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Cabo vs. Cancun: How to Choose? (2024)

So you can’t wait to pack your beach sandals in your suitcase and jet off on a Mexico vacation.

You initially thought you’d go to either Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.

Then it was a choice between Cabo vs. Cancun vs. Puerto Vallarta.

But you’ve since swapped out PV and narrowed your choices down to Cabo or Cancun.

Now you have to decide between these two crazy gorgeous Mexican beach hot spots. Which is better: Cancun or Cabo?

We’ve traveled frequently to both areas (recently returning from another month in Los Cabos!) – and the Cabo vs. Cancun question is a tough one.

Below we compare Cabo with Cancun – highlighting key differences plus the pros and cons of each – so you can make the best choice for your trip.

Cabo vs Cancun
Mexico is calling! But which is better, Cancun or Cabo?

Cabo vs. Cancun

Both Cabo and Cancun have glorious beaches to wash away your winter blues.

They both also have 5-star resorts (and luxury all-inclusives), delicious Mexican food and holiday activities vastly different from the 9-to-5 routine of home. (Hello whale sharks! We’ll tell you about swimming with them in a jiff…)

But Cabo and Cancun are also very different.

The right choice for you will depend on several factors.

Like the time of year, whether you’re a beach bum or a golf fanatic, even your tolerance for icky seaweed!

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the Cabo San Lucas vs. Cancun debate now.

Getting to Los Cabos or Cancun

Getting to Cabo

Los Cabos is the resort area at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula on Mexico’s west coast.

It includes two main towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, located 20 miles apart (about a 35- to 40-minute drive).

Cabo San Lucas Marina
The Cabo San Lucas Marina

Cabo San Lucas has lots of clubs and is more party-oriented; San Jose del Cabo oozes a colonial Mexican feel. 

An area called the Tourist Corridor – with beaches and resorts – stretches between the two towns.

“Cabo” is the nickname for both the town of Cabo San Lucas and the general Los Cabos area.

The Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is near San Jose del Cabo.

It’s serviced by many direct flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver (Canada), Calgary, Houston, Toronto, Chicago and many other North American cities.

Flying time from L.A. is just under 2½ hours. (From Chicago, the flight time is about 5 hours.)

Cabo is so conveniently close for the flocks of Californians who fly down that it has a somewhat “Americanized” feeling.

Many resorts are condos with full kitchens, and you can feel “at home” shopping at Costco and Walmart.

Luxury hotel on the beach in Los Cabos
A beachfront resort in Cabo

Practical tip for getting to your hotel in Cabo

Don’t take a taxi from the airport. They’re expensive.

When planning your trip to Cabo, book a private or shared transfer in advance. It’s the most convenient way to get from the airport to your hotel.

Check out the cheapest and best Cabo airport transportation services. We’ve used most of these personally.

Getting to Cancun

Where is Cancun?

It’s on the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s east coast.

The Cancun holiday area is the glitzy hotel zone, a beach strip 13+ miles long, lined with deluxe hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops.

Cancun is on the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s east coast.
Cancun is a world-class strip of white sand beaches and resorts

The Cancun International Airport (CUN) is also the gateway for the nearby Riviera Maya.

Just south of Cancun, the Riviera Maya is the 100-mile stretch of coastline hugging the turquoise Caribbean Sea that extends to hippie-chic Tulum.

The cosmopolitan beach town of Playa del Carmen is about half-way between Cancun and Tulum.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya are easy jaunts for mid-westerners and east coasters.

Non-stop flights from Houston take 2 hours and 15 minutes.

From Chicago, flights are under 4 hours and from New York, flights are just over 4 hours.

If you live in Atlanta, you can get there in 2 hours and 40 minutes (compared to a 4½-hour flight to Cabo).

Bottom line on getting there?

Cabo is easier to get to if you live on the west coast, especially if you’re coming from southern California.

So if your trip is a short one, we’d recommend a Los Cabos vacation for west coasters.

You can spend more time actually exploring, beaching and drinking Mexican margaritas than being stuck on a plane getting there!

Cancun is better for a short trip if you’re flying from the mid-west or the east coast.

Weather: Cancun vs. Cabo

Cabo weather

The weather in Cabo is desert-like much of the year.

From December to May, the climate is dry, with virtually no rain and endless sunny days.

Average Cabo weather graph
Temperatures and daylight hours in Cabo for the year

In the high, winter season (December to March), you mostly see bluebird skies and warm-to-hot temps.

It’s bathing suit weather, most of the time. (But under the shade of an umbrella on the beach, the air can sometimes feel cool.)

Temps drop at night and evenings are cool, especially between December and February.

You’d be wise to bring long pants and a sweater or jacket for dining outside in the evenings, in case there’s a cold spell.

There have been times in January where we’ve bundled up in jeans, boots and fleece jackets at night.

Early mornings can also be crisp and cool until 9:00 am or so in winter (very pleasant for jogging).

So if you visit Cabo in winter, don’t expect super hot weather.

It’s perfect for golfing and hiking, as well as for lazing about in the sun. But when the sun sets, it’s definitely cooler than Cancun in winter.

Three women in the pool at Mar del Cabo resort
Don’t worry, the weather is still plenty warm in Cabo in winter to soak up the sun by the pool or on the beach!

The shoulder season months – April to June and October to November – are some of the best times to visit Cabo for warm weather (and fewer crowds).

Cabo’s weather is more pleasant than Cancun’s during these months.

Summer in Cabo is hot. Like super hot.

Cabo is also humid from June to November.

August and September are particularly hot and sticky months. This is Cabo’s rainy season.

Cancun weather

Cancun is much more tropical than Cabo.

Think Caribbean weather.

Average Cancun weather graph
Temperatures and daylight hours in Cancun for the year

Cancun is more humid than Cabo year-round. (Ladies, that means frizzy hair!) And it feels hotter than Cabo in winter.

Nights are warmer and balmier. You don’t need a shawl or jacket in the evening.

Happy woman on white sand beach in Cancun
The beach will definitely be your happy place in Cancun!

The best time to go to Cancun is December to April, when the weather is the most pleasant (sunny and hot).

But this is also the high season, so accommodation rates are higher and crowds are heavier.

Being more tropical, though, you should be prepared for more drizzle and grey skies in Cancun than in Cabo.

The Cancun weather in winter is usually very good, however.

As for tropical storms, most of the rain in Cancun falls between May and October.

Bottom line on the weather?

In terms of weather, again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: Which is better, Cancun or Cabo?

It depends on the month you plan to go and how hot you like it.

So if you’re looking at Cabo or Cancun in December – and you love the sultry heat – choose Cancun. For a true hot tropical getaway, Cancun is a better choice in winter.

But if you’re trying to decide between Cabo or Cancun in June, Cabo is the better option.

Indeed, if your trip is planned for anytime from April to June or October to November, pick Cabo – because Cancun is really hot and humid then.

Scenery and landscape: Is Cancun or Cabo better?

Both Cancun and Cabo are known for their striking natural beauty.

But they’re both completely different.

Cabo scenery

Where the desert collides with the sea – that’s Cabo.

Where the desert collides with the sea – that’s Cabo.
Blue sea, blue sky and golden sand beaches and cactus-covered hills – you gotta love Cabo!

Rolling cactus-studded desert dunes are coupled with clear azure waters, set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks.

Unique rock formations catch the eye. Like the Arch and Land’s End.

The imposing natural rock arch (known as “El Arco”) is where sea lions bask.

A popular way to see it up close is by taking a glass-bottom boat tour or water taxi ride from the yacht-filled Cabo San Lucas Marina.

Cancun scenery

Sunrise at Akumal on the Riviera Maya
Sunrise on a beach in the Riviera Maya near Cancun

Cancun and the Riviera Maya, on the other hand, are flat, lush and jungly.

Picture a tropical holiday destination – that’s what the Riviera Maya looks like.

One very cool feature of the topography?

Sinkholes or cenotes, along with underground river networks, riddle the land, beckoning you to swim and snorkel in them.

Some cenotes are even filled with wondrous stalagmites and stalactites. You need to go with a guide to explore some of them.

(See our post on the 10 best and most beautiful Riviera Maya cenotes for swimming, snorkeling, diving and cliff jumping.)

Mexican cenote
Cenotes in the Riviera Maya

Bottom line on the scenery?

The greatest difference between Cabo and Cancun is probably their landscape.

But choosing which is more beautiful is an impossible task.

We love both wine and cheese. Kirk and Spock. So pick your passion – dramatic desert or tropical jungle.

Both Cabo and Cancun are visually stunning (though Cabo may be more unique).

Cabo vs. Cancun: Beaches

Cabo beaches

Cabo’s gold sand beaches and deep turquoise waters are the main reason you’re thinking of Los Cabos, right?

Many vacationers are surprised, though, to discover that only some of its beaches are swimmable.

Many beaches in Los Cabos are not safe for swimming.
Many beaches in Cabo are dangerous for swimming because of big waves and rip tides

With serious waves and a strong undertow, beaches around Los Cabos on the Pacific Ocean side of the Baja Peninsula are unsafe for swimming.

They’re gorgeous to look at, though!

Swimmable beaches in Cabo are found on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja California Peninsula.

Offering stupendous views of El Arco, the 2-mile stretch of Medano Beach is the most famous of these.

Santa Maria Beach is also great for swimming and snorkeling.

Woman and baby walk along Santa Maria Bay
We love snorkeling at Santa Maria Bay early in the morning before the tour boats arrive

See our post on the best beaches in Cabo to find out which ones are safe for swimming (and which are best for walking and views only).

You should also know that the water in Cabo is not exactly warm for swimming in winter. In fact, we sometimes find it cool.

October and November, however, are another story – the sea is blissfully warm then.

Cancun beaches

The white sand beaches of Cancun are fabled.

The white sand beaches of Cancun are fabled.
Is this beach calling to you?

The water is warm (warmer than in Cabo) and the color a mesmerizing shade of turquoise.

Waves are generally tame – and the Caribbean Sea is safe for swimming at most beaches.

Paradise isn’t perfect, however.

For the past few years, Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Tulum have been plagued by unusually large amounts of Sargassum seaweed.

Thick carpets of this scratchy brown seaweed float on the surface of the water and wash up on the beaches.

Scratchy brown Sargassum seaweed plagues the beaches in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Ugh! The scratchy Sargassum seaweed makes it unpleasant to swim in the waters off the Riviera Maya coastline

The seaweed is uncomfortable to swim through and unsightly to look at on the beaches. When it decomposes in the sun, it smells like rotten eggs.

Nets and barriers are now placed out in the water to help prevent the seaweed from rolling in, and many larger resorts do a good job raking their beaches and keeping them clean.

But you should still expect to encounter some seaweed. (For this reason, it’s a good idea to stay at a hotel with a pool, so if the beach isn’t great, you can swim in the pool.)

For current seaweed conditions in Cancun, see the reports and updates from the Red de Monitoreo del Sargazo Cancun.

This non-profit environmental organization monitors the seaweed blooms and publishes maps of areas affected.

Bottom line on the beaches?

Cancun’s beaches are warmer for swimming in winter. And many of Cabo’s beaches aren’t swimmable.

So if you’re a beach bum with your heart set on ocean dips – and you’re holidaying in winter – we’d recommend Cancun. (Just be aware that seaweed might put a damper on the experience.)

For an October or November trip, we’d suggest Cabo.

The water is bathtub warm, and the snorkeling and scuba diving in Los Cabos are superb this time of the year.

Cabo or Cancun: Which is better for activities?

Woman with lime green snorkeling gear  exits the sea in Mexico
Snorkeling is one of our favorite activities in both Cancun and Cabo

Cabo activities

You’ll find an epic variety of things to do in Los Cabos.

Whale watching in Cabo is popular between December and April, when thousands of humpback and other whales migrate down from Alaska.

Scuba diving reveals an underwater world of wonders, especially in Cabo Pulmo, where the marine life is spectacular – gape at sharks! There’s also good snorkeling. (See our insider guide to the best snorkeling in Cabo.)

Sunset cruises in the Cabo San Lucas Bay (like this one) are quite magical too.

Sunset cruises in Cabo are quite magical.
Cruising by El Arco at sunset

And if you’re after heart-pounding fishing action, Cabo offers legendary marlin sportfishing along with opps to catch dorado, tuna and roosterfish.

In October, Cabo hosts the annual Bisbee’s Black & Blue, the world’s richest billfish tournament.

On land, Cabo is catnip for golfers. More than a dozen championship courses lure players who tee off beside rugged seaside cliffs.

Cabo del Sol’s Cove Club Golf Course (formerly the Ocean Course, and a Jack Nicklaus gem) and the diabolical Diamante Dunes regularly rank among the world’s top 100 courses.

Cabo or Cancun: Which is better for golf?
Golfing in Los Cabos

Thrill-seekers can go ziplining too.

Culturally, strolling San Jose del Cabo’s historic art district on a free Art Walk is a delightful way to spend an evening.

Art Walk takes place every Thursday evening between November and June.

And for a night on the town?

There are plenty of bars and clubs in Cabo San Lucas to keep you hopping, night after night. (Don’t miss Cabo Wabo, the Giggling Marlin and El Squid Roe!)

The Giggling Marling, Cabo San Lucas
For good fun, giggles and hanging upside down, hit the Giggling Marlin

Cancun activities

In Cancun proper, exercising those credit cards at La Isla and Luxury Avenue shopping malls is fun for shopaholics.

For snorkelers and scuba divers, the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) is a must.

Check out some 500 life-size underwater sculptures of VW Beetles, men sitting around a table and other art creations at this unusual museum. They’re covered with corals and serve as artificial reefs.

Cancun’s nightlife is also unparalleled. Rocking nightclubs like Coco Bongo Cancun (featuring a Cirque du Soleil-style show) reel in the party crowd.

Night Club in Cancun
Nightlife in Cancun

Ziplining and sunset cruises round out the array of non-beachy things to do in Cancun.

Bottom line on activities?

Cabo wins out over Cancun for activities if you’re comparing Los Cabos just with Cancun.

But Los Cabos vs. Cancun and the whole Riviera Maya? That’s another story, covered next.

Day trips and surrounding places to visit

Now to Cancun or Cabo: Which is better for exploring and doing day trips?

Day trips from Cabo

You can get out and explore the surrounding Baja Peninsula area on several great day trips from Cabo San Lucas.

Remember those whale sharks we mentioned earlier?

A once-in-a-lifetime experience is to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz. (La Paz is a 2-hour drive from Cabo San Lucas).

The season for seeing whale sharks in La Paz is between October and February.

Whale shark in Los Cabos
La Paz is a great place to snorkel with whale sharks

A less intense day trip is to visit the charmingly bohemian town of Todos Santos (an easy 1-hour drive from Cabo San Lucas).

Many ex-pat artists have set up shop here – you can while away several pleasant hours browsing the art galleries and enjoying a fine lunch.

We’ve also enjoyed hanging out in Los Barriles plus hiking to waterfalls and soaking in natural hot springs in the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve.

Day trips from Cancun

Cancun has many Mayan ruins nearby for day trips.
Chichen Itza is 122 miles from Cancun, but definitely doable on a day trip

There are oodles of things to do in the Riviera Maya area, just south of Cancun.

For history and archaeology, you’ll want to explore some of the amazing Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula around Cancun.

Dating back thousands of years, the Mayan civilization was at its peak from about 250 to 900 AD.

Don’t miss the UNESCO site of Chichen Itza (a great day trip from Cancun). Or the Insta-worthy Tulum ruins, built overlooking the sea (about a 2-hour drive from Cancun).

And you haven’t forgotten the cenotes we mentioned earlier, have you?

When it comes to cenotes, Cancun is better than Cabo.
Swimming in the cenotes is one of the top things to do when you go to Cancun

You can also snorkel with turtles at Akumal, get your thrills at Xplor adventure park (ziplining and more), spend the day at the Xcaret eco-theme park and float down a lazy river at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

You can even take the ferry to Cozumel island for a day.

(Speaking of Cozumel, find out if you’d prefer to base yourself in Cozumel or Cancun.)

Sea turtle at Akumal
You’ll love snorkeling with turtles in Akumal

Then there’s Isla Mujeres.

This very chilled little island is just a short ferry ride away from Cancun.

Rent a golf cart there for a fun day trip – relax on white sand beaches, eye the colorful Crayola House and walk the scenic Punta Sur coastal path.

To top it off, you can swim with whale sharks too – at Isla Holbox, a teeny island north of Cancun.

Bottom line on day trips?

Cancun and the Riviera Maya cover a larger geographical area than Los Cabos (and its surrounding day trip sites).

So if comparing Cabo vs. Riviera Maya – and you like to be busy on holiday exploring lots of attractions – then the Cancun area and Mayan Riviera offer more to do.

For a 2-week winter vacay, unless you’re a golfer or fishing enthusiast, we’d pick the Riviera Maya. (And then plan on visiting Cabo next time!)

Cabo vs. Cancun: Resorts

You won’t lack for choice when it comes to resorts in either Cabo San Lucas or Cancun.

Cabo resorts

Cabo is a high-end resort getaway.

Hotel pool at sunset in Los Cabos
Luxury resorts like the One&Only Palmilla await you in Los Cabos

You won’t find too many budget accommodations.

They do exist, though.

We’ve checked out Hotel Los Milagros. It’s a sweet and quiet little oasis right in Cabo San Lucas town – with very clean hotel rooms and a small pool too.

It’s the nicest of the cheapest hotels in Cabo we’ve seen, with rates from $70 to $120 USD a night. (But it’s not beachfront.)

Casa Bella is another small boutique hotel in the heart of Cabo San Lucas that we’ve inspected. With loads of colonial Mexican style, it’s charming and also affordable (again, not beachfront).

And we adore Mar del Cabo, located along the Tourist Corridor.

For adults only, it’s a romantic boutique hotel right on the beach (though you can’t swim at the beach).

Pink bougainvillea blooming at Mar del Cabo, one of the oldest hotels in Los Cabos
One of the oldest hotels in Cabo, Mar del Cabo is charming – and it won’t break the bank

It has 40 rooms and suites with kitchenettes plus a pretty pool. And its palapa-roofed restaurant Encanto concocts some mean margaritas and deliciously fresh shrimp tacos.

As one of the original hotels in Cabo, Mar del Cabo oozes “old Baja” – and you can find rooms in high season for about $350 USD a night (which is inexpensive for Cabo).

At the other end of the scale, book the One&Only Palmilla for exclusive luxury. (We’ve bedded down here too.)

The One&Only Palmilla
The One&Only Palmilla

It fronts a lovely swimming beach, offers a 27-course Nicklaus-designed golf course and assigns a butler to your room or suite (he’ll unpack your bags if you desire).

We also really like the ultra-modern (and ultra-luxurious) Chileno Bay Resort & Residences by Auberge Resorts.

It’s also on a swimmable beach – and it’s ocean-view pool is spectacular.

Oceanfront pool at Chileno Bay Resort & Residences
You can relax in comfort by the oceanfront pool at Chileno Bay Resort

For that home-away-from-home feeling (i.e., a place with a kitchen), we like the Pueblo Bonito Blanco, Rose and Sunset Beach. See our post on the best Pueblo Bonito resort for you.

We’ve actually stayed at and inspected dozens of Cabo’s luxury hotels, so hop on over to that guide for details!

We’ve also drilled down and written about the top Cabo resorts just for adults (both all-inclusive ones and ones that aren’t inclusive).

Cancun resorts

The Cancun strip alone has over 100 hotels and resorts. More than 300 other hotels are found in the Riviera Maya.

We’re talking a huge array of hotels and resorts in Cancun and surrounds!

One of the most luxurious all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya is the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Many rooms have private plunge pools. It’s actually one of the top hotels in Mexico with private pool suites!

Grand Velas Riviera Maya
We loved staying at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya

At the Grand Velas, we were wowed by the foodie-worthy restaurants (especially the 9-course menu’s molecular cuisine at Cocina de Autor).

Tulum doesn’t go for the big sprawling resorts. Smaller, more boutiquey hotels are Tulum’s style.

We love the barefoot luxury Lula, one of Tulum’s coolest beachfront hotels – located in a great area of Tulum.

Think a jungle setting with a private beach and beachside yoga studio. Uber cool rooms with concrete floors and outdoor bathrooms. And a superb restaurant focusing on healthy food.

For a luxurious, away-from-the-crowds stay in Cancun, NIZUC Resort and Spa pampers you with a dreamy white sand beach, top-rated spa and exceptional suites boasting private pools and outdoor showers.

The NIZUC Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts in Cancun.
The NIZUC Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts in Cancun

Bottom line on accommodations?

Cancun or Cabo? They both have scads of high-end luxury resorts, as well as smaller hotels.

They both have lots of family-friendly resorts too. So if you’re wondering about Cabo vs. Cancun for families, they both have plenty of places that welcome kids.

One difference: You’ll find a huge selection of large all-inclusives in Cancun proper, while Los Cabos features many condo-style and villa resorts. In fact, Cabo is becoming known for its extravagant 3- to 5-bedroom villas with private pools plus access to hotel amenities.

Neither wins out over the other in the resort department though. Choose which destination you want based on other factors – it will have accommodation to suit you.

Cost: Cabo San Lucas or Cancun

Is Cabo expensive?

Short answer, yes. It’s long had a reputation as being the most expensive destination in Mexico.

In the peak season, most 5-star Cabo San Lucas resorts cost upwards of $500 USD a night.

During our most recent trip to Cabo, we were lucky to snag the most basic room at Hotel El Ganzo for $330 USD a night for a few nights before switching over to our time-share.

Dinners for two in Cabo (with cocktails and wine) often set us back $150 to $200 USD per dinner.

Is Cancun expensive to visit?

Cancun is also more costly than other Mexican vacation spots. It was built with luxury travelers in mind.

Bottom line on cost?

Both Cabo and Cancun are pretty pricey places to vacation in Mexico. But Cabo edges out Cancun by more than a few pesos.

Safety: Is Cabo safer than Cancun?

You’ve read a lot of press about how certain areas of Mexico are unsafe.

So of course you want to know if Cabo and Cancun are safe. And is one safer than the other?

Is Cabo safer than Cancun?
Who’s happy to be vacationing safely in Mexico!

Cabo safety

Let’s start with safety in Cabo.

We’ve written a whole post on Is it safe to visit Cabo? on our other Cabo Visitor blog (which is all about Los Cabos).

The U.S. State Advisory on Mexico recommends you “exercise increased caution due to crime” in the state of Baja California Sur (which includes Los Cabos and day trip sites in the lower Baja area).

We, however, have always felt safe in Los Cabos during the countless times we’ve visited over the years. Mind you, we stick to the tourist areas when we go, and we don’t stay out late until the wee hours.

We’re usually more concerned about traffic accidents.

Driving the Corridor between Cabo and San Jose del Cabo is safe at night

But you should stay off the highways elsewhere in the Baja because of the cow hazard. Yes, cows wandering on the roads can prove dangerous.

You also have to be mindful of drunk drivers late at night.

Cancun safety

The U.S. State Advisory on Mexico has the same warning for the state of Quintana Roo (which includes Cancun, Tulum and the Riviera Maya) as it does for Cabo and the Baja state, i.e., be more cautious because of criminal activities.

Again, we’ve always felt safe in the Riviera Maya.

Bottom line? Cabo vs. Cancun safety

Millions of international tourists visit Cabo and Cancun each year, without encountering any problems. Sunburn and hangovers are the biggest risks!

Most of the crime in Mexico occurs outside of the tourist resort destinations. Follow good common sense and don’t wander outside of the touristy areas, and you shouldn’t run into any trouble.

As to the question: Is Cabo or Cancun safer? Neither poses any more risk than the other.

Of course, be sure to check travel advisories before you go.

See the U.S. Advisory on Mexico.

And here’s the Canadian Advisory on Mexico. It contains a general advisory to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Mexico due to “high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping.” There are no specific alerts, however, for Cabo or Cancun.

Cabo vs. Cancun: Last words

So, taking everything into account, is Cabo or Cancun better?

We’re going to sit on the fence – both Los Cabos and Cancun (along with the Riviera Maya) are wonderful Mexican holiday destinations.

Which is better: Cabo or Cancun?
Bet you can’t wait to get to Mexico and start on those margaritas and chips by the beach!

If leaning towards Cancun, personally we’d prefer to stay on the Riviera Maya, perhaps near Playa del Carmen or in Tulum.

Or you could split your stay between a few days in Cancun and a few days in Tulum.

Frankly, once you’ve drilled down on certain points – whether you’re a water baby or golf addict, ease of getting there, weather at different times of the year, etc. – and you know what to expect, then you’ll have a fabulous time, no matter your choice!

What do you think? Do you prefer Cabo or Cancun? Why? (You can share your views in the Comments section below.)

Experience more of Mexico!

Mexico City: Visiting Mexico City? We’ve sussed out where to stay, play and eat in our customizable 3-day Mexico City itinerary.

San Miguel de Allende: Discover what to do in San Miguel de Allende. This UNESCO-listed city is dripping with colonial charm!

Magical small towns: Get away from the typical tourist track and explore some of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. From Taxco to Mazunte, these are some of the most beautiful small Mexican towns.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

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Cabo or Cancun: Which is better?
Cabo or Cancun: Which is better for a Mexican holiday?

Photo credits: 6, 9, 10, 15 to 17, 23, 32, 34 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 31 and 33 One & Only Palmilla | 35 Grand Velas Riviera Maya | 36 NIZUC

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!


Monday 7th of February 2022

We have been to most beach destinations in South East Asia across Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines. And we loved them.

Now after immigrating to Canada, it looks like Cancun is tropical and lush green, the kind of feel that we love, so we're going to book Cancun.

Quick questions - 1. Which is the best website to book hotels (best deals) 2. Airport transfer and local sightseeing: Can you rent a car with ease?

Janice and George

Wednesday 9th of February 2022

Yes, Cancun is definitely tropical, lush and green!

Many travelers in North America use (Agoda is more common in Asia.)

We like and use too. We like the option of free and easy cancellation, and are happy to pay a tad more for that option (rather than being locked in for a slightly cheaper price). We cover and other accommodation booking sites on our Resources page. You often get cheaper rates through than by booking directly with the hotel. But it's worth checking directly with the hotel too to see what their rates are and if they'll price match or offer a better cancellation policy.

As for sightseeing, see our post on Things to Do in the Riviera Maya. It should give you some more ideas on what to do (cenotes, Mayan ruins, Isla Mujeres day trip, etc.).

For renting a car at the Cancun airport, see here.

Have a great holiday!

Chris Hall

Friday 10th of December 2021


I’ve been traveling to Cancun for over 27 plus years and only been to Cabo three times. I just didn’t like Cabo as much as Cancun obviously!

I guess to sum Cabo up in one word would be: too Americanized, if that's a word. It just seemed like I was in California, not Mexico, so I wasn’t interested.

Now Cancun on the other hand feels totally different. I love it there so that’s why I keep going back. In fact, I leave again in about 2 months from now for a two-week stay. I try to stay at least that long if I can because once I’m there I like to plant myself for awhile. I would love to stay for a month or two, but never have I pulled that off. Too expensive. If I owned a home there that would work but unfortunately I don’t - would love that!

So my favorite is Cancun by a million to one.

The weather is so much better too with a more tropical feel. I love that humid feeling. Believe it or not, it makes me feel good the minute I walk off the plane. I can smell it. It's a great feeling to realize I'm "home" for a while, even if it's just for a couple of weeks.

Janice and George

Friday 10th of December 2021

Hi Chris,

Thanks for sharing! It's so nice to hear the love you have for Cancun - you're clearly a fan :-). Enjoy your next trip! We suspect it won't be your last Cancun holiday...


Tuesday 30th of November 2021

Thanks for the article! I've been researching where would be best to go with my husband and my 15 year old son and have decided to pick Cancun. After reading your article, you sealed the deal! :-)

Janice and George

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

So glad you found our travel information helpful :-). Enjoy your Cancun trip!


Sunday 28th of November 2021

So you didn’t mention Isla Mujeres, just 18 mins off the coast of Cancun. Isla is a great 1 day trip or for even longer stays and is absolutely amazing and very chilled.

Janice and George

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

You're right! We'll fix this oversight :-).

We haven't forgotten Isla Mujeres though! As you point out, it's a very chilled little island.

We also mention Isla Mujeres in our post on Cancun vs Cozumel. And we talk more about what to do on Isla Mujeres in our post on Awesome Things to Do in the Riviera Maya -- see under "Things to Do Near Cancun."

Thanks for reading our blog!

Doug Miller

Sunday 26th of September 2021

I agree with your information. I live in San Diego so I visit Cabo more frequently. But if given more time like 10 days, I would go to Cancun because of the better skin and scuba diving and the cultural history like Tulum.

Janice and George

Monday 27th of September 2021

Hi Doug, Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!