Cancun vs Huatulco: Which Is the Best Vacation Destination?

Cancun vs Huatulco: While Cancun is usually the first destination that comes to mind when thinking about a Mexican vacation, there’s another hidden gem you may not know about! Huatulco, pronounced wah-TOOL-coh, is in the Oaxaca state on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It consists of biscuit-colored beaches, lush green mountains and protected shorelines boasting some of the best marine life in the area. 

Cancun is a well-loved and popular vacation destination synonymous with spring break and bachelorette parties, but also frequented by couples and families for relaxing beach vacations. Which one is better comes down to a couple of factors which we’ll get into below. 

Cancun vs Huatulco: Huatulco Coastline
Cancun vs Huatulco: Huatulco Coastline

Cancun vs Huatulco At A Glance 

For a quick overview of the differences between Cancun and Huatulco, here’s a table of key points to consider. 

Cancun vs Huatulco In Depth 

Town and Culture 

The town centre of Cancun offers rich Mayan history and archaeology, some of which is showcased at Museo INAH. Market 28 is bustling with local handicrafters, street food and art. Watch the folkloric ballet at the Continental Villas Plaza or head downtown for the Mexican rodeo. There are numerous shopping centers carrying national and international brands. It is a lot more Westernized than other destinations around Mexico, with many of the locals being fluent in English. 

The town of Huatulco was once a small fishing village while nowadays it has evolved into a mainstream travel destination for both domestic and international travelers. The picturesque town is much less crowded than its nearby destinations and provides an authentic Mexican experience with friendly locals making you feel like you’re part of the family. The locals will gladly give you invaluable advice on the best dive spots and restaurants to visit during your stay, so be sure to get in plenty of exploring while you’re in town. When comparing culture in Cancun vs Huatulco, Huatulco does feel like a more authentic experience with stronger ties to it’s Mayan roots. 


Cancun vs Huatulco: Hotels in Cancun
Cancun vs Huatulco: Hotels in Cancun

When it comes to how busy Cancun vs Huatulco is, there is no denying that Huatulco is a much quieter and less crowded destination. There is a clear cultural influence in Huatulco with more traditional architecture, cuisine and activities all-round. The warm and welcoming locals also make for an extra special atmosphere. 

Cancun is a tourist hub and is busy for the majority of the year. It has more of a party atmosphere, often the destination of choice for bachelorette parties and spring breakers. The nightlife in Cancun is like no other with bars and nightclubs thriving by night. 


Cancun vs Huatulco: One of Huatulco's Famous Beaches
Cancun vs Huatulco: One of Huatulco’s Famous Beaches

The beaches in Cancun are those typical postcard type beaches with soft white sand and glassy turquoise water. There are over 11 beaches to choose from, each stretching for miles and lined with palm trees. Some of the beaches can get a bit dirty when they are overcrowded, particularly during festivals like spring break, and should be avoided during these events. 

Huatulco has Green Globe Certified standards making its protected shorelines and mountain areas pristine and breathtaking. Beaches on Huatulco are a little different to those on Cancun in that there are generally not long stretches of sand. Beaches in Huatulco are in rocky bays with biscuit-hued sand and jewel-colored water. In total there are 9 bays and 36 beaches with thriving sealife… you will almost always spot dolphins, turtles and rays in the ocean. The beaches are immaculate, with the locals invested in maintaining their town and actively keeping the beaches clean. When comparing beaches in Cancun vs Huatulco, Huatulco does score some extra points for cleanliness and quietness, despite not offering the bright white sand many tourists want. 


The weather in Cancun is warm and sunny for most of the year. The windy season is generally between February and March when being on the beach can be quite unpleasant. 

Even during the colder months of the year, Huatulco still delivers warm and sunny weather 7 days a week. It is much less windy than other regions in the country. 


Cancun vs Huatulco: A Cenote Near Cancun
Cancun vs Huatulco: A Cenote Near Cancun

The Underwater Museum of Art is a popular activity for visitors to Cancun with glass-bottom boat and snorkeling tours offered. Zip lining, dolphin encounters and scuba diving are all fun water activities to try. Beyond the beaches, there are sprawling mangroves, tropical jungles and fascinating cenotes to explore. 

In the summertime when the rivers are raging, white water rafting is a firm favorite amongst tourists visiting Huatulco. A hike up the mountains or a stroll through the coffee plantations are a must all-year round. There are numerous Mezcal boutiques scattered about town which comes as a highly recommended activity. Activities in Cancun vs Huatulco are much of a muchness, with only a few variations either side because of their differing landscapes and coastlines.  


There is a great balance between the fusion of Mexican flavors and global cuisine when visiting Cancun. On the average menu you can expect to find some locally inspired dishes along with international favorites like pasta, pizza and hamburgers with a local twist. 

The seafood in Huatulco is word-class, especially considering that most of what is on your plate will be the catch of the day, as is life in a fishing town. The lion-share of restaurants in town are owned by locals who take great pride in preparing delicious, flavorful seafood dishes centered around fresh lobster, oysters and shrimp. Food is very well-priced so be sure to add on a generous tip for these passionate locals!

Deciding where to go when weighing up Cancun vs Huatulco comes down to your preferences. If you’ve been to Cancun in the past then definitely try something new and experience the wonder of Huatulco. However, if it’s your first trip to Mexico, it will come down to the atmosphere you’re after, how much of the local culture you want to experience and the time of the year you are traveling. 

See Also:

4 Best Beaches in Huatulco

10 Best Cancun Excursions 2022

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