There are so many great destinations in Mexico, and Cancun and Cabo are two of the best. However, both offer very different vacations, so making the choice between Cancun and Cabo is as important as it is difficult.
Thankfully we’re here to help! Below we pit Cancun vs Cabo, letting you know what to expect in each, comparing the beaches, culture, and nightlife.
We then give you a run down of some of the best natural sights and things to do in each destination to help you decide which one is better for your holiday.
- Cancun vs Cabo: A Quick Overview
- Which Has Better Natural Sights and Things To Do
- Where to Stay Depending on Your Budget
- Which is the Better Holiday Choice
Cancun vs Cabo: A Quick Overview
Many people think these destinations will be quite similar as they’re both in Mexico. However there are notable differences.
We’ve found that Cancun has better beaches than Cabo, as it has many white sand beaches with soft, ‘powdery’ sand. However, because Cancun is such a famous destination, the gorgeous stretches of sand here tend to be highly developed and very busy. That means Cancun feels a bit like a concrete jungle at times, although the upside for tourists is that there are many hotel rooms with an ocean view.
However, because Cancun is so tourist-orientated there’s also a very good shopping scene, lots of things to keep you entertained, and the nightlife is lively and loud with numerous bars and nightclubs. Although all of that has made the city quite ‘Americanized’ with chain restaurants and hotels.
Cabo has some stunning beaches too but what we really like about this destination in comparison to Cancun is that Cabo has a more Mexican vibe to it. While it has chain restaurants and big hotel chains, it also has boutique hotels and independent restaurants – consequently we find it to be a better place for eating out than Cancun.
While Cabo has its fair share of all-inclusive resorts (like Cancun), we have found that it does have a certain rustic authentic feel to it, and is a great place for walking, exploring, hiking and even whale watching!
In terms of cost, we’ve found Cabo and Cancun to be similar in terms of expenses when it comes to all-inclusive hotels and excursions. However eating out can be a little cheaper in Cabo.
In essence, Cancun is a place for sun, sea, sand and everything you’d want from a tourist-orientated holiday. Cabo is better suited for holidaymakers who want to sunbathe and swim, but also explore the surrounding area too.
In the next section we show you what there is to do in each destination, the excursions available, and more!
Cancun or Cabo: Which Has Better Natural Sights and Things To Do
Cancun has many gorgeous white sand beaches, and within the Hotel Zone we would say Playa Delfines is one of the best. The turquoise water here is shallow and warm making it perfect for swimming, but another fun aspect of this beach are the iguanas that come to sunbathe here too. You can often spot dolphins from the beach as well!
Of course Cancun is a destination where adventure is always just around the corner, so why not head to Playa Ballenas where you can hire jet skis and go racing over the strong waves.
For something a bit different, become a pirate in the evening and join Captain Hook Cancun. For several hours you will be taken out to sea on huge replica pirate boats to enjoy a themed show & dinner. It’s fun and sums up Cancun well – there’s always something happening on your doorstep here. (Recommended: Snakes in Mexico).
There’s always shopping opportunities too! One of the best places to ‘shop till you drop’ is La Isla Cancun Shopping Village. This huge mall has a fascinating array of shops, from locals selling handicrafts to the world-renowned Prada. There’s even an aquarium.
You can find some incredible cultural excursions in the Hotel Zone too. We would recommend taking an excursion to the stunning Mayan ruins of El Rey, or if you venture outside of the Hotel Zone you can find the breathtaking ancient Mayan city of Coba. The three hour trip will let you see another side of Mexico, as well as part of this country’s fascinating history too.
After a busy day soaking up the sun, shopping and exploring, then the nightlife in Cancun beckons. Cancun Mandala is one of the coolest spots for late night fun. This energetic nightclub is one of Cancun’s most popular party spots. Another is Congo Bar Cancun, a nightclub and bar with several levels, dancers, and entertainment.
Cabo has some wonderful beaches, and Lovers Beach is probably our favourite. This beach is remote and secluded as it can only be reached by boat – but it’s well worth the trip. The water is clear and great for snorkelling, while the sand is soft, pristine, and flanked by stunning dramatic granite cliffs that are 30 million years old. (Recommended: Do You Need a Passport to go to Cabo?).
Another favorite is El Medano Beach, which is one of the best beaches in Cabo for swimming. With several beach bars and eateries, it’s a great place to enjoy a cocktail or two in the sun.
The landscape of Cabo has lots to offer too. Visit the Santa Rita Hot Springs to bathe in the natural hot springs that have sprung up in nature. It’s a tropical oasis.
Or make your way to Cabo Pulmo National Park for whale watching opportunities and snorkeling amongst reef fish and sea turtles at the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean. A great underwater camera – like this one – is a must. Keep an eye out for the sting rays that jump out of the water too!
If you’re looking for something a bit more energetic, then head to Mt. Solmar. A short, but moderately difficult hike will bring you to the summit where there’s breathtaking views of Cabo and the Pacific Ocean. It’s well worth it.
There’s lots of adventurous excursions here too, with opportunities to dive with sharks, skydive, and use a flyboard – a crazy looking device that allows you to dive into the water and also fly above it.
After a long day exploring Cabo or enjoying the beach, then head to Baja Brewery for great beer and good food. We recommend coming here at sunset as it’s a rooftop bar and the views are exceptional.
Although we think the nightlife in Cancun is probably a bit more lively and brash than the nightlife in Cabo, there’s still lots of fun to be had here when the sun goes down – like a sunset party cruise.
But one of our favorite spots is The Jungle Bar – expect good music, drinks, and friendly service. For something a little different, head to the cozy Two for the Road Cabo JAZZ Spot – this little jazz joint has great musicians and equally great drinks. An absolute must in Cabo.
Cancun vs Cabo: Where to Stay Depending on Your Budget
Shoestring: Finding a stylish place on a shoestring budget is hard in Cancun, but Nomads Enigmatic Hotel & Hostel is just that. This modern hostel in downtown Cancun has been created in an old Mexican style but comes complete with bar, outside swimming pool and wonderful shared garden. For the price, it’s a fantastic choice.
Budget: It’s even harder to find luxurious beachside accommodation in the city’s famous hotel zone without stratospheric prices attached to it. However Oleo Cancun Playa Boutique All Inclusive Resort offers an all-inclusive experience – and even rooms with sea views – at more than half the price of many neighboring hotels.
Luxury: Set in the heart of the action in Cancun’s hotel zone, and with every luxury imaginable including butler service, Turquoize at Hyatt Ziva Cancun with its unbelievable beachside views and infinity pool is as high end as you can get.
Shoestring: Set in the heart of Cabo within walking distance of the beach, restaurants and nightlife, Sofia Hostel Cabo is a friendly hostel with a lovely garden and activities.
Budget: Sirena del Mar is spectacularly located on top of a cliff, but still just three minutes walk to a beach, and 15 minutes drive to downtown Cabo. There you’ll get incredible seaside views, a private beach area, terraces to soak up the sun and an outdoor swimming pool.
Luxury: Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection has to be one of the top five-star hotels in the world. The exceptional service, landscaped grounds, beachfront infinity pool, spa, and even free yoga sessions – all set right beside the sea and beach – make this place an unbelievable Cabo getaway.
Cancun vs Cabo: Which is the Better Holiday Choice?
Both of these Mexican holiday vacations will provide unforgettable memories but for very different reasons.
Cancun is energetic, busy, loud and developed. The beaches and water here are gorgeous, and the shopping and nightlife scene is famous for a reason. So if you’re looking for a lively holiday that combines sunbathing with eating out, partying late, and lots of touristy things to do, then Cancun will be the better choice than Cabo.
Cabo, on the other hand, has some lovely beaches too, is relaxed and has a more authentic feel compared to ‘Americanized’ Cancun. So if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand in a unique location, and also wish to explore the surrounding area, then Cabo will be the better choice than Cancun.