Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is better in 2023? (2023)

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Cancun and Playa del Carmen are two of Mexico's most popular destinations, known for their white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and exciting nightlife.

However, both destinations have their advantages and disadvantages. If you're planning a trip to either location, it's important to understand the differences between them.

This article will give you a detailed comparisonPlaya del Carmen mod CancunSo you can decide which one is best for your next vacation.

Playa del Carmen eller Cancun?

What is Playa del Carmen famous for?

Boutique hotels, shimmering cenotes and a laid-back beach town vibe sum up the Playa del Carmen experience.

The compact urban structure allows for slow walks and easy activities.

Beyond Main Street are natural treasures both inland and at sea.

Families, couples and those who like to travel slowly will find Playa del Carmen a charming Mexican getaway.

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is better in 2023? (1)

What is Cancun famous for?

Cancun has a strong urban tourism industry through shopping malls and luxury resorts. You are surrounded by beaches, pools, international cuisine and water sports.

In the early evening, some of the wildest parties in Mexico take over the wholesome scene, attracting large crowds during university holidays.

Cancun is also known as the gateway to the ancient Maya, allowing you to weave between water adventures and historical excursions.

If you're interested in this sunny destination, be sure to check out our guideplanning a trip to Cancun.


Beach and Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen's main beach off Quinta Avenida is often busy, but off the main shopping street you'll find a quiet, deserted gem.

smaragdstrandListed some of the most beautiful Riviera Maya beaches - pastel blue cenotes that meander through golden sand all the way to the open ocean.

Sunbathing and kitesurfing are very welcome here.

One downside to Playa del Carmen compared to Cancun is that you are playing Russian Roulette.

Cancun's touristy beaches are well equipped, but Playa del Carmen's beaches tend not to be.

Ingen senge, ingen paraplyer, ikke altid en bar og endnu værre - intet badeværelse. Lav din research eller risiker ikke at have de nødvendige faciliteter!

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is better in 2023? (2)

Cancun Beaches

In Cancun, the beach is right outside the door. The luxury resorts in the hotel zone back towards the Caribbean coast, clearly marking the "holiday bubble".

This means direct access to the adjacent blanket of white sand and the abundance of amenities it offers.

You can't miss these private beaches as they are usually staffed with lifeguards, rental vendors, the occasional cabana and casual souvenir stands.

Good news for those who can't stop moving - Playa Chacmool,Playa ForumCancun and other major beaches offer epic water fun.

While little kids splash around on the shoreline, teenagers and young adults ride the waves and stand on jet skis like action stars.

At night, the energy decreases a bit. Couples: Prepare a romantic dinner for two on the beach.

Are there better beaches in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

CancunBeaches open the door to endless water fun.

While both places are amazing in their own right, Cancun will enchant you with its array of beach activities.


Read next post Can you swim in Cancun? everything you need to know

Attractions in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen may have grown from a coastal town to a popular city, but it hasn't lost its laid-back appeal.

These cozy atmospheres are emphasized by the tight main street full of eateries,Mexican fast food restaurant, bars, local and designer shops, beach clubs, entertainment venues ... the list goes on.

But you didn't come to Playa del Carmen to see the city! While there are plenty of excursions that can take you to the outskirts of town, beach time is guaranteed.

Cenotes such as Cenote Azul and Cenote Cristalino are easily accessible by public transport.

Similarly, the adventurous Xcaret Park allows you to enjoy the great outdoors. This theme park is filled with underwater caves, epic water slides, jungle ziplines and amazing night shows.

Playa del Carmen is also the headquarters for day trips.

Excursions to Cozumel are very popular; these tours offer fantastic snorkeling and diving on the second largest coral reef in the world.

Only an hour from Tulumseveral beaches, Cenotes And Ruins.

day trip toChichen itza, Holbox, El Cuyo are also for those interested in history and culture.

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is better in 2023? (3)

Cancun attractions

Cancun is only an hour from Playa del Carmen and day trips overlap.

Some of the best things to do in Cancun include day tripsChichen itzaand Rey Maya Ruins.

Others who enjoy their time on the water take the ferryIsle of Women, or head to nearby Contoy Island.

These trips are often accompanied by adventure activities such as diving in the Banco Chinchorro reef or exploring natural parks.

Tourists who live near the hotel zone can spend a whole day on the beach.

For more variety, hike through Cancun's green lung: Cat Ba Ecological Park.

Families with children will enjoy the kid-friendly petting zoo, while historians may be interested in the Casa Maya Museum.

If beaches and nature reserves are not enough for youcancun itinerary, Ventura Park Cancun andCancuns undervandsmuseumAdd an element of excitement.

There are also plenty of activities on rainy days. Cancun Village, Plaza Las Americas and Plaza Kukulcan are great for souvenir shopping (or new beach gear).

Cancuns Mayan Museum minder om Cancuns rige mayahistorie.

The hotel's entertainment team also plans themed parties and other on-site events - weather not bothering you.

Are there more things to do in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

bothPlaya del Carmen and CancunThere is a wide range of activities and excursions.

Playa del Carmen has this variety. Public transport can take you from beach to town to cenote in minutes.

Cancun's hotel bubbles put a lot of emphasis on beach time, but you can also hit the mall when it's raining.



When it comes to nightlife, Playa del Carmen is actually pretty evenly balanced in size with Cancun.

Nightlife in Playa del Carmen

You might be surprised to know that Playa del Carmen is home to Cancun party legends: Coco Bongo, Mandala,mr frogJust to name a few.

The main shopping street is lively at night, with several large nightclubs, like a big city.

But in most cases,Nightlife in Playa del CarmenIts hallmark is the bar.

From bars with live music to casual beach bars offering drink specials and alfresco seating, they are the main hub for visitors.

Mamita Beach Club often hosts music festivals, of which the BPM Festival and the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival are two of the main stages.

However, what really sets Playa del Carmen's nightlife apart from Cancun's is the grid layout of the main areas.

Great for bar hopping as nightclubs and restaurants are within walking distance. Cancun, not so much.

Cancun nightlife

cancun is synonymousnightlifeEspecially among university students.

Spring break has never been YOLO as bars and nightclubs bring the party to pool and beach festivals.

Yes, those stories of disco nights, free shots, foam parties and non-stop dancing are true.

Best of all, you can be as casual or elegant as you like. Downtown bars are great for a night out, while rooftop bars offer a quieter place for a break.

Dancers and millers can shake their hips all night at clubs like Mandala, The City and Senor Frogs; 11:11 is a club for LGBTQ+ friendly matches.

To escape the madness, opt for a couples sunset cruise.

Is the nightlife better in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Playa del Carmen and CancunBoth have good nightlife options; their main difference is availability.

If you're the kind of person who only lives in one place, Cancun's nightclubs really live up to their name – and well worth a visit.

Playa del Carmen's entertainment venues are all closely clustered together for convenience and restless legs.


Catering and restaurants

Neither Cancun nor Playa del Carmen are known for authentic Mexican food, as their dining scenes are heavily influenced by the tourist crowd.

That's not to say there aren't any, or that the quality is questionable - it's just that you're more likely to find well-known chain restaurants and international menus.

Dining in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen's main shopping street has really fallen victim to tourism.

Large menus posted outside chain restaurants and western international dishes with hefty price tagsgourmet madincluding restaurants.

If you want to get away from Italian and Brazilian food, go further down the block. Real Mexican gems (and at lower prices) can be found a little further from the city center.

Although the layout of Cancun's hotel district is not suitable for shopping restaurants, the concentration of restaurants in one place is very useful.

If you prefer small venues,boutique tacos, vegetarian restaurants and cute cafes, Playa del Carmen is the perfect choice.

Read next Aruba vs Cancun: Which is better for a vacation?

Cancun dining

Cancun's food scene can be divided into two main areas: the hotel zone and downtown Cancun.

While both areas have cozy eateries and fine dining establishments, each has its own favorite flavor.

The tourist crowd takes precedence in the hotel zone, where luxury resorts bring foreign cuisine to the table.

Exotic cuisines range widely, from French to Japanese to Mediterranean, and often come with a dress code and big price tags.

To balance the taste of the outside world,Authentic Mexican foodDo most of the food in town.

Here you can get great value at cheap food prices in Mexico, whether it's at a street food stand,Mexican fast food restaurantOr a brunch cafe.

where to live

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has all-inclusive deals and boutique hotels. There are also many options for a romantic holiday, such asLots of resorts for couplesBesides!

We have a full guide to where to stay if you preferparty atmosphere,luxury resortor even overnightadults only.

Here are some of our favorite places to stay in Playa del Carmen:

The secret Riviera Maroma beach

A touch of white in a green carpet,The secret Riviera Maroma beachAn all-inclusive paradise for adults only.

Branded as the “AAA Five Diamond Resort,” the 500-acre property can be summed up as: romantic and comfortable.

Each room has a modern and warm design with its own furnished balcony or terrace.

Swimming in the 12 smaller pools is permitted, as well as the infinity pool, as is unlimited access to gourmet restaurants and wait-and-see service.

There are lots of secluded corners here, as you can see.

Tip: There is a strict dress code.

Palisander Mayakoba

Palisander MayakobaExtending over various islets in the mangroves, creating an extremely unique enclave.

The 129 villas and suites overlook the Mayakoba Channel, some with private pools and lagoon docks.

The magic continues with personal butler service, beach cruisers and golf carts to transport you to the Forbes #1 spa, Sense Spa.

Palisander has a good balance of adult-only and family-friendly facilities.

Adults and families each have an exclusive beach club and share four swimming pools.

They also offer seven different restaurants, bars and pop-ups that offer everything from Central Mexican breakfast to beachside lunch.

Thompson Playa del Carmen

location is everythingThompson Playa del Carmen, along Quinta Avenida in the vibrant heart of Playa del Carmen.

Not only does the neighborhood have two clubs (perfect for late night gatherings), but it's also just minutes away from the beach and countless restaurants.

Party couples and young travelers will love this small hotel.

It's not just adults, but it has all the amenities you need. The mid-century design is picture-perfect; the rooftop pool is an all-day lounge.

Relax by the pool during the day and change into your bathing suit and dancing shoes at night.

Where to stay in Cancun

Cancun is known for its all-inclusive beach resorts - at least in the hotel zone.

choose fromResort for adults onlyand beautifulSuite med pool.

See our guide on how to decideAll Inclusive ResortIt's right for you, or read on to discover some of our top picks.

Nizuk Hot Springs Resort

Tired of traveling? lying in luxurious beddingNizuk, 29 hectare property near Cancun Airport.

Decorated with elegant, textured furnishings and thoughtful amenities, this is a tranquil retreat.

Choose from the following amenities: two unique beaches, six dining options from Mexican to Mediterranean, a conference and event center, and a wellness facility with beachfront treatment rooms.

There is even a kids club for families.

The 274 suites and villas are surrounded by a nature reserve. Guests have direct access to tropical plants and thriving coral reefs, as well as calm waterways.

The diversity of the landscape offers many outdoor activities, e.gsnorkeling, fishing, golf and diving.

Wyndham Extra Cancun

completely white on the outsideWyndham Extra CancunReally fits the Caribbean vibe.

Open, airy and designed for couples, families and groups of friends.

Your all-inclusive stay begins with an airport shuttle pickup and transfer to this one-stop resort.

Ten restaurants, bars and lounges suit every taste and diet; fitness classes like yoga by the beach can help you balance out these indulgent meals.

Children and teenagers have their own niche, including a pirate-themed splash park and miniature golf.

Couples can find a spot on the beach, which is furnished with chairs, palapas and cabanas. For a mingle, stop by the pool tables filled with tacos and nachos.

Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Lovers and honeymooners will findHyatt Zilara Cancunperfect fit. Why? It is the only hotel with a Romance Concierge to help further entice your partner.

As an adults-only all-inclusive resort, you get all the privacy you need.

The resort is located on the widest beach in the hotel zone with comfortable beach huts on its private grounds.

The elevated pool has spacious suites and balconies facing the Caribbean Sea; all rooms are served by attentive staff.

The same staff will take you to volleyball games, liquor tasting and evening entertainment. For energy, treat yourself to a gourmet meal at one of the Hyatt's six gourmet restaurants.

Read next articleThe 16 best Mexican restaurants in Cancun you must try

costs and budget

Since food and activities cost about the same,Average 7-day budget for two peopleAccommodation options in Playa del Carmen and Cancun depend on accommodation options.

Playa del Carmen offers some very cheap accommodation near the beach, but there are fewer options overall.

There are several accommodation options in Cancun, but budget accommodation is further away from the beach; it can be difficult to enjoy a seaside vacation in Cancun on a budget.

Average budget for a week in Playa del Carmen

The average one-week travel budget for two people to Playa del Carmen isaround $2700.

The details are as follows:

Flight costs -Economy class round-trips average $291 per person, depending on departure point and time of year.

Note that international flights (not departing from the US) may cost more.

Accommodation -Backpacker hostels start as cheap as $15 to $25 per night. night, while short-term rental apartments can go as high as $40.

Basic rooms cost from $30 to $80 per night. night, but more exclusive boutique hotels can run as high as $250. Expect to spend around $1400 per week for accommodations in Cancun.

mad -Meals are usually cheap, with breakfast and street food costing $1-3 per person. meal. Lunch costs maybe $15 and dinner averages $25-$35 along Fifth Avenue.

The Beach Club has a minimum spend fee that ranges from $15 to $30. On average, a couple spends $400 a week on food.

Activity -Playa del Carmen's beaches are free, but admission to historic sites costs $4 to $25. Tour costs are usually around $80-$120 per person. person. If you're taking at least two major trips, expect to spend around $320 for two.

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is better in 2023? (6)

Cancun's average budget for a week

The average weekly travel budget for two people in Cancun isaround $3200.

The details are as follows:

Flight costs -Economy Class round trip costs around $150-350 per person, depending on departure point and time of year.

Note that international flights (not departing from the US) may cost more.

Accommodation -There is a huge difference between budget accommodation and standard accommodation. Average hotels start at $25, with medium double rooms averaging $300-400 per night.

All-inclusive packages start at $500 or more, and VIP suites can go up to $2,000 per night. Expect to spend around $2800 per week for accommodation in Cancun.

mad -Meals are usually cheap, with breakfast and street food ranging from $3 to $5 per meal.

Average prices for lunch and dinner run up to $13, but prices can be higher at fine dining restaurants. The average couple spends $420 a week on food.

Activity -Most daily activities are included in the all-inclusive package, but longer tours can be expensive. Adventure tours range in price from $60 to $150.

Admission to the nightclub starts at $30 per person. If you're going on at least two major trips, expect to spend around $300 for both trips.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun cheap to visit?

Carmen beachIt is cheaper to visit, mostly because accommodation (even accommodation at the beach) is cheaper.

Playa del Carmen and Cancun have similar costs in other categories, such as food and activities.


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