A Travel Price Comparison for Mexico Playa del Carmen vs. Cabo San Lucas for Nightlife, Resorts, Scuba Diving & Snorkeling, and Beaches

Should you visit Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

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

Should I visit Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas? 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.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a vibrant, picture-perfect, and scenic town. This is also a very beautiful destination which attracts plenty of visitors. It's also known for nightlife, food, and scuba diving and snorkeling.

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a scenic, idyllic, and wild city. The famous beauty of this place is one of the main draws. Other popular activities here include museums, nightlife, and food.

Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Scenic old town
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty


Is there more to do in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Cabo San Lucas than Playa del Carmen, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Cabo San Lucas is better known for its museums, food, historical sights, hiking, shopping, and impressive beauty, while Playa del Carmen is more popular for its resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, and beaches. Playa del Carmen is well known for its coral reefs, luxury resorts, and white sand beaches. Cabo San Lucas is well known for its beautiful coastline, all-inclusive resorts, and vibrant nightlife scene. Also, Cabo San Lucas is famous for Land's End.

How is Playa del Carmen different from Cabo San Lucas?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a popular place for its museums and landmarks. However, Playa del Carmen is a town with minimal options for its historical sights.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Cabo San Lucas. There are several historical sights in the area such as the Church of Saint Luke and San Jose del Cabo.

While most people don't head to Playa del Carmen specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. If you're willing to head out of town, there are world class Mayan ruins not far away, but if you want to hang out near town, then you'll likely spend most of your time enjoying outdoor water activities.


Is the Food Better in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a great destination for its restaurant scene. Also, Playa del Carmen is still popular, but not quite as popular for its local flavors and cuisine.

Dining out in Cabo San Lucas is an experience not to be missed. If you step away from the all-you-can-eat buffets in the resorts, and the tourist hot spots, you'll find some excellent local Mexican cuisine and nice fine dining restaurants. Fresh seafood and local produce make the dishes unique.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Playa del Carmen. You'll find a good number of overpriced tourist restaurants in the area, but if you do some research you'll also find amazing and authentic Mexican food as well. There is everything from food trucks to fine dining that offer ceviche, tacos, or burritos. There are also plenty of places to grab pizza or burgers.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Nightlife?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

It's hard to distinguish whether Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas has a better nightlife scene.

Playa del Carmen has a colorful and one-of-a-kind nightlife scene. It rivals some of the country's best nightlife and you'll find plenty of venues to choose from, ranging from dive bars to swanky cocktail lounges. Head to the main walking street for some of the most active venues.

Cabo San Lucas is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. It has a long reputation of being one of Mexico's best party destinations. There are wild, all-night dance parties, crazy and crowded clubs, and music that lasts well into the morning. The best nightlife can be found in the blocks around Plaza Bonita, near the marina boardwalk.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Resorts?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Carmen is a world-class destination for its resorts. Also, Cabo San Lucas is still popular, but not quite as popular for its luxury resorts.

Playa del Carmen is a world class resort vacation destination. You'll find a huge number of luxury resorts in the area, particularly along the beach. There are fancy pools and beachfront properties that offer the perfect vacation retreat.

There are plenty of resorts in Cabo San Lucas to choose from. Many of the resorts are along parts of the coastline where it's not safe to swim. If you really want to enjoy swimming at a beachfront property, make sure you do some research in advance. Medano Beach is a nice area to consider.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Carmen is a world-class destination for the nearby scuba diving and snorkeling. Also, Cabo San Lucas is still popular, but not quite as popular for its diving and snorkeling.

Playa del Carmen is a world class destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. There's not a lot to see right off of the beach, but there are plenty of snorkeling excursions in the area that take you to beautiful reefs. The diving is world class as well and you'll find wonderful reefs, bull sharks, and hidden gems.

There are many scuba diving and snorkeling spots near Cabo San Lucas. There are many snorkeling and scuba diving excursions that go out on half day and full day trips. Some of the best snorkeling is found at Cabo Pulmo, which has the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Beaches?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Carmen is a world-class destination for its beaches. Also, Cabo San Lucas is still popular, but not quite as popular for the beache.

Playa del Carmen is considered to be a world-class beach destination. The area is filled with world class beaches, long stretches of white sand, and beautiful blue water. You might even stumble across a sea turtle or two while you're swimming.

Many people visit Cabo San Lucas for it's beautiful beaches. Because of the water conditions, it's not safe to swim at many of the beaches in the area. This is particularly true on the Pacific side of the city. Many people consider Medano Beach to be one of the best in the area, but also nice are Lover's Beach, the ironically named Divorce Beach, and Chileno Beach.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for its Old Town?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a great destination for its historic old town charm. However, Playa del Carmen does not have a historic old town.

Many visitors explore the old town while visiting Cabo San Lucas. San Jose del Cabo is an "old town" that's a bit outside of town. It's particularly nice to visit on Thursdays when there's a nice market.

Playa del Carmen does not have a historic old town.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Hiking?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a great destination for its hiking experiences. Also, Playa del Carmen is still popular, but not quite as popular for hiking.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Cabo San Lucas. It's not hard to get out into nature and you'll find many great hiking trails that go through varied and beautiful landscapes.

Many people include a hike when visiting Playa del Carmen. There are well marked trails in the area that get you out in nature or take you along the coastline.

Is the Shopping Better in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a great destination for its shopping areas. Also, Playa del Carmen is still popular, but not quite as popular for shopping.

Browsing through shops is a popular activity in Cabo San Lucas. There are many great shopping areas where you can pick up souvenirs or other interesting items to remember your trip. There are mall, markets, and boutique vendors that sell a variety of products.

Plenty of visitors enjoy shopping while in Playa del Carmen. Much of the shopping is geared towards the tourists, but you'll find some local items, interesting galleries, and colorful markets to explore.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Families?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Carmen is a world-class destination for its family-friendly activities. Also, Cabo San Lucas is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

Playa del Carmen is an extremely popular town to visit for families. From eco parks to kid-friendly snorkeling opportunities, there are many activities for kids of all ages. There are also adventure parks and playgrounds that are perfect for a fun afternoon.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Cabo San Lucas is very family-friendly. Kids will love the snorkeling, boat rides, and kid-friendly cuisine. There are many places where kids can get up close and personal with animals, such as Wild Canyon’s Kingdom or camel riding. You might even be able to see migrating whales during your visit. Surfing, fishing, and hiking are also popular in the area.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Couples?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

With fun activities for couples, both Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas make for a terrific place to visit.

Playa del Carmen makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. Beautiful beaches and tropical jungles make this a paradise honeymoon destination. You'll find luxury resorts, fine dining restaurants, and countless opportunities to enjoy the stunning setting. Take a sunset cruise of explore one of the many natural wonders in the area.

For those traveling as a couple, Cabo San Lucas has plenty to offer. It has long been a favorite honeymoon destination and couples who enjoy a beach paradise with wildlife, diving, and outdoor adventures will appreciate Cabo San Lucas. There's also amazing Mexican food and world class resorts.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a great destination for backpackers. Also, Playa del Carmen is still popular, but not quite as popular for backpackers and budget travelers.

Cabo San Lucas is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. It's a popular tourist destination, and there are a number of hostels and activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Playa del Carmen is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. It's filled with tourists staying at luxury resorts, but you'll also find a couple of hostels tucked away in town. If you're interesting in scuba diving, then it's well worth the trip.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

You'll find somewhat comparable public transit options in both Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas.

You'll find some public transit in Playa del Carmen, but it may not be enough to take you everywhere. There are local buses, collectivos and the ADO bus.

While Cabo San Lucas offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. Buses make up the main form of public transit. They are called Subercabos and run between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas a more walkable city?

Playa del Carmen
Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Carmen is a world-class destination for its walkability. Also, Cabo San Lucas is still popular, but not quite as popular for its high level of walkability.

Getting around Playa del Carmen on foot is easy. It's a compact and very walkable town. La Quinta is the main strip and it's pedestrian-only.

Cabo San Lucas is a very walkable town. The town is relatively easy to walk around with many things close together.

For even more information, also check out Is Playa del Carmen Worth Visiting? and Is Cabo San Lucas Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Cabo San Lucas or Playa del Carmen?

How long in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Both Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas have a number of activities to choose from. In our opinion, Cabo San Lucas has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Cabo San Lucas than Playa del Carmen. However, 3-7 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Families should spend more time in Playa del Carmen than Cabo San Lucas. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Playa del Carmen, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Cabo San Lucas than Playa del Carmen. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Cabo San Lucas that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Cabo San Lucas than Playa del Carmen 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 Cabo San Lucas.


  • How many days in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas? Ideal Length of Stay
    Playa del Carmen 3-7 
    Cabo San Lucas 3-7

One day in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

In Playa del Carmen, you'll find shopping and nightlife. Most people come for the beaches. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

You'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping around the idyllic destination of Cabo San Lucas. Hikers are also drawn to this area. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from.

A weekend in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Playa del Carmen is a great place to explore. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. Anyone can find something fun to do here. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.

You'll find shopping and museums around the wild city of Cabo San Lucas. It's also a relaxing resort destination. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. Most people head to the area for the nightlife. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring.


Five days in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Playa del Carmen. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. It offers something for everyone. Because of this, five days is usually enough time for a trip here.

Cabo San Lucas is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. This would be the perfect place to spend five days, as it has just the right amount of activities.

A week in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

In Playa del Carmen, you'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping. It's also a great beach destination, too. Your budget might influence how long you stay. If you have one week, this is a great place to go. One week is usually enough time to experience most activities.

Cabo San Lucas is a great place to explore. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. It is common to spend one week here. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people head to the area for the nightlife. One week is often enough time to do most activities.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Cultural Tours in Mexico, The Best Food and Culinary Tours in Mexico, The Best Romantic Tours for Couples in Mexico, and The Best Budget Tours to Mexico.


Which place is cheaper, Cabo San Lucas or Playa del Carmen?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Playa del Carmen is $75, while the average daily cost in Cabo San Lucas is $128. 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 Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Playa del Carmen $36
    Cabo San Lucas $58
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Playa del Carmen $72
    Cabo San Lucas $116
Compare Hotels in Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas

Looking for a hotel in Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas? 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 Playa del Carmen


Hotels in Cabo San Lucas


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: Playa del Carmen Hotel Prices and Cabo San Lucas Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $22
    Cabo San Lucas $26

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Playa del Carmen

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Playa del Carmen:

  • Airport Transfer Playa del Carmen: $100
  • Airport Transfers to Puerto Aventuras - Private van (ROUND TRIP) FLAT RATE: $251
  • Airport transfer from Cancun, Riviera Maya and Tulum Area: $190
  • Amazing ATV (single) Cenote and Ziplines with Transfer from Playa del Carmen: $80
  • CUN Airport One-Way/Round-Trip Transfers to Playa del Carmen: $115
  • Cancún Airport Transfer to Playa del Carmen One Way: $115
  • Cancun Airport Departure transfer from Playa Paraiso, Playa del Carmen, Playacar: $83
  • Cancun Airport Private Transfer One Way: To or From Akumal area Up to 03 Pass.: $105
  • Cancun Airport Round Trip transfer to Puerto Aventuras: $193
  • Cancun International Airport From/to Puerto Aventuras - Private Transfer: $93
  • Contoy and Mujeres Islands Tour with Transfer Options: $159
  • Cozumel El Cielo Tour by Boat from Playa del Carmen & Transfer: $189

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cabo San Lucas

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Cabo San Lucas:

  • Cabo San Lucas Port to San Jose Del Cabo hotels - Arrival Private Transfer : $37
  • Los Cabos Luxury Escalade One-Way Airport Transfer: $157
  • Private One Way Cabo Airport Transfer: $85
  • San Jose Del Cabo hotels to Cabo San Lucas Port - Departure Private Transfer: $37
  • Airport Transfer to Cabo San Lucas & Pacific side Hotels & Villas Round Trip: $149
  • Arrival Share Transfer Service One way from Los Cabos airport to Hotel: $49
  • Cabo Airport Private Transfers Van cabo area UP TO 5 PASSENGERS: $77
  • Cabo San Lucas Affordable Luxury Transfers : $145
  • Cabo San Lucas Airport (CSL) to Cabo San Lucas Port - Arrival Private Transfer : $33
  • Cabo San Lucas Airport CSL to Cruise Port Arrival Transfer: $33
  • Cabo San Lucas Airport(CSL): Transfer to Cabo San Lucas Port: $165
  • Cabo San Lucas City to Cabo San Lucas Port Private Transfer : $33

Is it cheaper to fly into Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Prices for flights to both Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen 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
    Playa del Carmen $22
    Cabo San Lucas $47

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Playa del Carmen

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Playa del Carmen.

  • Walking Food Tour: $65
  • Playa del Carmen Food Tour: $71
  • Playa Del Carmen Authentic Downtown Food Tour: Tacos and Local Flavors: $75
  • Seafood Tour in Playa del Carmen: $96
  • Mexican Cooking Class: $97
  • PDC Traditional Mexican Cooking Experience: $101
  • Playa del Carmen 3 hrs Mexican Cooking Class : $108
  • Authentic Mexican Cooking Class in Playa del Carmen: $120
  • Isa’s Authentic Mexican Cooking Class: $120
  • Cancun: Cultural Coba Sunset Adventure with Dinner and Show: $125
  • Riviera Maya: Sunset Cruise with Beach Dinner and Open Bar: $153
  • Sunset Adventure in Coba and Dinner with Show from Riviera Maya: $155

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cabo San Lucas

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Cabo San Lucas.

  • Sunset Dinner Cruise with Domestic Open Bar: $68
  • Tasting Cabo San Lucas Like a Local Food Tour: $70
  • Sunset Boat Tour Includes Open Bar and Dinner: $71
  • Cabo San Lucas Sunset Cruise with Dinner and Open Bar: $75
  • Seafood Galore, Los Cabos Food Tour: $80
  • Sea to Table Fisherman's Seafood Tour in Cabo San Lucas: $80
  • Sunset Tour of Everything Cabo! Includes dinner and open bar!: $80
  • Sunset Dinner: $85
  • Sunset Dinner Cruise with Tequila & tacos: $85
  • Los Cabos: Sunset Fajitas Dinner Cruise on Cabo Escape: $86
  • San Jose del Cabo Morning Food Tour: $86
  • Prehispanic Tacos Cooking Class: $88

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $16
    Cabo San Lucas $39

Tours and Activities in Playa del Carmen

Here are a few actual costs in Playa del Carmen for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Tulum Legends: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of the Ancient Mayan City: $6.99
  • Shopping Tour & Tulum Mayan Ruins: $11
  • Cancun Airport: Bus Ticket to/from Playa del Carmen: $14
  • Tulum Ruins: Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration & Map: $15
  • Ek Balam: Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration & Map: $15
  • Riviera Maya: Frida Kahlo Museum Guided Tour 2024: $20
  • Full day tour: Tulum, Coba, Cenote and Playa del Carmen: $23
  • Thrilling ATV Adventure in Tulum: Ride Through Jungle: $25
  • Chichen Itza and Cenote Full Day Tour from Playa del Carmen: $28
  • Ice Bath Experience on the Beach: $30
  • Tulum and 2 Cenotes Half Day Tour from Riviera: $34
  • Mayan tour 4x1: Tulum, Cobá, Cenote & Playa del carmen: $34

Tours and Activities in Cabo San Lucas

Here are a few actual costs in Cabo San Lucas for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Classic Tour to the Arch in Glass Bottom: $8.51
  • Tour paseo al Arco + bajada en playa: $11
  • Los Cabos Famous Arch Boat Tour, México: $15
  • Boat Tour to Cabo San Lucas Arch and Rock Formations: $17
  • Glass bottom boat tour: $19
  • Cabo San Lucas Arch Tour and we go down to Playa del Amor: $19
  • Cabo San Lucas : Snorkel Tour + Paseo al Arco: $20
  • Water Taxi Tour: $20
  • Glass Bottom Boat Sightseeing Tour in Cabo San Lucas: $23
  • Glass Bottom Boat Tour: $23
  • 45-Minute Glass-Bottom-Boat Tour: $23
  • Amazing Snorkel Experience at Los Cabos: $25

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Playa del Carmen $19
    Cabo San Lucas $26

Sample the Local Flavors in Cabo San Lucas

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Cabo San Lucas:

  • Los Cabos: Bar Crawl: $89


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas, we can see that Cabo San Lucas is more expensive. And not only is Playa del Carmen much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Playa del Carmen would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Playa del Carmen 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 Cabo San Lucas would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Cabo San Lucas than you might in Playa del Carmen.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Playa del Carmen Expensive? and Is Cabo San Lucas Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Playa del Carmen or Cabo San Lucas?

Playa del Carmen has a larger population, and is about 28% larger than the population of Cabo San Lucas. When comparing the sizes of Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas, 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.