Situated on opposite sides of Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and Cancun are two of the premier tourist destinations in the country. Each city has plenty to offer, but there are significant differences between the two. When choosing between Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun for your next vacation, here are the main factors you should take into account.
Location and Accessibility
When considering the benefits of visiting Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun, you should take into account the accessibility of each city. Both Cabo San Lucas and Cancun receive frequent direct flights from most major US cities, but a flight to Cabo San Lucas is much faster and more convenient for Americans located on the west coast, and a flight to Cancun is easier and more convenient for those on the east coast.
A nonstop flight from New York to Cabo San Lucas will generally take about 6 hours, vs 4 hours for a flight to Cancun. On the other hand, a flight from Los Angeles to Cancun takes about 4.5 hours, but LA to Cabo San Lucas is 2.5 hours.
Before deciding on which destination to visit for your next vacation, you should check the frequency of flights and the flight times to Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun from your local airport. The difference could be significant, and if you’re someone who prefers to spend as little time on the plane as possible, you may want to factor the flight time into your decision.
One of the most significant differences between Cabo San Lucas and Cancun is the beaches. Located on Mexico’s west coast, along the southern end of the Baja California Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas has beautiful, yellow sand beaches with deep, blue Pacific waters, and stunning rock formations up and down the coast. The waters around Cabo San Lucas are rougher than in Cancun, and some beaches have a strong undertow, which makes them less than ideal for swimming. However, the coasts of Cabo San Lucas are perfect for surfing, sport fishing, and other watersports,
Across the country on the east coast, Cancun is situated on the Caribbean Sea, where the beaches are long, white, and sandy, and the waters are calm and turquoise. Cancun’s beaches typify tropical Caribbean beauty. The hot sands are a perfect place to relax, especially after a long day of swimming or snorkeling in the waters around Cancun, which are perfect for such activities and are also great for other watersports.
Both Cabo San Lucas and Cancun have excellent weather, however Cabo San Lucas is less humid and has fewer rainy days than Cancun, which, like many islands in the Caribbean, has a rainy season in September and October and humidity around 65% – 75% depending on the time of year.
Both Cabo San Lucas and Cancun have a wealth of attractions and activities to take part in, ranging from watersports to historical tours to nightlife. In Cancun, the main attraction aside from the beaches is the nightlife, with dozens of popular nightclubs that cater to all ages, and feature live entertainment, cheap drinks, and large capacities. Many of the bars and clubs don’t close until 4am, so you can keep the party going all night long.
For those who are more interested in a peaceful vacation, it is easy to find resorts or other accommodations that are far from the nightclubs, so you can avoid the nightlife altogether if you prefer. Other popular attractions in Cancun include tours to the nearby Mayan Ruins of Chichén Itzá, El Meco, and El Rey; golfing; ATV tours; animal adventures, including swimming with dolphins, stingrays, and tropical fish in Cancun’s Interactive Aquarium; waterparks, and shopping at the local shopping centers.
At Cabo San Lucas, the nightlife is also a major attraction, with a wide range of bars and nightclubs for partygoers to choose from. Other main attractions at Cabos San Lucas include deep sea fishing, shopping, frequenting the local restaurants, parasailing, and visiting the spas. Unique events in Cabo San Lucas include winter whale watching tours–the waters off Cabo San Lucas are home to a wide variety of whales, which bear young in the warm waters during the winter before heading north to Alaska for the summer. Cabos San Lucas also hosts an annual marlin tournament every October, which is one of the biggest and highest paying in the world.
An interesting feature of Cabo San Lucas (along with other beaches along Baja California) is that the beaches border the desert, which offers unique opportunities to spend part of your beach vacation on horseback riding trips or ATV tours through the Mexican desert, exploring the unique rock formations, and seeing the canyons, rivers, and waterfalls.
As two of the premier tourist destinations in Mexico, the accommodations in both Cabo San Lucas and Cancun are world class. Cancun has a wide variety of hotels and resorts–over 100 in total, many right on the beachfront, and many offering all-inclusive packages. The all-inclusive resorts will have beachfront access, vast pools, resort-organized outings and waterfront activities, and more.
Cabo San Lucas has fewer all-inclusive resorts than Cancun, but there are still plenty to choose from. The level of luxury of Cabo San Lucas hotels and resorts is on par with the best in Cancun. Resorts in Cabo San Lucas offer beautiful views of the ocean, beachfront access, relaxing pools, spas, hot tubs, and more.
Both cities also have plenty of rentals, air bnbs, and apartments to stay in.
In general, when comparing 1:1 between Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun, there is not a significant difference in the cost of both locations. You may find that the average resort in Cabo San Lucas is a little less expensive, but that is mainly because the majority of the major resorts in Cancun are all-inclusive, whereas there are fewer in Cabo San Lucas. But if you compare the largest all-inclusive resorts in Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun, you will find that the prices are about the same.
The off-season in both locations is different, however, so you may be able to find cheaper accommodations in one vs the other depending on when you plan to go. Cancun is a more popular destination in the winter, however, because of the humidity in Cancun during the summer, Cabo San Lucas gets more traffic, and may be more expensive, especially if you are looking at rental properties.
The Bottom Line
When choosing between Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun for your next vacation, there is no wrong choice. Whatever you are interested in doing on your vacation, whether it be waterfront activities, partaking in the nightlife, enjoying the restaurants, or going on tours and adventures, both Cabo San Lucas and Cancun have plenty to offer.
The choice may come down to your location and the season in which you want to travel. If you are located on the west coast, Cabo San Lucas is a shorter flight, but if you are in the midwest or on the east coast, Cancun is closer. Similarly, if you plan on vacationing in the summer, the cooler, less humid environment in Cabo San Lucas may be better than in Cancun, but if you go in the winter, you may want to consider Cancun instead.