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things to do in cancun Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: Which city to choose for your vacation?

things to do in cancun Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: Which city to choose for your vacation?

Playa del Carmen and Cancun are two major tourist destinations in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Located to the east, these two cities are both in the state of Quinatana Roo, and are part of the Riviera Maya. When comparing Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, there are many things to consider. Perhaps the most important question in choosing your vacation spot is what you are looking for. Neither Cancún nor Playa del Carmen is better or worse. It all depends on what you want on vacation.

Some differences between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen

First, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are simply different places in terms of size. Cancun’s population is around 725,000, while Playa del Carmen’s is around 175,000. Cancun has been a hot and growing hotspot since the 1980s, while Playa del Carmen has seen much more recent, beginning in the late 1990s and booming in the early 2000s.

Because they are two different places, you will find a different atmosphere, activities, people and services. Although Cancun is often considered a party spot, there’s a lot more to do than you might think. On the other hand, Playa del Carmen is much calmer and quieter than Cancún. Less urban, “Playa” as the locals say, is just beginning to become THE essential tourist destination of the Riviera Maya.

Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: Nightlife

Cancun is known as a popular party destination. When comparing the two, Cancun certainly has a bigger nightlife scene, as it’s a bigger city with a more established party community. If you’re looking to party all day and all night, Cancun is definitely the best place.

However, due to the recent growth in tourism in Playa del Carmen, there is also a fairly solid club mix. Especially in the tourist areas of the city, you can find clubs open all night, music… You won’t find as many choices as in Cancún, but you certainly won’t be bored at night in Playa Del Carmen.

If you’re specifically looking to go to Mexico to party, Cancun definitely wins in this category.

Playa VS Cancún

Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: Shopping

Cancun and Playa del Carmen both have areas of the city dedicated to shopping. In Playa del Carmen you will find the tourist street of 5th Avenue. If you are in town, you absolutely must visit this area. It’s one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, and you probably won’t be able to avoid this avenue if you come here as it concentrates everything.

In Cancún, you will find “La Isla”, a fairly large shopping center in town. It’s much bigger than 5th Avenue, and you’ll find more chain stores and name brands here. Shopping in Cancun is just different, you can’t really compare them. While Cancun has many more options and malls with big-name designers and brands, Playa del Carmen offers a smoother shopping experience with more local artists and authentic Mexico products.

Playa VS Cancún

Playa del Carmen vs. Cancun: The Beaches

In either of these cities, beaches are a big factor. On Caribbean waters, these beaches offer gorgeous white sand, amazing weather, and some of the best snorkeling in Mexico. Some beaches in Cancun are very crowded. Other beaches, like Playa Delfines, are a little quieter. If you’re in Cancun or just outside of town, you’ll likely find beaches full of tourists, locals, or both.

Playa del Carmen also has quite a few busy beaches. The town’s main beach (Mamitas) is often dotted with tourists, locals and vendors. It is definitely not a quiet beach. However, it’s easier to hop out of town and find a quiet beach near Playa del Carmen. You can get off at Playacar, down to Puerto Morelos, or down to Akumal for real peace. If you just move away from the center of the town of Playa, you can find a quiet place on the beach. You can also take the ferry to the island of Cozumel, where there are more activities like water parks, jetskis, and more!

Comparing the beaches of Playa del Carmen and Cancún, we have to give theadvantage in Playa del Carmen. However, it is important to note that the beaches of Cancún are also impressive!

Playa VS Cancún

Cancun or Playa Del Carmen: Bars & restaurants

In this category, clear advantage to Playa Del Carmen. Indeed, Playa has a city center and tourist center on a human scale, all the restaurants / bars / clubs are gathered in the same place in the city. It is pleasant to go out at night, walk on Quinta avenida and its surroundings and have a multitude of choices of restaurants and type of cuisine.

Playa VS Cancún


To answer the Cancun or Playa Del Carmen question, we highly recommend Playa Del Carmen for your vacation. This city is perfect in every way, it’s finally a perfect little mix between the big Cancun and the little Tulum. You will find a city center still on a human scale, the main attractions of the city are concentrated in the same place which is very pleasant. Moreover, “playa” is ideally located, halfway to many tourist attractions (Tulum, Coba, Chichen Itza, Isla Mujeres…).

Good holidays ! ?

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