Playa Del Carmen Vs Cancun: The Complete Guide

The Playa Del Carmen vs. Cancun debate is one that has been raging for years on end, Choosing between Playa del Carmen and Cancun can be a difficult decision if you’re planning a vacation to Mexico. Both destinations are known for their beautiful beaches, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, then Playa del Carmen is the place for you. Here, we’ll explore the key differences between these two popular Mexican destinations, so you can make an informed decision when it comes time to book your trip.

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun

Playa del CarmenCancun
Smaller and more laid-back atmosphereMore developed and touristy
Known for its beaches, snorkeling and divingKnown for its beaches, nightlife and all-inclusive resorts
Has a more authentic Mexican feelHas a more commercial and international feel
Has a variety of accommodations, including budget-friendly optionsHas a wide range of accommodations, including luxury resorts
Offers a mix of cultural and outdoor activitiesOffers a mix of party and water activities

Playa del Carmen offers a more intimate and laid-back atmosphere compared to the bustling tourist destination of Cancun. Playa del Carmen boasts miles of beautiful beaches, a variety of restaurants and nightlife options, and unique local shops and markets. Visitors can enjoy activities such as snorkeling, swimming, and exploring ancient Mayan ruins. Cancun, on the other hand, is known for its luxurious resorts, white-sand beaches, and vibrant nightlife scene.

Both destinations offer opportunities for water activities and tours of nearby Mayan ruins, but Cancun may be better suited for those looking for a lively vacation, while Playa del Carmen is perfect for those seeking a more relaxed and culturally immersive experience. Cancun can be little expensive compared to Playa del Carmen, Both cities offer a chance to explore the beauty of the Caribbean Sea and make unforgettable memories.

Top 10 Things to do in Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen Vs Cancun
  1. Visit ancient Mayan ruins: Playa del Carmen is located near several ancient Mayan ruins, such as Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza. These ruins offer a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Mayan civilization.
  2. Snorkeling and diving: Playa del Carmen is known for its crystal clear waters and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Visitors can explore the colorful coral reefs and marine life at popular spots such as Playa del Carmen Marine Park, and Cozumel island.
  3. Beaches: Playa del Carmen has several beautiful beaches that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. Some popular beaches include Playa Mamitas, Playa del Carmen Main Beach and Playa Xcalacoco.
  4. Shopping and dining: Playa del Carmen is a great place to shop for unique souvenirs and local crafts. Visitors can find a wide variety of local shops, cafes, and markets in the city, such as the famous Quinta Avenida (5th avenue) street market.
  5. Nightlife: Playa del Carmen has a lively nightlife scene, with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Visitors can enjoy a drink or dance the night away at popular spots such as Coco Bongo, La Vaquita, and Palazzo.
  6. Yoga and wellness: Playa del Carmen is also a great place for yoga and wellness, with many yoga studios and wellness centers offering classes, workshops and retreats.
  7. Cozumel island day trip: Cozumel island is a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, and it’s a perfect destination for diving, snorkeling, and exploring the island’s natural beauty.
  8. Cenotes swimming: the Mayan word for natural swimming holes, cenotes, are a must-see in Playa del Carmen. The region has several cenotes, such as Gran Cenote, Cenote Cristalino, and Cenote Taj Mahal.

Top 10 Things to do in Cancun

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun
  1. Hit the beaches – Cancun is home to some of the best beaches in Mexico. Playa del Carmen may have its own share of beautiful beaches, but nothing beats the powdery white sand and turquoise waters of Cancun’s coastline.
  2. Go island hopping – Cancun is situated in between two major islands – Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. You can easily hop on a ferry and explore these islands for a day trip. Isla Mujeres is especially popular for its snorkelling and scuba diving sites.
  3. Shop till you drop – From high-end designer stores to traditional Mexican markets, Cancun has it all. If you’re looking for some souvenirs to take back home, head to Plaza la Isla or Mercado 28.
  4. Party it up – Cancun is well-known for its lively nightlife scene. If you want to experience the ultimate party destination, make your way to The Zone or Coco Bongo.
  5. Visit ancient ruins – For a dose of history and culture, pay a visit to the nearby Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza or Tulum. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are definitely worth a visit!
  6. Go on an adventure – There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied in Cancun. from zip-lining and ATV tours to snorkelling

Tourist Attractions in Playa del Carmen and Cancun

Tourist Attractions in Playa del Carmen:

  • Beaches: Playa del Carmen offers miles of beautiful beaches, such as Playa Mamitas and Playa Quinta Avenida.
  • Mayan Ruins: Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza are all nearby ancient Mayan ruins that can be visited.
  • Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park: A nature and cultural park that features underground rivers, wildlife, and cultural performances.
  • 5th Avenue: A popular pedestrian street filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
  • Cozumel Island: A popular spot for snorkeling and diving, located just a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen.

Tourist Attractions in Cancun:

  • Beaches: Cancun is known for its white-sand beaches, such as Playa delfines and Playa Marlin.
  • Nightlife: Cancun is famous for its lively nightlife scene, with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from.
  • All-inclusive resorts: Cancun is home to a large number of luxury all-inclusive resorts.
  • Isla Mujeres: A small island located just off the coast of Cancun, known for its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters.
  • Xel-Ha: A natural theme park that features activities such as snorkeling, swimming, and zip-lining.
  • Mayan Ruins: El Rey and San Gervasio are nearby Mayan ruins that can be visited.

Weather and Climate in Playa del Carmen and Cancun

Playa Del Carmen Vs Cancun

Playa del Carmen and Cancun both have a tropical climate with hot and humid weather throughout the year. The weather can be divided into two seasons: the dry season, which runs from November to April, and the rainy season, which runs from May to October. The dry season is the peak tourist season and the best time to visit Playa del Carmen and Cancun. During this time, the weather is sunny and dry, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to the low 90s Fahrenheit.

The rainy season is characterized by heavy rainfall, especially in the afternoon and evening, and temperatures are slightly higher than the dry season. Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun have a high humidity level all year round, which can make the heat feel more intense. It’s essential to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun when visiting. Additionally, the sea temperature is warm throughout the year, making it possible to swim and enjoy water activities all year round.

Accommodation and resorts in Playa Del Carmen and cancun

Playa Del Carmen Vs Cancun

Playa Del Carmen:

  • Hostels:
    • Hostel Che
    • Hostel La Buena Vida
    • Hostel Pancho Villa
  • Boutique Hotels:
    • Hotel Coqui Coqui
    • Hotel Esencia
    • Hotel El Pez
    • Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya
    • Sandos Playacar Beach Experience Resort All Inclusive
    • The Reef Coco Beach


  • All-Inclusive Resorts:
    • The Royal Caribbean
    • Hard Rock Hotel Cancun
    • Moon Palace Cancun
    • Paradisus Cancun
    • The Ritz-Carlton Cancun
  • Boutique Hotels:
    • The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun
    • The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa
    • Le Blanc Spa Resort
    • JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa


Which one is better for nightlife?

Cancun is known for its lively nightlife scene, with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Playa del Carmen also has a good selection of bars and clubs, but it is not as developed as Cancun’s nightlife.

What kind of activities can you do in Playa del Carmen and Cancun?

Both destinations offer ample opportunities for snorkeling and other water activities, as well as tours of nearby Mayan ruins. Playa del Carmen also offers a mix of cultural and outdoor activities, such as visiting ancient Mayan ruins and exploring local shops, cafes, and markets. Cancun offers a mix of party and water activities, with a vibrant nightlife scene and luxury all-inclusive resorts.

Which one is better for families?

Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun have a wide range of activities and accommodations that are suitable for families. Cancun may be more developed for tourism and have more activities for children such as theme parks. Playa del Carmen may be more authentic and offer a chance to explore Mayan culture and relax in beautiful surroundings.

How Long does it Take to Get from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun?

It takes approximately 1 hour to get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun by car. The drive is relatively straightforward, and there are plenty of signs along the way to help you find your way. If you’re taking public transportation, the bus ride will take a bit longer (1-1.5 hours), but it’s still a relatively easy trip.

Which is more expensive Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Both Cancun and Playa del Carmen are popular tourist destinations in Mexico, and the cost of a trip can vary depending on the time of year and the type of accommodations and activities you choose. Generally, Cancun is considered to be more expensive than Playa del Carmen. Cancun is known for its luxury all-inclusive resorts, which can be quite expensive, especiall

Top tips for backpacking in Playa Del Carmen and cancun

  1. Plan ahead: Research the best places to stay, things to do, and how to get around before arriving. Make sure to have a rough itinerary of your trip to make the most of your time.
  2. Be budget-conscious: Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun can be a bit pricey, so try to stick to a budget while still enjoying all the cities have to offer. Look for budget-friendly accommodation options, such as hostels or vacation rentals, and try to save money on food by cooking your own meals or eating at street food vendors.
  3. Stay safe: As with any travel, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to stay safe. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables, and be mindful of your personal safety when exploring the city.
  4. Learn some Spanish: Knowing a few basic Spanish phrases will make it much easier to navigate both cities and interact with locals.
  5. Embrace the culture: Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun are great places to experience the culture and history of Mexico. Take the time to visit the ancient Mayan ruins, try traditional Mexican food, and attend cultural festivals and events.
  6. Be prepared for the weather: Both cities have a tropical climate with hot and humid weather throughout the year, so make sure to pack accordingly and protect yourself from the sun.
  7. Take advantage of public transportation: Both cities have a variety of public transportation options, such as buses and colectivos, that are affordable and efficient ways to get around.
  8. Be open to new experiences: Backpacking is all about exploring and trying new things, so be open to new experiences and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone


If you’re trying to decide whether to visit Playa del Carmen or Cancun, this guide should help you make up your mind. Both destinations have their own unique charm and offer a great range of activities for visitors to enjoy. In the end, it really comes down to personal preference as to which one you’ll enjoy more. Whichever destination you choose, you’re sure to have an amazing time!