Cancun and Playa del Carmen are tourist paradises with beautiful beaches. They have it all: fun, shopping, joy, excitement, tranquility and security, but of the two, which is more exciting, let’s see which is better Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

What is the difference between Cancun and Playa del Carmen?

They are beautiful places with nature, cultural expressions and many other attractions, but logically each one has its own charms.

Cancun, unlike Playa del Carmen, has an airport, an important advantage in terms of transportation. Playa del Carmen can be reached more easily if you take the ferry from Cozumel.

What is the difference between environment?

In Cancun you will find a more urban, festive and American-style atmosphere, while in Playa del Carmen this is less urban, more rustic and quiet, where the European style predominates.

It does not mean that in Playa del Carmen you will not be able to enjoy night spots, only that in Cancun there is more variety and these are more of a cosmopolitan city.

The hotel zones of Cancun and Playa del Carmen

Cancun has a Hotel Zone where you can enjoy beautiful beaches and go to large shopping centers where you will find clothes and products from the most recognized brands. The style that predominates in this city is more American.

Playa del Carmen has Playacar, Hotel Zone where you will find the main resorts that are in tune with nature, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and many other places of interest.

The beaches of Cancun

Cancun has a greater coastline than Playa del Carmen, which means that its beaches have more kilometers of coastline.

On the beaches of Cancun you will see a beautiful natural environment where turquoise waters predominate, with a Hotel Zone where you can rent umbrellas, awnings, chairs and loungers.

The best way to enjoy the beaches of Cancun is by staying at the hotels in the Hotel Zone, because as many are public, access to them is difficult due to the number of bathers.

Read our guide to all the beaches in Cancun click here to read the guide .

Below a video of a drone of the beaches of Cancun:

The beaches of Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has a less extensive coastline, which is somewhat uncomfortable when there are many visitors. Its beaches are equally beautiful with a turquoise hue that you can explore without staying in a hotel.

On the beaches of Playa, as the inhabitants of Playa del Carmen call this beautiful city, you will not be able to rent umbrellas, awnings, chairs, or lounge chairs. However, some hotels put these resources at the service of their clients.

Below is a video of a drone of the beaches of Playa del Carmen:

hotel variety

Playa del Carmen has beautiful hotels, most of them in harmony with nature because they are built with a beach atmosphere. There are also elegant resorts with spa services and, in general, they are all inclusive.

Many of these lodging places have shacks in the middle of palm trees and a unique natural landscape. You can also choose to stay in a less expensive inn.

Cancun has luxurious hotel chains with concrete buildings, many of them in the largest Hotel Zone in Quintana Roo. Their prices tend to be high, but in the center of the city you will find accommodation with more affordable rates.

Night life

Cancun has many places to enjoy the night: nightclubs, bars and restaurants. You will have an unforgettable time at Coco Bongo, as well as at After Dark Events and Entertainment, Palazzo Cancun and Hunter Bar Cancun.

Playa del Carmen has a much less effervescent nightlife and although in some of its resorts you will have nighttime distraction, the truth is that it is nothing compared to the lively nights of Cancun.

In Playa you can go to the play offered by Cirque du Soleil, an exciting show that tells the adventures of a young woman and her grandfather. In this theater you can try delicious dishes and enjoy a good champagne while you watch the show.

Options of shopping centers and establishments

Cancun has many shopping centers and establishments with products from the best brands and at very affordable prices.

Playa del Carmen is a tourist area in progress that has only just begun to offer more options in terms of malls and other shopping places.

The gastronomy

Although Playa does not have as many chain restaurants as Cancun, its gastronomic variety is extensive and exquisite. The advantage of restaurants in Playa del Carmen is that they are quite close to the beach.

In Cancun you will find large food chains such as Pizza Hut, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Subway, among many others. You also have more traditional, delicious and cheap alternatives such as tacos, which you can find behind the Aloft area.

activities and adventure

The hotels in the Cancun Hotel Zone offer their guests the chance to go on excursions to the peninsula, to Cozumel, to Isla Mujeres, where you can swim with the dolphins, or take a day cruise on a pirate ship with dinner included.

In the city you can also visit the beautiful parks that are in the Yucatan Peninsula: Xcaret Park, Xelca-Há Park, Las Coloradas Natural Park, excursions to Tulum or perhaps you prefer to visit the tallest pyramid in Yucatan, Cobá.

Playa del Carmen also has a wide variety of entertainment activities, with the difference that the costs are lower.

water sports

In Cancun you can practice windsurfing, kayaking, among other sea sports. Also make surface diving excursions to Tulum.

In Playa del Carmen you can practice snorkeling, paddle surfing, surfing and more beach activities.

Where is better to stay in Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

It will depend on what you plan to do on your trip. If your intention is to enjoy the beach and nightlife, get to know Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox, better stay in Cancun.

If what you are looking for are excursions, taking the ferry to visit Isla Cozumel and discover the largest reefs on the planet, in addition to enjoying the beaches, it will be better to stay in Playa del Carmen.

If you are looking for an all-inclusive hotel so you don’t have to worry about services, Cancun has many more options than Playa. The cheapest are in the center of the city, far from the beach, something that does not happen in Playa del Carmen.

Which beach is better Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Both cities have beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters in a turquoise blue hue and very white sand. However, there are differences between them.

In Playa del Carmen beaches there are sandy areas with crystal clear waters and others with a turquoise hue, some considered semi-virgin. The atmosphere is much calmer.


Access to the beaches of Playa del Carmen is less restricted because there is a prudent distance between the hotels and the sea.

In Cancun the opposite happens, the proximity of the hotels greatly limits access to the beaches of the Hotel Zone.

What is more beautiful Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Playa del Carmen and Cancún are very beautiful cities, so beauty will be a matter of taste.

For those seeking modernity, Cancun will be very nice; while for those who want a quieter place without the concrete that characterizes Cancun, Playa will be a much nicer place.

Where is better to live Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Living in Playa del Carmen

The tranquility and security to live is what characterizes Playa del Carmen, a city that despite its rapid tourist growth maintains the charm of the fishing village that it once was.

Fifth Avenue is the best known and busiest street in the city and that will make it easier for you to get the places you want.

As for housing, it is very easy to find a house in Playa. There are various models and prices. There are two and three bedrooms with a base price of 900 million pesos. You can go to Residencial Marsella II, a place where there are houses with up to two levels.

Playa has a multicultural character due to its many tourists, especially Europeans.

Living in Cancun

Cancun’s growth is rapid, so finding a job to live will not be a problem.

The streets and avenues of the city have been modified so that people can move more safely and easily. In addition, its cosmopolitan style and shopping centers, clubs, bars, landscapes and large residential complexes make it an excellent option to live.

Cancun has well-equipped hospital centers to serve the population in the face of any eventuality.

Which Coco Bongo is better Cancun or Playa del Carmen

Both are magnificent to enjoy for their excellent acrobatic shows and unparalleled imitations of artists and shows in the best Las Vegas style.

Some visitors say that the Cancun branch has few service personnel and is too small for the number of people who visit it, which bothers to dance.

Below is a video of the Coco Bongo in Cancun:

While the Coco Bongo in Playa del Carmen has less crowds, so it is more comfortable to dance and walk.

Below is a video of Coco Bongo in Playa del Carmen:

Who is Playa del Carmen better for?

Playa is better for those looking for a place full of natural beauty but without so much modernity, rather a place with shorter, rustic structures in harmony with nature.

If you are looking for tranquility and a place where there are multiple cultures, especially the European, Playa del Carmen is ideal for you.

Distance between Cancun and Playa del Carmen?

The distance between Cancun and Playa del Carmen is 68 kilometers.

How long is it from Cancun to Playa del Carmen?

The approximate time between these two cities is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Everything will depend on the traffic and the type of transport in which you go.

Where is Cancun or Playa del Carmen cheaper?

Cancun tourism is much more developed than that of Playa de Carmen, which makes the city an international point of reference and therefore a more expensive place.

Playa del Carmen is a much cheaper option.

What to do in Playa del Carmen cheap?

If you want to eat cheap, forget Fifth Avenue. In places like the Food Market on Av. 10 you will find cakes, chilaquiles, ice cream parlors, European food and another extensive gastronomic variety.

Kaxapa Factory and El Tenedor are other good places to eat without spending much.

For 65 pesos you can visit the Archaeological Zone of Tulum. Another option is to visit the Island of Cozumel. In Playa you will find ferries that will charge you 69 MXN.

As for nights out, there are several places at affordable costs: Don Mezcal Bar, Salón Salsanera Raíces and La Reina Roja, are some of them.

Visit Punta Esmeralda, a beach very close to Playa del Carmen. Go there by bus, taxi or in your own car, which you can park in its free parking lot. There are food stalls with prices from 20 pesos and up.

Another cheap option in Playa del Carmen is to visit Cenote Azul, in the Rivera Maya, for 100 pesos the entrance fee. Another activity is to get to know Tulum without a tour.

Where is Playa del Carmen?

Playa del Carmen is south of Cancun and southeast of Mexico. It is one of the cities in the state of Quintana Roo and one of the main tourist sites that make up the Riviera Maya.

Where is Cancun?

Cancun is to the east of the Caribbean Sea. To the west it borders the Lázaro Cárdenas municipality and to the northeast, Yucatán. There is also Quintana Roo and it is 70 kilometers from Playa del Carmen.

What is the best area to stop in Cancun?

The best area to be in Cancun is the Hotel Zone crossed by Boulevard Kukulcán. There you can enjoy 5-star hotels, restaurants, clubs and places of interest. You can also stop at Downtown Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa Mujeres or Puerto de Juárez.

What are the best beaches in Cancun?

This beautiful tourist destination has paradisiacal beaches that in total cover 22 kilometers. In the Hotel Zone there are public beaches with very white sand and turquoise waters. We see the following list:

Beautiful beach

It is 4 km from the Hotel Zone and is one of the closest to downtown Cancun. Playa Linda is of great beauty and you can go on diving excursions there.

From the sandbank you will be able to observe the pier and how ferries enter and leave to and from Isla Mujeres.

Tortugas Beach Cancun

It is one of the smallest beaches in Cancun with a festive atmosphere and waters that allow bungee jumping, volleyball, swimming and snorkeling. In addition, you can enjoy the sun while having a cocktail.

Ballenas Beach Cancun

It is at km 4 of the Hotel Zone. Its atmosphere is the opposite of what you will find in Playa Tortugas, so if you want to relax, this beach is for you. However, its currents are quite strong because it is in the open sea.

lobster beach

One of the most beautiful that Cancun has. Calm and turquoise waters with very white sands, where you can practice volleyball and soccer. From its dock you can take a tour to go to Isla Mujeres and swim with the dolphins. It is at Km 5 of the Hotel Zone.

Pearls Beach

Located at km 2.5 of the Hotel Zone and like Playa Langosta, it is ideal to share with the family while enjoying the tranquility.

Cancun Beach

Located in a very crowded area of ​​the Hotel Zone. Its waters are shallow and calm, which makes it an ideal space to share with the whole family.

Nizuc Beach

It is at km 25 of the Hotel Zone, which compared to other beaches, is farther from downtown Cancun. What has the advantage is that it is less frequented.

What is there to do in Playa del Carmen Cancun?

You can enjoy beaches, stay in excellent resorts, get to know nearby islands (Isla Mujeres, Cozumel), practice sea sports, enjoy cenotes and lagoons, go to Coco Bongo, go on excursions, among other fun things.

What are the best public beaches in Cancun?

Beautiful beach

  • marlin beach
  • Whale Beach
  • Dolphin Beach
  • lobster beach
  • Turtle Beach
  • Pearls Beach
  • Punta Nizic Beach
  • Blue Gull Beach
  • Caracol Beach, Las Palmeras
  • Chac Mool Beach

What to visit in Cancun and the Riviera Maya?

There are many places to visit, especially the natural ones. You can go to the Coba pyramid, take excursions in Cichen Itzá, visit the Xkekén cenote, the Bacalar Lagoon, the Archaeological Zone of Tulum, Cozumel Island, among many other things.

What beaches are there in Playa del Carmen?

In Playa del Carmen there are exuberant beaches with archaeological zones, luxurious resorts, you can practice water sports and get to know the largest reef in the world. Let’s look at the following list:

Mommies Beach

This beach has one of the most festive atmospheres in the Riviera Maya because, among other things, you can feel the adrenaline with sailboats, parachutes, banana boats and jet skis.

The white sand and turquoise waters make it one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. It is located just 1 km from the Quintana Roo pier.

Paradise Beach Tulum

A few kilometers from the archaeological ruins of Tulum you will find this beach in Playa del Carmen. The beautiful blue of its waters, the white sand, the palm trees, all this and more awaits you in this magical place.

Also read our ultimate guide to Playa Paraíso Tulum

Isla Mujeres North Beach

In addition to enjoying crystal clear waters with shades of blue, you will also be able to see beautiful sunsets and you will have many kilometers to walk and enjoy an unparalleled landscape.

Akumal Beach

Akumal Beach, (Place of Turtles) is an attraction that you should not miss when you go to Playa del Carmen. On these coasts many species of turtles spawn.

Also read our guide on the 12 best hotels in Akumal to stay

Sian Ka’an Beach

Considered a nature reserve in the Riviera Maya. You can go to this place if you want to know what the space of the Mexican Caribbean Sea was like before man intervened.

Its access is somewhat restricted, even complicated, but the place is well worth the effort.

Xpuha Beach

An ideal beach for the whole family due to its shallow depth. It is 25 km from Playa del Carmen and has tourist services. It has palm trees, very white sand and crystal clear waters.

Punta Maroma Beach

On this beach with calm waters and a beautiful shade of blue, you will find tourist services such as a spa, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, kayaking, and horseback riding. There are also resorts where you can stay.

It is north of Playa del Carmen, specifically 10 km from the city.

Holbox Beach

Semi-virgin beach with crystal clear waters where it is very likely that you will swim with the whale shark. It is 35 km from Playa del Carmen and they offer several tourist services.

Also read our guide on how to get to Holbox and what to do in this paradise

Where is Cancun Quintana Roo located?

Cancún is in the Mexican southeast, specifically in the Quintana Roo Municipality of the Benito Juárez Municipality, 1,297 km from Mexico City.

Where to walk in Cancun?

There are several places where you can walk while you are in Cancun, so you will get to know not only its beaches, but also its history and culture.

Let’s see some places to walk in Cancun.

The Cancun Malecon

This is one of the most beautiful spaces in the city where you can walk, skate, ride a bike and share with family and friends. You will see hotels, shops and beautiful residential complexes.

You can go to the Malecón de Cancún with your car since it has parking. It is between Boulevard Kukulcán and Bonampak in Cancún.

The Craft Market 28

This market covers a block and in it you will find local crafts, food, jewelry and many other things. It is on Xel-ha street, Supermanzana 28, 77501, Cancun.

CC Plaza Bonita

Located at Calle Xel Ha, Supermanzana 28, Cancun 77509, Quintana Roo. It has a colonial aspect typical of Mexican culture.

In Plaza Bonita you will find the first audiology clinic that Cancun had, as well as shops with typical clothing from the region and many other things.

Palapa Park

Park at 77500, Tulipanes LB, 22, Cancún, Quintana Roo, where you can sit down to share with other people while you have a drink or eat something. You can also admire the crafts in the places that are around.

Cancun Planetarium Complex

Enjoy for hours in this small science center with an observatory and a gallery about the Mayan ecosystem and Yucatan. You will know about the Universe and its functions.

The Cancun Planetarium has the following areas: the Water Museum, the Digital Dome, the Museography, the Didactic Classrooms, the Hall of the Planets, the Virtual Reality Classroom and the Auditorium. The cost for Mexicans and foreigners is 50 and 125 pesos, respectively.

Visit it at Av. Palenque s/n, M05, Lt 1, 21, 77505 Cancún, Quintana Roo.

Underwater Museum of Art in Cancun (MUSA)

This museum is between Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. You will find it at Cerrada Las Golondrinas 24, Alfredo Bonfil, 77560 Cancún, Quintana Roo.

The complex, the largest of its kind, has more than 500 sculptures submerged in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. Its purpose is to combine art and environmental science.

How is money handled in Cancun?

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Cancun, but the dollar, an openly accepted currency, is also in circulation.

What to do for free in Cancun?

Visit Av. Tulum

Take a walk along Av. Tulum and you will see restaurants, bars, small markets and other places of interest, so you can learn more about downtown Cancun.

Enjoy the waters of the Nizuc River

You can bathe in the Nizuc River, whose waters are turquoise. It is a family place where you can go with your car. Bring your food or eat what you catch.

Palapa Park

Visit it in the heart of Cancun, just 1 km from Boulevard Kukulcán. It is the main square where you can meet with family and friends, to watch musical shows and mimes.

In the surroundings there are places where they sell handicrafts, fresh water or juices.

Cancun Mayan Museum

In the Hotel Zone is the Mayan Museum of Cancun, specifically on Boulevard Kukulcán, km 16.5, Hotel Zone, 77500, Cancun. There you will observe the Mayan culture through beautiful natural spaces, from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

What’s in Cancun?

In Cancun there are a large number of natural and cultural attractions that make a trip to this city in the state of Quintana Roo worthwhile.

It has beautiful beaches, lagoons and cenotes, theme parks, golf courses, museums and science centers, the Cancun Malecón and many other things you will want to know.

What can I do in the Cancun Hotel Zone?

You can enjoy its beautiful beaches, stay in one of the many hotels, go to restaurants, shopping centers, visit the El Rey archaeological zone, take tours to get to know Isla Mujeres and swim with dolphins; go to Cancun Spot, play sports on the beach and go to Coco Bongo.

How much is a beer in Cancun?

Prices may vary depending on location, brand and size of beer. But in general you can find them at USD 2.0; on Big Macs, $4.0.

How much is a beer in Playa del Carmen?

In Playa, prices also vary, although they tend to be cheaper than in Cancun.

In a cafe you can find a beer for USD 1.70; in some bars, at USD 1.60 and, of course, there are more expensive places where you will find them at USD 4.50.

Now you know where both cities are, also what differences there are between them. It’s up to you to answer what is better Cancun or Playa del Carmen.


See also:

  • Read here our guide on the 10 best all-inclusive hotels in Cancun to stay
  • Click to find out more about how much money you need to travel to Cancun
  • See our guide to find out what is the best time to travel to Cancun and why.

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