A Travel Price Comparison for Mexico Mexico City vs. Cancun for Attractions, Food, Nightlife, and Families

Should you visit Mexico City or Cancun?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Mexico City or Cancun? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Mexico City

Mexico City is a vibrant, dynamic, and colorful city. With plenty of activities and things to do, it's a huge city that draws plenty of visitors. Visitors also love the food, shopping, and museums.

Cancun

Cancun is a party-hard, tropical, and active city. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. It's also popular because of the nightlife, food, and scuba diving and snorkeling.

Mexico City and Cancun: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Scenic old town
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Big city activities
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for shopping


Is there more to do in Mexico City or Cancun?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Mexico City than Cancun, as it is bigger with more sights, attractions, and activities for visitors. Mexico City is more popular for its museums, food, historical sights, shopping, and big city activities, while Cancun is known for its resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, beaches, hiking, and impressive beauty. Cancun is more touristy than Mexico City and is known for its water sports, white sand beaches, popularity at spring break, and access to Mayan ruins. Mexico City is popular for its vibrant street food scene, colorful markets, and historic architecture. It is also home to Zócalo.

How is Mexico City different from Cancun?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Cancun and Mexico City. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Mexico City or Cancun?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is renowned for its museums and history. Also, Cancun is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its museums and landmarks.

The museums and tourist attractions in Mexico City are world-renowned. The city is filled with historic buildings, fascinating museums, and interesting landmarks. At the heart of the city is Zócalo, where the country's constitution was signed. Nearby you'll find the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Templo Mayor. Other interesting museums in the city include the National Museum of Anthropology, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the National History Museum.

With a variety of museums, monuments, and historical sights, a trip to Cancun can be an interesting and educational experience. It's possible to do a day trip to visit the impressive Chichén Itzá, but closer by you'll find El Rey Maya Ruins and El Meco Archaeological Site. You can also visit the Maya Museum in town. For something truly unique, you can take a diving or snorkeling trip to the Cancun Underwater Museum.


Is the Food Better in Mexico City or Cancun? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is renowned for its restaurants. Also, Cancun is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its restaurant scene.

Mexico City has long been recognized as a culinary destination with great restaurants. The city food scene is as diverse as the population itself. There are countless ways to experience the amazing street food, but there are also world class chefs working in award winning restaurants. Make sure you try the chilaquiles, tacos al pastor, and chiles en nogada.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Cancun area. If you step away from the tourist scene, you'll find some amazing local restaurants that serve authentic and fresh Mexican cuisine. Favorite dishes in the area include tamales, sopa de lima, and tacos al pastor.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Nightlife?

Mexico City
Cancun

Both Mexico City and Cancun have world-class vibes after the sun sets.

Mexico City is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. It's a huge city, so of course there's no shortage of diverse nightlife activities. Some of the most popular neighborhoods for nightlife include the downtown, La Condesa, and Colonia Juárez. For upscale clubs head to Polanco and for trendy and eclectic venues check out Roma.

People head to Cancun just to party. It's long been known as a party destination and there are large world famous clubs as well as smaller bars where you can hang out. The party never stops here, so be prepared for all night dancing and drinking, and it will definitely live up to its reputation.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Resorts?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is very popular for its luxury resorts. However, Mexico City is not a resort destination.

For the ultimate resort vacation, Cancun is a great choice. You'll find most of the accommodation options in the Hotel Zone, which runs along Boulevard Kukulkan. The stretch can be divided into three areas, which each have a slightly different personality.

Mexico City is not a resort destination.


Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is very popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. However, Mexico City is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

The clear water and abundant marine life make Cancun a world-class scuba diving and snorkeling destination. Beautiful reefs and world class dives make this a popular destination for those who want to explore the undersea world. You'll find plenty of snorkeling and dive excursions in the area with diverse coral and marine life.

Mexico City is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Beaches?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is very popular for the beach. However, Mexico City is not a beach destination.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Cancun. There are stunning white sand beaches and turquoise blue water that make this a beautiful beach destination. There are miles of sandy coastline with many of the beaches found in the Hotel Zone.

Mexico City is not a beach destination.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for its Old Town?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is very good for its old town. However, Cancun does not have a historic old town.

Plenty of visitors enjoy exploring the old town in Mexico City. Centro Historico spreads out from Zócalo Plaza, and has many buildings that date back as far as the Aztec period. Many tourists gather here to explore the history and wander down the pedestrian-only Calle Madero.

Cancun does not have a historic old town.


Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Hiking?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is a popular place for its hiking trails. However, Mexico City is not a hiking destination.

Cancun is a good destination for hiking. There are some beautiful walking paths and hiking trails that are within the area.

Mexico City is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Mexico City or Cancun?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is renowned for its shopping opportunities. Also, Cancun is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its shopping areas.

Known for shopping, Mexico City draws large crowds to its stores. The city has everything from open-air bazaars (tianguis) to modern shopping malls. There are international brands as well as local art galleries, handicrafts, and retail outlets.

Many visitors go to Cancun to go shopping. While most people visit for the beaches and nightlife, there are shopping malls and markets where you can enjoy some retail therapy.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Families?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is very popular for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Mexico City is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Cancun is a very family-friendly destination. Although this part of Mexico has long had a reputation for its party scene, the area also attracts many families, who come for the family-friendly resorts, world class snorkeling, and fascinating jungle tours. You can snorkel at the Garrafon Natural Reef Park or have fun on the water slides at Ventura Park. Xel-Ha Park is also worth a visit.

Mexico City is a very family-friendly place to visit. It's a huge city, so there are enough diverse activities to keep everyone entertained. There's even a Six Flags. Popular museums for kids include Papalote Museo del Niño and Museo de Geología. There's also the Acuario Inbursa, and make sure you check out a Lucha Libre show.


Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Couples?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is very popular for couples. Also, Mexico City is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for romance.

Cancun makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. As a world class honeymoon destination, you'll find stunning white sand beaches, amazing snorkeling and diving, and a huge range of entertainment options. You can enjoy the nightlife scene or check out Cirque du Soleil. Sunset boat cruises and romantic horseback rides all make this an amazing honeymoon destination.

Mexico City is a nice destination for couples. The city is filled with parks where you can enjoy a picnic, museums that are fascinating to walk through, and cultural activities that are one-of-a-kind. You can ride on a gondola in Xochimilco or spend the day exploring the amazing food scene.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City and Cancun are both great destinations for backpackers.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Mexico City. It's a big city with a wonderful atmosphere and many hostels. Backpackers who want to experience the culture, food, and personality of Mexico will love a visit here.

Backpackers come from all over to visit Cancun. Mixed in between the luxury resorts are a few hostels that cater to the backpacker crowd. There are so many activities in the area, from diving to partying, that appeal to the backpacker crowd, that it won't be long before you find your people.

Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Students?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is a very popular place for its student-friendly activities. However, Cancun is not popular with students.

Mexico City is very popular with students. International students love the art, architecture, food, and culture that this colorful city has to offer.

Cancun is not popular with students.


Is Mexico City or Cancun Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Mexico City
Cancun

Mexico City is a very popular place for times when you don't have a car. Also, Cancun is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its public transit.

The public transit in Mexico City can get you around easily. The city has a complex and comprehensive public transit system that includes a metro, metrobus, and local buses.

You'll find some public transit in Cancun, but it may not be enough to take you everywhere. The buses are an efficient way to get around. They stop along Boulevard Kukulcán and throughout the downtown.

Is Mexico City or Cancun a more walkable city?

Mexico City
Cancun

Cancun is an excellent place to visit for its ease of walking around. However, Mexico City is lacking in options for its walkability.

Cancun is a very walkable destination. The Hotel Zone is where most tourists spend their time, and this area is very walkable.

Mexico City is generally not very walkable. While you can walk within many neighborhoods, such as the historic city center, it's impossible to walk between neighborhoods and in many parts of the city.

For even more information, also check out Is Mexico City Worth Visiting? and Is Cancun Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Cancun or Mexico City?

How long in Mexico City or Cancun?

Both Mexico City and Cancun have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Cancun than in Mexico City. Usually, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for Mexico City, and 4-7 days is enough time in Cancun.

Families should spend more time in Cancun than Mexico City. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Cancun, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Cancun than Mexico City. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Cancun that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Mexico City than Cancun if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Mexico City.


  • How many days in Mexico City or Cancun? Ideal Length of Stay
    Mexico City 3-5 
    Cancun 4-7

One day in Mexico City or Cancun?

Mexico City is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

Visitors enjoy the scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping when visiting the party-hard city of Cancun. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.


A weekend in Mexico City or Cancun?

Mexico City is a great place to explore. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Visitors enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the active destination of Cancun. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. This city offers something for everyone. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.

Five days in Mexico City or Cancun?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Mexico City. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Visitors enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting the wild city of Cancun. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. Many people spend five days here.If you enjoy all that's offered here, then five days is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

A week in Mexico City or Cancun?

Travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the cultural big city of Mexico City. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the destination of Cancun. Anyone can find something fun to do here. This is a popular place to visit for one week. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. In one week, you should have a good grasp of this city.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours in Mexico, Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in Mexico, The Best Adventure Tours to Mexico, and The Best Sightseeing Tours in Mexico.


Which place is cheaper, Cancun or Mexico City?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Mexico City is $213, while the average daily cost in Cancun is $148. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Mexico City and Cancun in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Mexico City $41
    Cancun $98
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Mexico City $82
    Cancun $196
Compare Hotels in Mexico City and Cancun

Looking for a hotel in Mexico City or Cancun? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Mexico City


Hotels in Cancun


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Mexico City Hotel Prices and Cancun Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Mexico City $13
    Cancun $18
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Mexico City

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Mexico City:


  • Metro
    $1.20
  • Uber Ride
    $4.19

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Mexico City

Also for Mexico City, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Try find your better than us ! Airport transfer service in Mexico APT-HTL (MEX) : $36
  • Transfer to and from Mexico City Airport: $30
  • Transfer in private vehicle from Mexico City - Mexico Airport (MEX): $43
  • Transfer in Private Minivan from Tlalnepantla - Mexico City Airport (MEX): $83
  • Transfer in Private Minivan from Mexico Airport (MEX)- Mexico City: $93
  • Transfer from Mexico City Airport to Puebla: $245
  • Transfer Mexico city Airport - Mexico city Downtown hotels: $18
  • Transfer Mexico City Airport to Downtown and Zona Rosa Hotels: $80
  • Transfer Mexico City - Taxco - Acapulco (2 days): $83
  • Transfer Airport - hotel in Mexico City: $80
  • Toluca to Toluca Int Airport (TLC) - Departure Private Transfer: $65
  • Toluca hotels to Toluca Airport TLC Departure Private Transfer: $65

Typical Local Transportation Prices in Cancun

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Cancun:


  • Taxi Around Town
    $1.68
  • Airport Shuttle (for 2)
    $14
  • Ferry to Isla de Mujeres (for 2)
    $17
  • Local Bus (for 2)
    $2.04

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cancun

Also for Cancun, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • transfers between hotels in Cancun hotel strip: $20
  • Xcaret 1 Day Tour from Cancun with Hotel Transfer: $204
  • Try find your better than us ! Airport transfer service in Cancun APT-HTL (CUN): $45
  • Travel safe from the Airport to your hotel and back with Jeromi Transfers!: $75
  • Transfers in Private Minibus: $97
  • Transfers in Private MiniVan wi fi on board: $61
  • Transfers in Lincoln Strecth Limousine with Wi Fi on board: $137
  • Transfers in Lincoln Strecth Limousine with Wi Fi on board: $121
  • Transfer in Private vehicle from Cancun Airport (CUN) - Akumal City: $74
  • Transfer in Luxury Mercedes Benz Minivan: $91
  • Transfer Airport-Hotel ( One Way ) Apto Cancun to Playa del Carmen: $87
  • Transfer: $78

Is it cheaper to fly into Mexico City or Cancun?

Prices for flights to both Cancun and Mexico City change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Mexico City $27
    Cancun $29
Typical Food Prices in Mexico City

For Mexico City, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Lunch for Two
    $13
  • Coffee and Snacks
    $4.67
  • Dinner for 2
    $27

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Mexico City

For Mexico City, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Veracruz and Boca del Rio Food Tour with Mangroves Boat Trip: $50
  • Virtual Mexican Cooking Class (private and personalized): $50
  • Local Markets & Food Tour in Mexico City: $50
  • Tortilla Crawl: Food Tour in Mexico City: $55
  • Uruapan Food Tour: $61
  • Muchos moles: Multi-variety mole cooking class and feast: $72
  • Mexico City Vegan & Veggie Market Explorer plus Cooking Lesson: $73
  • MEXICO CITY FOOD TOUR: flavors on two wheels: $78
  • La Roma Authentic Downtown Food Tour: Tacos and Local Flavors: $78
  • Food Tour with Ride an Electric Bike in Mexico: $80
  • Flamenco Live Show and Dinner in Mexico City: $83
  • Flamenco Tablao Live Show & dinner: $83

Typical Food Prices in Cancun

For Cancun, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Lunch for Two
    $21

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cancun

For Cancun, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Captain Hook: Pirate Show and Dinner Cruise in Cancun: $46
  • Mayan Chichen Itza And Pirate Dinner Two Day Experience: $57
  • The Ultimate Cancun Taco & Street Mexican Food Tour: $59
  • Dinner Show with Pirates! (2x1 Price): $62
  • (2x1 price) Pirate Night! Dinner, Fun and Show: $63
  • (2x1 price) Dinner Show and Pirates Experience : $63
  • Cancun Street Food Tour with Food Stalls, Local Market and Murals: $64
  • Pirate Show and Dinner (2x1 price)! Best Promo : $64
  • Private Ultimate Cancun Taco and Street Mexican Food Tour: $69
  • Cancun Authentic Downtown Food Tour: Tacos and Local Flavors: $78
  • Cancun Hands-On Mexican Cooking Class : $79
  • Mexican Cooking Class with fresh Local Market ingredients selection and transpor: $79

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Mexico City $15
    Cancun $35

Tours and Activities in Mexico City

For Mexico City, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Mexico City Tour and Visit Chapultepec Castle. Private service: $119
  • Mixology, Food, Wine and Beer Experience in Xochimilco: $99
  • Monarch Butterfly Tour from Mexico City: $220
  • Private Tour GROUPS and FAMILIES through Museo Soumaya: $246
  • Private Tour Teotihuacan Essentials: $129
  • Romantic Walking tour in Mexico City: $150
  • Romantic tour in San Andrés Mixquic: $150
  • Teotihuacan Half-Day Tour with Tequila tasting: $42
  • VIP - FULL DAY - Mexico City Private Tour : $209
  • 2 Day tour Teotihuacan pyramids +City tour & Xochimilco : $132
  • 2 Days Private Tour with Hiking in Malinche from Puebla: $213
  • 2-Hour Private Tour of Teotihuacan City of the Gods: $49

Typical Entertainment Prices in Cancun

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Cancun's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Seasick Pills
    $0.60
  • Whale Shark Tour (for 2)
    $102

Tours and Activities in Cancun

For Cancun, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Bacalar tour + Lunch + Boat, from Cancun and Riviera Maya: $139
  • Cancun Private Street Art Tour: $65
  • Catamaran Cruise in Riviera Maya With Snorkeling & Beach Club: $85
  • Coco Bongo Music And Show Ticket: $105
  • Full Day All Inclusive Catamaran Tour to Isla Mujeres : $99
  • Full Day Chichen-Itza, Cenote and Valladolid Complete Tour: $37
  • Holbox Island Magic Tour from Cancun : $144
  • LDS Tour to Chichen Itza + Cenote : $165
  • Party Adventure at Isla Mujeres from Cancun & Playa del Carmen: $93
  • Private Tour to Tulum Ruins and Cenotes : $257
  • Reef and Sunken Ship Snorkeling Experience in Cancun: $85
  • Riviera Maya Luxury Snorkeling Cruise with Lunch and Drinks: $139

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Mexico City $21
    Cancun $13

Sample the Local Flavors in Mexico City

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Mexico City:

  • CDMX Pub Crawl: Mexico City Bar Crawl: $29
  • Mexico City Pub Crawl: $31
  • Mexico City Bar Crawl: $40
  • Best Bar Crawl at Downtown: $49
  • Nightly Historic Center From Above© Rooftop Bar Crawl +Taco Snack: $129
  • 2 Hours Private Mexican Wine Tasting in Polanco: $155
  • Third Largest Monolith in the World:Bernal with wine tasting: $235
  • Cavas Freixenet Wine Tour from Mexico City: $255

Sample the Local Flavors in Cancun

Also in Cancun, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Social Pub Crawl in Cancun: $38
  • Brewery Tour / Craft Beer Tasting Cancun Mexico: $129
  • Small Group EkBalam Pink Lakes Cenote and Tequila Distillery Tour: $287


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Mexico City and Cancun, we can see that Mexico City is more expensive. And not only is Cancun much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Cancun would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Cancun and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Mexico City would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Mexico City than you might in Cancun.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Mexico City Expensive? and Is Cancun Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Mexico City or Cancun?

Mexico City has a larger population, and is about 20 times larger than the population of Cancun. When comparing the sizes of Mexico City and Cancun, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.