If you’re seeking a warmer paradise, you won’t make a mistake in choosing Hawaii or Mexico. But to make the best decision for yourself, you must pinpoint what you want out of your vacation.
Both destinations have their strengths. And you must choose which ones align with your priority best.
If you’re having trouble, this article will shed some light. Below, you’ll find highlights of what unique experiences each country can give you.
Hawaii is a strong magnet for tourists no matter who they are, and that’s because there’s plenty to do on its islands. Each Hawaiian island is different, and variety adds to the thrill of exploring the state.
Kauai has lush forests and is amazing for hiking. The Big Island is full of volcanoes for the daring adventurer. Oahu is a little bit of everything but is most famous for its surfing scene.
With all these, there’s always a reason to flock to the tropics of Hawaii. Surfers, adrenaline junkies, honeymooners, and more, will enjoy the Aloha State.
What Makes Hawaii Unique?
The Multicolored Beaches
Hawaii has a coastline 750 miles (1207 km) long, with hundreds of public beaches at your disposal. The majestic cerulean waters and the pristine white-sand beaches are what tourists crave most. And you’ll find no shortage of this picturesque view in Hawaii!
The beach that reigns supreme among all is Waikiki Beach on Oahu. But due to its popularity, it can get crowded on the shore of Waikiki. You have other equally gorgeous beaches to choose from though, such as Waimea Bay and Kaanapali Beach.
The white or golden sands and turquoise waters combo can get predictable though. Thankfully, you’ll never get bored in Hawaii as they have some colorful sandy beaches! Other than white sands, you’ll also get black, orange, red, and green shores to discover in Hawaii.
All these are unusual sights, perfect for some photo op! So if you’re planning to look for these hidden gems, below is a list of each of them.
Hawaii is a volcano-filled state, and because of this, it has stunning black beaches to marvel at. The shores of these black beaches have black volcanic glass, a result of lava flowing into the ocean. This gives black-sand beaches a haunting yet stunning view.
Among all Hawaii’s black-sand beaches, Punaluu takes the crown as the most visited one. This is due to its easy accessibility, something that others on this list don’t have. You can easily go to Punaluu Beach from the Hawaii National Volcanoes National Park.
Waianapanapa Beach is also another accessible option. Although its sands have a high concentration of small pebbles. It’s not a crowded beach, and you can go on hikes, explore caves, and more, there too!
The last black-sand beach, Awahua Beach, is the least accessible one as you can only hike or take a mule ride to get there. In the backdrop of the beach are the world’s tallest sea cliffs, with lush vegetation around.
The only face of Hawaii’s red-sand beach is Kaihalulu Beach on the island of Maui. It’s one of the world’s few red-sand beaches, so its copper-hued sands are a rare sight. It gets its deep-red color from the erosion of iron in the hills that surround it.
Kaihalulu is quite an isolated beach, and you’ll have a hard time finding a way to get there. You can only hike to this hidden gem, and although it’s fairly short, the trail can be dangerous.
There’s some debate about the color of the sand on the coast of Papohaku Beach. Others say it’s yellow, while others are firm that it’s yellow. But under the glaring heat of the sun, the sandy coastline will look more orange.
While you may not find orange sands as unusual, you’ll want to stay on this secluded beach. Its serene vibe and soft sand are what attract tourists here.
Near the south point of Mahana Bay is Papakolea Beach a rare geologic oddity. It’s one of the very few four beaches on Earth with natural green sand. The high concentration of olivine crystals on its shore gives its moss green color.
Seeing this unique sight in the flesh is not an easy feat, as you’d have to hike through lava fields.
One of the World’s Surf Meccas
Surfing is a celebrated activity across all the Hawaiian islands, shaping its famous surf culture. But passionate surfers are mostly after the island of Oahu. It’s where you’ll find the skyscraping waves of the Seven Mile Miracle.
The Seven Mile Miracle is a vast expanse of many surfing spots, starting from Haleiwa Beach to Sunset Beach. The pride of this sacred ground is the world-famous Banzai Pipeline. But other beaches on this stretch are also great options to catch some tall waves.
If you’re visiting Hawaii mainly for the waves, the best time to visit is between late October to March. This is when the low-pressure areas do their magic and send soaring waves crashing onto the shore. Because of this, these months are widely known as the Winter Surf Season.
Large waves in Hawaii have an average height of 6 to 12 feet (1.8 to 3.7 meters). But during this season, this can change dramatically. The waves can grow to a massive 30 to 50 feet (9.1 to 15.2 meters) tall.
These waves are only conquerable by the most experienced surfers. But if you’re keen on learning, you’ll want to visit another season.
The Summer Surf Season has smaller and gentler waves, perfect for starting out. With many local surfing experts in Hawaii, you have someone to show you the ropes. Even experts seek their help to perfect their surfing skills.
Sizzling Volcanic Ventures
Millions of years ago, Hawaii emerged from the deep sea, formed by volcanic activity. Various volcanoes dot the map of this lively state, shaping its diverse landscape. Because of this, you’ll get the rare opportunity to look into the crater of an active volcano in the flesh.
Hawaii has a host of activities for you to face its many volcanoes.
You can bike down Mt. Haleakala in Maui on a long winding road while admiring the scenic views on the way down. But don’t miss the sunrise on top of the mountain! Watching the sky bright up on top of a sea of clouds is always a magical feeling.
You can also go on a helicopter and hover above the summit of Mt. Waialeale in Kauai. And if you love hiking, reaching the top of Diamond Head for its stunning views is a worthwhile trip.
But the most exciting escapade of them all is in Hawaii National Volcanoes Park.
Here is where you’ll find one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea. It’s also the youngest volcano in Hawaii. Nearby is Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world.
Depending on the volcanoes’ conditions, you can walk the rim of their crater and have a peek inside it. Watching flowing lava, though not as exciting, is another popular activity in the park. You can also walk through a lava tube, hike on solidified lava lake, check out petroglyphs, and more.
The Colorful Marine Life
While Hawaii is a feast for your eyes on the land, the views are just as stunning underwater. The clear blue seas of Hawaii are teeming with life, from the schools of tiny fishes to the gigantic humpback whales.
Snorkeling or scuba diving are the best options to get the best view of Hawaii’s thriving marine life. You can practically do this on any of the state’s islands. This is how you can get up close and personal with manta rays, coral reefs, sea lions, and more.
The island of Maui is one of the best places on Earth to view humpback whales. Whale spotting here isn’t a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. Pods of whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii from November to May, and you’ll see plenty of them even from the shore.
If you don’t want to get wet, you won’t feel left behind on wildlife spotting. Hawaii has zodiac raft tours, sunset cruises, dinner cruises, and more. You may even be lucky enough to have a dolphin come up to your boat!
The Warm Hawaiian Culture
The foundation of Hawaiian culture lies within a belief in caring for each other and nature. You can feel the warm Aloha Spirit everywhere, from the helpful locals to how they protect and preserve the environment.
This lives on today, even with foreigners bringing their own culture to the islands. Modern Hawaii is a mix of diverse cultures from across the globe.
If you want to truly immerse yourself in their tradition, head to the less touristy areas of Hawaii. Or, you can always stay at a bed and breakfast owned by locals. Lending a hand to the community, such as taro farming, is a great way to form a bond with them.
But there are other ways to learn more about their culture to appreciate it even more. For many tourists flocking to Hawaii, below are the cultural highlights of their stay.
Hula is a form of storytelling through dancing. Through this, dancers can give the audience an overview of the ancestral knowledge of Hawaii.
Often paired with chants or music, it can be slow and sentimental or fast and upbeat. Whatever style it may be, it’s always trying to tell a tale.
If you plan to see this continuing tradition, your best bet is to take part in a Luau!
A trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without this lively and festive experience. Luaus involve entertainment, food, and cultural performances.
Not all luaus today are Hawaiian. Contemporary ones are a reflection of Hawaii’s rich multicultural society.
There are plenty of places around Hawaii where you’ll find a luau, often in the west or south of Maui. You can go to Luau Kalamaku (Kauai), The Feast at Mokapu Luau (Maui), and Voyagers of the Pacific (The Big Island).
There’s no shortage of reasons to visit Mexico, and its fabulous beaches are only the tip of the iceberg. From dynamic cities to Caribbean coastlines, and from ancient to colonial influences, it’s a delight to visit. These blends are what make Mexico pleasantly unpredictable, adding to its alluring charm.
Away from the main drag, you’ll find the stunning landscapes that Mexico has to offer. From volcanoes to cenotes, and much more, exciting adventures await you in the country.
With so much to do, Mexico attracts a wide array of tourists. And they can all enjoy it under the guaranteed warmth of the sun.
What Makes Mexico Unique?
Mystical Archeological Wonders
Many of the best attractions in the country aren’t in the city but in the surrounding countryside. Plenty of world-class archeological sites dot the map of Mexico. Here lie the magnificent remains of ancient civilizations, such as the Mayans and Aztecs.
Whether you’re a history buff or not, the fascinating ruins are sure to mesmerize you.
Marvel in the beauty of Guachimontones, a tiered circular pyramid with lush greenery surrounding it. Visit the imposing Uxmal ruins, a site of astronomical purposes and religious ceremonies. Palenque is also a worthy visit, a hidden temple amidst a lush jungle.
There are plenty more ancient sites to visit in Mexico. But some of the world-famous ones are on the list below.
This is one of the most celebrated ancient spots in the world. Chichen Itza is also a part of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most iconic sight in Chichen Itza is El Castillo, also known as Kukulkan Pyramid. This step pyramid is a testament to the knowledge that the Mayan civilization possessed. More specifically, in mathematics, astronomy, geometry, and acoustics.
It’s said that the pyramid represents the Mayan Calendar. And whether you want to delve deep into that or take some touristy pictures, this is a must-see site in Mexico.
This archeological and ceremonial site is unlike most ones in Mexico, as it’s not a Mayan ruin. Instead, this vast complex is arguably the greatest ruin of the Aztecs.
It’s easy to lose track of time here, as at every turn are ancient relics and sacred sites to discover. All these date back to one of the earliest civilizations on record.
At the heart of Teotihuacan is the Avenue of the Dead, once a flourishing pre-Columbian site. You can walk down here and then ascend to two other famous sights in the complex. These are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
You can even take a hot air balloon ride on the site at sunset to give you a bird’s-eye view of the great Teotihuacan.
Dreamy White-Sand Beaches
Mexico’s world-class beaches are probably the top reason why tourists flock there. The country has 62 beaches with the prestigious Blue Flag distinction, and they’re spread across nine Mexican states. So no matter where you go in the country, you’re bound to find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The Mexican beaches have the clearest azure waters with the finest white sands for you to enjoy. Not only that, with over 5592 miles (9000 km) of coastline, Mexico has a diverse set of beaches to attract everyone.
If you’re seeking some action, you can go surfing at Oaxaca or Puerto Escondido. The latter is a prime surfing destination with glorious rolling waves.
If you want to see some of the colorful marine environment, snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular. Some of the best sites for this are Playa Las Gatas, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Tulum Reef. Exploring the Cancun Underwater Museum is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so take a dip there too!
If you want to take a leisurely beach trip, that’s where the Mexican beaches shine. Playa Paraiso, Playa del Amor, and Playa Norte are popular for this.
Baja California’s beaches are stunning and unusual as they lead directly to deserts. Meanwhile, the beaches fronting the Gulf of Mexico are where you can see flamingoes and the beautiful pink lagoon.
And if you want to get away from large crowds to relax, Mexico has options for you too. Playa del Carmen, Playa Mazunte, and Tulum Beach are quieter, with fewer tourists.
Playa del Amor is another secluded gem with scenes straight out of a movie. You can only access it via boat, but you’ll get the stunning beach all to yourself.
A Lively Art Scene
Most people think of Mexico as a colorful and spirited nation. That’s because art is everywhere in the country, from world-class museums to bustling streets. Mexico is a delightful mix of visual and sonic arts in every corner.
The country’s art scene is a mix of traditional and modern art. There are plenty of museums in Mexico for you to see the works of traditional painters. This includes those of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
The Museo Nacional de Arte and Palacio Nacional are two great places for this. Museo Soumaya has an astounding art collection of over three centuries. And if you want to go for performing arts, flock to Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
But the streets are also sprinkled with color, from murals to graffiti painted by famous Mexican artists. And there’s no better place to see these than in La Roma, the hipster neighborhood of Mexico City.
Mexico also regards music and dance as important art forms. Although everyone’s music taste is different, Mexican music is quite diverse. And one cannot deny how festive it can be.
The country is teeming with life at night in bars and restaurants. These may look closed in the dark of the night, but inside they’re blasting loud music and dancing to it. If you want to party like a local, look for a botanero, which is a Mexican snack bar.
If you want the ultimate mariachi experience, head to Garibaldi Square. This is where dozens of mariachi bands assemble every night to blast some loud music. Everyone is free to join in on the fun too.
Gorgeous Natural Wonders
Mexico is a vast and long land, with a wide variety of ecosystems across the country. Thus, the country has a diverse landscape that’s begging to get explored by its visitors. From deep seas to high peaks, Mexico is a feast for your eyes.
To the north of the country are deserts, and to the south are lush and dense tropical jungles. To the west of Mexico are eternal springs, while you’ll find turquoise seas in the southeastern peninsula of Yucatan. And pretty much across the country is a crisscross of mountains and volcanoes.
The second and third highest peaks of the country are nearby the capital city too. The majestic Popocatépetl Volcano is a crowd favorite, but since it’s active, hiking there isn’t possible. But you can take a rugged hike to its dormant neighbor, Iztaccíhuatl instead.
Visiting the Copper Canyon is a great alternative, too, for breathtaking views. You can go on a zip line here and walk through some old-school suspension bridges.
The Rio Secreto is also a natural wonder, an underground river running through a cave system. If you want a bit more action, Mexico has one of the largest underground cave systems in the world. You can find this in the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park.
But for a truly magical experience, visit the cenotes of Quintana Roo. These are natural sinkholes that are the result of limestone rocks collapsing. While they’re for enjoyment today, they were once a sacred site to the Mayans in the past.
Each cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula has its unique feature. Some are deep within caves, while others have open ceilings for the sun to illuminate the waters. The Gran Cenote, Suytun, and Cenote Zaci are popular options for tourists.
Fascinating Mexican Culture
The alluring Mexican culture is one of the richest and most unique in the entire world. It’s shaped by an unusual mix of influences, starting with the Old World and the Spanish conquest. To top it off, the diverse culture and geography of the country formed Mexico you know today.
A way to experience the true Mexican culture is to flock to their local markets. Start with Guadalajara, the largest indoor market in the country. That’ll give you a great view of the local life and a chance to mingle with the locals!
If you’re looking for a more unique feel, you have other ways to soak in the unique culture of Mexico. Below are some thrilling options for you to enjoy.
The Day of the Dead
Despite its name, the Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) is actually a warm and lively tradition. This is a yearly celebration that fills the streets across the country with music, color, dancing, and of course, masquerades. This is a celebration for the beloved departed ones yet also a celebration of life.
Mexico is wild about wrestling, and you can experience the hype that surrounds it in the capital city. Every Tuesday and Friday, Arena Mexico hosts a widely popular wrestling show called La Lucha Libre.
You’ll get to root for either two sides: the good guys or the bad ones. Whomever you’re cheering for, there’s plenty of beer and snacks to go around. The show is best enjoyed with family or friends, so bring some company with you!
Tequila is a crucial part of Mexico’s history and culture. It’s their national pride, and they welcome tourists to get a better understanding of its past.
There’s no other place to do this than in La Ruta del Tequila, or the Tequila Trail. This links the country’s tequila-producing towns, and you can explore it on a guided tour or a self-guided one.
Guided tours will take you from a meeting point to a tequila distillery while sipping drinks on the way. Distilleries give you a tour and history of their area, along with food, and more.
The Tequila Express is one of these, starting from Guadalajara to the Herradura distillery in Amatitan. You’ll have a tour of the distillery and some tequila tasting.
An upscale option is the Jose Cuervo Express. Although more expensive, you’ll have margaritas, tequilas, and snacks throughout the journey. There’s also a tour of the town of Tequila and the distillery, along with a dance show.
Is It Better to Go to Mexico or Hawaii?
Both have world-renowned beaches, rich cultures, volcanoes to explore, and delectable food. If you’re looking for those on your vacation, Hawaii and Mexico will not disappoint you. But due to this, deciding which one to tick off of your bucket list first is an overwhelming task.
With this, you have to identify your main reason for taking a vacation in a tropical paradise.
If beaches are your priority, the Caribbean coast of Mexico is for you. The sand there is whiter and finer, and the waters are calmer too.
If surfing is your main motivation, then Hawaii is your pick, hands down. The perfect waves of the Aloha State are more generous than those of Mexico.
If you’re craving a luxurious retreat, Mexico has more extravagant accommodations. Their hotels are more modern and updated and have better facilities.
If you’re seeking to immerse yourself in nature, Hawaii has better natural beauty. From the smoking craters of the volcanoes, down to the thriving marine life in the deep sea. You’ll get to meet more marine animals while snorkeling, scuba diving, and even rafting there too.
If you want some hard partying or just a better nightlife in general, Mexico is the place to be. The Mexican night scene is livelier and more festive.
Is It Cheaper to Vacation in Mexico or Hawaii?
Mexico is a much more affordable destination than Hawaii, from the plane tickets to the food. Your money will go further there, and that means you can stay much longer in Mexico too.
The best part about Mexico is that their cheaper price doesn’t affect the quality of your stay. The accommodations there are amazing and yet much cheaper than anywhere you’d get in Hawaii. Even shopping in the touristy areas of Mexico is less expensive, so you can buy more items within your budget.
Hawaii, while gorgeous, is a costly place for a vacation and also to live in. It has the highest cost of living among all states in the United States.
Because it’s surrounded by water, almost everything in Hawaii is imported. This expense trickles down to tourists, from the hotels you stay in to the food on your table.
Is Hawaii Safer Than Mexico?
Hawaii is a safer tourist destination, whether you’re traveling in a group or alone. Most tourists don’t have to worry about personal safety issues. Hawaii has a ton of safety measures for its tourists, and they take them seriously.
Other than that, the Hawaii Emergency Management System also acts fast. They’ll alert everyone if there’s any threat of natural disasters, such as a flash flood. Hawaii also has a high standard of quality for food control, so you’re less likely to get sick there from what you ate or drank.
In Mexico, you have worse crimes to worry about other than petty theft, such as drug activity. But the touristy areas of Mexico are generally safe. As long as you avoid risky activities and avoid dangerous areas, Mexico is relatively safe.
The biggest concern in Mexico is getting sick, either from food or stray animals. So be careful of what you drink or eat there. If you do get sick, there is ample medical staff on standby around to help you out.
Where in Mexico Is Like Hawaii?
If Hawaii is not on your vacation list, you can still get the feel of it in Mexico. Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Escondido are all great alternatives! All these have beautiful blue waters and ivory sands like those of Hawaii.
Hawaii vs. Mexico for Family Vacation
If you’re not tight on a budget, Hawaii is a better destination for you. The Aloha state has more family-friendly activities and beaches than Mexico.
There’s much more to see and do in Hawaii, from hiking to snorkeling. You won’t have to worry about keeping your kids entertained in Hawaii.
Other than that, Hawaii is also significantly safer than Mexico and there are a ton of safety measures to protect tourists. This goes from personal safety down to drinking water and food quality.
Hawaii is way more expensive than Mexico though. So you can stretch your budget more there and you don’t have to worry about the vacation quality too.
You have to be more careful with your kids in Mexico though. They may drink tainted water, contract salmonella, or chase after stray animals. You also have to worry about minor theft, but that’s also something to watch out for in Hawaii.
Hawaii vs. Mexico for All Inclusive
Mexico has always been one of the top destinations in the world for all-inclusive stays. Cancun and Coba in particular have affordable all-inclusive stays for families.
Mexican all-inclusive resorts are nothing short of gorgeous. It’ll include three meals, beverages, alcoholic drinks, and a host of activities in popular destinations. Some hotels even offer golf and spa treatments.
The best part about Mexico is that it won’t dent your budget a ton. Even if you choose to go out of the resort for a meal, it’s still quite cheaper than in Hawaii.
The only issue with an all-inclusive stay in Mexico is you’re confined to your resort. While this may not be an issue for some, adventurous travelers may feel constrained.
Hawaii also has all-inclusive resorts, but you can also go on a four-island all-inclusive vacation. You’ll be traveling to the popular islands: Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and The Big Island. Although this is more expensive, there’s also a lot more to see and do in Hawaii!
Each of these islands has its unique tourist attraction. So if you’re bored of the beach already, you’ll have no problem looking for a change of scenery in Hawaii.
Who Has Better Beaches – Hawaii or Mexico?
If you’re seeking to soak up the beauty of some of the world’s best beaches, flock to Mexico! In particular, the beaches on the Caribbean coast are absolutely blessed. They have softer, whiter sands than those of Hawaii.
Not only that, Mexico has a plethora of Blue Flag Beaches, a prestigious distinction to boast. Whether you’re in Cancun, Tulum, or Baja California, there are stunning beaches that await you.
Mexican beaches are also warmer, with shallower depths.
The downside to Mexican beaches is that they can get chaotic and crowded. You’ll have to deal with this often in popular beach destinations. But there are more secluded beaches in Mexico where you can soak in the sun in peace.
With these, Mexico has better beaches for a laid-back trip.
But if you’re craving adventure and marine life spotting, Hawaii is much better.
When it comes to snorkeling and scuba diving, you’ll see much more in the deep seas of Hawaii. The Aloha State also has larger, more exciting waves for surfing. Maui is one of the best places in the world to watch humpback whales too.
A downside to Hawaiian beaches is that they’re deeper, thus colder.
Hawaii vs. Mexico for Wedding
Weddings are a special event, and most people want to go all out on it. If you’re planning on doing the same, Mexico will give you more bang for your buck.
Mexico has plenty of all-inclusive packages to choose from across the country. This changes the scenery, whether you want the white beaches of Cancun or the majestic ruins of Riviera Maya. This’ll include food, drinks, rooms, flowers, and more, and you can even customize the package.
Weddings are generally expensive. But it’s cheaper in Mexico than in Hawaii, another big bonus!
A downside to a Mexican destination wedding is that all your guests need a passport. Legalities may be tricky too, but you can get married in a courthouse and have the ceremony in Mexico to avoid this. If you do get married in Mexico, the documents are going to be in Spanish, and you’ll have to translate them.
Hawaii is an easier destination for weddings, as you don’t have to worry about the paperwork if you’re in the US. They also have wedding packages, though only a few, and you’ll be paying in US Dollars. With this, Hawaii is more expensive but isn’t any less beautiful.
Hawaii or Mexico for Honeymoon?
If cost isn’t an issue for you, Hawaii is a better honeymoon destination. Mexico cannot beat Hawaii’s natural beauty. It’s an incredibly gorgeous, serene, and safe place, and exudes a romantic aura for honeymooners.
There’s also plenty to see in Hawaii’s diverse landscape. Beauty is everywhere, from the summit of their mountains to life underwater. This also means that you have a lot more activities to do with your spouse in Hawaii than in Mexico.
Hawaii can be quite expensive though, and if this is a concern, Mexico is also a great alternative. All-inclusive packages are what’s most attractive to tourists, and it does not disappoint. Mexican hotels are also more extravagant, updated, and have better amenities.
The nightlife is livelier too if you love to party as a couple. The Party Zone in Cancun is tightly packed with various bars and nightclubs!
All these considered, Mexico feels more like a vacation destination or a spring break getaway. In some areas, you’ll feel like you’re in a concrete jungle. Thus, Mexico doesn’t have the romantic ambiance of Hawaii.