My First Trip to Mexico….Cancun, Cabo or Puerto Vallarta?

I have never been to Mexico — so this year I decided that instead of going to Hawaii like we usually do for a beach vacation— I will check into going to Mexico.  I do not know Mexico that well and have no idea what part of the country I would like to go to for our first trip.  I’ve asked friends who frequently go to Mexico and got various suggestions as to which part of Mexico to try first.   Will it be Cabo, Cancun or Puerto Vallarta?  After some deliberation, I decided to go to Puerto Vallarta.

When I was deciding on what Mexico city to go to, I had to consider the following:  distance, availability of convenient flights from Denver, the beaches, accommodations, east side or west side and available attractions.

East or West, On the Beach or Barely On The Beach

I learned as I was doing my research that Cancun, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, is closer to those living in the East Coast and those living in or close to Texas.  Cabo and Puerto Vallarta are on the western side of Mexico so it is easier to get to for those of us living out West.  Cancun is the most developed of the three cities with Cabo following close behind.  Cancun also has some big malls and open air shopping centers, shops and themed restaurants that might remind you of what you’ll find and see in Las Vegas.  Although I am told that Puerto Vallarta will be the most “authentic” of the three, I discovered that it is starting to be developed and Puerto Vallarta’s modernization will probably catch up to Cabo and Cancun in about 3-8 years!

Cancun is situated by the Gulf of Mexico which gives you the turquoise water that most of us associate with a perfect beach vacation.  Most Cancun hotels are situated on the beach which gets you a beachfront location to enjoy the gorgeous turquoise waters.  Cabo resorts and hotels are also oceanfront but the water is usually rougher and not quite ideal for swimming.  Puerto Vallarta is on the bay and therefore lacks a beach, so I was prepared after looking at photos of the property we were going to stay at, that although it advertises itself as “on the beach” that I probably would get a “tiny” strip of sand.

Do You Want Some R&R?

If you are looking for some R&R, Cabo resorts are great if you are not looking to venture outside your hotel.  Hotels in San Jose Del Cabo will give you the much needed R&R compared to hotels in Cabo San Lucas that are more centrally located and can be more crowded and loud since most of the bars, clubs and restaurants are in Cabo San Lucas.  Cancun will definitely have more of the “large resort” feel and could still provide you with the R&R you crave if you are more into the “large resort feel” kind of thing.

Puerto Vallarta’s appeal is the abundance of activities from sunset cruises, horseback rides, zip lining to day trips to nearby beaches and inexpensive day spas.   You definitely need to get out of the hotel to enjoy what Puerto Vallarta has to offer.

I have also found from researching that Puerto Vallarta is the most economical option with offerings of cheaper hotels, tours and food.  I got to enjoy a massage during one of our day trips and I would put this experience of one of my favorites during our trip!

And I Picked…..

I am told that Cancun is like Los Angeles or Miami and Cabo having the beautiful desert landscape can be compared to Scottsdale.  Puerto Vallarta does not really have a comparable US City but it is the most lush of the three, surrounded by mountain and jungle.  Puerto Vallarta boasts having quaint shops and street vendors, cobbled streets and has some of the friendliest people.  It has a slower pace vibe which is what I want for this trip.

In summary, Cancun is where you need to go if you want to feel that you never left the States.  Cabo is a place where you go when you don’t mind not leaving your hotel and can be happy with just sunbathing and snorkeling.  I opted for Puerto Vallarta because I was looking for more authenticity during my first introduction to Mexico and want a slower pace and still have some options for adventure from activities out of the resort.


Knowing all these, I do know that after trying Puerto Vallarta out that I am definitely open to trying and visiting Cancun and Cabo next!