Puerto Rico vs Cancun: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination? (2024)

Have you done your share of research and are struggling to decide between Cancun and Puerto Rico? 

Puerto Rico and Cancun are both tropical destinations, but they offer very different experiences and deciding which one to visit depends on what you are looking for in your next vacation.

I have been to Cancun several times and live in Puerto Rico.

In this article, I will help you decide whether to vacation in Puerto Rico or Cancun:

Is it better to go to Cancun or Puerto Rico?
Cancun vs Puerto Rico safety – which is safer? 
Cancun vs Puerto Rico beaches – which has better beaches?
Which is better for families with kids? 
Which has more fun and unique activities? 


Is it better to go to Cancun or Puerto Rico?

Overall it is better to go to Puerto Rico.

We need to know that Cancun is a resort area on the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula, and Puerto Rico is an archipelago.

image showing aerial view of Vieques
Puerto Rico has many secluded beaches, such as Playa Flamenco on Culebra and Sun Bay on Vieques, that offer visitors a peaceful and beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of more crowded tourist spots.

One “big” (roughly the size of Rhode Island) Puerto Rico; two smaller inhabited islands (Vieques and Culebra); one small uninhabited island/natural reserve (Mona) and over one hundred keys comprise the islands of Puerto Rico.

Cancun, on the other hand, is more of a hotel zone.

As an all-inclusive resort area, you will not explore other locations in Cancun unless you book tours from your hotel to nearby places.

There are some things in which Cancun is better than Puerto Rico and others in which Puerto Rico wins.

Cancun is known for its vibrant resort atmosphere, offering visitors luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, and endless entertainment options.

Allow me to elaborate.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, so if you travel to Puerto Rico, technically, you will still be on American soil.

That will save you some money and time because no visas are needed to go to Puerto Rico.

Comparing Cancun vs. Puerto Rico regarding activities, both locations have their share of exciting things to do. 

Cancun is the spring break party capital of the World.

image showing plenty of tourists in Cancun
The white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and tropical climate of Cancun create a relaxing and idyllic atmosphere perfect for vacationers looking to escape the stresses of daily life.

According to The Cancun Sun newspaper, three million people visited Cancun for the 2022 spring break.

Hundreds of Clubs, Pubs, and Discos (Locals call them “Antros”) make Cancun a destination for “party animals.”

But Cancun offers more than beaches and parties. You can also find culture and history.

A two-hour drive from Cancun will take you to the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza. 

The Mayans built the Chichén Itzá pyramids and temples for their rituals. These edifications track celestial events with incredible accuracy. The Mayans knew astronomy and mathematics.

I’ve been to Chichen Itza, and it is imposing.

one of the pyramids at Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a magnificent archaeological site in Mexico, known for its stunning ancient Mayan ruins and impressive landmarks such as El Castillo and the Great Ballcourt.

La Isla Shopping Village is a must-go place for fashionistas and shoppers. 

You will find many high-end brands and shops, artisans selling crafts, and more.

Thrill seekers will love Torres Escenica. A 300-foot tall rotating tower with views of the entire bay. 

Cancun also has cenotes, a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater. Those sinkholes are pretty impressive.

one of the Cenotes close to Cancun
Cenote Suytun is a breathtaking natural swimming hole near Valladolid, Mexico, that has a mystical atmosphere drawing in visitors from around the world.

Some tours will take you to these wonders of nature, and you can even swim in the cenote.

Xcaret in Cancun is a natural waterpark with many activities, including jungle tours.

image of the sculptures at the Underwater Museum MUSA
The Cancun Museum of Underwater Art is a unique and fascinating museum that showcases a series of underwater sculptures designed to promote coral growth and provide a habitat for marine life in the waters surrounding Cancun.

The MUSA (Cancun Museum of Underwater Arts) is a fascinating place with over 500 life-size sculptures sunk in the ocean.

Puerto Rico also has many exciting things to do on land and at sea. Let’s see how Puerto Rico compares with Cancun.

Puerto Rico is not as big a party destination as Cancun, but the Island offers a different party vibe.

Most of Cancun’s party scene has many tourists. Puerto Rico allows for mingling with locals and experiencing a more exotic party.

For college students looking to party all night, Cancun is better. But young adults, couples on romantic getaways, and families will be better off in Puerto Rico.

image of people dancing at La Placita in Santurce
The nightlife in Santurce, Puerto Rico offers visitors the chance to dance salsa to the beat of live music in the vibrant bars and clubs, creating a lively atmosphere.

Regarding culture and history, Puerto Rico doesn’t have pyramids or temple ruins. Still, there are not one but two Taino Indian ceremonial grounds: Tibes in Ponce and Caguana in Utuado.

Old San Juan is a time capsule.

You can walk on 500 years old cobblestone streets and step into a fortress that protects Puerto Rico against pirates, invaders, and enemy nations.

image of Castillo San Felipe del Morro
El Morro, located in Old San Juan, is a historic fortress that has stood the test of time, serving as a symbol of Puerto Rico’s rich cultural heritage.

You can learn more about Puerto Rico’s oldest military facility in our article Castillo San Felipe Del Morro in Old San Juan.

The second oldest church of Las Americas (San José) is also in San Juan.

Puerto Rico has 78 towns (municipalities), each with their own history.

Puerto Rico has many malls and outlets with better prices for shoppers and fashionistas than La Isla Shopping Village in Cancun.

Adrenaline seekers won’t find a 300-foot rotating tower in Puerto Rico. Still, at Toro Verde Orocovis, they can ride the longest zipline in the Americas. The Monster is 1.57 miles long.

image of the Monster Zipline
The Monster, a zip line adventure in Toro Verde Adventure Park in Puerto Rico, offers visitors an exhilarating experience as they soar over the mountains at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour.

Puerto Rico does not have cenotes; however, you will find the second-largest underground river in the world in Puerto Rico.

One of the most adrenaline-rushed tours in Puerto Rico is floating in an underground river.

It is almost pitch black and when you use your flashlight, it looks like a sci-fi movie set.

Below is a video of underground river rafting:

For those of you who like caves, Puerto Rico has its share of those natural wonders.

image of Camuy Cave
Camuy River Cave Park in Puerto Rico is an awe-inspiring natural wonder that offers visitors the opportunity to explore a vast system of underground caves, rivers, and sinkholes, and witness the stunning beauty of the subterranean world.

La Cueva Ventana, La Cueva de los Vientos, and Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy are just a few examples.

You can read more about them in our guide to the Best Caves In Puerto Rico.

In natural parks and reserves, Puerto Rico wins.

image of the Gozalandia Falls
Puerto Rico is filled with amazing waterfalls, pictured here is Gozolandia in San Sebastian on the west side of the island.

The only tropical rainforest in US jurisdiction is El Yunque in Puerto Rico. There is also a Dry Forest (Guanica’s). Puerto Rico has 19 forests to visit, dozens of waterfalls, and two small islands (Mona and Caja de Muerto) that are natural reserves.

Puerto Rico does not have an underwater museum with life-size statues, but it has some of the best snorkeling spots in the world. 

If you are a scuba diving or snorkeling enthusiast, please check our article 25 Best Snorkel Spots in Puerto Rico.


Cancun vs Puerto Rico safety – which is safer? 

Cancun is relatively safe. Most hotels have private security, and you will be safe if you stay in the hotel’s area.

However, the New York Times reports that the Mexican police is among the most corrupt in the World. They also have a significant problem with drug cartels and kidnapping.

image of an hotel in Cancun
Cancun is generally a safe destination for tourists, but visitors should still exercise caution.

Puerto Rico is one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean.

Policía de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico’s State Police) is a well-trained group of professionals that uphold the law and keep everyone safe.

Every town has its own police force (Policia Municipal) and many hotels have their own private security.

And since it’s US territory, the Federal United States Constitution and laws will protect you on the Island.

image of Villa Montaña Beach Resort
Villa Montaña Beach Resort, located in Isabela, Puerto Rico, is a luxurious and secluded resort that offers guests an intimate and relaxing beachfront experience, complete with upscale accommodations, exceptional dining options, and breathtaking ocean views.

Crime rates are low in Puerto Rico, and you will be alright if you exercise common sense.

For more information about safety in Puerto Rico, please check our article Is Puerto Rico Safe for Travel?


Cancun vs Puerto Rico beaches – which has better beaches?

Both destinations have white sandy beaches and clear blue seawater.

Nevertheless, they are still very different!

image of Buye Beach in Cabo Rojo
Playa Buyé, located in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, is a hidden gem with calm turquoise waters and soft white sand.

Cancun’s beaches are numerous, and many resorts have exclusive-use beaches for their guests. 

You will find Cancun’s main beaches a little crowded and the shore more developed with many hotels in front of the water. 

image of Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines, also known as Dolphin Beach, is a beautiful and expansive public beach in Cancun, Mexico.

Some of Cancun’s best beaches include Playa Delfines and Playa Chac Mool. 

Tulum Beach is excellent, but you will find many people there. 

Some great beaches are close, including Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

Playa Norte Isla de Mujeres will win you with its sand and turquoise waters. 

image of Playa Norte Isla Mujeres
Playa Norte, located on the north end of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, is a stunning beach with crystal clear waters and powdery white sand.

Kids can swim safely in Playa Norte Isla Mujeres, and adults can kick back, unwind, and sip margaritas. 

Puerto Rico offers over 300 beaches.

From sunbathing to surfing, snorkeling to kayaking, hiking to watching the sunset, Puerto Rico has a beach for you.

On Puerto Rico’s beaches, the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea, which gives them a unique feeling.

image of Flamenco beach
Playa Flamenco, located on the island of Culebra in Puerto Rico, is a picture-perfect beach, making it a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike.

Playa Flamenco in Culebra is always on the top 5 list of best beaches in the world.

image of Crash Boat Beach
Crash Boat Beach, located in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, is a popular destination for beachgoers, surfers, and divers. It has an iconic pier that offers spectacular views of the sunset.

Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla is one of the best beaches on the island. Puerto Rico also has two black sand beaches.

Cancun has 14 miles of beaches, but Puerto Rico is an archipelago with many different beaches.

image of Bioluminescent Bay
Enjoy kayaking in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, located in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Another thing you can enjoy in Puerto Rico is the bioluminescent bays; Puerto Rico has three.

You will find more beaches to relax and unwind in Puerto Rico than in Cancun.

And since Puerto Rico is not just a resort area, its beaches are more diverse.

For more information on Puerto Rico’s beaches, check out our article 30 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico


Which is better for families with kids? 

Cancun is excellent for families with kids.

All-inclusive hotels have activities for children, and you can take them to historical places like Chichen Itza.

image of Chichen Itza
Exploring Mexico’s pyramids is an incredible journey through the country’s rich cultural heritage, as visitors can marvel at the impressive ancient structures, intricate carvings, and fascinating history of civilizations such as the Maya, Aztec, and Toltec.

But Puerto Rico has more activities for families with kids.

Old San Juan is full of historical places, museums, and activities kids will enjoy.

Puerto Rico has the El Yunque Rainforest, Guanica’s Dry Forest, parks, beaches, plazas, places to hike, and Toro Verde, one of the longest ziplines in the World.

image of Juan Diego Falls in El Yunque
El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is a lush and tropical paradise, filled with hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

Read more in our guide to the 17 Best Things To Do With Kids In Puerto Rico.


Which has more fun and unique activities? 

Puerto Rico has more fun and unique activities.

image showing horseback riding in PR
Horseback riding in Puerto Rico is a unique and enjoyable way to explore the island’s scenic countryside and beaches.

It has Rainforest (El Yunque), a Dry Forest (Guánica), over 20 waterfalls you can visit, museums, cultural festivals, whale watching, surfing, bioluminescent bays, horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sports fishing and many more.

image showing scuba diving in Cancun
Exploring Mexico’s cenotes is a magical and unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to discover the geological wonders of these ancient underwater sinkholes and cave systems.

It is true that with the all-inclusive packages Cancun offers, you can enjoy many fun activities (be aware that some activities will cost you extra).

Check out our article for more information about the world’s brightest bio bay, Mosquito Bay in Vieques.


FAQ section

Which is easier to get to from the United States?

Both destinations are relatively easy to get to from the United States; however, you don't need a passport or visa to go to Puerto Rico if you travel from the United States.

Which is easier to get around? 

Cancun is a resort area of 14 miles long by 25 miles wide, so it is easier to get around Cancun. To get around in Puerto Rico, we suggest you rent a car as the island is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide.


Final thoughts

Cancun and Puerto Rico are two tropical paradises.

Both destinations offer excellent beaches, activities for the whole family, historical places, vibrant nightlife, and superb cuisine. 

But, Puerto Rico has more activities, is safer, and is more diverse than Cancun. 

For more fun activities, check out our 45 Best Things to Do in Puerto Rico article.

Puerto Rico vs Cancun: Which Is A Better Vacation Destination? (2024)
Article by

Carlos Cubero

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I’m passionate about Puerto Rican history and culture. I live on the west coast of Puerto Rico, and host an Airbnb for tourists. I also coordinate tours and concierge services for tourists. I authored “Eat Like A Local, Puerto Rico”, and have contributed to blogs and magazines with articles about discovering and enjoying what Puerto Rico has to offer.

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