Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun – which is better?

Our lowdown on two of Mexico's top resort destinations

Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are two of the most popular destinations in Mexico. You can’t really do both on the same trip – they’re on different sides of the country. It’s a case of favouring one over the other, and it really boils down to what type of vacation you’d like to have. Each destination has very different charms. So, let’s weigh up two fabulous places and see which one is best for you.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?

Beaches

Cancun is home to picture perfect beaches with soft white sands and crystal clear waters. It’s the top resort destination in Mexico for a reason – particularly Rivera Maya, where you’ll find most of the luxury hotels. Cancun is located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and Puerto Vallarta is located on the Pacific coast. Inevitably, Caribbean beaches have a bit of an edge over Pacific beaches. If you want flawless beach photos for Instagram, then Cancun is the place to be.

The beaches around Puerto Vallarta are smaller and some are rockier. But there are excellent beaches in PV, Los Muertos and Playa Camarones are the most popular. If you’re willing to head further afield, take a boat trip around Bandera Bay and stop off at Majahuitas, a charming beach in a more remote location – which brings us to our next topic.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?

Wartersports

Puerto Vallarta is excellent for water sports. The coastal city is surrounded by Banderas Bay. From the coastline you can see the sea stretching all the way to where the state of Nayarit begins. PV is in the state of Jalisco. 

Taking a boat tour through Banderas Bay is a must. You can can explore the local caves, visit more remote beaches (like Majahuitas) and even go dolphin and whale watching. Naturally, visibility isn’t guaranteed but there is a great concentration of whales and dolphins around the bay, so the chances of visibility are high.

Cancun is also excellent for water sports. You can go deep sea fishing and discover some of the extraordinary creatures dwelling in the Caribbean Ocean. As Cancun is home to so many resorts, your hotel will be able to arrange all kinds of aquatic activities for you. When it comes to water sports, it’s a definite tie between Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?

Nightlife

Puerto Vallarta is home to Latin America’s biggest gaybourhood, giving it a clear edge over Cancun. The gay scene in Puerto Vallarta is centered around Zona Romantica. It’s packed with gay bars and clubs. As LGBT Europeans flock to Mykonos in the summer, LGBT Americans flock to Puerto Vallarta. The scene is huge – it’s a place to see and be seen, dear.

Cancun has a smaller gay scene but it’s still a very gay-popular destination. You can venture into Cancun itself from your resort and check out some of the local bars. Some resorts in Cancun host gay parties in peak season. Puerto Vallarta hosts a famous White Party every year – it’s a destination event.

As Puerto Vallarta is small, you can walk  everywhere. This makes your gay night out in PV easier to manage. The scene in Zona Romantica in peak season is akin to what you’ll find in London or New York. In terms of nightlife, we’d say Puerto Vallarta takes the edge over Cancun.

Casa Kimberly

Hotels

Both destinations boast excellent hotels. Cancun is unbeatable for all-inclusive resorts. Zona Hotelera encompasses much of Cancun’s coastline. As the name suggests, it’s made up of hotels. Cancun is a hotel destination. A lot of tourists in Cancun stay put in their resorts and never leave. Most resorts are packed with hotels, bars and daily entertainment options.

Puerto Vallarta has a lot of great hotels, including the ever popular Almar Resort, a hotel geard towards gay travellers. There are many four star options. Hotel Mousai is the hotel certified Five Diamond resort in town. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can even stay at Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s former Puerto Vallarta home, Casa Kimberly. It’s not a luxury boutique hotel. You can even stay in the Elizabeth Taylor suite – it used to be her bedroom!

Overall, Cancun has a far greater selection of hotels. Cancun takes the edge over most places when it comes to hotels. But Puerto Vallarta has a more authentic Mexican feel – Cancun is very Americanised. So, go for Cancun if you favour big resorts and Puerto Vallarta if you favour boutique hotels.

Chichen Itza gay excursion

Culture

Cancun itself is not really considered to be a cultural destination. If you want a culture fix, you can take a trip to Chichén Itzá. It takes just over two-hours to drive from Cancun to Chichén Itzá. You can opt for a coach tour with a local guide. Chichén Itzá is home to some of the greatest ruins of the Mayan civilisation. It will give you a fascinating glimpse into a lost world.

Puerto Vallarta is home to a big arts scene. You’ll see art galleries and art shops all over the city. Take a stroll down the Malecon – the main shopping street and promenade in PV. You’ll discover a great food scene – it’s considered to be second only to Mexico City for cuisine.

Puerto Vallarta gives you a real taste of Mexican life. From PV, you can take day trips to small towns nearby, such as Sayulita and the historic town of San Sebastien del Oeste. You can also visit some of the oldest Spanish towns in Mexico, such as Talpa and Mascota – both were founded by the conquistadors.

Almar

So, which is better – Puerto Vallarta or Cancun

If you’re looking to experience gay nightlife and get a bit of a culture fix, then Puerto Vallarta is the place to be. If you’re looking for a relaxing resort vacation, then Cancun is your best bet. Both destinations are roughly the same price for luxury travellers and they are especially popular destinations for North Americans.

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