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Cancun Vs. Playa Del Carmen – Which Is Better For Your Next All-Inclusive Vacation?

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It can be surprising for some travelers to learn that Playa del Carmen isn’t just a mini-Cancun. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why travelers should choose one over the other, and it’s not as simple as A is nicer than B.

Both offer fantastic all-inclusive resorts, but there is more to these destinations than the poolside bar.

Cancun Vs. Playa Del Carmen - Which Is Better For Your Next All Inclusive Vacation


It’s only right to start off with the certifiable world-tourism powerhouse of Cancun. This ridiculously popular city was recently confirmed as this year’s most popular foreign destination for Americans, not a huge surprise as it’s a title they’ve held for decades.


For travelers, getting to Cancun is an absolute breeze. The Cancun International Airport has a staggering number of direct flights to cities all over the United States, many of which fly daily.

On top of this, the airport is just a short 20-30 minute journey for visitors staying in the hotel zone.

There were a lot of issues recently on the main highway between the airport and downtown while a huge infrastructure project was being built, with some travelers spending 4 hours on a journey that used to be just 30-40 minutes.

Thankfully, these issues have been mostly resolved, and the journey has become a lot more predictable.

Beach view at the Cancun hotel zone


The beaches in Cancun are absolutely stunning, with white sand and turquoise-blue water; it is picture-perfect for a beach vacation.

An issue some travelers may run into here, though, is the nature of how accessible these beaches are. Many areas are private to whichever resort has that particular piece of coastline.

The majority of resorts aren’t strict about travelers passing through or enjoying the area, but travelers may find it difficult to snap up a sun lounger in front of resorts that aren’t their own.

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Sun loungers on a beach in Cancun


Cancun, without a doubt, has some of the best resorts in the world. The hospitality and service travelers can expect in Cancun is fantastic, and amenities tend to be so numerous that travelers may struggle to experience everything in one trip!

Choice is important to travelers, and Cancun understands this perfectly. From adults-only party resorts to kid-friendly family super-complexes, there’s a place for every vacationer here.

Furthermore, while the top resorts in Cancun are far from cheap, there are plenty of mid-price and super budget-friendly offerings for travelers.

A resort in Cancuns hotel zone


Cancun is probably the greatest party destination outside of the Spanish island of Ibiza.

Every type of music is catered for in the city, and many of the nightclubs have developed fantastical themes and reputations over the years thanks to having healthy competition for traveler’s customs.

The nightlife in Cancun likely doesn’t need to be sold to many Americans. After all, this destination has become a rite of passage for many during their spring break celebrations.

A relationship that tends to stand the test of time, with many returning year after year to mark the occasion.

Coco bongo nightclub in Cancun


A lot is made of the security situation in Cancun. The city has had its fair share of issues with crime over the years, but a proactive attitude from the local government keeps things mostly in check.

Even at Cancun’s darkest, it still ranks highly for safety, in fact, even safer than many American cities. A fact that is often hard to believe for travelers who haven’t experienced the city first-hand.

Issues almost only reach travelers when they get involved in narcotics or fail to show the locals the same respect as they’re given.

If traveling to Cancun, take the same precautions as at home, and 99 times out of 100, the vacation will be completely care-free.

Police Officer Patrolling a Beach in Cancun, Mexico with Tourists in the Background

Playa Del Carmen

Often seen as the little brother of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a lot more than just an overflow destination.

The vibe here is very different, and although its population has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, it still retains much of the calm beach atmosphere it first became famous for.


Around an hour south of Cancun International Airport, getting here is far from being a trek. Depending on traffic, it can sometimes be faster to get here than to the north end of the Cancun hotel zone.

But even with the journey, Playa del Carmen is more than worth the extra fuss. The city is much less commercialized and built up than its northern neighbor, two aspects that allow the city to preserve the core of its more relaxed vibe.

Beachgoers in Playa del Carmen in packed location


A point of contention between cheerleaders of each destination, Playa del Carmen is sometimes accused of not having the same vast strands of beach as Cancun.

But it’s much more about perspective than many would admit. Playa del Carmen’s beaches in the main city area are just as enticing as those in Cancun, and on top of this, the city is also just a short taxi or shuttle bus to some wonderfully beautiful beaches.

These public beaches usually are much less crowded, with the natural world as a backdrop instead of towering resorts. This is a sight that can’t be found in Cancun’s hotel zone.

Aerial view of a popular Playa del Carmen white-sand beach


Those in search of a party and a good time aren’t left out in the cold here; Playa del Carmen has plenty of great bars and nightclubs to keep the lively crowds entertained.

But that isn’t the selling point of Playa del Carmen; much of the entertainment on offer here is geared towards families and couples searching for a stress-free vacation.

playa del carmen fifth avenue


Playa del Carmen has always been just as safe as Cancun.

There have been some rocky incidents over the past few years in the city, but overall, it is still an extremely safe destination.

Like Cancun, if travelers exercise the same caution as they would at home, then having a problem-free vacation here is a piece of cake.

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Bobby Simmons

Friday 30th of June 2023

Unless the law has changed there is no such thing as a private beach in Mexico. You can not pass through private property to gain access but you can't be prevented from walking anywhere along the beach. Yes, you have zealous personnel who may attempt to chase you off the beach at certain resorts it's not legal unless you come off the beach to their private property which cannot include the beach. This is not legal advice.