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

Should you visit Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

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

Should I visit Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta? 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 scenic, stunning, and vibrant town. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. Other popular activities here include scuba diving and snorkeling, beaches, and hiking.

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a colorful, laid-back, and cultural town. Other popular activities here include scuba diving and snorkeling, beaches, and shopping.

Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta: 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
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers


Is there more to do in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

Visitors will generally find more to do in Playa del Carmen than Puerto Vallarta. While Puerto Vallarta is larger than Playa del Carmen, Playa del Carmen has more sights, attractions, and activities for tourists. Playa del Carmen is very popular for its nightlife, scuba diving & snorkeling, beaches, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Puerto Vallarta attracts visitors for its museums, food, and shopping. Playa del Carmen is more touristy than Puerto Vallarta and is known for its coral reefs, luxury resorts, and white sand beaches. It is also well known for La Quinta Avenida. Puerto Vallarta is famous for its natural beauty and vibrant nightlife.

How is Playa del Carmen different from Puerto Vallarta?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta. There are a number of historical sights around town like Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

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 Puerto Vallarta? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta is an experience not to be missed. The charming character combined with the authentic local cuisine makes for a wonderful culinary experience. There's everything from taco stands to romantic restaurants that you can try.

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 Puerto Vallarta Better for Nightlife?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for its evening party scene. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for nightlife.

Playa del Carmen is a destination that you simply have to visit at least once for nightlife. 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.

Puerto Vallarta has a large number of nightlife venues. You'll find a mix of active clubs, cozy bars, and cosmopolitan cafes. Head to the Romantic Zone or Los Muertos Beach for some of the best places.

Is Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta Better for Resorts?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta 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, Puerto Vallarta is a perfect choice. There are many different places to stay from all-inclusive resorts to high end hotels or beachfront properties.


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

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for snorkeling and scuba diving. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for the nearby scuba diving and snorkeling.

The scuba diving and snorkeling in Playa del Carmen is not to be missed. 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.

Many visitors go to Puerto Vallarta to enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling. Divers in the area may get to experience once in a lifetime opportunities like diving with manta rays, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerheads, or schools of jacks.

Is Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta Better for Beaches?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for the beach. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its beaches.

With world-famous beaches, Playa del Carmen is a very popular vacation 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.

You'll have a great beach vacation in Puerto Vallarta. There are many beaches spread out around town that have soft sand and blue water. Most have all of the amenities you could need. Popular beaches include Playa de los Muertos, Playa Mismaloya, and Playa Conchas Chinas.

Is Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta Better for Hiking?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is very good for the nearby hiking options. However, Puerto Vallarta is not a hiking destination.

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.

Puerto Vallarta is not a hiking destination.


Is the Shopping Better in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta. There's a mix of shopping malls, open-air markets, boutiques, and international brands.

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 Puerto Vallarta Better for Families?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for its family-friendly activities. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular family destinations. 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.

Puerto Vallarta is a very family-friendly destination. Kids will love the water parks and thrilling activities, such as Aquaventuras Water Park or Los Veranos Canopy Tour. There's rock climbing and ropes courses at Las Animas Aventura Park. You'll also find horseback riding and even pirate boat tours in the area.

Is Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta Better for Couples?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for couples. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for romance.

For those traveling as a couple, Playa del Carmen has plenty to offer. 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.

Puerto Vallarta makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Couples looking for a romantic getaway will enjoy sunset boat trips, horseback riding, and adventure sports. There are also many restaurants where you can enjoy a romantic dinner or a refreshing drink.


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

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

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

Puerto Vallarta is a very popular town for backpackers and budget travelers. There are hostels around, as well as many adventure sports or thrilling 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 Puerto Vallarta Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

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

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 Puerto Vallarta offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. There are blue, green or orange buses that travel around town.

Is Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta a more walkable city?

Playa del Carmen
Puerto Vallarta

Playa del Carmen is renowned for its ease of walking around. Also, Puerto Vallarta is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its walkability.

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

Puerto Vallarta is very walkable. There are several walkable neighborhoods in town such as 5 de Diciembre, el Centro, and Zona Romantica.


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

Should I spend more time in Puerto Vallarta or Playa del Carmen?

How long in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

In either Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Playa del Carmen than Puerto Vallarta because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 3-7 days is a good amount of time for Playa del Carmen, and 3-5 days is enough time in Puerto Vallarta.

Families should spend more time in Playa del Carmen than Puerto Vallarta. 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 Playa del Carmen than Puerto Vallarta. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Playa del Carmen that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta.


  • How many days in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta? Ideal Length of Stay
    Playa del Carmen 3-7 
    Puerto Vallarta 3-5

One day in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

The vibrant destination of Playa del Carmen offers nightlife and food. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

You'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping around the coastal destination of Puerto Vallarta. 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 town offers a variety of activities to choose from.

A weekend in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

The town of Playa del Carmen offers food and scuba diving and snorkeling. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.

You'll find shopping and museums around the cultural town of Puerto Vallarta. 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 Puerto Vallarta?

Playa del Carmen is a great place to explore. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. This town offers something for everyone. It is common to spend five days here. Five days is often enough time to do most activities.

Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta?

The vibrant town of Playa del Carmen offers shopping and nightlife. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. For many, it makes a great getaway for one week. Because of this, one week is usually enough time for a trip here.

Puerto Vallarta is a great place to explore. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


Which place is cheaper, Puerto Vallarta 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 Puerto Vallarta is $112. 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 Puerto Vallarta in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Playa del Carmen $38
    Puerto Vallarta $62
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Playa del Carmen $76
    Puerto Vallarta $124
Compare Hotels in Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta

Looking for a hotel in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta? 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 Puerto Vallarta


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 Puerto Vallarta Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $23
    Puerto Vallarta $19

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Playa del Carmen

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Playa del Carmen:

  • Round transfer from Chetumal Airport to hotel in Bacalar: $21
  • Chetumal Airport (CTM) to Chetumal - Arrival Private Transfer: $24
  • Chetumal Airport CTM to Chetumal City Arrival Private Transfer: $24
  • Private Transfer to Xplor / Xenses / Xplor Fire from Playa del Carmen: $25
  • Punta Sam / Isla Blanca to Cancún Airport (CUN)- Departure Private Transfer: $28
  • Shared Transfer Cancun Airport - Playa del Carmen: $31
  • Puerto Aventuras to Cancún Airport (CUN) - Private Departure Transfer: $32
  • Playa del Carmen to Cancún Airport (CUN) - Private Departure Transfer: $32
  • Shared transfer from Playa del Carmen tu Cancun airport: $38
  • Private Transfer to/from Cancun airport: $39
  • Akumal to Cancún Airport (CUN) - Departure Private Transfer: $41
  • Maroma Beach: Entry Ticket to Maroma Beach Club & Transfer: $47

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Puerto Vallarta

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Puerto Vallarta:

  • Roundtrip Transfer Private Minivan Puerto Vallarta Airport (PVT) -City Center: $93
  • Airport Transfer Puerto Vallarta : $135
  • Arrival Transfer from Airport to Cruise Port in Puerto Vallarta: $44
  • From Puerto Vallarta Hotels to Cruise Port Departure Transfer: $44
  • Mexico Private Transfer from Marina Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) Airport: $56
  • Mexico Private Transfer from Puerto Vallarta (PVR) Airport to Punta de Mita: $164
  • Mexico Private Transfer from Puerto Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) Airport: $65
  • Mexico Private Transfer from Punta de Mita to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) Airport: $153
  • Privat Transfer from Puerto Vallarta Airport PVR to Punta de Mita: $170
  • Private AC Airport Transfer to Sayulita: $140
  • Private Airport Transfer in Puerto Vallarta for 8 to 12 persons: $229
  • Private Transfer Licenciado Gustavo Airport to/fr Puerto Vallarta: $25

Is it cheaper to fly into Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

Prices for flights to both Puerto Vallarta 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
    Puerto Vallarta $36

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: $74
  • Vegan Mexican Walking Food Tour: $74
  • Hands-on Mexican Cooking Class: $92
  • Seafood Tour in Playa del Carmen: $93
  • PDC Traditional Mexican Cooking Experience: $105
  • PDC Traditional Mexican Cooking Experience: $112
  • Authentic Mexican Cooking Class in Playa del Carmen: $120

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Puerto Vallarta

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Puerto Vallarta.

  • 3-Hour Guided Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta: $45
  • Taco102 - dinner taco walk - all inclusive: $45
  • Off The Beaten Path Food Tour, Breakfast in Pitillal: $55
  • Dinner Tacos Food Tour: $55
  • Puerto Vallarta 3-Hour Food Tour of Authentic Local Cuisine: $55
  • Off The Beaten Path Food Tour. Dinner in Pitillal : $55
  • Downtown Puerto Vallarta Food Tour with Vallarta Food Tours: $55
  • Taste of Pitillal Food Tour by Vallarta Food Tours : $55
  • Taco Adventure Evening Food Tour with Vallarta Food Tours: $55
  • Puerta Vallarta: Seafood Lover's Food Tour: $56
  • Seafood Lover's Tour with Vallarta Food Tours : $59
  • Signature Taco and Street Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta: $65

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Playa del Carmen $17
    Puerto Vallarta $18

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
  • Tulum Ruins: Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration & Map: $9.99
  • Ek Balam: Self-Guided Tour with Audio Narration & Map: $9.99
  • Shopping Tour & Tulum Mayan Ruins: $11
  • Cancun Airport: Bus Ticket to/from Playa del Carmen: $14
  • Tulum Ruins, Cancun Self Guided Walking Tour (GPS, Audio and Trivia): $15
  • Entrance to the Xcajum Ecotourism Park: $20
  • Riviera Maya: Frida Kahlo Museum Guided Tour 2024: $21
  • YAL-KÚ Park in Riviera Maya Admission Ticket: $23
  • General Admission Ticket to Chikin Ha in Playa del Carmen: $26
  • Guided Tour to Chichén Itzá and Cenote and Valladolid with Lunch: $27
  • Chichen Itza and Cenote Full Day Tour from Playa del Carmen: $28

Tours and Activities in Puerto Vallarta

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Puerto Vallarta are as follows:

  • Puerto Vallarta Historical El Centro: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $6.99
  • City Tour Puerto Vallarta - Churches, Tequila Test and more: $18
  • Puerto Vallarta VIP Promotional Tour: $19
  • Mexico: Puerto Vallarta City Tour: $20
  • Puerto Vallarta City Tour: $20
  • Skip the Line: Vallarta Botanical Garden Admission Ticket: $21
  • Guided SUP Board Tour with Digital Photos: $23
  • Hop-On-Hop-Off City Bus Tour: $23
  • Hop On Hop Off Tour with Free Stops in Puerto Vallarta: $24
  • Private Bike City Tour with Photo Session in Puerto Vallarta: $24
  • Butterfly Sanctuary Guided Tour in Puerto Vallarta: $26
  • Chocolate Tour in Vallarta: $28

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Playa del Carmen $21
    Puerto Vallarta $23

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 Puerto Vallarta

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Puerto Vallarta:

  • Fun Mexican Wine Tasting in Beautiful Garden of Puerto Vallarta: $40
  • Tequila Tasting and Tour at Puerto Vallarta Distillery: $48
  • Brewery Bus Tour from Mexico: $85
  • Brewery Bus Tour- Tacos y Cervezas: $85
  • Secret Agave Bar Crawl in Vallarta: $98
  • All you can drink Bar Crawl: $99
  • Mountains Route, visiting a traditional distillery: $270


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


Which is Bigger, Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta has a larger population, and is about 3 times larger than the population of Playa del Carmen. When comparing the sizes of Playa del Carmen and Puerto Vallarta, 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.