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Cabo vs Cancun: Navigating Mexico’s Premier Family Destinations

Cabo vs Cancun: Navigating Mexico’s Premier Family Destinations

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Are you debating between a Cancun or Cabo vacation? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about choosing a trip to Cabo vs Cancun.
This comparison of Cancun vs Cozumel was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Are you trying to decide between Cabo vs Cancun for your next family vacation? Trust me; you aren’t alone. These are two of Mexico’s premier family destinations, with many activities for everyone.

Let’s look at Cabo vs Cancun to help you get some ideas for your upcoming Mexican holiday.

Both Cancun and Cabo have a lot to offer. They are world-renowned for beautiful beaches, great food, and unique culture. However, there’s a slight difference between Cabo and Cancun. For example, Cabo is located on the Baja Peninsula, and Cancun is on the Yucatan Peninsula.

But once you see these comparisons side-by-side, your decision between Cabo vs Cancun should become easier.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know for your next trip to Mexico, whether Los Cabos or Cancun!

Overview of Baja Peninsula and Yucatan Peninsula

The Baja Peninsula is a distinct region along the Pacific coast in the northwestern part of Mexico. It stretches approximately 1,250 km (775 miles) from the northern border with California to the tip of the peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets The Sea of Cortez.

Image of Desert and coastline in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The Baja Peninsula is a combination of desert and coastline.

The Baja Peninsula is split into two states: Baja California in the north and Baja California Sur in the south. It also has popular tourist spots in Los Cabos, like Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.

The Yucatan Peninsula is located in the southeastern part of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico bounds it to the west and north and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Image of El Castillo, the central piece of the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum, Mexico, sits atop the cliffside overlooking the Caribbean sea.
The Yucatan Peninsula is a region in southeastern Mexico, known for its rich Mayan history.

The Yucatan Peninsula is most known for its rich archeological history. The region was once the heart of the Mayan civilization, so some critical archeological ruins are around the Riviera Maya, like Chichen Itza and Coba Ruins.

Certain hot spots in the Yucatan, like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, are becoming increasingly popular amongst spring breakers. But beyond the party, there’s so much for everyone to do.

When to Visit Cabo vs Cancun

The best months to visit Los Cabos are April, May, June, and November. And the best months to visit Cancun are April, May, October, and November.

Cancun and Cabo are popular Mexican getaways with white sand beaches and luxurious hotels. And even though both dry seasons run from December to April, there are some notable differences in climates.

Find out the best Cabo San Lucas travel tips by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Cabo San Lucas beach, Mexico
Cabo has more of a desert climate than Cancun.

Cabo is known to have a more desert-like climate, with hot, dry winters and warm winters. The dry season is from December to April, with the least rain and humidity. The wet season is from June to September, with August and September being the worst month for rain.

That being said, the wet season isn’t even that bad in Los Cabos. Cabo has about 300 sunny days yearly, ideal for sun-seekers regardless of peak season.

Check out the best all inclusive Cancun resorts for families recommended by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Beach umbrellas made of straw on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in Mexico
Cancun has clearer seasons than Cabo.

Cancun’s dry season, with the slightest rain, is also from December to April. However, Cancun does have more distinct seasons. The dry season feels much dryer, and the wet season feels much wetter (and more humid).

Cancun is at risk during hurricane season, with the highest hurricanes and tropical storms risk in September and October.

Getting to Cancun vs Cabo

Los Cabos International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de Los Cabos) is the central airport hub for those traveling around Baja California Sur.

The Los Cabos International Airport has convenient access to San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, and other spots on the peninsula’s southern point.

It takes around 35 minutes to get from Los Cabos Airport to downtown Cabo San Lucas. And it takes about 2 hours to get from Los Cabos airport to La Paz, another popular tourist destination in Baja California Sur.

Runway in Cancun Airport, Mexico
Cancun International Airport is a main hub in the Yucatan.

Cancun International Airport is the main airport for the Yucatan. It’s located just outside the city center of Cancun and is about a 30-minute drive from Cancun’s hotel zone. It’s also well-connected to other popular destinations around the Mexican Caribbean.

Cancun International Airport is about one hour from Playa del Carmen and two hours from Tulum.

Because Cabo vs Cancun are such popular tourist destinations, both Cancun airport and Los Cabos airport are well-maintained, and transportation to and from the airports is well-established.

After all, Cancun is the #1 largest airport in Mexico, while Los Cabos is the #3 largest.

Where to Stay in Cabo vs Cancun

Here are some family friendly resorts for Cabo San Lucas vs Cancun. Whether you’re looking for private plunge pools, rooftop bars, or all inclusive resorts, you can easily find something for the whole family.

Getting from Cancun Airport to Cancun or from the airport in Cabo San Lucas to your accommodation is pretty straightforward. The easiest way is to get a taxi or private transfer from the airport to your hotel.

Best Kid-Friendly Cabo Resorts

One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos

One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos is a breathtaking resort with multiple pools, cabanas, a private beach, gourmet food, and much more. Check rates.

They have villas and suites with stunning views of the swaying palm trees and a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

One&Only Palmilla

One&Only is also an excellent place for children. This hotel offers a special kids’ pool, a kids club, a playground, and even babysitting services.

This is the best option for families who want to splurge on excellence and high-end accommodation. Check the latest rates and availability.

Hilton Los Cabos

Hilton Los Cabos holds all the prestige that comes with Hilton properties in one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world. Check rates.

Hilton Los Cabos

Hilton Rooms are spacious, with comfortable beds that could fit the entire family. As a beachfront resort, many rooms also have great ocean views.

Hilton Los Cabos is the perfect place for families to get away from a busy life and enjoy the luxuries that can only be found in the Baja California Peninsula. Check the latest rates and availabilities.

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort Cabo San Lucas

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort Cabo San Lucas is an excellent place for the entire family and the perfect hub for those exploring the beauties of Cabo San Lucas. Check rates.

Although it doesn’t have a private beach like the previous resorts on the Mexican west coast, it’s still a popular choice for families. It has a great kids’ pool, a waterslide, a playground, and a kids club.

Villa del Palmar

Additionally, it’s only an 8-minute walk from Medano Beach and a 4-minute drive from Plaza San Lucas.

Villa del Palmar Beach Resort is the perfect choice for those visiting Los Cabos and seeking an affordable and comfortable Mexican getaway. Check the latest rates and availabilities.

Best Kid-Friendly Cancun Resorts

Wyndham Alltra Cancun All Inclusive Resorts

Wyndham Alltra Cancun is one of the best all-inclusive resorts on the east coast of Mexico, located right in Cancun’s hotel zone. Check rates.

Wyndham Alltra Cancun

Wyndham is a 15-minute walk from Chac Mool Beach and a 20-minute walk from a few upscale shopping malls in Cancun. It’s also about 12 miles (20 km) from the infamous Playa Delfines.

Families love this hotel because of the kids’ pool, free waterpark access, kids club, and playground. Additionally, an upscale restaurant has world-class fresh seafood and excellent service. Check the latest rates and availabilities.

Hotel Casa Maya

Hotel Casa Maya is another notable choice for those looking for Cancun’s best family-friendly resorts. Hotel Casa Maya is located right in Cancun’s hotel zone, with an excellent location. Check rates.

Hotel Casa Maya

You and the family are within walking distance from the best art galleries, a swimmable beach, and restaurants that cater to international tourists.

Families love Hotel Casa Maya for the kids’ pool, playground, and excellent babysitting options. Check the latest rates and availabilities.

Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla

Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla is one of Cancun’s most famous luxury resorts because of its terrific location and high-quality service. Check rates.

Canopy by Hilton

While it isn’t in the center of the hotel zone, it’s only a few minutes walk from the Cancun Interactive Aquarium inside the shopping mall.

Here, the family can learn all about the marine life and tropical fish found in the region.

Families love Canopy by Hilton because they have multiple outdoor pools for the whole family, a playground, a nearby beach, and bicycle rentals. Check the latest rates and availabilities.

Best Things to Do in Cancun and Cabo

Los Cabos and Cancun are romanticized as the best beach destinations in Mexico, but there’s so much more to these tropical locations.

Of course, you can spend the day on the beach, but you can also go out and enjoy various family-friendly activities.

Here are some of the best things to do in Cabo vs Cancun with the whole family.

Things to do in Cancun with Kids

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It’d be a shame to miss this attraction if you’re in the region.

Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
I highly recommend a day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun.

Besides, visiting ancient Mayan ruins with children is a great way to encourage learning, curiosity, and compassion toward different cultures and histories.

This makes it one of the best activities in Cancun with kids.

Unfortunately, Chichen Itza is about 122 miles (196 km) from Cancun, so it’s a bit of a trek. A tour is the easiest way to get to Chichen Itza and make the most of it.

This all-inclusive tour departs from Cancun and takes you to Chichen Itza, a nearby Cenote, and Valladolid with a local, well-informed guide. Check the latest rates.

Captain Hook Pirate Show And Cruise

The Captain Hook Pirate Show is a dinner cruise that departs from Cancun on traditional-looking pirate boats.

The entire experience is a full-on show targeted toward younger children. The waitstaff is dressed up, and everyone remains in character from start to finish.

This is a unique experience that the children are sure to enjoy.

You can find out more information and purchase tickets here for the show, which includes lunch and an open bar (for the parents).

Spend a Day at Xcaret

Xcaret is one of Mexico’s most prominent adventure parks, with over 50 attractions that include different water sports, underground rivers, the Coral Reef Aquarium, and so much more.

Cancun, Mexico. May 30, 2021. Flock of beautiful flamingos in water pond amidst trees at Xcaret eco park
Xcaret is a great adventure park for families.

This adventure park is unlike any other, and just how much there is to do here is a little overwhelming. So, it’s the perfect place to take the family.

You can reserve the entry tickets here, which include a visit to Jaguar Island, most of the top attractions, and the night show.

Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour

If you’re planning a trip to Isla Mujeres, consider a catamaran tour for the whole family. Isla Mujeres is only about 45 minutes by boat, and a catamaran tour makes this journey fun and exciting.

Isla Mujeres Mexico boats turquoise Caribbean sea Quintana Roo
Isla Mujeres is a popular Cancun excursion.

This Isla Mujeres Catamaran tour includes a snorkel stop with a guide, transportation to and from your hotel, and an open bar.

Visit Tulum and/or Coba Archeological Ruins

If you can’t make it to Chichen Itza or want another day exploring some ancient Mayan ruins, you can’t miss either Coba or Tulum Archeological Ruins.

Tulum Ruins are only about 80 miles (130 km) from Cancun, and Coba Ruins are just past that. Both of these spots make for a great day trip.

Ancient mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
It’s worth checking out the ancient Mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site.

The Tulum Mayan ruins are unique because they are situated right on the Tulum cliffs, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean sea, with a small path that brings you straight down to the beach.

And Coba is unique because some believe it was one of the most archeological sites in the Yucatan peninsula.

You can visit Tulum and Coba Ruins on this full-day guided tour from Cancun. Check rates here.

Things to do in Cabo with Kids

Take Surf Lessons

Unlike Cancun, Los Cabos is a world-class surf spot. And fortunately, they have different sets of waves for all levels of surfers. That means it’s one of the best activities in Cabo San Lucas for the children

Two ladies running into the sea with surf boards
Cabo is a great place for kids or teens to learn how to surf.

You can either take some lessons as a family or watch the kids have the time of their lives in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean!

This tour in Los Cabos offers surf lessons at Costa Azul (spring and summer) or Cerritos Beach (fall and winter). Check rates here.

Horseback Riding

If you’re family like a bit of adventure, you might want to consider a day for horseback riding at one of the local nearby raches.

Los Cabos has such unique geography in that you can be right on the beach and mere miles away from a stunning desert landscape.

Most horseback riding trips take you deep through the surrounding area, where you can feel truly immersed in the exotic fauna.

This tour from Cabo San Lucas limits groups to 15 people max and allows you to choose your horse based on experience level. It’s the perfect place for both beginners and experienced riders. Check rates here.

Try a Glass-Bottom Kayak

Cabo San Lucas, and the entire east coast of Mexico, is an excellent spot for kayaking. You see a lot of incredible wildlife and truly explore the ocean with the family.

This glass-bottom boat tour leaves Cabo, goes past Playa del Amor, takes you to El Arco, where you can observe the sea lions, and brings you to snorkel at Pelican Rock formations. Check rates here.

Snorkel Tour From Cabo San Lucas

While a glass-bottom kayak is a fun way to spend a day, it might not be for everyone. I don’t know about you, but some days my kids are not in the mood for an entire day of paddling!

Underwater portrait of father and son snorkeling together
There are lots of snorkeling tours in Cabo.

So, your next best bet is a snorkel boat tour that takes you to all the best spots near Cabo San Lucas.

This boat tour leaves Cabo San Lucas and goes past Playa del Amor and to the famous El Arco, Santa Maria Beach, and other points of interest.

They even have paddleboards and kayaks onboard for anyone that wants a shortened paddle experience. Check rates here.

Go Whale Watching

If you happen to be in Cabo San Lucas during whale season (officially from December to April), you should consider a whale-watching tour. Several species can be found in the water of Cabo San Lucas, including:

  • Humpback Whales
  • Gray Whales
  • Blue Whales
  • Fin Whales
  • Bryde’s Whales
  • Sperm Whales

It’s not like visiting Cancun, where you can only glimpse whale sharks a few months out of the year after taking a long boat ride (you can dive with whale sharks in La Paz, near San José del Cabo).

Whale Shark in Cabo San Lucas
You can see whale Shars near Cabo San Lucas.

If you are traveling to visit the whales, you may prefer Cabo.

This breakfast whale-watching tour from Cabo San Lucas is about 2 hours long and has a professional marine biologist on board for all your whale-related questions. Check rates here.

Scuba Diving in Cabo vs Cancun

There’s no clear winner regarding Cabo vs Cancun and who has the better scuba diving. The diving experience in these two Mexico destination locations is entirely different.

The underwater world near Cabo San Lucas is filled with underwater canyons, drift diving, and encounters with sharks and other exciting marine life. In San Lucas, most people stick to ocean dives, as they are the real prize.

Image of tropical fish in Cancun
Cancun has a lot of colorful tropical fish and reefs.

The underwater world in Cancun is a little different. The reef diving right off of Cancun is not that special, but diving in nearby Cozumel, or in one of the thousands of cenotes, is an entirely different experience.

When it comes to diving, Cabo vs Cancun are both incredible experiences. You won’t be disappointed.

Beaches in Cancun vs Cabo

Whether deciding on Cabo San Lucas or Cancun, you may be curious about the beaches. The good news is the western and eastern coasts have beautiful beaches for the whole family.

Cancun beaches are calmer, more relaxing, and better for children. Although, in hot months, the seaweed (sargasso) can get out of hand in some areas. Whereas Cabo’s beaches have more rugged coastlines.

Some of the best beaches in Cancun include:

  • Playa Delfines
  • Playa Caracol
  • Playa Chac Mool
  • Playa Langosta

And the best beaches in Cabo include:

  • Medano Beach
  • Lover’s Beach (Playa del Amor)
  • Chileno Beach
  • Santa Maria Beach

Day Trips from Cabo and Cancun

Popular Cabo Day Trips

If you want to get out of the main square of Cabo San Lucas, you can simply look into one of these fun day trips.

Todos Santos

Todos Santos is about an hour from Cabo San Lucas, and it’s the perfect little escape from the bustling tourist hub. Todos Santos is a charming town known for its artistic atmosphere, historic buildings, and relaxed vibe.

The journey to Todos Santos only takes about an hour from Cabo San Lucas. You can rent a car and drive around the small town, take a local bus, or book a full-day tour of Todos Santos with a local guide.

Cabo Pulmo Marine Park

Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is a protected marine reserve with fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving experiences. Here you can encounter colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and even the chance to spot sharks and rays.

Cabo Pulmo Marine Park
Check out the reef at Cabo Pulmo Marine Park.

Cabo Pulmo Marine Park is about two hours from Cabo San Lucas. One of the easiest ways to get the whole family to the Marine Park is by tour.

This tour from Cabo includes all transportation, snorkel equipment, and lunch for the family. Check rates here.

La Paz and Espirit Santo Island

You can head to La Paz, the capital city of Baja California Sur, to experience the vibrant Malecon (boardwalk) and soak in the sun at some new sunny beaches.

You can also take a short boat ride from La Paz to Espirit Santo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique opportunity to snorkel with sea lions.

Cabo San Lucas is about a 2-hour drive from La Paz, making it an easy day trip for the family.

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo is about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Cabo San Lucas. San Jose del Cabo is less developed and known as a more traditional Mexican getaway.

Front exterior of Mission San Jose del Cabo with colorful rosary hanging above entrance on clear sunny day
San Jose del Cabo is laid back.

If you want to escape the hustle of downtown Cabo, consider a quick day trip to San Jose del Cabo for a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.

Popular Cancun Day Trips

While everyone loves to lay on the beaches in Cancun and enjoy a life of luxury, it’s also nice to escape the big city for a day.

Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is a small town known for deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, and a chilled, laid-back atmosphere.

Puerto Morelos beach pier in Mayan Riviera Maya of Mexico
Puerto Moreles is perfect for people who love beaches and snorkeling.

The pace is slower here, and the beaches are equally beautiful, so it’s a great place to escape on a day trip.

Puerto Moreles is only 23 miles (38 km) from Cancun, and it’s easy to get to by bus, car, taxi, or tour.

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small island famous for some of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya. You can hop on a 40-minute ferry from Cancun and spend an entire day exploring the stunning island.

perfect tropical sea landscape. island Isla Mujeres (Women Island). Mexico, Yucatan
Isla Mujeres is a fun Cancun day trip.

The best way to get around Isla Mujeres is to rent a golf cart, which is very prominent throughout the island.

Alternatively, like this Snorkel Tour Adventure, you can tour the island, which is perfect for the entire family.

Rio Lagartos

Not many people make it out to Rio Lagartos, home to the stunning salt-pink lake, because it’s a bit more off-the-beaten-path.

However, Rio Lagartos is a beautiful area unique from the traditional idea of a Mexican getaway.

This full-day tour from Cancun takes you to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas with a local guide. All transportation and planning are taken care of, as well.

Cancun vs Cabo FAQs

Is Cabo more expensive than Cancun?

You might be wondering is Cabo or Cancun cheaper? Los Cabos is more expensive than Cancun. Although, depending on your travel style, Cancun can also get relatively expensive.

Is it better to go all-inclusive or not in Cabo?

Whether to go all-inclusive or not in Los Cabos will depend on your travel style, budget, and personal preferences. All-inclusive resorts are much more convenient, as you don’t have to handle too much planning. All-inclusive resorts also tend to be more family-friendly, as they tend to cater to families.

Are Cancun and Cabo the same?

No, Cancun and Cabo are not the same. Cabo vs Cancun is two different tourist destinations. Los Cabos is on the east coast of Mexico, on the Baja California Peninsula. Cancun is on the western coast of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Is Cabo safer than Cancun?

Both Cabo and Cancun are safe destinations for travelers. That said, Cabo is probably slightly safer than Cancun as you don’t have as much talk of corrupt police and drug/cartel problems. But both are tourist bubbles that aim to please travelers and tourists by minimizing crime that affects them.

Is Cancun or Cabo better?

Let’s answer the question: Which is better Cabo or Cancun? Cancun and Cabo are both incredible places with a lot of fun activities for the whole family. One isn’t better than the other, in my opinion, and I think it comes down to personal preference and activities planned.

How far is Cabo from Cancun?

Cabo is approximately 2,175 miles (3,500 km) from Cancun.

Cabo or Cancun Wrap Up

When it comes to Cabo vs Cancun, there’s no easy answer. Both are stunning beach destinations with tons of family-friendly activities, kid-friendly resorts, and day trips for everyone!

If you’re visiting Cabo, you can walk around downtown Cabo, snorkel around the stunning reefs, El Arco, the deep Mexican desert, and so much more.

If you’re visiting Cancun, you can jump into fresh cenote waters, spend an afternoon at your hotel’s private pools, learn about the culture of some ancient ruins, and discover other hidden secrets of the Riviera Maya.

You certainly won’t be disappointed no matter what you decide, Cabo vs. Cancun.

Looking for more Mexico travel resources? Check out my top Cancun tips for first-timers, Cabo tips for first-timers, best places to visit in Mexico, how to book a Cabo photo shoot, best all-inclusive Cabo resorts for families, Tulum family resorts, Cancun vs Tulum, day trips from Cabo, San Jose del Cabo vs Cabo San Lucas, and the best all-inclusive Cancun resorts for families!

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