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

Should you visit Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

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

Should I visit Playa del Carmen 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.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a stunning, vibrant, and picture-perfect town. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. Visitors also love the food, scuba diving and snorkeling, and beaches.

Cancun

Cancun is a party-hard, tropical, and active city. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. Other popular activities here include museums, nightlife, and food.

Playa del Carmen and Cancun: 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
  • 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 Cancun?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Cancun than Playa del Carmen, as it is bigger with more sights, attractions, and activities for visitors. Playa del Carmen is popular for its coral reefs, luxury resorts, and white sand beaches. Cancun is popular for its water sports, white sand beaches, popularity at spring break, and access to Mayan ruins. It is also home to .


How is Playa del Carmen different from Cancun?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Cancun 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 Cancun?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Cancun is a great destination for its museums and landmarks. However, Playa del Carmen is a town with minimal options for its historical sights.

Cancun offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. 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.

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 Cancun? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Picking the best cuisine and restaurants between Playa del Carmen and Cancun can be difficult as they are each good in their own way.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Playa del Carmen area. 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.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Cancun. 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 Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Nightlife?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

It's hard to distinguish whether Playa del Carmen or Cancun 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.

Cancun is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. 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 Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Resorts?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Playa del Carmen and Cancun offer a relatively similar set of world-class luxury resort options.

For the ultimate resort vacation, Playa del Carmen is a great choice. 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.

If you're looking for a fantastic resort destination, Cancun is a perfect 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.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

There's world-class scuba diving or snorkeling available in both Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

The clear water and abundant marine life make Playa del Carmen a world-class scuba diving and snorkeling destination. 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.

The scuba diving and snorkeling in Cancun is not to be missed. 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.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Beaches?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

For a relaxing beach holiday, both Playa del Carmen and Cancun are world-class choices.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Playa del Carmen. 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.

With world-famous beaches, Cancun is a very popular vacation destination. 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.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Hiking?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

If you're looking to go hiking, Playa del Carmen and Cancun both have good trails.

Playa del Carmen is a good destination for hiking. There are well marked trails in the area that get you out in nature or take you along the coastline.

Many people include a hike when visiting Cancun. There are some beautiful walking paths and hiking trails that are within the area.


Is the Shopping Better in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Shopping is a popular activity in both Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

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

Plenty of visitors enjoy shopping while in Cancun. While most people visit for the beaches and nightlife, there are shopping malls and markets where you can enjoy some retail therapy.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Families?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Playa del Carmen or Cancun.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Playa del Carmen is a very family-friendly destination. 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.

Cancun is one of the most popular family destinations. 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.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Couples?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

With fun activities for couples, both Playa del Carmen and Cancun make for a world-class 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, Cancun has plenty to offer. 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.


Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

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

Cancun is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. 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.

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

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

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

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 Cancun offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. The buses are an efficient way to get around. They stop along Boulevard Kukulcán and throughout the downtown.

Is Playa del Carmen or Cancun a more walkable city?

Playa del Carmen
Cancun

Playa del Carmen is renowned for its high level of walkability. Also, Cancun is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its ease of walking around.

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

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


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

Should I spend more time in Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

How long in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun have a number of activities to choose from. In our opinion, Cancun has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Cancun than Playa del Carmen. In general, 3-7 days is a good amount of time for Playa del Carmen, and 4-7 days is enough time in Cancun.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Cancun 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 Cancun.


  • How many days in Playa del Carmen or Cancun? Ideal Length of Stay
    Playa del Carmen 3-7 
    Cancun 4-7

One day in Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting the destination of Playa del Carmen. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. 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 adventurous destination of Cancun. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. 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 Cancun?

Playa del Carmen 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.

You'll find shopping and museums around the active city of Cancun. It's also a relaxing resort destination. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. 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 Cancun?

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

Cancun is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. 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 Cancun?

Many travelers enjoy the scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping when visiting the stunning destination of Playa del Carmen. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. If you have one week, this is a great place to go. This would be the perfect place to spend one week, as it has just the right amount of activities.

Cancun is a great place to explore. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. It is common to spend one week here. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One week is often enough time to do most activities.


Which place is cheaper, Cancun 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 $79, while the average daily cost in Cancun is $144. 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 Cancun in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Playa del Carmen $38
    Cancun $95
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Playa del Carmen $76
    Cancun $190
Compare Hotels in Playa del Carmen and Cancun

Looking for a hotel in Playa del Carmen 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 Playa del Carmen


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: Playa del Carmen Hotel Prices and Cancun Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $23
    Cancun $17

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Playa del Carmen

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Playa del Carmen:

  • Wedding Transfers Services in Round Trip Playa del Carmen: $180
  • Transfers in Lincoln StretchLimo from Puerto Aventuras-Cun Airport.: $194
  • Transfer in Private vehicle from Akumal City - Cancun Airport (CUN) : $74
  • Transfer in Private minivan from Akumal City - Cancun Airport (CUN): $67
  • Tour Bacalar Ponton with Transfer from Cancun & Playa del Carmen : $147
  • To Holbox from Playa del Carmen & Riviera Maya -Private transfer: $248
  • Super Deal: Cancun Airport-Hotel-Cancun Airport Private Round Trip Transfer: $117
  • Shared transfer from Playa del Carmen tu Cancun airport: $38
  • Shared roundtrip transfer from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen: $76
  • Shared Transfer Cancun Airport - Puerto Aventuras: $48
  • Shared Transfer Cancun Airport - Playa del Carmen: $31
  • Roundtrip Private Transfer Playa del Carmen from CUN: $174

Typical Local Transportation Prices in Cancun

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


  • Taxi Around Town
    $1.64
  • Airport Shuttle (for 2)
    $14
  • Ferry to Isla de Mujeres (for 2)
    $16
  • Local Bus (for 2)
    $1.99

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cancun

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

  • Cancun Airport Private Transfer From & To Cancun Hotel Zone: $51
  • ATV Combo (Horseback, Ziplines, Cenote, Water, Lunch and Transfer Included): $105
  • Airport Private Transfer Puerto Aventuras: $96
  • Airport Transfer Cancun: $60
  • Airport Transfers to Costa Mujeres - Private van (ROUND TRIP) FLAT RATE: $231
  • Airport Transfers to Puerto Juarez - Private van (ROUND TRIP) FLAT RATE: $180
  • Airport Transfers to Puerto Morelos - Private van (ROUND TRIP) FLAT RATE: $156
  • Airport transfers to Isla Mujeres: $175
  • Amazing Combo - Horseback Riding, ATV (Single), Cenote & Ziplines with Transfer: $102
  • Arrival Private Transfer Cancun Airport CUN to Cancun by Minivan or Minibus: $39
  • Arrival Private Transfer Cancun Airport CUN to Playa del Carmen by SUV: $117
  • Arrival Private Transfer from Cancun Airport CUN to Tulum by Minivan or Minibus: $117

Is it cheaper to fly into Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Prices for flights to both Cancun 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 $23
    Cancun $28

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.

  • Cenotes by Bike and Mayan Cooking Class Half-Day Guided Tour: $57
  • Walking Food Tour: $65
  • Playa Del Carmen Authentic Downtown Food Tour: Tacos and Local Flavors: $65
  • Playa del Carmen Walking Food Tour: $69
  • Playa del Carmen Food Tour: $71
  • crazy walking food tour Inlakech Playa del Carmen: $73
  • Vegan Mexican Walking Food Tour: $74
  • Seafood Tour in Playa del Carmen: $93
  • PDC Traditional Mexican Cooking Experience: $104
  • PDC Traditional Mexican Cooking Experience: $112
  • Authentic Mexican Cooking Class in Playa del Carmen: $120
  • Isa’s Authentic Mexican Cooking Class: $120

Typical Food Prices in Cancun

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


  • Lunch for Two
    $20

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 Adventure! Open Bar, Dinner and Show : $63
  • (2x1 price) Pirate Night! Dinner, Fun and Show: $63
  • (2x1 price) Dinner Show and Pirates Experience : $63
  • Pirate Show and Dinner (2x1 price)! Best Promo : $64
  • Dinner Show on a Pirate Ship from Cancun with Open Bar: $65
  • Cancun Authentic Downtown Food Tour: Tacos and Local Flavors: $65
  • Private Ultimate Cancun Taco and Street Mexican Food Tour: $69
  • Guided Cancun Local Mexican Food Tour: $69

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $17
    Cancun $34

Tours and Activities in Playa del Carmen

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

  • ATV Mayan Jungle Adventure: $110
  • Electric fatbike ecological tour in the Mayan lands: $149
  • Full-Day Tour 4x1 to Tulum, Coba, Cenote and Playa del Carmen with Lunch: $59
  • Romantic tour in Akumal: $98
  • Scuba Diving tours: $170
  • Skip the line: Regular Ticket Playa del Carmen: $86
  • Tulum Ruins, Turtle Sightseeing & Underground Cenote from Tulum: $140
  • VIP Cenote Scuba Tour, Certified Divers Only: $230
  • (4x1) Tulum, Coba, Cenote and Playa del carmen in a full day tour: $51
  • 3 Hour Tour ATV Single with Underground River from Tulum : $118
  • 3 in 1 Private Tour Tulum Cenote and Snorkeling in the reef: $210
  • 3D Museum of Wonders Admission Ticket: $42

Typical Entertainment Prices in Cancun

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


  • Seasick Pills
    $0.59
  • Whale Shark Tour (for 2)
    $99

Tours and Activities in Cancun

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

  • Tour to Kin Ha Cenotes with Craft Jewelry Workshop : $11
  • Cancun Mayan Museum Skip-the-Line Ticket: $12
  • ATV Jungle Adventure with Ziplines, Cenote Transportation Included: $15
  • Half Day National Reef Park Snorkel Adventure in Puerto Morelos: $15
  • Hop-on Hop-off City Tour Cancun: $17
  • Best ATV & Mavericks Experience in Cancun + Cenote + Zip Lines : $19
  • El Sol De Cancun : Panoramic Tour in Regular Cabin: $20
  • Explore Tulum, Coba, Cenote, Playa del Carmen full day 4x1 tour: $22
  • Day Tour to Isla Mujeres Catamarán with Unlimited Drinks: $22
  • Chichén Itzá Marvels Day Trip:Cenote Oxman & Valladolid Adventure: $25
  • Adrenaline day in Cancun, Atvs, Ziplines and Cenote experience in the best park!: $25
  • Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour from Cancun with Snorkel and Open Bar: $25

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Playa del Carmen $21
    Cancun $13

Sample the Local Flavors in Playa del Carmen

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Playa del Carmen:

  • Tour to the Brewery with Tasting and Fifth Avenue: $108

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: $37
  • Brewery Tour / Craft Beer Tasting Cancun Mexico: $129


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, we can see that Cancun 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 Cancun would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Cancun 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 Cancun Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

Cancun has a larger population, and is about 10 times larger than the population of Playa del Carmen. When comparing the sizes of Playa del Carmen 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.