Cancun vs. Acapulco

With the enduring fame of Acapulco and Cancun’s reputation, you can tell why Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world. Acapulco was the original tourist giant way before resort towns were made, and cities like Cancun had their share of the limelight. Cancun is young and hip, rowdy, and interesting. The city is basically a blueprint for commercial and tourism success.
Cancun vs. Acapulco

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Having these two cities on your belt, you are bound to have success and fame. However, for tourists, the question should be a matter of “which city to go to first?”.


It is thanks to Cancun’s mass appeal that much of Yucatan, and the rest of Mexico is well-known in tourism. Cancun has become a prime blueprint when it comes to tropical tourism success.

Teeming with opulent delights such as hotels and resorts, alongside an expansive beach stretch, Cancun was meant to be at the top of lists. Yet after all the cosmopolitan highs, Cancun also has one charm in its arsenal: ancient ruins.

What Makes Cancun Unique?

The Biggest Nightlife Scene in the Caribbean

Cancun is synonymous with raving nightlife and crazy parties. It has to be its biggest selling point. While ancient ruins still take a big chunk of their appeal, its party scene has become its poster child.

They even say that Cancun turns into a big nightclub as soon as the sun goes down.

Cancun’s high life isn’t just about the beachy things, the post-sunset scenes are a worthy marvel as well. Often coloring the beautiful nights, happening places speckle the cityscapes. Check out some of the crowd-favorites:

Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo, one of the top nightclubs in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, features a unique take on clubbing. The club features grand productions, with the best mix of music. Coco Bongo also sports the most cutting-edge audio and video technology.

However, the club offers a rather unique twist to superclubs around the Caribbean. Coco Bongo can be comparable to a cabaret-slash-circus show. Entertainment in Coco Bongo features circus-like features such as trapeze shows, and acrobatics.

Aside from the spectacle of shows, the club also offers world-class events and parties. These events headline top international DJs and artists in different seasons. If you visit Cancun, you might catch a special event or two.

Mandala Beach Club

An Indian-themed club, Mandala Beach is one of the most crowded spots in Cancun’s nightlife scene. And with good reason. The crowd favorite has true tropical vibes, refreshing drinks, a swimsuit-clad crowd, and great music.

Conveniently located right at the white sands of Cancun Beach, the club features the Caribbean Sea as the background. Imagine taking a dip by the beach, and then having a drink, dancing to good music, soaking in all the good energy Cancun is famous for having.

The City

The club specializes is famous for starring big international music artists and DJs. Making it one of the best clubs in the city. By the name, The City is one of the largest clubs in the city, if not the largest.

Faithful to its name, big events in the big club can host over 5,000 people that can last sunset to sunrise. Another interesting spectacle is the club’s state-of-the-art entertainment technology. From lights to sound, The City always delivers parties that are one-for-the-books.

Ancient Curiosities

The Yucatan’s Pre-Columbian history and its remnants are Mexico’s answer to the world’s famous ancient features. The Mayan civilization is probably one of the most iconic in the tourism industry.

Just day trips away from Cancun, many of these ancient ruins and historic towns have attracted millions of visitors year after year. Thanks to the Yucatan’s ancient charms, visitors have another reason to flock to the most happening city in Mexico.

You can easily visit these spots as many of them are open to the public. And the most famous among them is the legendary Chichen Itza. An ancient wonder that has baffled and captivated millions of curious people.

Here’s a quick list of the most famous sites:

El Rey

If you’re planning to stay within Cancun’s Hotel Zone, look no further for your first ancient ruins tour. El Rey ruins, or “The King,” is accessible to the city, located just south of the Hotel Zone. The resident ruin is the most recommended first stop if you’re ever planning to go for an ancient ruin tour.

Other than the obvious appeal of an ancient city sitting right next to a modern city is the charm of its certain contrast. Imagine the ancient and the modern sitting side-by-side. The juxtaposition offers both education and entertainment to the curious visitors

After extensive studies, El Rey’s establishment dates back to around 200 AD. The ancient ruins were a former major port back in its heyday. The city grants access to trade goods into the Yucatan heartlands.

With its proximity to the sea, the former inhabitants were thought to be either fishermen or salt laborers.

Apart from a glimpse into the ancient past, the ruins also allow visitors to further explore it. Visitors can climb and marvel at its old structures, surveying leftovers of its once glorious past.


Famous for its superimposing structures, Coba is one of the most well-known ancient sites in the Yucatan just off Cancun. Just north of the city, Coba features climbing one of the highest temples in the Yucatan.

Nohoch Mul Pyramid stands at an imposing 137 feet tall (42 m), allowing tourists to climb its 120 steps with the help of a rope at the middle. Despite Coba’s value in the history of the Mayan world, overshadowed by Chichen, Coba tends to have fewer crowds.

With lesser foot traffic, a lot of visitors opt for Coba and ended up discovering an extremely important part of the ancient civilization. Coba was a Mayan powerhouse back then. It is one of the most important Mayan cities due to its power over agriculture and trade routes.

Ek Balam

The ancient ruins of Ek Balam are one of the most visited, thanks to their accessibility from Cancun. You can find an abundance of tour packages offering excursions to the famous site. The Ek Balam ruins, meaning “Black Jaguar” is especially popular among the adventurous types.

Ek Balam was just a recent addition to the Yucatan’s rich collection of ancient ruins. The site had been identified in the late 80s and excavation began in the late 90s. Due to its location inside a dense forest, the ruins took time to be explored and excavated.

Ek Balam’s most popular feature is The Acropolis which stands up to an imposing 100 feet or 30 meters. The Acropolis is notable for its lavish and elaborate exteriors. Old monarchs and other important personalities of the past are said to have been housed here.

A Buffet of Natural Wonders

Apart from Cancun’s beaches, and a pulsating cosmopolitan scene, the city is also rich in natural wonders. From its interior landscape quirks to its rich marine curiosities, Cancun practically has it all.

Several distinct appeals of Cancun include are its fascinating natural draws. Most especially the nearby accessible Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The plethora of peculiar cenotes and caves across the Mayan heartland are wonders themselves as well. Expect to encounter interesting natural diversity when you’re in Cancun.

Upon your adventures within the interiors of the Yucatan, just off Cancun, you’ll eventually encounter cenotes. These curiosities are water-filled sinkholes thought to be formed millions of years ago. You can descend on cenotes via rappel, and several of them are swimmable as well.

Many cenotes can be found nearby ancient ruins, and are often included in excursion packages around Cancun.

For divers, and Waterworld lovers, the dive-worthy Mesoamerican Reef is an absolute delight. The reef system is home to not just beautiful corals but to a wealth of marine life as well. Go snorkeling and diving during your time in Cancun and see that the city also has something beyond the parties, the ruins, and the beaches.

140 Hotels

One defining feature of Cancun is the impressive stretch of hotels and resorts that line a particular stretch of its coast. Home to over 140 hotels, looking for accommodation in Cancun is not hard.

The Hotel Zone accommodates the majority of its visitors making it the most animated part of the city. From luxury hotels and resorts to retail and entertainment, you can find every cosmopolitan high in this genius of a stretch.

Here are some of the most recommended hotels in the 22-kilometer (13-mile) wonder:

Ritz-Carlton Cancun

Jet-setters and frequent travelers will almost always know what a Ritz-Carlton is. And the one in the Hotel Zone is just as grand as fancy. The resort features 365 rooms adorned with traditional designs and facilities that spell luxury.

Ritz-Carlton is considered to be the epitome of elegance and sophistication. The luxury hotel Brand is an opulent accommodation best reserved for the affluent.

Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun

The famous LeBlanc Spa Resort spells extra because of its distinct and extravagant features. From a sophisticated menu to a well-thought-out fitness program, the spa resort has thought of every detail of its service down to a tee.

Featuring a distinct yet simple all-white aesthetic, staying true to its name, Le Blanc is far from a basic accommodation. You can enjoy sprawling views of the ocean, alongside its glamorous amenities. Le Blanc also sports 260 rooms in its roster of tip-top features.

Secrets The Vine

An adults-only all-inclusive resort, the charms of the Secrets The Vine is everything but a secret. The resort boasts an extensive culinary explosion of menu from its six restaurants to yoga and wine tasting sessions. Secrets The Vine is as loud and grand as any other luxury resort.

The resort also enhances your Cancun experience with its spa services, ranging from saunas to steam rooms. After a downtime at the spa, you can also enjoy the outdoor pools and the gorgeous seaside ambiance.


If there’s anywhere in Mexico you can consider as its original tourism champion, it’s Acapulco, not Cancun. Acapulco is still a shining beacon in the Pacific. From the trading of goods and spices during the colonial times, the roaring 50s, up to its modern resort developments, it’s a Mexican classic.

Acapulco may not sail as well as Cancun does these days but the old city still has its old charms. The historic seaside city has seen one too many turn-of-events of Mexico’s long colorful history. Acapulco should be on every Mexico-loving tourist’s list.

What Makes Acapulco Unique?

The Original Jet-Setter Beaches

Acapulco was Mexico’s original jet-set destination. The seaside city was the upper echelon’s favorite. European elites and Hollywood celebrities would head to Acapulco for everything it can offer them. The city hosts lavish holidays that included boat rides, gourmet dining, and the classic golden beaches.

While Acapulco’s reputation may not be what it once was, the beauty of the beaches remains unchanged. A trip to Acapulco isn’t complete without a stop at some of the city’s most beautiful beaches. Check out some of the most popular ones:

Pie de la Cuesta

An expanse of soft yellow, almost golden sand defines Pie de la Cuesta. A piece of paradise just 30 minutes away from Acapulco’s main harbor. Pie de la Cuesta can feel bohemian, so expect a chill downtime, with strolls across the sand of the long beach.

Other than the usual, lounging, strolling, and dipping you’d usually do at the beach, you can also do other interesting things in Pie de la Cuesta. Boat rides, and water tubing over the nearby Coyuca Lagoon. Both are equally interesting.

Playa Caleta and Caletilla

Caleta and Caletilla are two tiny, sheltered beaches on the south side of the Peninsula de Playas. They are frequently linked together because they merge into each other.

Visitors praised the beach’s classic atmosphere, but it can get extremely busy. You might want to get there early to have a good spot in the sun.

Playa Condesa

Playa Condesa is a hedonist’s haven where you can find a variety of fun and pleasure. So expect huge crowds here. Playa Condesa is located in the Golden Zone of Acapulco. The beach was a huge hit in the 50s and was thus given a moniker of “Condesa” or the countess.

Playa Condesa’s amenities are open for everyone looking to enjoy as much as they want. The beach is geared more toward satisfying visitors than giving peace. Outdoor activities such as parasailing, snorkeling, and boat cruises are available.

One of Mexico’s Earliest Histories

Acapulco has one of the most varied, and famous histories in all of Mexico. From the Galleon Trade, A-List visitors, to its record of crime and violence, Acapulco is many things. Once settled by the Mezcala people, then invaded by the Aztecs, then eventually conquered by the stars. Now, Acapulco is a tourist’s turf.

Spanish conquistadors conquered Guerrero in 1521. The attack pushed the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples away.

Acapulco was developed then into a harbor by Spanish colonizers. The new harbor became a key economic connection on the North America–Asia trade route.

In the Mexican War of Independence, revolutionaries Miguel Hidalgo and José Morelos created a 3,000-man army in Guerrero. They were used to fight against the Spanish.

In 1813, Morelos was able to free Chilpancingo and proclaim it as Mexico’s new capital. Acapulco’s economy suffered after the revolution.

Guerrero was rejuvenated in 1927 when Mexico built a new roadway between Acapulco and Mexico City. Acapulco became a popular vacation spot for the affluent and famous of both Mexico and the United States by 1950.

John Wayne and Errol Flynn bought Hotel Los Flamingos in the 1930s to serve as a base for social gatherings and fishing expeditions.  Several celebrities frequented Acapulco as their party destination. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Delores Del Rio, Rock Hudson, Debbie Reynolds, and Orson Welles were among them.

Acapulco has seen an increase in violent crime perpetrated by armed gangs in recent years. In the city, up to 20 criminal gangs operate. If you decide to visit Acapulco, be aware that there will be a strong military and police presence.

Acapulco’s history is one stacked with phases that seem to make the place even more interesting. The city has seen changes from the tide of time and has endured.

Isla de la Roqueta

Just south of Las Playas, just off Acapulco’s Bay, Isla de La Roqueta is distinctly lush and assuming. It has a rustic main beach called Playa Roqueta that is perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. The beach is also lined with a few palapa-style eateries making it well worth the excursion.

The island can only be reached by boat from the adjacent Playa Caleta. Either via tourist boat or a public ferry.

You can also check out several sights on the island. One of the most popular places is the Virgen de Los Mares, an image of the Virgin Mary submerged in water.

You can also snorkel or dive around underwater sights such as the reefs of Piedra de Elefante and Piedra Hierbabuena. These sites are teeming with life, offering a different take on Acapulco’s cosmopolitan scenes.

A journey to the Isla de la Roqueta is ideal for those who appreciate the sun, sea, sand, and a little seclusion and peace.

Punta Diamante

A tourist firm has invested huge sums in the location. Mainly, the investment was to develop its hotels, infrastructure, and add new amenities. And included in that development endeavor is Punta Diamante. It is an area on the south end that is quickly becoming Acapulco’s newest hotspot.

Punta Diamante is awash with upscale and chic restaurants and hotels that seem to cater to a more well-heeled audience. If you’re up for a little extra spending, and quieter, less heavy traffic, then this may come as an ideal trip.

Upscale metropolitan charms aren’t the only appeal in Punta Diamante, of course. The area also has a golden expansive beach. A continuous sandy beach that stretches for many miles along the ocean. The resident coast is broad and shallow, with waves breaking up to 100 meters out (328 ft), making it safe for children.

Which Is Better – Acapulco or Cancun?

Acapulco is cheaper, charming, and more authentic, yet reports of crime are a drawback. Cancun is huge, fun, eye-opening, and expensive. It depends on what you’re willing to experience, or rather look for in a Mexican seaside city experience. You have to consider first which destination suits your ideal experience, your taste, and most importantly your budget.

Acapulco for one is significantly one of the cheapest places you can visit in Mexico. It has a distinct take on history given its many phases, alongside its roster of golden beaches.

Cancun is undoubtedly made to entertain tourists. The city has a vibrant culture and history, with white sand beaches that are just divine. Alongside its historical and natural charms, the city also sports a pulsating nightlife with a roster of clubs and bars for everyone.


Are Acapulco and Cancun the Same?

Acapulco and Cancun are iconic seaside cities of Mexico, both known for their history and entertainment. However, these two cities are different and separate.

Acapulco sits at the Mexican Pacific coast and sees lesser volumes of people than Cancun does. The city is known for its series of golden beaches, a long history, and resort developments. Acapulco’s charm lies in its endurance, from its history to its fame.

Cancun lies at the Yucatan Peninsula, fronting the Caribbean Sea. The legendary city is Mexico’s capital of fun and entertainment. Cancun is famous for its rich blend of entertainment, ancient history, and natural features.

What Is More Expensive – Cancun or Acapulco?

With higher demand and higher living standards, Cancun is hands down the more expensive destination. Acapulco is not just less expensive, but it is also a substantially less expensive destination.

Cancun is far more costly than Acapulco on a per capita basis. In Cancun, it’s all too simple to get ripped off on everyday items. Due to Cancun’s popularity, costs resulted to become, on average, higher than the national average.