Cabo vs. Cancun: Which Is Best?

Partiers will find plenty to love in Cancun. Travelers looking for luxury and family fun should stick to Cabo.
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Written by Josh Garber

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Deciding between Cabo San Lucas or Cancun for your next Mexican getaway can be challenging, as both are beautiful beach destinations with a lot to offer tourists. 

Below we'll compare Cabo versus Cancun, including which destination is better for families, for partying and for hotels.

Cabo vs. Cancun basics

Before making a selection, it's helpful to know some background information about each destination.

Cabo San Lucas — often called Cabo — is located on the western coast of Mexico, at the very tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula. Cabo's main airport is the San Jose del Cabo International Airport, which is about a 35-minute drive from downtown Cabo San Lucas. Cabo has a tropical desert climate and, on average, gets less than 10 inches of rain per year (with its rainiest months typically in August and September).

Cancun is located on the east coast of Mexico, facing the Caribbean Sea. The main airport, Cancun International Airport, is about a 30-minute drive from Cancun's hotel zone.

Cancun has a tropical climate and, on average, gets more than 52 inches of rain a year (with its rainiest months typically in September and October).

Now that you know the basics, below is a deeper dive into what sets the destinations apart.

Cabo vs. Cancun for families

Winner: Cabo

When deciding between Cabo or Cancun for a family trip, you should first look at flight length from home. For instance, if you're flying from Los Angeles, a direct flight to Cabo is 2.5 hours compared to about 4.5 hours to Cancun. Likewise, if you're flying from New York City, a direct flight to Cabo is about 6.5 hours compared to 4.5 hours to Cancun. Especially if you're flying with younger children, it may make sense to pick Cabo or Cancun based on which destination has a quicker flight.

Both destinations have several family-friendly resorts — in Cancun, family-friendly resorts include:

  • Club Med Cancun.

  • Iberostar Cancun.

  • Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya (which is about 40 minutes south of Cancun, in Playa del Carmen).

In Cabo, family-friendly resorts include:

  • Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa.

  • Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas Resort. 

For Cabo, many of the family-friendly resorts (such as the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos) are located in or near San Jose del Cabo rather than downtown Cabo — this is a significant benefit for families since San Jose del Cabo has a reputation for being more relaxed and less party-centric than downtown Cabo. Also, San Jose del Cabo is only a 20-minute car ride from the airport, so there will be less time in a car with the kids after your flight. 

While we'll go into which destination is better for partying below, Cancun has a reputation for being party heavy year-round (particularly during spring break), which isn't ideal for family trips. Cancun's party reputation, as well as the laid-back environment of San Jose del Cabo, tips the scale in Cabo's favor for family trips. 

Cabo vs. Cancun for partying

Winner: Cancun

Adults looking to party will have no problem having fun in either Cabo or Cancun, as both destinations have several adult-only hotels. For instance, Breathless Resorts & Spas, known for its all-inclusive, adults-only, and sometimes club-like atmosphere, has locations in Cabo and Cancun that are perfect for adults looking to spend their trip imbibing. 

However, If you're looking beyond your resort, Cancun has more nightlife options — downtown Cabo is relatively small. While there are a few bars and clubs in Cabo where you can dance into the late hours of the night, Cancun has a "party zone" (called Punta Cancun) known for its club, bar, and music scene. And if you're looking for fun on spring break, U.S. News & World Report ranks Cancun as the top spring break destination in the world, with Cabo ranking fourth.

Cancun vs. Cabo hotels

Winner: Cabo for luxury, Cancun for variety

If you're looking to stay at a luxury hotel, Cabo has some incredible options, including:

  • One&Only Palmilla (four-night stay can cost as much as $8,800).

  • Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal (a four-night stay can cost as much as $8,220).

  • Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort (a four-night stay can cost as much as $9,835).

Given the luxurious hotel offerings and hefty price tags, it's not surprising that Cabo is popular with celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, and George Clooney. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you want to book a luxury stay in Cabo but don't want to spend a lot of money, you can use your Hilton free night certificates at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal. 

While Cabo beats Cancun in luxury hotel offerings, Cancun has significantly more hotels than Cabo and a wider variety of locations to stay — such as nearby Playa del Carmen or Tulum. 

Cabo or Cancun recapped

You can't go wrong choosing between Cabo and Cancun for your Mexican getaway. Cabo is a better option for luxury travel and families, while Cancun beats out Cabo for nightlife and partying. However, especially if you're traveling as a family, you should research flight time and non-stop service. If you're looking for the shortest flight, families on the West Coast may opt for Cabo and families on the East Coast may opt for Cancun. 

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