Luxury Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun – which is better? vacations

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 favoring one over the other, and it really boils down to what type of vacation you’d like to have. If a mix of relaxation and local culture is what you’re after, Puerto Vallarta offers an authentic Mexican vibe with its charming beaches like Los Muertos and Playa Camarones, contrasted by the lively Zona Romantica for an inclusive nightlife experience. Alternatively, for those seeking a quintessential resort getaway, Cancun’s luxurious all-inclusive options along the Riviera Maya provide a slice of Caribbean paradise with endless aquatic activities.

Both destinations boast exceptional hotels, from the grandeur of all-inclusive resorts to the intimacy of boutique stays, ensuring a memorable escape whether you’re flying from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta or exploring the diverse terrains of Mexico. 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?

Nestled on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta, also known as PV or Vallarta, offers a picturesque setting where the Sierra Madre Mountains cascade into the ocean. This destination, once a quaint fishing village, now stands as a city soaked in history and charm, famously frequented by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when they were filming “The Night of the Iguana”. Whether you’re considering the journey from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta, or debating between the tranquil beaches of Cancun and the vibrant atmosphere of PV, each offers an escape into Mexico’s diverse landscapes—each with a unique touch of luxury and allure for travelers seeking either serenity or cultural richness.

Where is Cancun located?

Positioned on the Yucatán Peninsula’s northeastern tip, adjacent to the Caribbean Sea, Cancun emerged from a discreet fishing town into a global tourism beacon after its designation in 1970 by the Mexican government. The stunning Riviera Maya stretches south from Cancun to Tulum, and boasts some of the most pristine coastlines and all-inclusive resorts, marking the region as a quintessential destination for travelers. Whether flying and flopping on a stunning Caribbean beach or enjoying an excursion from Cancun’s luxury resorts to the region’s historic sites, travelers are promised an array of experiences wrapped in the warmth of Mexican hospitality.

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Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?


Cancun’s idyllic beaches with their powdery white sands and turquoise waters are a highlight on Mexico’s Caribbean coast – the top resort destination in Mexico for a reason. Venture further down the coast on the Riviera Maya to find Akumal’s stunning beach where you can swim with turtles, and Tulum’s boho-chic beach clubs with their rustic-meets-glamor feel. It’s a haven for luxury hotel enthusiasts seeking all-inclusive experiences.

Contrastingly, Puerto Vallarta’s Pacific coastline presents more intimate beaches with a rugged charm, including the beloved Los Muertos and Playa Camarones. For those adventuring beyond, Bandera Bay’s boat tours to secluded spots like Majahuitas offer tranquil escapes, each locale promising its own version of paradise for beachgoers and luxury travelers.

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.

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Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?


Puerto Vallarta boasts an array of water sports adventures within the stunning Banderas Bay, offering excursions to hidden caves, secluded beaches like Majahuitas, and wildlife watching, with a high chance of spotting dolphins and whales. Naturally, spottings aren’t guaranteed but there is a great concentration of whales and dolphins around the bay, so the chances of visibility are high.

Similarly, Cancun matches this with its own array of water activities, including deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean Sea. Both destinations stand on equal footing when it comes to water sports, each providing an unforgettable experience whether you’re staying in Puerto Vallarta, flying from Cancun, or exploring the broader map of Mexico’s renowned beach locales.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun - which is better?


Puerto Vallarta is home to Latin America’s biggest gaybourhood, giving it a clear edge over Cancun. It shines as a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community, boasting the largest gay neighborhood in Latin America, centered around the vibrant 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. It’s really become the place to be seen. Puerto Vallarta also hosts a famous White Party every year – it’s a destination event.

Cancun has a smaller gay scene but it’s still a very gay-friendly 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, but these aren’t as easy to find as those in Puerto Vallarta.

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


Cancun and Puerto Vallarta both offer exceptional accommodations but with distinct experiences. 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 and bars, and feature fantastic night-time entertainment. Read More: Riviera Maya: The Out Of Office Collection

Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, offers a selection of excellent hotels, including some tailored for LGBTQ+ travelers, and the unique opportunity to stay in boutique hotels with rich histories. We love the ever-popular Almar Resort, a hotel geared towards gay travelers. There are many four and five-star options to choose from for those looking for a luxury LGBTQ+ getaway. 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.

Chichen Itza gay excursion


While Cancun is primarily recognized for its breathtaking beaches rather than its cultural depth, it serves as a gateway to the historic Mayan civilization at Chichén Itzá. This nearby archaeological wonder offers a deep dive into ancient history. 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 and will give you a fascinating glimpse into a lost world.

Puerto Vallarta, in contrast, is a haven for art lovers, boasting a vibrant scene of galleries and culinary excellence. 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.



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. Both are top choices for those looking to travel safely within Mexico.


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 locations offer luxury travel options at comparable prices, making them popular choices among both North American tourists and UK travelers looking for premium experiences in Mexico.

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