Playa del Carmen vs Cancun: Which is Best for Families?

Cancun and Playa del Carmen are two of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. They're both great options for a vacation, but which one should you choose? This blog post will compare and contrast Cancun and Playa del Carmen so you can make the best decision for your family. Both destinations have their own unique advantages, so read on to find out more!

So, which is better for families - Playa del Carmen or Cancun? It really depends on what you're looking for in a vacation. If you want a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice. However, if you're looking for non-stop fun and entertainment, then Cancun is the place for you! No matter which destination you choose, you're sure to have an amazing time.

Cancun vs playa del carmen - which is better?

Playa Del Carmen and Cancun - Two Different Cities

Playa del Carmen is a smaller and more laid-back town than Cancun. It's perfect for families who are looking for a relaxing vacation without all the hustle and bustle of a big city. Playa del Carmen also has a lot of cultural activities and attractions, which makes it a great choice for families who want to experience something new.

Visitors can stay anywhere in town and still have great access to the amazing beaches. If you choose Playa del Carmen, you'll be staying in a town rather than just an area designated to catering to the resort guests like in Cancun.

Cancun, on the other hand, is a bustling city with plenty of activities to keep your family entertained. If you're looking for non-stop fun, then Cancun is the place for you! There are also plenty of beaches in Cancun, so you can spend your days lounging by the water or swimming in the crystal-clear ocean.

Tourists typically end up staying at what is known as "Zona Hotelera" since the town itself is not as attractive. This is a strip of resorts along the coast outlined by the gorgeous Caribbean beach. This is probably the safest area of Cancun. If you want to have easy access to Isla Mujeres and all of the activities and sights it offers, you will want to choose Cancun for your vacation.

Cancun playa del carmen

Getting to Cancun or Playa del Carmen - Travel Logistics

Playa del Carmen is about a 45-minute drive from the Cancun airport, while getting to the tourist part of Cancun is only about a 15-minute drive.

Cancun is also served by direct flights while you will not be able to fly directly to Playa del Carmen, so if you're looking to save time on travel, Cancun might be the better choice.

The best way to get to Playa del Carmen or Cancun is by flying into the Cancun International Airport. From there, you can take a bus, taxi, or rental car to Playa del Carmen or Cancun. If you're looking for a vacation that's easy to get to, then Cancun is the better choice.

Private transfers can cost around $75 each way for Playa Del Carmen. However, you can take the bus easily and safely at a very budget-friendly price.

If you want to keep commute time short and are looking for a quick and cheap taxi ride to your hotel, then staying in Cancun might be the better option for you. 

You can also rent a car from the airport and drive yourself down to Playa del Carmen. This way, you'll have your own ride for any day trips you end up doing (like visiting Valladolid or the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza). Driving around in Playa Del Carmen area is easy and having a car makes exploring so much more convenient.

Cost of Traveling To Cancun vs Playa del Carmen

Cancun is a more expensive destination than Playa del Carmen. However, there are plenty of ways to save money while traveling to Cancun. If you're looking for a vacation that won't break the bank, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice. Playa del Carmen gives you a wider range of options for accommodations and dining so you can pick which will fit your budget better when visiting Cancun.

Generally, those who stay in Cancun will opt for staying at all-inclusive resorts and hotels so they don't have to worry about having to get to town for meals. This might be a great thing fro some while others prefer getting out and trying different restaurants. 

If you wan to explore more of the authentic food offered during your visit, choosing to stay in Playa Del Carmen will give you a lot of places to try at whatever budget suits you!

In Playa Del Carmen, you'll also be able to find more than just big hotels and resorts, you can opt to stay in apartments or hostels and have the option to choose whichever part of town suits your vacation style.

Choosing the Right Hotel 

There are plenty of great hotels to choose from in both Playa del Carmen and Cancun. However, Playa del Carmen has a wider range of hotel options, so you're more likely to find something that fits your budget and needs.

You can even look for Airbnbs and apartments for rent if you are staying longer. Playa del Carmen offers "best of both worlds," meaning, you can have the benefits of being in a great town but also choose an all-inclusive resort for your stay.

Cancun also has a lot of all-inclusive resorts, which can be a great option for families who want everything taken care of for them. If you are only visiting for a 3-day weekend, then Cancun will be a better choice to reduce travel time an having to plan your meals and activities yourself.



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Beaches in Of Each Area

Cancun is world-famous for its beautiful beaches, and there's no doubt that the beaches here are stunning. Staying at a resort in Cancun gives visitors the convenience of having beach beds and umbrellas at no extra cost as well as drinks served to you on the beach!

A Playa Del Carmen Beach is better than one in Cancun only in that the waves can be calmer.

Personally, though, I feel that the water is a lot more rough in Cancun. You can have calmer waves in Playa Del Carmen, which make it more kid-friendly.

Playa del Carmen vs Cancun beaches

Playa del Carmen also has some amazing beaches that are less crowded and more relaxed. You will see more locals on the beaches of Playa del Carmen than you would in Cancun. And if you wanted to have the beach amenities and services for a day, you could go to a beach club in Playa Del Carmen for that experience.

If you're looking for a beach vacation where you can spend your days lounging on the sand or swimming in the ocean, then either Cancun or Playa del Carmen is a great choice.

Activities in Cancun vs Playa del Carmen

Both Cancun and Playa del Carmen have plenty of activities to keep your family entertained. However, Cancun has more of a party atmosphere with lots of nightclubs and bars, while Playa del Carmen has a more laid-back vibe.

If you're looking for a family-friendly vacation with plenty of things to do, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice. Don't get me wrong, though, there are plenty of night clubs and adult activities to enjoy in Playa Del Carmen as well.

Cancun vs Playa del Carmen attractions

With both areas being near the sea and a couple of fantastic islands, you'll be able to partake in fantastic water activities and excursions. But, remember, Playa del Carmen has the Xcaret eco-park!

The Attractions Offered By Each

If you're looking for a vacation with plenty of historical and cultural attractions, then Playa Del Carmen is the better choice. You can explore nearby towns and Mayan Ruins by renting a car or taking a tour.

Playa del Carmen is close to some great towns that are worth visiting whether you want to go for a day trip or longer. Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, and Valladolid are all within a few hours' drive. I would even go as far as Izamal, the "Yellow City" which is easily accessible from Playa Del Carmen. Cancun is also close to some great towns but Playa del Carmen is more centrally located to the best ruins.

Food - Restaurants And Cafes in Cancun Compared To Playa del Carmen

Both Cancun and Playa del Carmen have great food options. However, Playa del Carmen has more traditional Mexican restaurants while Cancun has a wider range of international cuisine. If you're looking for authentic Mexican food, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice.

Keep in mind that if you choose to visit Playa Del Carmen, you'll be able to walk around town and find loads of international food choices. While in Cancun, the food is pretty much limited to whatever your resort offers.

Cancun vs Playa del Carmen food

Weather - When Is The Best Time To Visit Playa del Carmen or Cancun?

The weather in both Playa del Carmen and Cancun is warm and sunny year-round. However, the rainy season runs from May to October in Playa del Carmen while it runs from June to November in Cancun. 

Safety Comparison

Both Cancun and Playa del Carmen are safe destinations for families. However, Cancun has a higher crime rate than Playa del Carmen. If you're looking for a safe and family-friendly vacation, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice.

The atmosphere and General Vibe Differences 

Cancun is a party town and it is known for its spring break atmosphere. Playa del Carmen has a more relaxed vibe and is known for its beautiful beaches.

Cancun also tends to cater more to the "all-inclusive" vacationers that don't really want to have to plan too much on their own and want to be at a resort that provides it all for them. Playa del Carmen is more of a "DIY" kind of destination where you can find plenty of great hotels, restaurants, and activities but you'll have to do a little more research to find them.

Visiting Playa Del Carmen feels more like you're in a town while being in Cancun just feels like you are at a beach resort. 

Playa del Carmen vs. Cancun: Which Is Better For Families With Kids?

If you want a more relaxed atmosphere with plenty of dining and accommodation options that fit different budgets, then Playa Del Carmen is a is better for your family vacation. 

The attractions and activities can be tailored to different age ranges, making it an excellent destination for families. Getting around in Playa del Carmen is easier than in Cancun, so that’s another plus.

If you’re after a more touristy vibe with lots to do for all ages, then Cancun might be right up your alley! If you're looking for a party atmosphere with lots of nightlife options, then Cancun is the better choice.

However, if you're looking for a family-friendly vacation with plenty of things to do, then Playa del Carmen is the better choice. Playa del Carmen is also a great choice if you're looking for an authentic Mexican experience with plenty of historical and cultural attractions. Whichever destination you choose, you're sure to have a great time!

In the end, it really depends on what you’re looking for. The main difference between Playa Del Carmen and Cancun is the vibe each can offer and the kind of visitor it attracts.

I hope this helped you decide whether Playa del Carmen or Cancun is the better choice for your next vacation. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Have you ever been to Playa del Carmen or Cancun? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!

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