clear winner. For years, Puerto Vallarta has been deemed one of the most welcoming cities in Mexico for all types of visitors, and it has a low crime rate.
While Cancun is still considered a safe place to visit, it has a higher crime rate than Puerto Vallarta. There is always a concern with the cartel presence in Cancun, but this crime usually isn’t targeted toward tourists.
When visiting either Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, use common sense and don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. While most crimes affecting visitors are petty thefts and scams, it’s important to be cautious when outside your resort. Don’t carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry, stay in busy areas, don’t get inebriated, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and keep your eyes on your drink at all times.
Is Cancun or Puerto Vallarta Better?
So, what do you think? Will you go to the Yucatan peninsula to visit Cancun or head to the Pacific coast to Puerto Vallarta? Ultimately, we don’t think there is a wrong choice as both Mexican cities have a lot to offer. You just need to decide what you are looking for and see which place best suits your budget and needs, Cancun or Puerto Vallarta.
Another deciding factor are flights, so it depends on where you live as to which is more conveniently located for you.
If neither of these seems to be right for you, check out our articles on Cancun vs. Cozumel, Cozumel Honeymoons, Cabo vs. Cancun, and Cabo Honeymoons.
Tuesday 14th of February 2023
One HUUUUGE thing to consider about Cancún is sargassum which has been invading beaches during summer months in the recent years, but it 2023 it already came in February! And that thing can seriously destroy your entire holiday, which is funny that NOONE talks about it.