Cancun vs Cabo: Which Vacation Destination is Better?

Table of Contents

When it comes to picking a vacation destination, Cancun and Cabo are two of the most popular choices.

Both of these destinations offer endless fun and adventure; it can feel like a toss-up as to where you should go.

But there are some key differences between the two that might make your decision easier.

So, here’s a quick peek into the differences between Cancun vs Cabo.

Should You Visit Cancun or Cabo?

Cancun is home to beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, while Cabo is mainly known for the luxury stays and pampering.

If you want to party, Cancun is the place for you, but if you prefer a laidback atmosphere and more time spent relaxing, Cabo is the better choice.

Both destinations offer great weather, excellent beaches, and tons of fun activities to keep you busy all day long.

However, Cabo tends to be a bit more expensive than Cancun, so if your budget is tight you may want to choose Cancun instead.

Ultimately, it depends on what type of vacation experience you’re looking for – whether that’s total relaxation or non-stop partying and adventure!

Beaches

How can we compare two tropical destinations without talking about the beaches first?

For starters, Cancun is located on the Caribbean coast, while Los Cabos is situated on the Pacific coast.

This means that the beaches in Cancun tend to have calm, turquoise waters, while those in Los Cabos can be a bit rougher and more dramatic.

In terms of temperature, Cancun is typically hotter than Los Cabos – perfect for those who want to soak up some sun!

However, this also means that there can be more rain showers in Cancun than in Los Cabos.

Let’s take a closer look.

READ NEXT
Best RIU in Cancun for Your All-Inclusive Stay

What Are the Beaches Like in Cancun?

Facing the bright blue waters of the Caribbean, the beaches in Cancun are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Packed with hotels and beach resorts, these sugary stretches of sand attract tourists from all over the world.

Tourists flock to Playa Norte, Playa Delfines & Costa Mujeres for the best-known beaches in Cancun.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve & Playa Paraiso are two other popular seaside spots that should not be missed.

Visitors can expect to find plenty of activities to keep them busy, from swimming and sunbathing to windsurfing and snorkeling.

Cancun vs Cabo Beaches
stunning beach in cancun

What Are the Beaches Like in Cabo?

Cabo beaches are the stuff of postcards – golden sand, clear blue skies and the Pacific Ocean lapping at the shore.

However, many visitors to Cabo are disappointed with the beach scene as it does not live up to their expectations.

Why is this the case?

The Pacific Ocean’s waves are notoriously treacherous, and the undertow is incredibly strong.

Even experienced swimmers can find themselves in trouble, and there have been countless drownings over the years.

Instead of picking beaches at random, ask a lifeguard or check if the beach is safe for swimming (usually indicated by a blue flag).

And always remember: when in doubt, don’t go out!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice beach day in Cabo.

If you’re looking for a secluded spot, Lovers Beach is reachable only by boat and the dramatic granite cliffs here are totally Insta-worthy.

Or, if you’re looking for a more lively beach scene, El Medano Beach is one of the best swimmable beaches in Cabo.

It’s a wide, open stretch of beach perfect for all kinds of water sports; there are also several beach bars where you can relax with a drink in hand.

Does Cancun or Cabo Have Better Beaches?

There's no question that Cancun has better beaches than Los Cabos if all you want to do is lay beachside and splash around in the calm waters.

Cancun is the obvious choice because the beaches are wider and there are simply more options for swimming and snorkeling.

tip

Things to Do

When it comes to things to do, Cancun offers a wider range of activities and excursions.

From swimming with dolphins and exploring ancient ruins to zip-lining through the jungle and parasailing over the ocean, there’s something for everyone in Cancun.

In contrast, Cabo is known more for its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful beaches.

While there are still plenty of activities available, such as whale watching and snorkeling, they tend to be less adrenaline-pumping than what’s on offer in Cancun.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the things to do in Cancun vs Cabo: 

READ NEXT
Can You Swim in Cabo? 8 Swimmable Beaches to Check Out

Things to Do in Cancun

With its vibrant nightlife and countless shopping opportunities, Cancun is the ultimate spot for fun-loving young adults.

Whether you’re looking to hit the clubs and dance all night or find the perfect piece of bling for your favorite outfit, Cancun has everything you need.

You’ll find world-renowned shopping centers and even tucked-away galleries offering unique handicrafts; you can literally shop ’til you drop.

Since there’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches and warm tropical sunshine in this Mexican paradise, Cancun is also perfect for those who love to swim, sunbathe, and surf.

And don’t forget about taking a day trip to Isla Mujeres!

This gorgeous island is a short ferry ride away from bustling Cancun, putting you within easy reach of some of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.

The crystal-clear waters around Isla Mujeres are sure to delight and amaze; swim among a tropical paradise with unparalleled marine life and gaze at over 500 underwater sculptures at MUSA Underwater Museum.

Need a break from all the underwater adventure? Rent a golf cart and explore the island’s quiet streets, stopping in charming little cafes or relaxing under a shady palm tree.

Or head over to Chichen Itza, one of Mexico’s most impressive ancient ruins.

These remarkable temples are UNESCO World Heritage sites that attract visitors from all over the world.

If you’re interested in history and archaeology, this is an absolute must-see on your trip to Cancun.

So if you’re looking for endless activities to do during your vacation, Cancun is truly the place to be!

cabo things to do
arch of cabo san lucas

Things to Do in Cabo

Cabo San Lucas is famous for its dramatic coastline, and there’s no better way to enjoy it than by taking part in some of the activities at sea.

Thanks to its location that sits between the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez, Cabo is known as the ‘aquarium of the world’ – you’ll certainly see why when you take a dip in the clear waters.

One of the most popular activities in the area is whale watching; between December and March, you can catch sight of humpback whales migrating along the coast – an incredible experience that shouldn’t be missed.

If you want something a bit more thrilling, dive in with the sharks!

Book a tour where you can swim alongside these majestic creatures, giving you a unique opportunity to learn about them up close.

Whether you’re exploring Cabo San Lucas for the first time or have visited it many times before, there’s no denying the appeal of the Arch of Cabo San Lucas at Land’s End.

Standing three stories tall, this striking natural rock formation greets visitors with a sense of mystery and wonder.

And with sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez, this iconic landmark is truly a magical place.

Want to work up a sweat? A hike up Mt. Solmar is a great option! This short but challenging hike will give you amazing views of the surrounding area.

If you’re looking for a challenging round of golf, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the number of championship golf courses in the area.

Are There More Things to Do in Cancun or Cabo?

If you're looking for a bit more of a party atmosphere and wider variety of excursions, Cancun is your best bet.

If you're looking for beautiful scenery and laid-back vibes, Los Cabos is your spot.

Both destinations have their perks – it just depends on what you're looking for!

tip

Nightlife

If you’re looking for a party, Cancun is definitely the place to go. The nightlife in Cancun is unparalleled with some of the hottest clubs and bars in all of Mexico.

Cabo, on the other hand, has a more subdued nightlife scene.

While Cabo does have plenty of bars and clubs where you can dance the night away or enjoy a few cocktails with friends, it doesn’t quite have the same kind of energy as Cancun.

If you want a wild party atmosphere 24/7, Cancun is your best bet.

READ NEXT
11 Spots for the Best Snorkeling in Cancun

Nightlife in Cancun

If you’re looking for a wild and crazy time, with lots of options for nightlife, then Cancun is the place for you.

Cancun’s nightlife is legendary and this party destination is packed with nightclubs, bars, and restaurants that will keep you busy all night long.

The bars and clubs in Cancun are some of the best in Mexico, offering a wide variety of music to suit any taste.

Whether you’re into salsa, disco, techno or house music, you’ll find plenty of places to let loose.

One of the most popular nightlife spots is Coco Bongo, a trendy nightclub that’s been around for over 20 years.

This club features a spacious dance floor with amazing sound and lighting effects, along with great drinks and an electric atmosphere.

coco bongo cancun
coco bongo photo by Abir Anwar

Nightlife in Cabo

While not as wild as Cancun, Los Cabos still has its fair share of good nightlife spots.

As the sun sets, things start to heat up.

Downtown is where the action is, with a wide range of bars, nightclubs, and lounges to choose from.

Head to Baja Brewery for happy hour; the locals love this place, and it’s easy to see why – the beer is cold, the music is loud, and the vibe is always in party mode.

For those who love loud music and watching people getting strung up like a fresh catch, visit The Giggling Marlin.

Located right in the heart of downtown Cabo San Lucas, the atmosphere is always electric and the staff is known for being some of the friendliest in town.

Does Cancun or Cabo Have Better Nightlife?

Cancun definitely has better nightlife. Los Cabos is a bit more laid-back and geared towards luxury stays and sipping champagne, while Cancun is known for its wild party scene.

If you're looking to let loose and dance the night away, Cancun is the place to be!

tip

Dining

While Cabo and Cancun are two of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, they each have their own unique flavor when it comes to food.

Dining in Cancun

Most of the dining options near the Hotel Zone are geared towards tourists, with chains of fast-food restaurants and nicer restaurants serving up typical American or European dishes.

However, if you venture into the downtown areas where locals live and work, you’ll find more traditional Mexican cuisine at much lower prices than in the touristy Zona Hotelera.

If you’re looking for a truly authentic Mexican dining experience, don’t be afraid to venture outside of the Hotel Zone – your taste buds will thank you!

You’ll find plenty of cheap eats like these top spots for tacos in Cancun.

Popular dishes to order include tacos al pastor made with spit-roasted pork and fresh tortillas, or tacos carnitas made with succulent pulled pork.

You can also sample some delicious seafood straight from the ocean: Mexican ceviche is a popular dish made with raw fish marinated in lime juice and spices.

Price range for food can vary widely depending on where you go, but you can expect to spend about $5-10 for a meal in the downtown areas, and slightly more at touristy restaurants closer to the ocean.

nicksan cabo san lucas
photo by nicksan cabo

Dining in Cabo

When it comes to restaurants in Cabo, you can expect a wide variety of culinary options.

With its oceanside location and abundance of fresh local produce, the food in this vibrant city is as varied and creative as can be; Cabo’s food scene is constantly evolving!

Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood straight from the Sea of Cortez or traditional Mexican dishes with a modern twist, you’ll find it here.

New restaurants are always popping up, so there’s always something new to try.

And with the abundance of fresh seafood in the area, you can be sure that you’re getting some of the best seafood in the world.

At many restaurants, you can order whole fish or bring your own catch, and they will prepare it however you like.

In recent years, Baja Med has been making waves in Cabo too – this style of cuisine combines traditional Mexican flavors with Mediterranean ingredients to create a unique flavor profile.

Is Cancun or Cabo Better for Food?

When it comes to restaurants and dining, both Cancun and Cabo offer plenty of great options, so it's a tie!

However, Cancun has a more diverse selection of traditional Mexican food and international chain restaurants, while the majority of the eateries in Los Cabos focus on Mediterranean-Mexican food or seafood. 

So, depending on your preferences, either destination can make for a great foodie spot!

tip

Accommodations

While both destinations have a designated hotel zone, expect to pay a pretty penny for that prime all-inclusive stay in Los Cabos.

Where to Stay in Cancun

If you’re looking to stay in the most popular area of Cancun, the Hotel Zone is where you’ll want to be.

This 14-mile stretch of island is chock-full of massive all-inclusive resorts that sit right on the beach.

Whether you’re looking to hit up the hottest new club or some classic dive bars, you’ll find a wide range of options at your fingertips in Cancun’s thriving nightlife area that’s just around the corner.

But if you want something easier on the wallet, check out downtown.

Here, you can find charming hostels and Airbnbs, all at prices that are hard to beat.

A typical room will set you back only around $25 per night, whereas a luxury resort can easily cost $500+.

With its easy access to local attractions and myriad dining options, it’s a great way to get the most bang for your buck.

haven riviera cancun swim out
swim out suite photo by haven riviera cancun

Where to Stay in Cabo

Cabo is a beautiful but pricey place to vacation; many people tend to focus their attention on the glitzy streets of Cabo San Lucas.

A typical hotel room costs $300 a night, and luxury all-inclusive resorts cost around $500 a night.

These upscale resorts feature lavish suites with private pools, sumptuous spas, gourmet restaurants, and stunning views.

For something a bit more low-key, there are also numerous hostels in downtown starting at $45 a night.

But if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider staying in The Corridor or San Jose del Cabo instead.

These neighboring towns offer all of the same stunning sea views and sprawling beaches that make Cabo such a sought-after destination, without having to shell out big bucks for an oceanfront hotel room.

And with lots of affordable dining and shopping options right in town, you can even stretch your travel dollars even further while you’re here.

Are Resorts Better in Cancun or Cabo?

It all comes down to what you're looking for in a Mexican getaway!

If you want to spend your vacation lounging beachside and take part in tons of water activities, Cancun is the place for you. You’ll be getting good bang for your buck here.

However, if you're looking to relax and enjoy some R&R in a glitzy luxury resort, Cabo is the place to be, but be prepared to open up your wallet...really wide.

tip

Cost & Budget

When it comes to planning a vacation, budget can be a huge deciding factor.

Here’s an average budget and breakdown for two people traveling to Cancun and Cabo:

Average Budget for 1 Week in Cancun

Cancun is a popular resort town that’s a favorite among tourists looking to enjoy some sun and sand and the good news is that the cost of vacationing in Cancun is often more affordable than in Los Cabos.

The average budget for one week in Cancun for two people is about $3,200. This includes hotel costs, food, drinks, and a sprinkle of activities.

Of course, you can spend more or less depending on your preferences.

Here’s the breakdown:

Flights – If you’re flying from within the States, your round-trip airfare to Cancun could range anywhere from $150 to $350 for two people.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, consider flying during low season.

Accommodations – A one-week all-inclusive stay in Cancun will cost you around $2,800 for two people.

If you want to save some money, you can find cheaper accommodation options outside of the Hotel Zone.

Food & Drinks – Food is relatively cheap in Cancun, with meals costing around $3-10 per person.

If you plan on drinking alcohol, be aware that it will add to your costs. A beer costs around $2, while cocktails start at $3-5.

Average food cost for one week is about $420 if you’re not staying at an all-inclusive resort.

Activities – Excursions like scuba diving, snorkeling, ATV tours, and ziplining can cost anywhere from $50-100 per person.

If you plan on doing any excursions or activities beyond just relaxing on the beach, budget around $300 for two people.

cabo san lucas vs cancun
photo by one & only palmilla

Average Budget for 1 Week in Cabo

This laid-back beach town is known for its luxurious hotels and upscale dining options.

As such, it’s no surprise that the cost of staying in Los Cabos can be on the higher end.

The average budget for one week in Cabo for two people is about $3,900.

Here’s the breakdown:

Flights – The average cost of flights from the US to Cabo is about $450-$600 per person. Expect prices to skyrocket during peak season.

Accommodations – Accommodations in Los Cabos can be quite pricey, with average rates hovering around $300-500 per night at an all-inclusive resort.

Food & Drinks – Depending on your tastes, you could spend anywhere from $40-60 per meal for two people.

Activities – Many activities in Los Cabos, such as snorkeling, sailing, and ATV tours, come with a hefty price tag. If you plan to take part in two tours, expect to pay around $420.

Is Cancun or Cabo Cheaper to Visit?

Cabo is generally considered to be the more expensive destination of the two, but Cancun can also get pricey depending on your travel style.

To save money in Cancun, consider avoiding the all-inclusive resorts that are in the Hotel Zone.

Instead, stay in a budget-friendly AirBnBs or hostels outside of the tourist area and cook most of your meals.

In Cabo, cheaper accommodation options can be found once you move away from the beach.

You can also save by taking part in free activities like hiking and swimming.

tip

Pros & Cons

Pros of Visiting Cancun

The pros of Cancun are many. First, it is a gorgeous location with beautiful beaches and amazing weather year-round.

If you’re looking for sun and sand, this is the place to be.

Second, there are plenty of activities to enjoy while you’re there, from snorkeling and scuba diving to water parks and ziplining.

Additionally, Cancun has a vibrant nightlife scene, so if you enjoy partying until the wee hours of the morning, you won’t be disappointed.

READ NEXT
Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun: Which Destination is Better?

Cons of Visiting Cancun

However, there are also some downsides to visiting Cancun.

For one thing, although it’s a popular tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors every year, it can be crowded at times and feel like a bit of a tourist trap.

Second, because Cancun is such a popular destination, prices for food, drink, and activities can be higher than in other parts of Mexico.

So if you’re looking to save money on your vacation, Cancun may not be the best place to visit.

Additionally, some visitors find the level of rampant commercialization in Cancun to be off-putting.

If you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican experience, you may want to consider visiting another destination.

All in all, Cancun has its pros and cons.

But if you’re looking for a beautiful beach destination where you can enjoy plenty of activities and nightlife, it’s definitely worth considering.

Just be sure to do your research ahead of time so you know what to expect.

beautiful cancun
stunning cancun resort

Pros of Visiting Cabo

The weather in Cabo is amazing; it’s sunny and warm year-round, and the ocean and beach never get too cold to swim in.

If you’re a total foodie, the restaurants are incredible. Being home to several restaurants by Michelin-Star Chefs, you’ll definitely be able to get your fill of amazing food.

Whether you’re looking for gourmet food or the best tacos in town, Cabo has it all.

Cabo is also an incredibly safe place to travel, with a very low crime rate.

The locals are also incredibly friendly and welcoming, which makes for a great experience overall.

Next, Cabo is a hub of activities and fun things to do. There are great hiking trails that you can explore on foot or by bike, snorkeling spots to see colorful fish, and more.

If you’re looking for a more upscale destination with plenty of restaurants and activities, Cabo is definitely worth considering.

Cons of Visiting Cabo

However, there are a few downsides to visiting this beachside city as well.

It’s an expensive Mexican destination; if you’re on a budget, you might want to look elsewhere.

Another potential downside is the limited public transportation options available in the area.

While taxis are plentiful, if you’re hoping to explore on your own it can be difficult to get around without a car.

Additionally, some visitors find the city to be too touristy and crowded.

Many people flock there during peak travel seasons like winter holidays and summer vacation time.

So if you’re planning on traveling around that time of year, don’t expect to have the beach to yourself.

Overall, though, these minor cons don’t detract from the many pros that come with visiting this beautiful coastal city in Mexico!

Is Cancun or Cabo Better?

What is Cancun Known For?

Cancun is best known for its beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and nightlife.

Some of the most popular attractions for tourists in the area include Chichen Itza, Xel-Ha Waterpark, and nearby the ancient city of Tulum.

Cancun is also a popular destination for Spring Breakers and has become known as a party city.

In recent years, Cancun has been trying to clean up its image and attract more families and upscale travelers.

While there are still plenty of bars and nightclubs in Cancun, there are now also many luxury hotels, resorts, and restaurants to cater to a more refined taste.

What is Cabo Known For?

Los Cabos is a popular vacation destination known for its rugged desert landscape and world-class resorts.

It is also a major celebrity hotspot, attracting the rich and famous from all over the world.

Some of the most popular activities in Cabo include surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and whale watching.

The area is also home to a number of champion golf courses, making it a popular destination for golfers.

Although Cabo may be best known for its beaches and resorts, there is much more to this vibrant Mexican city.

Los Cabos is also a great place to enjoy the nightlife, with a number of clubs and bars to keep you entertained into the early hours of the morning.

There are also a number of excellent restaurants serving up delicious Mexican food with a Mediterranean flair, as well as international cuisine.

If you’re looking for a little culture, learn about the country’s national drink by joining a tequila tasting tour, or you can visit the many art galleries and museums located throughout the city.

No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something fun and exciting in Cabo.