Last updated on January 24, 2023 by Wandering our World

Sunshine, white sands, and clear turquoise waters – what more can you want on your beach holiday? How about indulging in adventure sports in mountains and rainforests, snorkeling to discover underwater treasures, seeing archaeological ruins, and partying the night away? Sign us up!

We have two destinations for you – Cancun and Puerto Rico – that can give you all that and more. But which one to choose?

Don’t worry! As travel experts we can help you pick the one that matches your travel style and suits your personal preferences. Which is important as both these destinations are actually quite different.

Puerto Rico is an island cluster in the Caribbean Sea, comprising a main island, four smaller islands, and hundreds of islets. The archipelago packs a variety of gorgeous natural scenery, beaches, and culture. 

So if you’re an adventure lover and explorer who loves Caribbean vibes, rainforests and secluded beaches, Puerto Rico will conquer your heart.  

Cancun is a city and island resort on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It’s a more popular and commercialized destination with all-inclusive resorts, making Cancun an easier vacation for holidaymakers.

So if you want a vacation with big city vibes and resorts, sandy beaches, lots of tourist excursions on your doorstep and a very active and happening nightlife, Cancun is a great option. 

So which is your calling: partying at a busy beach resort or zip-lining through a forest and relaxing on a quiet beach?

Below we’ll help you make that important final decision by using our knowledge to compare Puerto Rico and Cancun with the most honest comparison around.

We’ll look at which has the best beaches, activities, nightlife, which is better for families, honeymoons and more. Let’s get started!

CONTENTS:

  1. Which Is Easier To Get To?
  2. Which Has Better Beaches?
  3. Which Is Better For Activities?
  4. Which Has Better Food?
  5. Which Has Better Sightseeing?
  6. Which Has Better Nightlife?
  7. Which Is Better For Honeymoons?
  8. Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
  9. Which Is Better For a Family Vacation?
  10. Which Is Cheaper?
  11. Which Is Easier To Get Around?
  12. Which Has Better Weather?
An infographic pitting Cancun vs Puerto Rico and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

Which Is Easier To Get To?

Traveling to Cancun is easy. Cancun International Airport is the busiest airport in Mexico and receives a large number of direct flights from cities in the US, Canada, Europe, and Latin America, as well as domestically within Mexico. 

Puerto Rico is also a popular tourist destination that can be easily accessed by air or sea.

Two international airports in PR serve several airlines operating daily flights from the US and other cities, such as Montreal, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Panama City. 

If you’re not prone to getting seasick, you can travel to Puerto Rico on a cruise ship too. The San Juan Cruise Port receives millions of visitors every year.

Cancun beach with boat from drone
iStock.com/Jonathan Ross

Which Has The Better Beaches?

Beach bums will have a hard time picking between Cancun or Puerto Rico.

Make no mistake, both have beautiful white sandy beaches with bright blue waters. However, the difference lies in what type of holiday you want to have.

If you like touristy places, Cancun has livelier, more happening beaches – the beaches are also arguably nicer than the ones in Puerto Rico too.

However, Puerto Rico offers more options if you’re looking for privacy, romance and serenity.

woman drinking from a coconut at beautiful beach
iStock.com/LunaMarina

Puerto Rico: The Beaches 

You’ll find every kind of beach in Puerto Rico – whether it’s secluded, romantic and private, or a bit of a party-central.

Beaches like Tortuga, Domes, and Poza Del Obispo are great spots for adventure lovers. Along with admiring the gorgeous turquoise waters and golden sands there, you can indulge in hiking, surfing, diving, or snorkeling to discover all kinds of underwater marine life.

If you’ve planned a romantic getaway or a holiday with the family, then popular beaches like Flamenco, Playa Buye, and Sun Bay are well-suited.

Watch the sunset on the beach, take a long stroll along the waters with our loved ones, or just have an afternoon picnic at one of these beautiful beaches. 

Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico
iStock.com/Javier_Art_Photography

Cancun: The Beaches

Imagine a postcard or magazine ad for a typical beach holiday. The image you see is exactly what Cancun is – gorgeous white sands and warm water for swimming.

But being more touristy, Cancun has many resorts that line the beaches.

That means the main beaches get crowded during peak seasons and the coastline is far more developed than in Puerto Rico, but every sandy mile is still breathtaking.  

In terms of where to go in Cancun, Playa Chac Mool and Playa Pez Volador are two of our favorite beaches.

Playa Pez Volador is a great beach for those looking for a tranquil spot to settle down in the sand with a good book. It’s located in a small bay in the Hotel Zone and often gets overlooked.

There are limited amenities there, so maybe pack a beach towel to lie on, but the crowds are also limited.

Whilst Playa Chac Mool is a great option if lying still in the sand is not your cup of tea. There are plenty of watersports going on there, and the northern end of the beach blends into the party beach of Playa Gaviota Azul.

You can start your evening there with a sunset cocktail before venturing behind the beach to Cancun’s mega clubs. As we alluded to before, sunbathing and partying often go hand in hand in Cancun.

Akumal bay - Caribbean white beach in Riviera Maya, coast of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, Mexico
iStock.com/Simon Dannhauer

Which Is Best For Activities?

Adventure seekers and nature lovers who like an extra kick to their beach holiday should have no problem choosing Puerto Rico over Cancun. Let’s find out why:

Cancun: The Activities

While Cancun is certainly no paradise for a hiker, it is for those who love the sea as the city offers plenty of water sports and underwater activities such as diving and snorkeling. 

An exciting family activity is diving at the Cancun Underwater Museum, where you’ll see hundreds of underwater statues. Or you can go snorkeling at the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest coral reef in the world. 

But for the best snorkeling day trips from Cancun, head out to Isla Mujeres on a whale shark snorkeling trip.

Whale sharks are one of the most impressive sights you can see in the ocean. They are the world’s largest fish, but fear not, they have no real teeth and have no interest in humans. Their diet consists of tiny plankton, which they filter feed from the ocean.

Back on land and why not go shopping – Cancun is famous for it! 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 to keep the kids amused.

And if you make the effort and venture away from the resort areas there’s opportunities to swim in cenotes (sinkholes filled with water) and even spot rare wildlife.

girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater with tropical fishes in coral reef sea pool.
iStock.com/Bicho_Raro

Puerto Rico: The Activities

However Puerto Rico is the full package – a well-rounded vacation with beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, caves, and national parks. It is often referred to as the “Island of Enchantment”, a hidden gem in the Caribbean.

With half of the island covered with forests and mountains, there are a ton of activities to enjoy in Puerto Rico. So whether you’re a beach bum, a nature lover, or an adventurer, you are covered!

For some action go zip-lining on one of the longest lines in the world at Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park or do a cave-tubing tour in the subterranean waterways at Tanama River

There are many other activities to indulge in as well – fishing, horseback riding, cycling, kayaking, and mountain biking. Which just shows how many options there are in Puerto Rico compared to Cancun where the activities are mainly sea and beach based.

El Yunque Rainforest and Guanica Dry Forest provide even more adventure, full of wildlife and scenic hiking trails.

Hiking on these off-the-beaten paths is a must-do, and if you’re an avid hiker there’s no doubt PR will be the best holiday choice for you.

And before you eventually make it back to the beaches, don’t miss a trip to the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve which is an underground cave system. Explore the caves for cenotes (holes filled with water which you can often swim in), stalactites, and stalagmites.

Young couple walking through rainforest
iStock.com/jacoblund

Which Has Better Food?

Time to tease your taste buds! What would you rather have – food from Puerto Rico or Cancun?

Well, both have different, unique cuisines. Puerto Rican food has a stronger Spanish and Afro-Caribbean influence, while Mexican cuisine is, of course, the dominant cuisine you’ll find in Cancun.

The food in Puerto Rico is known for its use of mild spices, seafood, and plantains. In fact, plantains are incorporated into many dishes, such as the popular Tostones (deep-fried plantain), Mofongo (plantains with seafood or meat), and the national dish Arroz Con Gandules, an aromatic rice meal.

Mexico’s cuisine is regarded as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, with its blend of unique dishes and flavors.

The local food you’ll find in Cancun has influences from Mayan dishes, seafood, and the neighboring state of Yucatan. Treats like Tikin Xic Fish, which is marinated and grilled snapper, and Cochinita Pibil, a famous Yucatan pork dish, are must-haves.

Of course popular Mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas can be found in Cancun too. And as a big tourist destination you’ll also find plenty of international cuisine and fast food restaurants.

While not as authentic, easy accessibility to international food choices like you get in Cancun may suit families with kids that are not so keen on trying something different!

drinks with blur beach and sunset in background
iStock.com/Lichtwolke

Which Has Better Cultural Excursions?

From beaches and rainforests to cobblestone streets and ancient ruins, there’s plenty to sightsee in both Puerto Rico and Cancun.

But showing what you can see in each destination can help you decide which may suit you better.

Puerto Rico: Cultural Excursions

The Old San Juan area of the capital is full of charm and a treat to visit. Beautiful Spanish architecture and colorful houses line cobblestone streets, taking you to another time and era – it’s great for photos! 

You should also take a walking tour of the Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, which is a Spanish fort sitting on a cliffside. The views from there are stunning and not to be missed.

And Instagrammers will like the picturesque Fortaleza Street, a historic street shaded with many floating umbrellas. There is a variety of museums and art galleries to check out there too, as well as cafes and even gourmet restaurants to go and unwind at. 

Colorful image of city centre of San Juan with large Puerto Rican flag above the street. Blue and pink buildings in the street. Sunny day. Red and white stripes, white star and blue colored national flag of Puerto Rico.
iStock.com/Napa74

Cancun: Cultural Excursions

Cancun is better known for its beaches, party scene, and nightlife, than for its cultural excursions. However, there are a few places worth visiting when in Cancun.

History buffs will love a trip to the ancient Mayan cities around Cancun, such as El Meco, El Rey, and in particular the atmospheric Chichen Itza (see photo below), a UNESCO World Heritage site around two hours from Cancun.

These well-preserved archaeological ruins retain many Mayan monuments, temples, pyramids, and burial sites.

Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park, is another great place to visit. It offers visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Mexico but also includes a number of fun activities such as swimming in underground rivers and snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea.

Other notable places to see are the Maya Museum which showcases the region’s history and culture, and the Cancun Underwater Museum with its hundreds of sculptures under the water.

So while it may seem like Cancun is devoid of cultural activities at first, if you make the effort to get away from your resort it’s possible to find some really interesting activities.

Sunset at Mayan pyramid of Kukulcan The Castle
iStock.com/IR Stone

Which Is Best For Nightlife?

Cancun is the clear winner here, as it’s one of the best party destinations in the world! During the day Cancun is all beaches, sun, and sand, but at night the region’s bustling nightlife scene takes over where you can party till dawn.

Party lovers will love Punta Cancun, an area with plenty of nightclubs, pubs, and cocktail bars. The atmosphere is lively and you are guaranteed to have a good time!

The beach bars there are all worth a visit. You can grab cocktails, listen to trendy music and watch the sun go down over the sea. But if you’re looking for a really cool place to hang out, go for Coco Bongo, the most popular bar/club in the area.

In any case, you can easily find a bar or club in Cancun to your liking and mood, whether that’s mellow and laid back or more fun and wild.

Puerto Rico, on the other hand, lags a little in its nightlife scene. Although, there are some good places like La Placita de Santurce and Condado to visit for party lovers in Puerto Rico.

However the one advantage that the Puerto Rico nightlife scene has, is that it’s easier to mix with locals and make friends than in Cancun. After all, Cancun has been developed for tourists, whereas the cities and bars in Puerto Rico are often more geared towards locals – with that comes cheaper prices too.

Young women dancing in a nightclub
iStock.com/shironosov

Which Is Best For A Honeymoon?

Picking one of these two destinations for a honeymoon largely depends on what your personal preferences are.

Puerto Rico exudes a classic and tropical Caribbean charm with secluded and romantic spots, such as the beaches in Isabela and Culebra that are ideal for a private vacation. 

You can also have rainforest adventures in the morning followed by a romantic catamaran trip to watch the sunset in the evening. So if you’re an adventurous couple then Puerto Rico may suit you more.

However Cancun will likely be the better choice if you’re looking for a more classic honeymoon experience.

Cancun is renowned for its all-inclusive resorts and exceptional service. The city has many hotel rooms with sea views and direct beach access, resorts that are romantic and adults-only, and plenty of fine dining restaurants. In essence, Cancun has everything most honeymooners would want.

Happy, young couple in white summer clothes enjoying their vacation on a tropical beach
iStock.com/SHansche

Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget

Cancun: Hotels

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. See photos and rates!

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. See photos and rates!

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. See photos and rates!

Couple enjoying beach vacation holidays at tropical resort with swimming pool and coconut palm trees near the coast with beautiful landscape at sunset, honeymoon destination
iStock.com/NicoElNino

Puerto Rico: Hotels

Shoestring: Situated 300 meters from La Pared Beach and less than one kilometer from Azul Beach, Casa Coral offers comfortable accommodation with a shared lounge, a garden, and a terrace.

Activities such as hiking, cycling, and fishing can be enjoyed in the surrounding area, and guests can relax along the nearby beachfront. See photos and rates here!

Budget: Situated on 35 acres of land, including 5 kilometers of pristine and secluded beaches, Villa Montaña Beach Resort is located in the northwest of Puerto Rico and is fantastic value of money considering what you get.

The resort features two swimming pools, one restaurant, and a spa service. Activities like diving, surfing, and snorkeling are available to guests during their stay too. See photos and rates here!

Luxury: Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a luxurious beachfront resort that features an on-site golf course, a fitness center, and excellent views across the azure Caribbean Sea.

The rooms are gorgeous and some even feature an en-suite plunge pool and stunning ocean views. The property also has four on-site restaurants and a luxurious on-site spa. It’s an incredible place to stay. See photos and rates here!

Amazing tropical paradise beach
iStock.com/Lara_Uhryn

Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?

Family trips are all about affordability, convenience, and the types of kid-friendly entertainment and activities available. That’s why Cancun may be a better option than Puerto Rico for a family vacation.

Cancun has many all-inclusive resorts that are kid-friendly and several even have kids’ clubs and waterparks. There’s plenty of family-friendly attractions and activities too, and lots of opportunities to swim and snorkel.

Puerto Rico is a fun destination too, has plenty of water parks, and all the same water activities you can get in Cancun.

However with all the cultural sights and nature activities in PR – like hiking and wildlife spotting in the rainforest – a trip to Puerto Rico may be better suited to families with older kids who can appreciate these activities more.

children enjoying a waterpark slide
iStock.com/kisgorcs

Which Is Cheaper? 

Both destinations are quite similarity priced, but with Cancun’s many all-inclusive resort packages where flight costs, accommodation and meals are included, it can sometimes be a more affordable trip than Puerto Rico.

Of course there can be many other additional costs too, as most attractions and tours have fees. 

In contrast, Puerto Rico can be pricier, but it’s also possible to find plenty of budget accommodations.

Ultimately, it depends on what kind of vacation you want and what experiences you are willing to offset when it comes to keeping to a budget.

Aerial panoramic view of Cancun beach and city hotel zone
iStock.com/MariaKray

Which Is Easier To Get Around?

Renting a car is the most convenient way to move around in Cancun, although the reality is the Hotel Zone – where resorts are based – tends to have everything you’d need and is walkable.

But if you’re renting a car so you can travel further afield, make sure to opt for the optional insurance. The traffic situation is a bit crazy, so it is better to be safe and secure.

Taxis are also an option, but there’s not much price difference. However, always agree on the price before booking the taxi. If you’re traveling to other cities or coming to Cancun from them, public transport can be an economical choice too. 

On the other hand, public transport in Puerto Rico is not as good as in Cancun. Although the San Juan metropolitan area is well served by buses, their routes and timings are not consistent or reliable. 

Rental cars are therefore a good option in PR too, as you can explore the city and island at your own pace and experience the many beautiful viewpoints on your way. Taxis and rideshares are also available if you’re not venturing too far from San Juan.

Puerto Rico forest hills
iStock.com/dennisvdw

Which Has Better Weather?

Visiting any destination at the right time of the year makes all the difference. Both Puerto Rico and Cancun lie near the ocean and experience tropical weather ranging from warm to hot. 

Summer (June to September) in Cancun is hot, while winter (December to March) is comfortably warm with cooler evenings, hence it’s the best time to visit. Cancun receives rainfall in the remaining months.

Puerto Rico also has hot summers, but the climate is usually partly cloudy. The ideal time to plan your holidays in PR is similar to Cancun – December to March/April.

The Caribbean region experiences hurricanes for the rest of the year. So if you’re planning to go between June and November, make sure you are aware of contingency measures at your accommodation and look out for storm warnings. 

Incredible view of the white sandy beach from a bird's eye view. Top view of beautiful white sand beach with turquoise sea water and palm trees, aerial drone shot.
iStock.com/Iren_Key

Cancun vs Puerto Rico: Which Is The Better Choice?

Cancun offers exciting nightlife and a relaxing, all-inclusive beach holiday, with a sprinkling of history and culture on the side. For many, it’s the perfect hassle-free vacation.

It also has beautiful beaches, plenty of kid-friendly hotels, and some nice underwater adventures. 

Puerto Rico is a bundle of experiences: sandy beaches, sightseeing; plenty of outdoor activities like hiking, cave exploring, diving, some gorgeous natural scenery, and plenty of history and culture. 

It’s a place that packs in lots of activities, and is perfect if you want to spend time inland as well as on the coast.

Ultimately, it all depends on your preferences and holiday style. Whichever you choose, we hope you have fun!