Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Best Vacation Destination 2023 (Updated)

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: If you are trying to decide between these two locations for your next vacation, there is no wrong choice. That being said, there are some major differences between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo, and one location may be better for you than the other depending on what you are interested in doing. Here is an overview of the main differences between Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, followed by a detailed breakdown weighing the pros and cons of both locations.


Puerto Vallarta






Beaches, watersports, Malecón Boardwalk, Historic Center, Romantic Zone, Los Arcos de Mismaloya, Los Muertos, tequila tours, horseback riding, sightseeing cruises

Beaches, watersports, Arch of Cabo san Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, whale watching, deep sea fishing, ATV tours, camel riding, horeseback riding, nightlife

Food and Drink

Great seafood and Mexican food, excellent tequila, fine dining at all-inclusive resorts

Excellent seafood and Mexican food, good international choices, fine dining at all-inclusive resorts


All inclusive resorts, chain hotels, and villa rentals concentrated in the Hotel Zone

Variety of beachfront all inclusive resorts, boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, and villas and condos

Weather and Climate

77.6° F average yearly temperature. Rainy season from June-Oct, but mild rainy season compared to other cities on Mexico's Pacific coast

75° F average yearly temperature. Rainy season from June-Oct


Background and History

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Aerial View of Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Aerial View of Puerto Vallarta

Both Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are located on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The two municipalities are about 300 miles apart, but driving from one to the other takes about 22 hours, due to Cabo’s location at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. 

The early history of Puerto Vallarta and Cabo is quite similar. Both have been inhabited since prehistoric times, and were claimed as Spanish territory in the 1500s. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the remote locations of Puerto Vallarta and Cabo made them popular hideouts for pirates and smugglers. 

In the 1960s and 70s, land reform and the development of significant infrastructure and transportation improvements led to Puerto Vallarta becoming a premier resort city in Mexico, attracting famous and wealthy tourists from the US.

In the 1980s, the increasing strength of the dollar made Puerto Vallarta a bargain destination for US travellers, and the city became accessible to middle class tourists from all of the US. By the 90s, the construction of other resort cities like Cancun caused tourism to Puerto Vallarta to slow down, only to pick up again in the 2000s, as the city was “rediscovered” by a new generation of tourists. Today, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular resort cities in Mexico.

Similarly, the development of Cabo from a rural fishing village to major tourism hub took place largely in the middle and latter half of the 20th century. Significant federal investment into improving infrastructure and promoting Cabo as a resort city led to a major influx of tourism in the 1980s, and Cabo’s reputation as a premier tourist destination in Mexico has remained consistent to this day.

Attractions and Activities

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Overlooking Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Overlooking Puerto Vallarta

The major attractions and activities available in Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo are similar in many respects, but also have some significant differences. In general, Puerto Vallarta feels like a more authentic Mexican city, while Cabo feels more commercialized. Here are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta:

Explore the Malecon

The Malecon is a lively seaside road that stretches along the coastline of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town. Walk along the Malecon to admire the numerous sculptures, street art, and local vendors selling handicrafts. It is a vibrant and colorful area to explore.

Visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens

The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a beautiful attraction located just outside of Puerto Vallarta’s city limits. It offers a diverse collection of plants, stunning natural landscapes, and various other points of interest. The garden features a beautiful orchid collection, several well-maintained hiking trails that wind through the surrounding lush forests, excellent bird watching sites, and an agave garden.

Explore Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town

The Mexican state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located, is the birthplace of Mexican cultural icons like tequila and mariachi music, and it retains strong elements of this culture. A walk through the historic Old Town is like stepping into a time capsule of Puerto Vallarta’s origins. The cobblestone streets lined with old churches and buildings in Mission-style architecture are reminders of what Mexican cities were like in decades past.

You will want to make sure you check out the iconic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the vibrant open air market. You should also take a walk down Olas Altas Street–a charming street in Old Town full of boutique shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants.

Experience a Sunset Cruise

Experience the beauty of Puerto Vallarta’s coastline during a sunset cruise. Relax on a boat, enjoy live music and entertainment, and witness the stunning colors of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Puerto Vallarta is known for its beautiful sunsets, which sometimes feature the famous “green flash,” a rare optical phenomena that is sometimes visible just after sunset when a green spot appears above the sun as it disappears behind the horizon.

Enjoy a Tequila Tour

Tequila tours in Puerto Vallarta can be a fantastic way to explore and learn about Mexico’s famous spirit. Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco, which is where tequila originated.

Many tequila tours include visits to distilleries where you can see the tequila-making process firsthand. You’ll learn about the cultivation, harvesting, and cooking of the blue agave plant, as well as the fermentation and distillation processes. Some tours may take you to distilleries located in the nearby towns of Tequila or Amatitán.

Some tequila tours may include visits to agave fields where you can see the blue agave plants up close. Guides will explain the importance of agave in tequila production and provide insights into the cultivation and harvesting processes.

When planning a tequila tour in Puerto Vallarta, it is important to research different tour operators and read reviews to find a reputable and knowledgeable company. Some popular tequila tour operators in the area include Vallarta Tequila Tastings, Puerto Vallarta Tequila Tour, and Vallarta Tequila Factory.

Enjoy the Beaches and Watersports

Located on the Bay of Banderas rather than directly on the Pacific Ocean, the waters around Puerto Vallarta are calmer than the waters off the coast of most other cities in the area, making it a great place to learn how to scuba dive, parasail, jet ski, kayak, and more. Frequent whale watching tours and deep-sea fishing expeditions leave from the marina.

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beach in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beach in Puerto Vallarta

Experience the Local Cuisine

Puerto Vallarta offers a fantastic culinary scene. Sample traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, ceviche, and mole, as well as international cuisine at the many restaurants and food stalls throughout the city.

Given its location on the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta is known for its fresh seafood. You can savor a wide selection of dishes featuring fish, shrimp, octopus, and lobster. Popular dishes include pescado zarandeado (grilled fish), aguachile (spicy seafood dish), or camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp).

Another popular type of cuisine in Puerto Vallarta is street food. You can find food stalls and carts offering delicious snacks and meals all throughout the city. Be sure to try the street tacos, elote (grilled corn on the cob), churros, and fresh fruit with chili powder and lime.


Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beach in Cabo
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beach in Cabo

Cabo is a municipality that is divided into three main districts. There are two towns, located a 30 minute drive apart. The first town is San Jose del Cabo, or the “Old Town,” which is the historic district, full of old buildings and some new resorts. The second town is Cabo san Lucas, which is the main tourist hub. In between the two towns is the third district, called “The Corridor,” and encompasses the highway connecting San Jose del Cabo and Cabo san Lucas, plus the surrounding golf courses, resorts, and rental properties. Here are some of the best things to do in Cabo:

Enjoy the Beaches

Like Puerto Vallarta, a major attraction in Cabo are the beaches. Both San Jose del Cabo and Cabo san Lucas have beautiful Pacific beaches, flanked along the water’s edge with stunning rock formations unlike anything elsewhere in the world. Aside from relaxing and swimming, popular beachfront activities include surfing at the beaches on the eastern coast, and snorkeling and scuba diving at the reefs and shipwrecks off the coast.

Visit Land’s End (El Arco)

Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Rock Formations in Cabo
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Rock Formations in Cabo

Land’s End, also known as “El Arco” or “The Arch,” is a famous natural rock formation located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Cabo San Lucas. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in Cabo, and a popular tourist attraction.

Many visitors explore Land’s End by taking a boat tour or water taxi from the Cabo San Lucas Marina. These tours often include a close-up view of the arch, as well as visits to other nearby attractions. You can also go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or snorkeling in the waters around Land’s End.

Land’s End is also home to two beautiful beaches on either side of the arch. Playa del Amor is located on the Sea of Cortez side and is known for its tranquil waters and picturesque setting.Playa del Divorcio is on the Pacific Ocean side and has rougher waters. These beaches are accessible by boat or kayak.

Explore San Jose del Cabo

While it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, San Jose del Cabo offers its own distinct charm and attractions, and is well worth visiting. San Jose del Cabo offers a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere compared to the bustling energy of Cabo San Lucas. It is a great place to unwind, take leisurely walks, and soak in the peaceful ambiance. You can visit the city’s tranquil beaches, enjoy its great culinary scene, visit the art district, and go cycling, snorkeling, scuba diving, or fishing.

Play Golf

Cabo is home to several world-class golf courses. These courses are designed to take advantage of the stunning natural landscapes, combining desert terrain, oceanfront vistas, and lush green fairways. Some of the notable courses include Cabo del Sol Ocean Course, Quivira Golf Club, Diamante Dunes Course, and Palmilla Golf Club.

Many golf courses in Cabo are part of resorts that offer combination packages, allowing you to enjoy golfing along with other amenities such as accommodations, spa services, and dining options. These packages provide a convenient way to have a well-rounded vacation experience.

Enjoy the Local Cuisine

Cabo is famous for its great culinary scene, which includes incredible seafood, excellent Mexican food, and a diverse array of international options. Baja California cuisine is a highlight in Cabo. This regional cuisine combines Mexican flavors with Mediterranean influences, incorporating fresh local ingredients. Baja-style fish tacos, stuffed peppers, seafood cocktails, and aguachile (spicy seafood dish) are some popular dishes to try.

Go Sport Fishing

Cabo is famous for its sport fishing opportunities. Charter a fishing boat and try your luck at catching marlin, dorado, tuna, and other game fish. The waters off the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez offer excellent fishing grounds. Cabo is often referred to as the “Marlin Capital of the World” due to its excellent marlin fishing, and is also renowned for other game fish such as dorado, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, sailfish, and snapper.

Deep-sea fishing and inshore fishing are both popular in Cabo, and the city also offers several major fishing tournaments throughout the year, attracting avid anglers from all over.


Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: View from a Beachfront Resort in Cabo
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: View from a Beachfront Resort in Cabo

Visitors to Cabo have their choice of staying in Cabo san Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. Most choose to stay in Cabo san Lucas, which is the larger city, and has better access to the majority of Cabo’s tours and activities. Cabo san Lucas also has a larger hotel zone, with a wide array of accommodations, ranging from all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels, to international chains, to condos and villas for rent. 

Many of the visitors to Cabo prefer to stay in the all-inclusive resorts, which typically have beachfront access, raised pools, luxury suites, fine dining, on-site golf courses, and everything else you could possibly want on your vacation. Some of the nicest high-end resorts in the municipality include The Resort at Pedregal, Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Paradisus Los Cabos, and Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf & Spa. Nice budget hotels in Cabos include Estancia Real Los Cabos and Seven Crown Express & Suites.

In Puerto Vallarta, there is no shortage of places for travelers to stay. The beachfront all-inclusive resorts are the most popular accommodations, but, like Cabos, Puerto Vallarta also has boutique hotels, hotel chains, and villas and condos for rent. Nice hotels in Puerto Vallarta on the lower end of the budget include Hotel Mocali, Hotel Encino, and Casa Kraken Hostel, all of which are one block away from the beach. One the other end, some of the nicest all-inclusive resorts include Casa Velas Hotel Boutique, Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, and Crown Paradise Club All-Inclusive Resort and Spa.


Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beachfront Resort in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: A Beachfront Resort in Puerto Vallarta

One of the most important factors to weigh when considering Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo is the cost. With plenty of budget accommodations available in both cities, it is possible to stay in either one without breaking the bank. That being said, comparing apples to apples, Cabo is generally more expensive than Puerto Vallarta. As possibly the most famous Mexican resort city after Cancun, Cabo sees high tourism traffic from all over the United States and Canada, driving up prices in the city significantly for everything from food to tours to accommodations. The average price of staying in Cabo for one person for one week is $2,389 vs. $1,411 per person per week in Puerto Vallarta.

The Bottom Line

When considering Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, the main factors to consider are what you want to do and experience, where you want to stay, and what your budget is. There are many similarities between the two cities, but also some significant differences.

If you are interested in experiencing authentic Mexican culture and history, going on tequila tasting tours, enjoying a relaxing beach with calm waters, and staying in a beautiful resort while saving some money, Puerto Vallarta is the better choice for you. If you don’t mind spending more and going to a more touristy area, and are interested in experiencing a wider variety of activities and adventures, Cabo is the better choice for you. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong choice, it all comes down to personal preference.


See Also:

Tulum vs Cabo: A Guide to Choosing the Best Vacation Destination

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