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 favoring 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.
Where is Puerto Vallarta located?
Puerto Vallarta is located on the west coast of Mexico right on the Pacific Ocean. Known as “PV” by English visitors and “Vallarta” by its Spanish residents, Puerto Vallarta is where the Sierra Madre Mountains meet the ocean. It started as a small fishing village before becoming the city it is today, one that is renowned for being the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton used to spend time when filming “The Night of the Iguana”.
Where is Cancun located?
Cancun is on the north eastern side of the Yucatán Peninsula next to the Caribbean Sea. Cancun was a relatively obscure fishing town until 1970 when it was chosen by the Mexican government as a new hub for international tourism. The east coast stretches from Cancun down to Tulum in what is affectionately known as the Riviera Maya.
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.
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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 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 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.
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 restaurants, bars and feature night-time entertainment. Read More: Riviera Maya: The Out Of Office Collection
Puerto Vallarta has a lot of great hotels, including the ever-popular Almar Resort, a hotel geared towards gay travelers. There are many four-star options. 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 now 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 favor big resorts and Puerto Vallarta if you favor boutique hotels.
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 civilization. It will give you a fascinating glimpse into a lost world.
Puerto Vallarta is home to a big art 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.
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Puerto Vallarta crime rates are very low by Mexican standards, and also by American standards. Cancun is very much the same. Safety is an important factor for people visiting Mexico. It’s a vast country and some parts of it are safer than others. In terms of traveling safely in Mexico, you can’t find two better destinations than Puerto Vallarta or Cancun.
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 travelers and they are especially popular destinations for North Americans.