Cancun is by far the most popular vacation destination in the Mexican Riviera, but Isla Mujeres is fast gaining in popularity. Each offers a unique vibe and a range of attractions that visitors love.
But deciding where to stay can be hard, so here we highlight some of the best aspects of each location, to help you answer the question: Cancun v Isla Mujeres: which vacation destination is better?
Which is easiest to get to?
Without a doubt, getting to Cancun is easier than Isla Mujeres. Cancun’s Hotel Zone is just a half-hour transfer from the airport, but getting to Isla Mujeres requires an additional 20-minute ferry crossing.
Conclusion: It’s an easy win for Cancun.
Isla Mujeres: 0
Which has the best beaches?
This is a tough one. Cancun has more beaches than Isla Mujeres, but its beaches are more prone to sargassum, and some have large waves making swimming less than ideal. Isla Mujeres has only one main beach at Playa Norte, but it’s one of the best in Mexico, with calm waters and low levels of seaweed.
Conclusion: Let’s call this one a draw.
Isla Mujeres: 1
Which has the best accommodation?
Cancun has hundreds of resorts to choose from, ranging from budget hostel-style accommodation to ultra-luxury sector resorts. All budgets can be catered to and, as Cancun’s hotel zone was purpose-made, most hotels offer beachfront locations or views over the attractive Nichupté Lagoon.
Isla Mujeres also has a great range of accommodations, from budget to luxury, although resorts tend to be smaller. Service can be more hit-and-miss, although you are also likely to have more authentic interactions on the island than in Cancun.
Conclusion: For facilities, beachfront locations, and the range of options, Cancun wins this one.
Isla Mujeres: 1
Which has the best restaurants?
Cancun – at least the Hotel Zone – does have quality restaurants, but most are inside all-inclusive resorts. Unless you’re willing to forfeit your premium all-inclusive rate and pay to eat outside your resort, you’ll likely only experience dining at your own hotel’s restaurants.
Isla Mujeres is less all-inclusive oriented meaning there are more opportunities to sample the fantastic local restaurants on the island – and this is no small consideration, as the foodie scene on Isla Mujeres is highly rated.
Conclusion: Isla Mujeres wins this round, with an extraordinary number of quality restaurants for an island of its size.
Isla Mujeres: 2
Which has the most things to do?
This depends on what you would class as ‘things to do’. Resorts famously have a vast array of activities laid on, whether that’s watersports, kids clubs, workshops, or evening shows. And once you’ve exhausted your resort’s activities, there is of course Cancun’s famous nightlife, which is abundant at Punta Cancun. The city of Cancun itself is pretty low on things to do, but it’s a great jumping-off point for day trips elsewhere in the region.
Isla Mujeres is small but has its fair share of activities. Doing a circuit of the island on a golf cart, taking a catamaran cruise, or swimming with whale sharks are all on your doorstep on an Isla Mujeres vacation. However, hotels and resorts tend to be more low-key, so you have to make your own entertainment.
Conclusion: This has to be a tie. Cancun has abundant in-resort activities, whereas Isla Mujeres has more to do outside your resort.
Isla Mujeres: 3
Which has the most charm?
Of course, this is a question of personal preference, but generally, Cancun isn’t a vacation destination that’s known for its charm. Luxury resorts, faultless service, and endless facilities – yes. Charm – not so much.
Isla Mujeres is more charming, with colorful island-style houses, independent stores, and restaurants, plus more opportunities to interact with locals while on vacation.
Conclusion: Isla Mujeres wins this round, as – all things considered – it is the more charming of the two destinations.
Isla Mujeres: 3
And The Winning Destination Is…Cancun
Overall, Cancun wins this vacation destination battle – but only by a small margin. Cancun has been honing its vacation offering for many decades, so with the scale of its resorts, and the fact it was purpose-built for tourism, it would take a lot to shake Cancun from its top spot.
However, Isla Mujeres is also a noteworthy destination in its own right, offering an ever-growing array of accommodations and activities, as well as a lauded food scene and an air of charm that Cancun is unable to deliver.
At the end of the day, which destination is best is a personal choice. But wherever you choose to visit, we’re sure you’ll have a great vacation.
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