Cabo vs Cancun: Which is Better for a Vacation?
Last Updated on March 23, 2023 by Dana Berez
Cabo vs. Cancun
Cancun and Cabo are both resort towns in Mexico with plenty of all-inclusive resorts, beachfront, and things to do, and both start with the letter C.
(Is that why they are compared so much?)
But which resort town is best for your vacation? I’m going to break down everything you need to know before you make your decision of choosing Cabo vs Cancun.
Where is Cabo?
Cabo San Lucas is located on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula and is known for water activities and its gorgeous rugged landscape including the natural arched cliff named El Arco surrounded by natural beaches.
Because of its location on the Pacific Coast, Cabo is a close destination to reach for those who fly out of the West Coast like Los Angeles, Phoneix, and Dallas. LAX to Cabo is just a 2-hour and 40-minute flight!
3 million tourists visit each year, which makes Cabo half as visited as Cancun. The lesser crowds make Cabo feel a bit more relaxed- think luxury resorts cliff high resorts, spas, and beachfront dining.
And expect to see more cacti than palms in Cabo! Cabo is in a desert-mountain-ocean environment with a dryer climate than Cancun.
Where is Cancun?
Cancun is located on the tip of the Yutacan Peninsula surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.
The hotel zone in Cancun extends on a long strip from the rest of Cancun and is home to over 100 different hotels in just the hotel zone alone.
There are 6.1 million tourists that visit Cancun each year, making this the most visited place in Mexico! And because of the many visitors, Canun definitely has more lively energy (but this ultimately depends on where you stay).
And it’s no secret why Cancun is loved by so many people. You have many beachfront hotels and all-inclusive options, plus endless activities, day trips, and direct flights to 38 US cities!
Cancun is also closer to the East Coast with many direct flights. NYC to Cancun is just shy of a 4-hour flight. Whereas, NYC to Cabo is 5 hours and 40 minutes.
And Cancun is in a semi-tropical climate, so expect beautiful lush greenery and both dry and wet seasons.
Cabo vs Cancun: The Airport
Cabo San Lucas Airport
Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) is a small international airport located northeast of Cabo San Lucas.
This airport is less busy and hectic than Cancun and has a more regional feel.
Once you get off the plane in Cabo, you won’t be overwhelmed with taxis, drivers, and timeshare sales trying to get your attention.
Los Cabos International Airport has many direct flights to West Coast cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, etc making this destination the more popular choice for the West Coast.
There are direct flights from the East Coast like NYC, but you’re looking at a 5-hour and 40-minute direct flight.
How far is Cabo from the airport?
While I love that Cabo has a relaxed airport experience, I don’t love the fact that the center of Cabo San Lucas is a long drive from the airport.
The center of Los Cabos is around a 45-minute drive from the Los Cabos International Airport. This ultimately depends on where you’re staying, and how bad the traffic is. To be closer to the airport, look at hotels in San José like the Westin Resort Villas, or JW Marriott San Jose Beach Resort.
I stayed at the newly opened Hard Rock Hotel and the drive from the airport was around an hour. Comparing that to the short and sweet ride in Cancun (10-30 minutes) is definitely something to consider.
Cabo Airport Transfer
I would highly recommend booking for transfer to your hotel in advance for seamless travel days.
Cabo Shared Transfer: From $23 per person
Cabo Private Transfer: From $132 per group up to 7 people
Cancun International Airport (CUN) is Latin America’s third busiest airport and Mexico’s second busiest airport– which means you should expect lines for nearly everything.
On the plus side, since it’s one of the busiest airports in Mexico, there are plenty of daily flights from 38 US cities making Cancun an easy destination to reach!
And, if you’re coming from the East Coast like NYC, you have more direct flight options than Cabo and it’s a shorter flight making Cancun the East Coast favorite.
How far is Cancun from the airport?
I love the fact that the Cancun airport is a quick drive to your hotel. The hotel zone in Cancun can be just a 10-minute to 30-minute drive from the airport depending on where you are staying.
You can land and have a margarita on the beach in no time. Cancun definitely has the advantage over Cabo for proximity!
Canun Airport Transfer
Once you leave the airport, it is hectic. You’ll have taxi drivers, hotel transfers, and private transfers holding signs and calling names. It’s not relaxing, to say the least.
I would highly recommend booking for transfer to your hotel in advance.
Cancun Private Transfer: From $19 per person
Cabo vs Cancun: The Weather
The climate in Cabo San Lucas is a mountain-desert-beach climate. Average temperatures range from the high 70s in winter to the 90s during summer.
Cabo has more predictable weather than Cancun and has an overall cooler and dryer climate.
Best time to visit Cabo?
If your looking for hot temps and clear skies, the best time to visit Cabo is May through July.
Cabo also has year-round pleasant weather in the winter months. Expect comfortable temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.
The worst time to visit Cabo?
The worst time to visit Cabo is from late August through early September. The weather is hot & humid, with overcast clouds, and the highest chance of rainfall.
The weather in Cancun is semi-tropical. This means there is a wet and dry season with average temperatures in the 80s and 90s.
The weather in Cancun can be unpredictable, which makes planning for a Cancun trip tricky. You can expect quick rainstorms, and clear skys in the same day.
Best time to visit Cancun?
The best time to visit Cancun is during the dry months from January through April. The skies are sunny, and the lowest humidity is in April and May.
Keep in mind Spring Break falls during the best time to visit Cancun. Want to avoid the spring break crowd, look it up before you book!
The worst time to visit Cancun?
The worst time to visit Cancun is during the summer wet month May through September. This is technically Cancun’s hurricane season. September is the wettest month of the year.
Tip: You can get a great deal on hotels & flights during this time, just expect some rain and humidity (or luck out with perfect weather!)
Cabo vs Cancun: Hotels
What are the accommodation options like in both Cabo and Cancun? Both have luxury resorts, and all-inclusive options with great dining, views, and amenities.
However, Cancun has more all-inclusive options, so if you’re looking for endless food & drinks- Cancun is your answer.
Cabo of course has all-inclusive options, but they tend to have more resorts with a la carte food & beverages, boutique hotels, and private villas for even a more luxurious and exclusive feel.
The hotels in Cabo are also spread out throughout the Peninsula, which means resorts tend to be larger. Whereas in Cancun many hotels are in the Hotel Zone. And with limited real estate, some resorts can feel small.
Of course, this all depends on where you stay. So let’s highlight some of the best all-inclusive hotels in Cabo and Cancun.
Best All-Inclusive in Cabo
1. Grand Velas Los Cabos: Everything about this luxurious all-inclusive is exceptional! And it’s rated #1 for the best all-inclusive in Mexico.
2. Le Blanc Cabo: Luxurious adults-only all-inclusive, perfect for a special occasion!
3. Hard Rock Hotel and Spa: Newly opened Hard Rock Hotel is a spacious resort designed with a modern touch with six pools- with swim-up bars, 8 specialty restaurants, and 12 bars and lounges!
4. Villa del Palmar Resort & Spa: Located a 3-minute walk to the beach, you’ll have an amazing view of El Arco from your balcony!
Best All Inclusives in Cancun
Le Blanc Resort and Spa: Luxurious and spacious adults-only all-inclusive resort with a focus on wellness. Rooms have extra large jacuzzi tubs, room service, and expect top-notch service. And if you enjoy cocktails, they have a great selection using all fresh ingredients!
Watch my Le Blanc Youtube Video here.
Hyatt Zilara: Adults-only all-inclusive with plenty of activities to keep you busy. Guests enjoy the spacious rooms and top service.
Live Aqua: Another great adults-only all-inclusive with modern decor, spacious pool area, and 9 restaurants & 5 bars.
Secrets The Vine Cancun: Beachfront adults-only all-inclusive resort with modern decor, spa, and an upscale vibe.
Best Hotels in Cabo
Garza Blanca: this hotel offers an optional all-inclusive option. So if you’re looking for accommodation in a chic and luxurious hotel with 8 outdoor pools, 2 bars, and 4 restaurants- this is a highly rated option.
JW Marriott: Chic cliffside hotel features gulf views, 5 restaurants on-site, an 18-hole golf course, and of course an elegant pool.
Esperanza: Luxurious 5-star resort with chic and modern decor. Expect gorgeous grounds, spacious rooms, an infinity pool, spa, and top-notch service.
Best Hotels in Cancun
JW Marriott Resort and Spa Cancun: Stunning and newly updated rooms, large grounds that don’t feel overcrowded. And if you love margaritas, the lobby bar boasts over 150 different margarita combinations!
Westin Luganamar: Great centrally located property in the Hotel Zone, rooms are equipped with kitchens.
Cabo vs Cancun: The Beaches
Cabo San Lucas Beaches
I was so surprised to find out that the beaches in Cabo are mostly unswimmable and dangerous. In fact, I stayed Cabo for nearly a week and I didn’t even step foot on the beach! No sand in my toes.
Since Cabo is located on the Pacific coast, swimming in the water is dangerous and not allowed at most resorts.
Resorts that are not located on swimming beaches, mostly the newer & larger resorts, won’t even have beach chairs to lay on.
What beaches are swimmable in Cabo?
Medano Beach, which is located near the center of downtown Cabo is swimmable depending on weather conditions. (Always check for a green flag on the beach for safe swimming)
If the beach is a must for you: here are hotels on Medano Beach:
- Riu Palace: Beachfront All-Inclusive
- Villa La Estancia: Beachfront Villa Rentals. Studio to three bedrooms.
Now the beach in Cancun is everything you’d want for a beach vacation. The hotel zone which is home to over 100 hotels alone stretches 14 miles, most all with beachfront properties.
Each property will have beachfront chairs and access to the beach for swimming.
Always be careful, and check the beach flags to indicate the safety of swimming. Green and yellow flags mean swimming is safe. Red and Black mean swimming is dangerous.
But the beach is a plus for Cancun!
Cabo vs Cancun: Things to Do
Each destination has lists of things to do outside of the resort, but in general, Cabo has many water activities, while Cancun has more day trips.
Cabo is located at the tip of the Peninsula, and there aren’t many things to see besides downtown Cabo and the Natural Arch and surrounding beaches which are only accessible by boat. Here you’ll have more water activities.
Cancun on the other hand has plenty to do, including day trips to Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and even Tulum if you’re up for it, visiting cenotes, and seeing Mayan ruins like Chichen Iza.
Things to do in Cabo
Whale Watching Catamaran Experience: You’ll tour throughout the bay of Cabo in search of whales, plus there’s an open bar.
ATV Adventure Tour: Learn about the history of the area, and drive your own ATV throughout the desert with ocean views.
4-Hour Snorkeling Tour with Open Bar: Get a chance to swim, snorkel and relax in the most beautiful bay in Cabo.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour to Land’s End: Have the chance to see tropical fish underneath the glass boat.
Sunset Party Cruise with Open Bar: Enjoy the beautiful scenery with sunset hues. You may even spot dolphins in the bay!
Downtown Cabo Taco Tasting Tour: Calling all foodies! Try local cuisine on this guided food tour.
Find more things to do in Cabo:
Things to do in Cancun
Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour: Set sail on the beautiful blue waters on this catamaran tour.
Full Day Chichén Itzá Tour: Visit Chichén Itzá and a visit to a cenote, with a buffet lunch and tequila tasting.
Tulum & Coba Full Day Tour: Visit the most impressive Mayan archeological sights.
Rivera Maya Catamaran Tour: Catamaran reef and snorkel tour.
Riveria Maya ATV & Ziplining: Have a full day of adventure with ATV, Ziplining, and Cenotes in one day!
Find more things to do in Cancun.
Which One is Safer Cabo vs Cancun:
In general, both Cabo and Canun are safe for tourists as long as you follow your common sense and don’t go searching for trouble.
Avoid going out of your resort at night on foot alone, keep an eye on your belongings at the beach (which is public), and use the hotel safe for your valuables.
But don’t be afraid to leave the resort. If you do plan on going out at night, just arrange for car transfers to and from your hotel, and watch your beverages and belongings.
Dangerous crime is usually internal and involves drug cartels, but any crime towards tourists, if any, is mostly petty theft.
Overall, both destinations are safe for tourists.
Cabo vs Cancun: Nightlife & Partying
If you’re looking to party, Cancun has more options when it comes to going out. You can find everything from mega nightclubs, to bars, and party dinners.
Cabo also has a nightlife scene, with casual bars and nightclubs, but don’t expect as many options as Cancun.
If you want to keep it casual or go all night, both Cabo and Cancun have options for you, but Cancun skews more to the party scene.
Where to go out in Cabo:
Cabo Wabo: Hard rock and live music
Jungle Bar Cabo: Great place for live music & beers.
Mandala Los Cabos: Full-on nightclub with DJ’S.
Where to go out in Cancun?
Coco Bongo: The most famous place to go out in Cancun where you know it’s always a fun vibe.
Senor Frogs: Fun party vibe with mega cocktails.
The City Cancun: Cancun’s mega nightclub with 3 floors and 9 bars/
Illios Cancun: Restaurant during the day, where a Tulum/ Mykonos party vibe takes over at night. You’ll have fire dancers, acrobats, and bottle service to turn this restaurant into a full-on party. Book a late dinner to see the show at 10 PM.
To summarize everything here are some pros and cons of Cancun and Cabo.
Both destinations have great accommodation options with beautiful all-inclusive resorts and hotels. Plus, both have activities and nightlife options.
- Dryer Desert Climate. Better for year-round travel than Cancun. However, it can still rain.
- The airport is less busy
- Fewer Crowds than Cancun (3 million visitors vs 6 million Cancun visitors)
- More grown-up crowd
- Beautiful mountain scenery with otherworldly natural rock formations
- Direct sunsets
- The beach is mostly unswimmable and dangerous. Depending on where you stay, don’t expect beach chairs.
- The airport is far from the center and traffic adds time to your drive.
- The Beach is a part of the experience. You’ll have beach chairs, beach access, swimming, and Caribbean blue water.
- Easy destination to get to. Many daily direct flights from the U.S.
- The airport is close. Depending on the hotel you can be just 10 minutes from the airport
- Has plenty of nightlife options
- Tropical climate, the weather is hot and humid in summer. Not the best all-year-round destination.
- Airport is busy
- More crowds than Cabo (6.1 Million tourists vs 3 Million tourists)
- The crowd can skew younger- especially for Spring Break.
So do you have a favorite destination? Cabo or Cancun. Tell me below which one you’re going to visit!
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