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If you’re looking for an unforgettable resort city to explore in Mexico, both Cabo and Cancun are great choices you should consider! Whether you’re traveling on your own, as a couple, or as a family, these two unique destinations boast some of the most beautiful beaches, affordable day-trips, and diverse dining options in the southernmost portion of North America!
Cancun is better for vacation if you want picturesque tropical beaches with warm water and soft sand in a vibrant Mexican city. A vacation to Cabo is better if you want to explore stunning rock formations, spend days deep-sea fishing, and enjoy a place with less tourist traffic.
|Cost of Stay: Weekly (USD)||$942 per person||$1,276 per person|
|Transportation||Taxis, public buses, car rentals, Uber||Taxis, public buses, car rentals, Uber|
|Notable Attractions||Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, El Medano, Los Cabos Corridor, Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore, Cabo Wabo, Baja Brewing Company, Chileno Beach||El Centro, Zona Hotelera, Cancun Underwater Museum, Xcaret Park, Mercado 28, Avenida Tulum, Parque de las Palapas|
|Weather||Hot all year round with lower temperatures from December to April||Semi-tropical with a wet season (May to October) and dry season (November to April)|
|Food and Drink||Mexican cuisine, seafood, international cuisine, numerous lounges and bars, fast food chains||Mexican cuisine, seafood, international cuisine, a variety of restaurants, clubs, and bars|
|Activities for Kids||Aqua World Cabo, Cannery Beach, Playa el Suspiro, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, eco touring||Ventura Water Park, Interactive Aquarium Cancun, Scenic Tower, La Gran Rueda, Planetario Cancun, Museo Maya|
|Nature Attractions||Lovers Beach, Playa del Amor, Arch Rock (El Arco), Cabo Pulmo National Park, Divorce Beach, Cozumel||Isla Contoy, Playa Delfines, El Meco, Playa Tortugas, Coba, Ik Kil, El Rey Archaeological Zone, Sand Falls|
Cancun is a lively city located in the eastern part of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula, near the border of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea; visitors can expect plenty of fun day excursions, and a hopping nightlife filled with flashy clubs and party zones.
Meanwhile, Los Cabos (or simply, Cabo) — which consists of both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo — is a resort city at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula that is known for its unbelievable scuba diving locations, marine life, and its laid-back beach town vibes.
This article will explore these two Mexican cities to help you decide which destination will give you the best vacation experience.
Cost of Stay
If you decide to vacation in Cancun, you’ll most likely find a place in the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera de Cancún). There are over 100 hotels and resorts located over miles and miles of gorgeous white-sand. It is lapped by some of the warmest waves of the Caribbean!
Since Cancun is a popular tourist city, there are many options when it comes to accommodations. Most hotels in the Hotel Zone are all-inclusive and have a range of packages that can suit all kinds of travelers, from budget-friendly to upscale.
Similarly, a vacation to Cabo doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny. However, this greatly depends on when you go; expect to pay a little less during the late spring and summer — yes, it will be hot, but you’ll have the beautiful ocean to cool you off!
Also, unlike Cancun, you might have a better chance of finding cheaper meals outside of the hotel; there are various street vendors and cafes that offer delicious food for a reasonable rate.
And finally, as with any vacation, the earlier you book, the cheaper the rates will be. Avoid booking very last minute, as prices will skyrocket!
Best Affordable Hotels in Cancun
As mentioned above, Cancun has many lodging options that offer great value for less. From luxury beach resorts to budget-friendly hotels to backpacker hostels, you’ll be able to find somewhere to stay that meets your needs.
If you decide to go the hostel route, we recommend the Nomads Boutique Hotel for a welcoming atmosphere that is located in the heart of Cancun; guests can expect a spacious rustic-style property that offers an outdoor pool, clean bathroom facilities, and a common room with a TV.
Bed and breakfasts are also popular in Cancun. A safe and lovely option we recommend is Eclipse B&B for a more unique ‘homestyle’ traveling experience. The venue comprises seven rooms, and is just a 20-minute walk from the Cancun city center; it also offers free Wi-Fi and a private balcony and wardrobe.
If you don’t want to skip the hotel experience, consider the all-inclusive Oasis Palm in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Guests will enjoy a family-friendly, Mexican-themed resort with a large swimming pool set in a beautiful tropical garden, and there are plenty of activities for the kids to do.
For a beachfront resort on a budget, the Salvia Cancun might be a place to keep in mind! This hotel is located in the nightlife district and offers suites equipped with kitchenettes and dining room areas. Not to mention, it has a tennis court and private beach access.
Best Affordable Hotels in Cabo
Cabo has many options when it comes to budget-friendly accommodations.
While it is much easier to bump into an upscale resort on a stunning beach in Cabo, there are places you can stay that are just as classy if you know where to look!
The Royal Solaris Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo is a family-friendly, all-inclusive resort that is close to the airport, and includes four pools, four bars, and four restaurants! There are also daily activities for teens and kids to do and evening entertainment.
As it can be hard to find a charming hotel that won’t break the bank, we thought we’d mention Casa Bella Boutique Hotel in Cabo San Lucas. This 14-room property is a short walk from the town’s bustling marina and is on a pleasant plaza surrounded by local cafes and restaurants. There is also a simple continental breakfast included in the room rate and a lovely courtyard pool.
Finally, for those seeking affordable lodging that is close to a swimmable beach, Bahia Hotel & Beach House is worth looking into! With spacious rooms, a hip bar with flat-screen TVs, and a poolside cafe — who wouldn’t want to check-in? The hotel is also one block away from the popular Medano Beach.
Resorts in Cabo are an ideal fit if you’re not looking to leave your hotel, and want more of an R&R type vacation; this is especially the case if you stay on the ‘hotel corridor.’ However, if you want to be closer to bars, clubs, and restaurants, the hotels in Cabo San Lucas are a bit more exciting.
While Cancun and Cabo are known for their beaches and all-inclusive resorts, there are spots beyond these to explore.
In Cancun, you have the privilege of being beside a large cluster of Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza, which was made one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007, is one of the more popular sites; you can tour many pyramids here, including El Castillo. Another great place to visit is the ancient city of Coba, where you can climb up a 138-foot pyramid!
If touring archaeological sites isn’t really your thing, you can hit the upscale malls of La Isla or Luxury Avenue to get some serious shopping done.
Cabo, on the other hand, is full of breathtaking rock formations. El Arco is one of the most visited, and for a good reason, it’s the perfect spot to snorkel, whale watch, or take stunning pictures. You can see this impressive natural landmark from shore, but for a closer look, you can jump on a water taxi or glass-bottom boat.
If you’re a fishing enthusiast, the waters surrounding Cabo are packed with marlins and other billfish species; you can also sign up for the Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament that takes place every year in October if you’re up for it!
Alternatively, if you want to stick to land activities, you can hike up Mt. Solmar, or even ATV through Wild Canyon!
For visitors interested in the culture scene, there’s a trendy art district full of extraordinary galleries that display some local and regional artwork.
When it comes to beaches, both Cabo and Cancun have some of the most beautiful ones on the planet. However, they are vastly different experiences.
Cancun has warmer water that is much clearer and has that iconic Caribbean turquoise color. The waves are tame, and almost everywhere you can find a suitable and safe stretch of water to swim in.
For a relaxing, uncrowded atmosphere, Playa Chac Mool is the beach to go. Bring a big towel, a great book, and a tall frosted margarita, and you’re all set! If you want the ultimate thrill-seeker’s beach, consider checking out Playa Delfines, which offers many opportunities for parasailing and jet skiing.
Cabo has a completely different beach personality. That is, it has colder water that is deep blue and has stronger waves. It is mostly advised not to swim in the water because of the Pacific’s fierce rip currents and undertows. However, there are still swimmable beaches such as the calm Medano Beach and the renowned Palmilla Beach.
Cabo has some great scuba diving with distinct sites like Sand Falls; imagine exploring an underwater waterfall of sand that plunges down a thousand plus feet! Keep in mind that the water is considerably colder, which might not be a pleasant experience to some, depending on the time of year.
Cancun has good diving nearby at Cozumel, which is located in the Caribbean Sea along the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is surrounded by a colorful and diverse ecosystem of coral reefs that is home to more than a thousand marine species. Other water activities you can enjoy while at Cozumel include parasailing, kitesurfing, and a tourist submarine adventure.
Another must-see attraction for divers (or snorkelers!) is the Cancun Underwater Museum, the biggest underwater museum in the world. If you’re a water enthusiast, you will love to swim through the exotic fauna coupled with intriguing art pieces.
When it comes to partying Caribbean-style, Cancun takes the cake. It’s no coincidence that it’s often considered one of the best spring break destinations for all ages!
There are some of the most vibrant ‘super-clubs’ in Cancun; staples such as Coco Bongo, The City, and Dady’ O are sure to keep you dancing all night long!
Cabo San Lucas may not have the same reputation for getting-down, but it still has a pretty solid nightlife scene. The iconic El Squid Roe is energetic and full of great music! Or you can stop by the female-friendly Pink Kitty Nightclub for unique drink specials!
If you’re looking to have a more toned-down evening, San Jose del Cabo, which is adorned with gorgeous cobblestone streets and stunning colonial architecture, might be the perfect place to head to!
Activities for Kids
Both Cancun and Cabo are great destinations for kids and teens!
In Cancun, it’s easy to find some fun excursions to do with little ones. Dolphin Discovery and Interactive Aquarium are great places to see dolphins up close, and to spend a day with the family in the water! If waterslides, lounge chairs, and big umbrellas are more your family’s thing, All Ritmo Waterpark can offer you that experience!
Kids and adults alike will love to play with spider monkeys at The Jungle Place sanctuary in Cancun. Tours are available through reservation only, and 100% of the donations go to the care and feeding of the rescued animals.
For a more family-friendly atmosphere, San Jose del Cabo is the place to go, as San Lucas is a bit more of the adult party scene.
San Jose’s Estuary and Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful place to view all sorts of exotic creatures!
Food and Drink
Since Cancun is a resort city with more of an all-inclusive environment, and therefore offers breakfast and lunch buffet options, most local restaurants open in the early afternoon (around 2 PM).
There are a limited number of oceanfront restaurants in and around the Hotel Zone, but you can venture downtown (via taxi) and explore a range of Mexican and international dining options. We recommend Maria Jimenz for a truly authentic culinary experience that’s reasonably priced, and that’s in a charming little neighborhood.
Travelers can find numerous tourist spots in downtown Cabo San Lucas, however, those that want a more traditional experience should head for San Jose del Cabo. We suggest renting a car to seek out other dining options, as it will give you more freedom to explore.
If you’re looking for a memorable culinary journey, we recommend Flora’s Field Kitchen; visitors can view a 25-acre organic working farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in San Jose del Cabo.
Another farm to table experience that’s well worth the drive is Los Tamarindos — a working organic farm that grows all sorts of delicious and fresh fruits and veggies.
As a general rule, you should avoid drinking tap water in all areas of Mexico. Bottled water is readily available throughout the country and is generally very affordable.
The best time to visit Cancun weather-wise is during the peak season, which runs from December to April. Yes, the crowds will be heavier, but you’ll experience perfect tropical weather.
If you want to escape the humidity that’s typical in Cancun, the dry Cabo landscape is a wonderful alternative. The best time to travel to Cabo is from May to June after the wintertime crowds have left, and before the start of the storm season. October and November are also good months to go, but make sure you search for tickets in advance for the best deals!
Tourist areas in both Cancun and Cabo are considered to be safe; however, visitors must stay alert at all times. Avoid deserted areas at night, and always be aware of your surroundings and belongings.
The best way to get around in Cancun is by bus, but you can also ride a taxi or rent a car. This is also the case with Cabo; there are private shuttles that will take you from the airport to your hotel. Make sure to check your specific hotel for details.
If you plan on visiting Mexico, you will need a valid passport. Upon entering the country will grant you a tourist visa that is valid for 180 days.
There you have it — a rundown of two impressive Mexican destinations that would make for a wonderful getaway!
We recommend Cancun for travelers who are looking for a vacation with a touristy vibe, breathtaking Mayan ruins, and warm tropical water to swim in. Meanwhile, Cabo is a great getaway for those who want to enjoy a rugged, mountainous landscape with a quieter atmosphere.