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With so many destinations in Mexico, it can be difficult to decide which place to choose. Do you choose the laid-back vibes of Puerto Vallarta or the glamor and nightlife of Cabo? Well, if you’re comparing Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve experienced almost all there is to experience in Mexico, and these two destinations are vastly different.
These are both popular options if you’re looking for a Mexican vacation. Both places have something unique and a lot to offer tourists. Both destinations offer beautiful beaches, delicious food, and plenty of activities. However, they are suited for different types of travelers. So, which one is right for you? In this blog post, we’ll compare some of the key differences between these two Mexican destinations so that you can make the best decision for your next vacation.
Bottom Line Up Front
Cabo and wPuerto Vallarta are excellent holiday destinations on the Pacific side of Mexico. However, they are pretty different in terms of the vibe they give and the activities offered. One is much more geared to adventurous tourists, while the other provides a more authentic and relaxing retreat. I prefer Puerto Vallarta because it has a smaller-town feel without all the super touristy features, beautiful beaches, and plenty of ocean activities.
Main Differences Between Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Some of the main differences between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas are:
- Puerto Vallarta is located on the Bay of Banderas, whereas Cabo is located at the peninsula’s southern tip.
- Puerto Vallarta has a more traditional Mexican feel, whereas Cabo has a more modern and touristy vibe.
- Cabo is better for those who want to party, whereas Puerto Vallarta is better for those who want to relax.
- Puerto Vallarta has more relaxing beaches, whereas the beaches in Cabo are more adventurous.
- Puerto Vallarta is generally cheaper than Cabo.
Where is Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, in the state of Jalisco. The city is a resort town and is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Puerto Vallarta has something for everyone – whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation or an action-packed adventure. I found it to be the perfect mixture of adventure and relaxation.
Who Puerto Vallarta is suited for
If you want a carefree vacation by the sea, Puerto Vallarta is the place to go. The city has a laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of activities keep you occupied, such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, sailing, and windsurfing. Whether you’re a budget-conscious traveler, a digital nomad wanting to spend a month in Mexico, a couple looking for some alone time together, or a traveler looking for some culture and history, Puerto Vallarta will keep you occupied. I also found that it has excellent food. When visiting Mexico, beaches are high on every visitor’s list! So, let’s look at some of the highlights of Puerto Vallarta first.
Puerto Vallarta: The Highlights
When you think of Puerto Vallarta, you may think of palm tree-lined beaches and small cobblestone streets. The pacific gem is oozing with charm and I’ll go over some of its specifics below.
The waters around Puerto Vallarta are a little calmer than those around Cabo. However, it’s still warm enough to swim in! The beaches here are well worth a visit. Playa de Los Muertos is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta, located a short drive from town. It’s recognized for its lovely golden sand and transparent waters. In comparison, Playa Las Gemelas is the ideal beach for those who want a more laid-back ambiance. Located just outside town, this private beach is a great place to unwind and soak up the sun.
Puerto Vallarta’s nightlife is centered around the Zona Romantica, also known as Old Town. This area is packed with bars, clubs, and restaurants, making it the perfect place to go for a night out on the town. One of the most popular nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta is La Santa. This club is known for its great music, friendly staff, and amazing cocktails. If you’re looking for a more lively atmosphere, then check out Mandala Beach Club. This open-air club is located right on the beach and is the perfect place to dance the night away.
Unfortunately, there are no ancient Mayan Ruins in the vicinity of Puerto Vallarta, but there is a lot of cultural history to enjoy. The Hacienda de San Sebastián is one of the most visited historical sites in Puerto Vallarta. This former sugar plantation has since been converted into a museum, and it’s an ideal location to learn more about the history of Puerto Vallarta. Plus, you will not be disappointed in Puerto Vallarta if you enjoy art. Some of Mexico’s most renowned artists call this place home, and there are many art galleries to choose from.
If you’re interested in discovering the traditional Mexican culture, Puerto Vallarta is the place to go. There are several markets to explore where you can find everything from fresh produce to handcrafted items. The Mercado Municipal, one of the most well-known markets in Puerto Vallarta, is located in the city center and is ideal for sampling typical Mexican cuisine. The Museo del Nayar is a must-see if you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history. The museum is dedicated to the history of the Nayar people, who are the original inhabitants of Puerto Vallarta.
Pros of Puerto Vallarta
- It’s a great place to learn about traditional Mexican culture.
- There are several markets to explore, where you can find everything from fresh produce to handcrafted items.
- The Museo del Nayar is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about the city’s history.
- Beautiful natural environment.
- The Foodie scene is delicious, and you can easily find something unique to eat.
Cons of Puerto Vallarta
- It doesn’t have any ancient ruins like some other Mexican destinations.
- It can be pretty crowded during peak tourist season.
- More of an older, small town, so you won’t find a ton of common comforts.
The best things to do in Puerto Vallarta
What are some of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s greatest things to do? This city has a variety of things that you can do, from gorgeous beaches to bustling bazaars and everything in between. Here are some of the top things to do in Puerto Vallarta:
Los Muertos Beach
Los Muertos is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta, and for a good reason – the sparkling water and soft sand make it a perfect place to relax. The beach is also great for swimming, boogie boarding, and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try parasailing!
Puerto Vallarta Malecon
The Puerto Vallarta Malecon is a must-see when you’re in the city. This oceanfront promenade stretches for over two kilometers and is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll, people watch, or relax by the water. It’s a fantastic location to grab a bite to eat or have a couple of drinks while watching the city go by. Don’t forget to try the ice cream stalls along here.
Rhythms of the Night
Look no further than Rhythms of the Night for a zany circus experience. This dinner and show are held in an open-air amphitheater in the jungle that lasts around an hour. You’ll be delighted while eating a delicious dinner and being entertained by performers such as acrobats, fire dancers, and live musicians. It’s a true one-of-a-kind experience that you won’t find anywhere else!
Playa las Gemelas
If you’re looking for a secluded beach to relax on, Playa las Gemelas is the perfect spot. This hidden gem is located just south of Puerto Vallarta and can only be accessed by boat. The journey there is half the fun, and once you arrive, you’ll find yourself in a paradise of white sand beaches and crystal-clear water. It’s the perfect place to spend a day swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. This is the ideal location to unwind and relax away from Puerto Vallarta’s bustle.
Go Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is popular in Puerto Vallarta since it’s surrounded by a jungle. There are several routes to explore, and you’ll be able to see some fantastic sights and maybe even some wildlife, like monkeys. Plus, if you’re feeling daring, there’s always zip lining to try!
Explore the Old Town
The cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and distinctive atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta’s Historic District make it a delightful destination. It’s the ideal location to meander around, shop for souvenirs, and have a bite to eat. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most famous monuments in Puerto Vallarta, should not be missed.
Take a Boat Tour
A boat trip is an excellent method to see Puerto Vallarta from the sea. The city’s skyline and some of the adjacent islands are well worth the trip into the water. There are several boat trips to select from, so you’re sure to discover one that appeals to your preferences and budget. There’s a boat trip for seeing the sights, fishing, or snorkeling.
Go Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is another thing to do in Puerto Vallarta. There are numerous dive sites to discover, and you can even swim with dolphins, which is a fantastic experience. Numerous diving institutions will teach you the fundamentals if you’ve never scuba-dived before. You’ll be able to participate in group dives and explore the underwater environment once you’ve been certified.
See Mexican Street Art
Some of the world’s greatest street art can be seen in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The city is covered with murals and graffiti, so keep your eyes open! El Faro Lighthouse, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town are among the most popular locations to view street art.
Visit a Tequila Distillery
Puerto Vallarta is in Mexico’s tequila-producing heartland, so it’s the ideal hunting ground for a distillery. You can learn everything there is to know about how tequila is produced, as well as try some of the numerous varieties created. Several distilleries are available, so you can discover your new favorite tequila. I mean, can you go to Mexico and not try tequila? Of course not!
Mexico is a haven for food lovers, and Puerto Vallarta is no different. A food tour of Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful way to sample some of the city’s local specialties. You’ll be able to try various foods, from classic Mexican cuisine to contemporary fusion. You should also try as much seafood as possible while here because you won’t find any like it anywhere else.
Where is Cabo San Lucas?
Cabo San Lucas, or just Cabo, is located on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Cabo is known for its beautiful beaches, parties, and luxury resorts, making it a popular beach vacation spot. Although it’s a little touristy, it’s ideal if your main reason for visiting is to have an adventure, relax in a high-class resort, or party the night away.
Who Cabo is suited for
Cabo San Lucas is perfect for those looking for a luxury vacation with the option to party the night away or do something unique. The city is home to some of the best resorts in Mexico, and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy, such as golfing, shopping, whale watching, and exploring the nearby desert. It’s also ideal for those looking for all their home comforts away from home while enjoying a unique adventure.
Cabo San Lucas: The Highlights
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best points of Cabo! This desert area is perfect for those seeking a luxurious home away from home experience that has plenty of exciting things to do.
Cabo is located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. The beaches here are also worth a visit. However, some of the oceans can be quite dangerous to swim in because of treacherous riptides. El Medano Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Cabo San Lucas. It’s THE beach in this part of Mexico. This beach is known for its excellent surfing and windsurfing conditions. If you’re looking for a more relaxed beach experience, Playa del Amor is the place for you. This secluded beach is only accessible by boat, making it the perfect place to escape the crowds.
See also: Cabo vs Cancun
Cabo’s nightlife is slightly different from Puerto Vallarta’s because they are much larger and flashy. While there are still plenty of bars and clubs to choose from, Cabo is also home to great beach parties. One of the most popular beach parties in Cabo is the Full Moon Party. This party is held monthly on Medano Beach and features live music, fire dancers, and plenty of drinks.
Cabo is also not the best place in Mexico to head for Mayan ruins. However, head to the Cabo San Lucas Museum for a bit of culture, which houses a collection of artifacts that tell the area’s history. You will also find the San Jose del Cabo in this area. This beautiful Spanish colonial town, founded in the early 1700s, is known for its incredible architecture.
In my opinion, Cabo San Lucas has a much more touristy feel to it than Puerto Vallarta. While there are still plenty of markets and traditional Mexican restaurants, the focus is more on catering to tourists than it is on providing an authentic cultural experience. There’s a good shopping scene, plenty of nightlife, and plenty of activities to keep you busy. However, if you’re looking for an authentic taste of Mexican culture, Cabo is not the place for you.
Pros of Cabo
- It’s a great place to relax and party.
- They have great places to learn about the city’s history, such as the Cabo San Lucas Museum.
- There’s a lot to do regarding shopping, nightlife, and activities.
- Vibrant nightlife and bars.
- Those seeking a home-from-home experience will find a lot of comfort here.
- There are lots of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the area.
- Good weather year-round.
Cons of Cabo
- It doesn’t offer much in the way of an authentic Mexican cultural experience.
- Resorts are very ‘American.’
- It can be quite touristy.
The best things to do in Cabo
The Arch of Cabo San Lucas
The rock formations around Cabo are quite amazing, and this Arch in Cabo certainly doesn’t disappoint. The Arch is one of my favorite things to do in Cabo, as it’s a natural wonder that can only be found in this part of the world. The only way to view the arch is by boat or kayak, so you’ll need to hail a boat taxi or rent a kayak to view it.
San Jose del Cabo Art District
The San Jose del Cabo Art District is the ideal place to go if you’re looking for souvenirs. The district is full of art galleries where you can find anything from paintings to jewelry. You’ll also get a bit more of a cultural vibe in this area of Cabo, along with higher-class resorts.
Lover’s Beach is a secluded spot that can only be reached by boat. It’s the perfect place to spend a day swimming, sunbathing, and water sports are also an option. This beach is not nearly as busy as the main beach right in Cabo because of the fact that you can walk there. Luckily boat taxis are fairly cheap and should only cost you around $5 for a ride to Lover’s Beach.
Go Whale Watching
Cabo San Lucas is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. The whales are only in the Cabo area from December to March, but you may see them a bit early if you are lucky. I got to see one right from Divorce beach in mid-November. Numerous tour operators will take you out into the water, and you’re almost guaranteed to see some whales.
Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
The waters around Cabo San Lucas are teeming with marine life, so it’s the perfect place to go snorkeling or scuba diving. There are numerous dive sites to discover, and you can even swim with dolphins! My favorite place to snorkel around Cabo is Cabo Pulmo Nature Reserve because there are reefs right on the shore where you may be able to see sea turtles.
Visit a Local Vineyard
You’ll adore this part of your Cabo itinerary if you love wine. Cabo San Lucas is the perfect place for any wine lover, as they are home to several vineyards. You can tour the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and sample some of the wines.
Playa El Medano
Playa El Medano is perfect for relaxing and soaking up some sun. The beach is full of activities, from swimming and sunbathing to windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Visit Flora Farms
Flora Farms is a working farm offering tours, workshops, and even cooking classes. It’s the perfect place to learn about sustainable agriculture and sample some of the produce.
Hike to Land’s End
For fantastic views over Cabo San Lucas and the top of the arch, hike to Land’s End. The trail is challenging in parts, especially in the heat, but it’s worth it for the views from the top. Plus, it’s the perfect way to burn off all those tacos and margaritas!
Swim with Whale Sharks
One of the most popular things in Cabo San Lucas is swimming with whale sharks. These gentle giants are harmless to humans, and it’s an unforgettable experience. Several tour operators offer this activity, so you can easily find one that suits your needs.
Explore the Art District
Another artsy destination in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, is home to incredible street art. The best place to see it is in the San Jose del Cabo Art District. You can find unique artists that make everything from jewelry to rugs to interactive paintings.
Take a Cooking Class
Take a cooking class if you want to learn how to cook Mexican food like a pro. You’ll learn about the different ingredients used in Mexican cuisine and how to prepare some of the classic dishes.
Explore the Marina
Last but not least, don’t forget to explore the marina. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy and some great shopping. If you’re lucky, you might even see a celebrity or two! This is also where you easily hale a water taxi for cheap.
Answer: Puerto Vallarta is a better choice if you want an authentic Mexican experience. Cabo is more touristy and geared towards visitors who want a more familiar feel to their vacation.
Answer: Puerto Vallarta is generally cheaper than Cabo, although deals can be found for both destinations. However, because of Cabo’s touristy nature and luxury all-inclusive resorts, it does tend to have higher prices.
Answer: Because of some dangerous riptides on Cabo beaches, Puerto Vallarta is generally the better beach destination, particularly if you want a more relaxing, natural feel. Furthermore, Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are less crowded than those in Cabo.
Answer: Puerto Vallarta is the better choice for snorkeling, as there are more reefs and a greater variety of fish to see. Cabo’s beaches tend to have more seaweed and fewer fish because of how busy they are. You can go to Cabo Pulmo Reserve for great snorkeling, but that’s about an hour one-way trip.
Answer: Since both destinations are located on the Pacific coast, the water temperature is similar. However, Puerto Vallarta’s water tends to be slightly warmer than Cabo’s since it is tucked away in a bay.
Answer: Puerto Vallarta is generally considered to be a safe destination. Cabo has been known to have more crimes, particularly petty theft and robbery. This is likely because it is more touristy, so thieves target tourists. However, both destinations are fairly safe for tourists as long as you use normal caution.
Which destination is right for you? It depends on what you’re looking for in a holiday. Puerto Vallarta is better if you want relaxing beaches and a cultural experience. If you’re looking for a more upbeat vacation, then Cabo is the place for you. I LOVE Puerto Vallarta. I much prefer more authentic travel destinations, and, coupled with Cabo’s riptides, Puerto Vallarta is much more up my alley. Nonetheless, whichever destination you choose, you will surely have a Mexican adventure!
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