Cancun or Playa del Carmen? This is the question many people ask themselves when planning their first visit to the Riviera Maya. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice should be based on what you are looking for in your vacation. If you are hesitating between the two, read on and you will find some ideas that will help you choose your destination.

Cancun or Playa del Carmen, which is better?

Cancun

The first difference between the two cities is their size. Cancun is a big city with more than 600,000 inhabitants while Playa, as its inhabitants call it, is still a small city with a little more than 150,000. Cancun offers many more possibilities as a city than its neighboring Mayan Riviera, and is much more lively and with a more urban atmosphere than Playa del Carmen.

In Cancun you will find department stores, restaurants and bars in abundance, many possibilities for daytime and nighttime entertainment, great nightclubs, such as the legendary Cocobongo, and all the possibilities that are expected of a city of its size, all combined with first-class Caribbean beaches.

aesthetic, cancun, and ocean image
Photo by https://www.cancunairporttransportation.com/

There are two distinct areas, the city proper and the hotel zone, which is a strip of land in the shape of a seven, separated from the mainland by a lagoon, where the luxury hotels with the popular all-inclusive plan are located. If you visit Cancun, you will usually stay in this area to enjoy its magnificent beaches. On the other hand, in the city there are good quality urban hotels and also cheap lodging.

Although the quality of most of its establishments is undeniable, from my point of view I find the resorts located in the areas closest to the beach much more interesting. The latter are better integrated into the environment with tropical gardens and less elevated buildings. Cancun gives the impression of having too much concrete.

Cancun is very popular with American tourists, while Playa has a more European feel. That already gives you an idea of what you will find in each place.

In both destinations there are many couples and families, however Cancun stands out in terms of young tourism, American spring breakers, and in general people who are looking to enjoy the night. Its nightlife is spectacular and really surpasses by far what Playa del Carmen can offer you in this aspect.

In terms of beaches I would say that they are somewhat better in Cancun and are also much less crowded, at least those of the resorts, than the urban beaches of its neighbor. They are beaches of white sand and turquoise waters.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, is a former fishing village that in recent years has developed rapidly to the rhythm of its tourist success to become one of the most fashionable destinations in Mexico.

Despite its recent development, it still retains the characteristic air of a Mexican village and the rhythm of Caribbean life. Playa as it is known by its inhabitants and its regulars has a special charm. It is a very quiet city, very clean and cared for, and in recent times has been gaining fame as a chic destination increasing its cache to the detriment of Cancun.

In short, if what you are looking for is to spend the day doing nothing in a resort with an all-inclusive plan, and partying every day, partying, glamour and a more urban tourism Cancun is the best option.

On the other hand, if what you are looking for is to spend your vacation in an elegant and chic place, beach and tranquility during the day, and some partying at night, besides visiting the tourist attractions of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is what you are looking for.