Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta: Find out the Best Vacation Destination for Your Next Trip!

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta is a question for many because these are two of the top tourist destinations in Mexico. If you’re one of those people, this is the perfect place for you to finally settle the deal for your next dream beach vacation in Mexico!

I’ll tell you all about Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta in this post, along with some helpful info to make your vacation go flawlessly.

Having lived in Cancun for over a decade and visited PV many times, one thing I can tell you for sure—they’re both unforgettable beach destinations.

Both are known for their breathtaking beaches, thrilling water sports, and vibrant nightlife, but there are also many differences that make each one very unique and charming.

That being said, it’s hard to choose between these two without getting into the details, so let’s do that!

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta: which one to choose?

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta at a glance

Both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are famous resort cities in Mexico. Thousands of tourists from around the world show up in these cities for a beach vacation every year.

Cancun is known for its white-sand beaches, turquoise Caribbean waters, marine life, water sports, nightlife, and so much more.

The skyscrapers, luxury, and all-inclusive hotels in Cancun give it a very urban ambiance. When it comes to a high-end resort vacation, Cancun is definitely at the top of the list.

Puerto Vallarta is on the Pacific coast of Mexico, so the golden-sand beaches here are different from the Caribbean ones, but they’re just as stunning and come with a variety of water activities as well as beachfront hotels and restaurants.

Puerto Vallarta is more of a coastal town with lots of culture and charm, so your experience here will be more immersive and authentic.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun | Location

Aerial view of Puerto Vallarta at sunset
Aerial view of Puerto Vallarta at sunset


Cancun is located on the northeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo.

The city is situated on the tip of the peninsula, right where the Caribbean meets the Gulf of Mexico, which is why the beaches here are one of the most breathtaking throughout the entire country.

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is located in the Jalisco state of Mexico, which is in the western part of the country. This resort city is situated on the Pacific Ocean’s Bahia de Bandera (Bay of Flags), which means breathtaking views of the ocean as well as golden-sand beaches.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun | Layout & Vibe


Cancun was designed as an urban tourist city, so the layout here is just what you would expect from a big city.

There are tons of skyscrapers and a separate hotel zone with high-end lodging options for tourists. The luxurious resorts, high-end hotels, and lively nightlife of Cancun make it a hotspot for partygoers.

In short, it’s the perfect location for a glamorous beach vacation.

However, Cancun doesn’t have much to offer in the way of historical charm (although there are a couple of small Mayan ruins here).

So if you’re looking for something more authentic, this is not the place. But if you’re looking for the perfect beach destination, this is definitely the place for it!

cancun tropical beach

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a coastal town with a more laid-back atmosphere. The colonial buildings of PV’s downtown give it a historical charm, and the many art galleries, as well as boutique shops, top it off with an overall authentic vibe.

Plus, the stunning natural landscape of the region is also a great touch!

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun | Beaches

Cancun beaches

The beaches in Cancun are exactly like the beaches that come to mind when thinking about the top beach destination in Mexico—pristine!

These are the Caribbean beaches that make Cancun such an appealing resort city.

Cancun features a 20-kilometer stretch of white-sand beaches with crystal-clear waters. They’re perfect for a lot of water sports like snorkeling, diving, and swimming with marine life.

If you prefer to just kick back and relax, dining by the oceanside or simply spending the day soaking in the sun on the sand is also just perfect here.

Puerto Vallarta beaches

Puerto Vallarta beach in Mexico

Puerto Vallarta beaches are also really amazing in their own way. They’re on the Pacific coast, which means absolutely gorgeous views as well as a golden-sand coastline to enjoy tons of fun activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, or just grabbing a drink and unwinding.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun — The best time to visit

Best time to visit Cancun

Being a tropical destination anytime can be the best time to visit Cancun depending on your preferences.

If you want to enjoy the best weather, December through February is when you will find it. If you want to do a lot of partying, spring break (March and April) is a great time for it.

Just keep in mind that these months combined make the high season of tourism in Cancun, so the prices are their highest, and there are lots of people here.

But it’s every bit worth the money because everything is so gorgeous this time of year.

Other than those, you can also visit in the shoulder season months (April-May and November-mid December) to find better deals on flights, hotels, and activities.

This is when the crowds are also fewer.

Couple at the beach in Cancun

Best time to visit Puerto Vallarta

Just like Cancun, PV is also a tropical destination that you can hit up any time of the year. The high season months of December-May feature the best weather of the year, and this is when the majority of tourists visit here as well.

The time between April and June features good weather but a more peaceful and intimate environment if you’re visiting with family and kids or want to avoid crowds.

And the best time for a budget vacation is near the low season of July-September.

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta — Things to do

Top things to do in Cancun

Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour
City of Valladolid

Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour

4.5⭐ 135 Reviews

Cancun is the perfect place for a beach vacation, and a tour to Chichen Itza and Valladolid is just the thing to make it doubly unforgettable with the addition of some nature, history, and culture into the mix.

What’s more, you get to visit a cenote as a bonus!

Isla Mujeres All Inclusive Luxury Catamaran & Snorkel from Cancun

4.5⭐ 1844 Reviews

The water sports in Cancun are really popular, so don’t miss out on them. Sailing is one of those activities, and you will find plenty of tours to enjoy the beautiful sights of the Caribbean.

I recommend this snorkel tour because it comes with a trip to the gorgeous Isla Mujeres included.

Reef and Shipwreck Snorkeling Tour in Cancun

4.5⭐ 821 Reviews

Snorkeling with marine life is also a great water activity in Cancun. There are so many exotic marine species, and seeing them up close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You will find many good tours to go snorkeling and see the amazing underwater world of Cancun.


5⭐ 218 Reviews

Going on a diving tour in Cancun is definitely a must, and if you want to take it one step further, Cancun also has an underwater museum called MUSA which you can explore with a diving tour.

It features more than 500 sculptures. Highly recommended.

Cenote tour

4.5⭐ 47 Reviews

Sac Actun cenote in Tulum
Sac Actun cenote in Tulum

Cenotes are one of the most unique natural phenomena of the Yucatan Peninsula. Taking a swim in one of them is such a memorable experience.

Make sure you visit at least a few cenotes while staying in Cancun because their mystical charm is a refreshing contrast to the urban vibe of the city.

Top things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Swimming with dolphins (in the wild)

4.5⭐ 18 Reviews

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun is a huge tie when it comes to amazing things to do. Water activities in Puerto Vallarta are just as memorable, and swimming with marine life is a popular one among them.

If you’re a thrill seeker, swimming with dolphins is definitely a great way to get it.

Check out Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Puerto Vallarta has thriving nature and wildlife both underwater and on land, so when you’re not diving with exotic marine creatures, you can go meet the flora and fauna on the other side of the town.

Vallarta Botanical Garden is a 79-acre garden with lots of wildlife and greenery, and you will find many tours to visit here.

Take a tour of the Marietas Islands

4.5⭐ 869 Reviews

Marietas Islands
Marietas Islands

Marietas Islands are located very close to Banderas Bay and this is where so many amazing creatures live and thrive.

You can take a tour of this group of uninhabited islands for an unforgettable experience. Highly recommended!

Go on a road trip to Sayulita or a tour

4⭐ 29 Reviews

I mentioned the stunning landscape of the PV’s surrounding region earlier. If you want to explore it, a road trip to Sayulita is one of the best ways to do it.

Driving there is a fun experience on its own, and Sayulita is a beautiful coastal village, so exploring it is also a delight!


5⭐ 138 Reviews

Sierra Madre mountains of Puerto Vallarta
Sierra Madre mountains of Puerto Vallarta

The Sierra Madre mountains of Puerto Vallarta are excellent for so many adventurous excursions and are worth exploring.

One adrenaline-filled way to do it is by ziplining over the trees of this mountain range. To make things easier, you will find lots of canopy tours in town.

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta — Renting a car

Cancun isn’t a walkable city, so you will most definitely need a car rental when visiting it to explore the city and its attractions properly.

Luckily, there are plenty of rentals in Cancun and it’s surprisingly easy to rent a car when you’re traveling here.

PV is a walkable town and it also has a good public transit system, so you can get by without a car rental here.

That being said, a car rental is still recommended, especially if you want to visit nearby villages like Sayulita and explore the surrounding region.

If you don’t know much about renting a car in Mexico, here are a few helpful tips to help you along. Trust me, it’s very easy, safe, and worth it!

✅ Make sure your car rental includes insurance as well.

✅ Read through all the clauses before confirming the booking.

✅ Take pictures of the car you rent from all sides, so as to avoid ending up paying for damages you didn’t cause.

✅ Note down any prior damages on paper and get it signed.

✅ If you don’t have a favorite car rental company already, Discover Cars is my go-to place for car rentals.

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta — Costs

Cancun Forum beach
Cancun Forum beach

Cancun costs

On average, a weeklong trip to Cancun costs $1,000-$1,200 per person. This includes the flight, lodgings, and activities.

You will be spending $30-$100 on lodgings, $40-$140 on tours and activities, and around $40-$80 on groceries, food, and travel daily.

These are just average estimates, and you can definitely have a budget vacation here as well.

Puerto Vallarta costs

When it comes to Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta, both have similar costs. You can expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500 for a weeklong stay in PV.

This would include the airfare, lodgings, and activities.

Accommodations in Puerto Vallarta range from hostels with dorm-style rooms starting at just $10 a night, to luxury beachside villas that go up in price depending on location and amenities.

There are a variety of mid-range hotels throughout town as well; costs typically range between $40 and $100 per night.

Eating out is also quite affordable—many restaurants offer traditional Mexican cuisine for under $10 per person.

You can also save up on excursions and transportation by opting for group tours and using the public buses.

Puerto Vallarta cityscape view
Puerto Vallarta cityscape view

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun — Food and Nightlife

Cancun restaurants and nightlife

Cancun is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Mexico, and one of the things it’s known for is its vibrant nightlife.

So, whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner on the beach or an exciting night out, Cancun has plenty of restaurants and clubs to explore.

For the foodie in search of unique flavors and experiences, Cancun offers an array of diverse restaurants from upscale seafood establishments to casual beachside eateries.

With options ranging from traditional Mexican fare like tacos al pastor to more international flavors like Italian pasta, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your taste buds.

Or if you’re in the mood for a more lively atmosphere, many restaurants boast live music and dancing late into the night!

Cancun turquoise beach
Cancun turquoise beach

Puerto Vallarta restaurants and nightlife

Puerto Vallarta is the perfect vacation spot for anyone looking to enjoy a mix of Mexican culture and vibrant nightlife.

From beachfront bars and lounges to some of the best restaurants in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable dining experience or hoping to explore the city’s famous nightlife, you won’t be disappointed.

The restaurant scene in Puerto Vallarta is second-to-none; offering everything from traditional Mexican cuisine to eclectic fusion dishes.

Local eateries specialize in dishes like arrachera (thinly sliced steak) tacos de carnitas (pork tacos), and some of the freshest seafood around.

For those looking for a more upscale dining experience, there are plenty of high-end restaurants that serve up delicious gourmet fare made with local ingredients.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun — Safety

Puerto Vallarta Mexico
Puerto Vallarta

Cancun safety

Cancun is a safe place to visit. It’s a major tourist hotspot, so there are plenty of safety measures in place, and the crime rates here are very low.

At most, you only need to worry about petty theft. But you can avoid even that with some basic precautions.

Be conscious of your belongings at all times, avoid carrying large amounts of money on you, and leave valuables back in your hotel room safe when possible.

Puerto Vallarta safety

PV is also a popular tourist destination and quite safe for travelers. The local police in Puerto Vallarta have worked hard to ensure that tourist areas remain crime-free and regularly patrol popular places both day and night.

Just take normal safety precautions, such as staying aware of your surroundings and not carrying large amounts of cash or expensive items with you when out in public, and you will have a safe and memorable vacation here.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun – Where to stay

Cancun Hotels

1. Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun

Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun
Live Aqua Beach Resort – photo © Expedia

Live Aqua Beach Resort is the perfect getaway for travelers looking to relax and have a great time. With its stunning beachfront location and luxurious amenities, this all-inclusive resort offers something for everyone.

The resort offers a variety of accommodations to suit every need from family-friendly suites to adults-only rooms for those seeking a more intimate vacation experience.

Every room features modern décor, flat-screen TVs, and access to high-speed Wi-Fi.

2. Le Blanc Spa Resort

Le Blanc Spa Resort
Le Blanc Spa Resort – photo © Expedia

Le Blanc is an adults-only resort that offers travelers the ultimate luxury and relaxation. Located on a white-sand beach, this all-inclusive resort features some of the finest amenities in town.

From its world-class spa to its modern suites and exceptional dining options, Le Blanc Spa Resort ensures guests have an unforgettable experience.

The resort also features a private beach, 24-hour room service, and countless other amenities.

3. Hyatt Ziva Cancun Resort (family)

Hyatt Ziva Cancun Resort
Hyatt Ziva Cancun Resort – photo © Expedia

The Hyatt Ziva Cancun Resort boasts a luxurious and tranquil atmosphere, making it the perfect place for a family stay.

Located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, this five-star resort offers stunning ocean views and plenty of activities to keep you busy.

There are plenty of amenities to suit a family stay, including outdoor pools, a spa center, and free parking.

The resort also features multiple restaurants serving up Mexican and international cuisine that will tantalize your taste buds.

4. Breathless Resort (single)

Breathless Resort Cancun
Breathless Resort Cancun – photo © Expedia

Breathless Resort Cancun is an all-inclusive luxury resort nestled among the Caribbean Sea and Nichupte Lagoon.

Popular as one of the best singles resorts in Cancun, this all-inclusive offers guests a luxurious escape from their everyday lives.

The ocean views from the rooms are simply stunning. And you can also enjoy the state-of-the-art fitness center, spa services, 24-hour room service, and even free Wi-Fi access throughout the property.

5. Selina Hostel

Selina Hostel
Selina Hostel – photo © Expedia

As I mentioned earlier, there are some budget options in Cancun as well. Selina Downtown is one of those and comes with a variety of amenities and comfortable rooms.

It features an outdoor pool, a spa center, live music, a tour desk, yoga, and much more!

Puerto Vallarta Hotels

6. Melia Puerto Vallarta | All-Inclusive

Melia Puerto Vallarta All-Inclusive hotel
Melia Puerto Vallarta – photo © Expedia

Located on the sunny shores of Banderas Bay in Marina Vallarta, this stunning resort offers luxurious amenities and services that will make your vacation truly unforgettable.

With an array of spacious suites and rooms offering breathtaking ocean views, this all-inclusive is perfect for families and couples alike.

Whether you want to spend your days lounging by their pool and beach area or exploring nearby attractions such as El Malecon seaside boardwalk or Los Arcos National Marine Park, there is something for you here at Melia Puerto Vallarta All-Inclusive.

7. Luna Liquida

Luna Liquida
Luna Liquida – photo © Expedia

Located just a few steps from the beach, Luna Liquida is a boutique hotel consisting of five villas. This 3-star combines luxury and comfort, making it a great spot for a mid-range stay in PV.

Here at Luna Liquida, you will find luxury amenities combined with personalized service that will ensure your stay is comfortable and memorable.

8. Hacienda San Angel

Staying in a hacienda is a great way to immerse in the historic charm of PV, and if you want to do that, Hacienda San Angel is just the place for it.

The hacienda is located only a short distance from the beach and comes with a variety of amenities like outdoor pools, an onsite restaurant, a bar, and a terrace.

Many popular attractions of the town are also very close to the property.

9. Grand Miramar

Grand Miramar hotel
Grand Miramar – photo © Expedia

Grand Miramar is a spa resort located south of PV downtown, known for its breathtaking views of the bay.

The property consists of suites and rooms featuring modern decor, a bar, and the main terrace with three pools and an adults-only terrace with two hot tubs and a pool.

The 24-hour suite service, onsite restaurants, fitness center, spa, and other amenities of Grand Miramar combined with its laid-back atmosphere make this resort the perfect getaway for a family stay.

10. Hyatt

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta hotel
Hyatt Ziva – photo © Expedia

Hyatt resorts are known for world-class amenities and comfortable stays, and PV has a Hyatt resort as well. It’s located right by the beach and has a private beach area.

The amenities include 5 outdoor pools, various restaurants, a bar, free parking, a fitness center, a tennis court, and a spa.

Round-the-clock room service, live entertainment, and a tour desk are also available here.

Cancun vs Puerto Vallarta: final thoughts

Cancun and Puerto Vallarta are great beach destinations, so you can’t go wrong with either. But the experiences they offer are significantly different, so the best choice for you boils down to preferences.

If you’re after gorgeous white-sand beaches, elegant and luxurious beachside stays, high-end restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and overall an urban vibe, Cancun is the place for you.

On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta is the perfect spot for you if you want to enjoy the authentic charm of a tropical coastal town with lots of culture and history.

The beaches here are also uniquely different, with Pacific waters and golden sands.

About the Author

Hey there! This is Isabella, the owner, and writer of this site. I have been living in Cancun for the past 12 years and although I have been roaming around Mexico, Cancun’s spectacular turquoise waters and pristine beach draw me back to this popular Mexican beach destination. That is why I decided to start this blog, to show you all the beauty you can find in Cancun and share helpful travel tips to help you plan a fabulous vacation in Cancun!

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