Puerto Rico vs. Cancun

Cancun almost seems like the obvious choice. Being the more popular destination, it might seem like an easy win. But it really depends on what kind of vacation experience excites you the most. Cancun is all about beaches, all-inclusive resorts, nightlife, and shopping. Puerto Rico has over 300 beaches but is more known for its rainforests, jungle adventure, waterfalls, and natural wonders. So, which one calls to you most? A taste of the beach life combined with party vibes? Or is nature and adventure more to your liking?
Puerto Rico vs. Cancun

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Both Puerto Rico and Cancun offer a mixed bag of activities for solo travelers, couples, and families. Safe to say, you wouldn’t feel bored vacationing at either destination.

But there are key differences, which you’ll learn more about in this guide. Just to give you a quick overview of those differences, Puerto Rico calls to nature lovers and adventurists the most. Whereas Cancun draws in party animals, beach worshippers, and shopaholics.

Still have trouble deciding? Here’s a closer look at what each destination offers.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the definition of a well-rounded vacation. There are beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, national parks, caves, culture, and even bioluminescent bays.

Some refer to Puerto Rico as the hidden beach paradise of the Caribbean. But a more accurate description would be ‘Island of Enchantment.’

From its colonial architecture in Old San Juan to natural wonders found all over El Yunque, Puerto Rico has it all.

In fact, most of Puerto Rico’s most popular attractions are just an hour’s reach from Old San Juan. And here’s what makes the island even more alluring and appealing —

Its landscape is so diverse you’ll still find so much to do the third time you visit. You can spend your mornings at the beach while your afternoons cave exploring. And your evenings? Take your pick. Between a quaint kayaking experience in bioluminescent bays or a stimulating thrill of San Juan’s nightlife.

Be it adventurous souls, nature lovers, sun seekers, romantics, or explorers, Puerto Rico has something for everyone.

And it doesn’t stop there.

With over 300 beaches, there’s plenty of R&R for families and vacationers looking for hush time or a peaceful retreat.

Despite being a small area, Puerto Rico doesn’t fail to dazzle its visitors. And with so many gems to discover around the island, here are all the specifics to convince you Puerto Rico is worth the journey.

What Makes Puerto Rico Unique?

You’ll Never Get Bored of Puerto Rico’s Diverse Landscape

Considering Puerto Rico’s size, there’s so much diversity you’ll wonder how everything fits in place. Now, just how vast and varied is Puerto Rico’s landscape? Think rainforests, waterfalls, canyons, caves, and to top it off, 300 beaches.

And one of the biggest highlights of Puerto Rico’s landscape is the El Yunque and Guanica Dry Forest. These are some of the largest forests you’ll ever see in the world. And not only is it teeming with wildlife, but it’s also full of scenic hiking trails for adventurous souls to freely explore. In addition, El Yunque and Guanica are perfect spots for nature lovers.

Rainforests aside, Puerto Rico is home to several caves too. But the most popular is Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy – an underground cave system full of jaw-dropping beauty.

Toro Verde Adventure Park is yet another fantastic place for families, couples, and solo travelers. There, you can experience riding one of the longest zip lines in the world. Serenity seekers will also love the panoramic views you’ll find there.

And if that’s still not enough, you can do waterfall climbing, wingsuit flying, golfing, and a wide array of water sports activities.

From mountains and caves to forests, waterfalls, and beaches, Puerto Rico is an enchanting place worth visiting.

There’s a Beach for Everyone

Whether it’s a secluded beach, a romantic beach, or a lively space, you’ll find it in Puerto Rico. With 300 beaches around the island, you’re certainly bound to find one to your liking. And here are a few worth mentioning:

Tortuga Beach

Tortuga beach combines the best of both worlds for nature lovers and adventurous souls. Here, you can go diving or snorkeling to see all kinds of marine life like sea turtles.

Or, you can visit the historical ruins nearby or hike the trail that leads to an old lighthouse. But most of all, Tortuga beach is the best place if you’re looking for a beach to de-stress.

Flamenco Beach

Flamenco beach, one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico, offers butter-soft sand and crystal clear waters.

The beach itself is meant for long romantic strolls, afternoon picnics, and lounging. Not to mention, the waters at Flamenco beach are perfectly suitable for kids to swim in.

Poza del Obispo

Poza del Obispo is one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico. But its most stunning features are its tantalizing turquoise waters and soft golden sand. Plus, it makes for a fantastic surf spot.

Playa Buye

For a beach you can have all to yourself, head to Playa Buye. During the weekdays and even more so during the off-season, Playa Buye offers perfect peaceful vibes.

Looking for some me-time in Puerto Rico? Perhaps some R&R with the family? Or are you looking for a beach that offers a romantic sunset?  Playa Buye ticks all the boxes for solo travelers, families, and honeymooners.

Domes Beach

Domes beach isn’t a place you go to relax, despite its breathtaking allure and view. No – this beach is best known for two things: surfing and hiking.

For adventurists and outdoor junkies, Domes beach is your spot. In fact, it hosts several surfing competitions every year.

Sun Bay

Every tourist must visit Sun Bay. As one of the trendiest spots in all of Puerto Rico, you can’t miss out on what this beach has to offer. For starters, Sun Bay has been awarded the Blue Flag recognition several times.

This idyllic beach is nearly unrivaled among all the other 299 beaches Puerto Rico offers. Tall palm trees and lush green scenery are only a fraction of the beauty bombshell that Sun Bay is. What’s more, it’s uber-family-friendly.

Without a doubt, Sun Bay boasts dreamy surroundings you just can’t get enough of.

All in all, Puerto Rico’s beaches aren’t just beautiful, you also have a whopping ton of options to choose from. And should you plan on visiting, make sure to visit these islands that are home to some of the best beaches:

  • Isabela
  • Fajardo
  • Culebra
  • Vieques
  • Luquillo
  • Cabo Rojo

Old San Juan Is Chock-Full of Culture

And on that note, it’s also full of charm. Cobblestone streets, beautiful Spanish architecture, and colorful, brightly painted homes. This is the entire scene at Old San Juan. Strolling around the area for a day is a must-do experience.

Everywhere you go, Spanish roots can be felt everywhere. And it truly feels like an entirely different world than what you see in Puerto Rico.

Make no mistake, Old San Juan isn’t just a historical place. Here, you’ll find a variety of art galleries, museums, cafes, gourmet restaurants, and even romantic spots. The Raices Fountain located at La Princesa in Old San Juan is by far the most romantic place.

During a sunset, it’s comparable to sitting at one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches. Brimming with culture, Fuerte San Felipe del Morro is a Spanish fort that deserves a walking tour. Nestled on a cliffside, you can’t beat the views and grandiose feeling of being in this place.

From there, make your way to Fortaleza Street – one of the prettiest and most Instagrammable spots in Old San Juan. The highlight of Fortaleza Street? Floating umbrellas provide you shade and inspiration as you’re walking along this historical street.

For the creative souls, Galeria Botello and Obra Galeria are two great art galleries to fuel your creativity. And for historical buffs, the San Juan Cathedral, El Morro, and Castillo de San Cristobal have much to offer.

And once you’ve had your fill of exploration and culture sightseeing, feel free to unwind at any of the cafes in the area. For the love of all things coffee-related, one trip to any of Puerto Rico’s cafés will surely make you ask…

“Where have you been all my life?” For all your brewed-awakening cravings, here are some worth mentioning:

  • 787 Coffee
  • Café Regina
  • Café Don Ruiz
  • Cuatro Sombras
  • Gustos Coffee Company

Now, if you’re not a fan of coffee, don’t sweat it. There’s always a refreshing piña colada available at Caribe Hilton. Blended with rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, the piña coladas at Old San Juan are a refreshing afternoon kick. In fact, Old San Juan is where the first piña colada was ever concocted.

You’re also welcome to try any of the food trucks around the area, or better yet, go on a food tour. Last but not least, visit Old San Juan again once nightfall hits. You’ll find some of the best clubs, bars, and lounges in Old San Juan no doubt.

Exceptional Cuisine

Part of the reasons why this sun-kissed destination is worth visiting is in large part due to its amazing food. Puerto Rican cuisine easily ranks as one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have on the island, regardless if it’s a local dish served at a humble food stand or at a fine dining restaurant.

But what exactly is Puerto Rican cuisine? It’s almost similar to Mexican or Cuban cuisine. However, it’s more of a blend of African, Taino, Spanish, and American influences.

Although you have plenty of options in Puerto Rico, don’t miss out on any of the traditional dishes. Tostones, Frituras, and Mofongo are just a few of the many delicious local dishes in Puerto Rico’s culinary scene.

One of the most raved about among locals and tourists is lechon asado. On the surface, it seems like everyday fried pork. However, a behind-the-scenes description will change your perspective on pork.

First, the entire pig is marinated in a traditional adobo marinade. Adobo is a mix of vinegar, water, garlic, oregano, and black pepper. Then, the pig is left to roast over a coal fire for several hours. Once the skin is crispy and the meat juicy & tender, it’s now ready for foodies to dive in.

Apart from lechon asado, pernil is another popular pork dish in Puerto Rico worth trying.

Altogether, the traditional recipes of Puerto Rico make it worthy to be considered one of the best food destinations. With a strong-rooted variety of cuisine influences, you won’t be disappointed with Puerto Rican cuisine.

And a quick side note, don’t forget to try some Puerto Rican coffee too. It’s the perfect pick-me-up, especially after a night of partying on Puerto Rico’s sandy shores.

Cancun

When you think of “party” and “Spring Break,” Cancun often comes to mind. However, the party capital of the Yucatan Peninsula has much more to offer than just its flashy nightlife and party reputation. Because first and foremost, Cancun is truly a beach destination full of paradisiacal sights.

As if the sand wouldn’t be enough to convince you, Cancun’s brilliant waters are every beach worshipper’s dream. And no – they’re not photoshopped either. What you see on those glossy ads of how Cancun’s beaches look like is truly what you’ll find here.

Whether you’re visiting Cancun for a swim or to relax, its beaches deliver the picture-postcard promise.

Another reason why Cancun is worth visiting? All-inclusive resorts. Being one of the most developed in Mexico, it’s hard to compete with Cancun’s beach resort and hotel scene.

From 5-star resorts to boutique hotels and beachfront stays, Cancun is the epitome of a tropical retreat. And if luxury accommodations or all-inclusive packages are your top priority, Cancun has several options you won’t regret.

Of course, the nightlife in Cancun is a given. If you’re looking for a way to let loose and party hard, make no mistake, Cancun will not disappoint.

But even so, there’s a quieter side to the city too. Cancun is home to a few Mayan sites and museums for the whole family to enjoy. You can even explore the underwater museum or All Ritmo Water Park for something more interactive for kids.

As you can see, Cancun has a little bit of culture, adventure, nightlife, and most of all, beautiful beaches. That includes diving and snorkeling opportunities if you’re looking for more to do around the city.

Last but not least, your culinary options in Cancun are beyond satisfying, whether it’s authentic Mexican cuisine, freshly caught seafood, or the classic all-American cheeseburger.

What Makes Cancun Unique?

Chichen Itza, Dozens of Cenotes, and the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

Who would’ve thought that one of the best Mayan ruins would be located in Cancun, the party center of the Caribbean. Chichen Itza is an impressive landmark, and its Mayan heritage adds to that fact. Here, you’ll find an epic collection of structures, monuments, and temples.

In fact, Chichen Itza recently became a part of the 7 Wonders of the World. But wait, it gets even better. Around the site are three great platforms that offer stunning views of the entire Yucatan peninsula. And just nearby, there are several cenotes for tourists to swim in, relax, and cool off after exploring this massive ancient ruin site.

But what exactly are cenotes? As the lore goes, cenotes are said to have healing properties. And during ancient Mayan times, some were even used as sacrificial chambers. Geographically, cenotes are simply indoor pools that formed when a cave has collapsed and is filled with rainwater over time.

In some cases, the main source of water found in a cenote comes from underground spring water. But most of all, these are natural wonders that beat infinity pools by a mile. While in Cancun, be sure to visit several of them.

Now, just before you hit the beach and party all night, don’t forget to explore the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve. This underground cave system offers refreshing fresh water you can wade and swim in all day. Plus, part of the experience involves exploring the cave, which is full of stalactites and stalagmites. Not to mention, you’ll find even more cenotes here.

So, if you’re looking for a break from the sunshine and hard partying but still prefer something on the wild side, this is it.

Phenomenal Nightlife

Cancun and “having a good time” go hand-in-hand. From chic cocktail bars to smashing mega nightclubs, Cancun’s hours-after-dark lifestyle is even more lively and vibrant.

Up for something hip, trendy, and chill? Grab a fine cocktail while listening to trendy music beats at Coco’s Beach Club. Or, for something more exclusive, Armar House offers a beach bar villa setting and offers a more casual night out experience. Paired with an oceanfront view and you have the perfect sipping-in-the-sunset vibes.

Other beach bars worth visiting include Chicabal Sunset Club, Alebris Bar, Kin Ha Isla Mujeres, and Blue Bar.

Those looking for a taste of true party action will be spoiled with options all over Cancun. Coco Bongo is by far the most popular option. So, if you’re looking for a place to have awesome fun and make a lot of new friends, Coco Bongo is the place to be.

Party animals looking for a more upscale and exclusive club will find it at HRoof Cancun. The sophisticated nightclub requires a certain dress code to enter and is more intimate than an intense scene at Coco Bongo.

Of course, there are chill clubs all over Cancun too, and Senor Frogs is truly one for the books. You can’t miss this place if what you’re after is a lazy but fun evening.

Finally, one of the craziest clubs in Cancun is none other than La Vaquita. The light shows alone are enough to convince you just how intense of a rave this place is.

For something with a mellower tempo but still offers a chance to let loose and dance, head to Abolengo. The crowd here isn’t as party animal as what you’d find in Cancun’s electrifying clubs, but it comes with great nightlife vibes.

All in all, Cancun’s nightlife has it all. From the tequila-shooting spring breaker to the chic and sophisticated partier, your evenings in Cancun will never be dull.

The Perfect Beach Day

Cancun’s nightlife scene is without a doubt a major highlight of visiting the city. But there’s no question it’s also a beach destination perfect for families and couples looking for tropical sun-kissed vibes.

Granted, it doesn’t have as many beaches as Puerto Rico, but every sandy mile you’ll see in Cancun is breathtaking. A more accurate description of Cancun’s beaches is postcard-perfect — exactly as how you’d imagine it at the top of your head or just as beautiful as the images you’d see in a glossy magazine ad.

But the biggest question is, where would you even start?

As many would say, Playa Delfines bags the no.1 spot when it comes to beaches in Cancun. But at the same time, it’s also the most lively. Considering how Playa Delfines is the most resort-dominated space. And that means you’ll find a lot of tourists and establishments here.

If you’re looking for a beach that offers the perfect ambiance to read a book in peace, head to Playa Chac Mool. It has all the seclusion and serenity you could ask for.

Tulum beach offers a similar vibe, but expect there to be more foot traffic here. That being said, you can still enjoy a quiet, laid-back experience at Tulum beach. Plus, it’s one of the best places to catch a magnificent sunset. If ever you’re looking for refreshments, the open-air cafes and cabanas in the area are just perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Now, Playa Norte Isla Mujeres is a real stunner. An absolute natural beauty of sparkling white sand and rich turquoise waters. Kids can swim safely in Playa Norte Isla Mujeres thanks to its uber-calm waters. However, the real highlight of this beach is being able to kick back, unwind, and sip margaritas till sundown.

Overall, Cancun’s beaches are absolutely captivating. Aside from the beaches already mentioned in this guide, be sure to check these out too:

  • X’cacel Beach
  • Xpu-Ha Beach
  • Akumal Beach
  • Playa Maroma
  • Playacar Beach
  • Puerto Morelos Beach
  • Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Wide Variety of Water Activities

Cancun is rich in underwater activities and goes beyond just snorkeling and diving excursions. For starters, a great activity to do as a family is diving at the Cancun Underwater Museum. Here, you’ll find 400+ underwater statues. The ruins at Tulum also showcase the ruins of an old Mayan port and offer great photo opportunities.

Then, you can go snorkeling at the second largest coral reef in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef. There are endless varieties of marine and coral life here, making it a haven for snorkelers and divers.

At Isla Holbox, one of the best underwater highlights here is being able to swim with whale sharks. However, this excursion is only available from May to September every year.

If you’re looking for more opportunities to see marine life in Cancun, there’s always Quintana Roo and Isla Mujeres. At these dive sites, you’ll get the chance to spot sailfish and an astounding variety of marine life.

Some of these include leopard sharks, great white sharks, blue whales, loggerhead turtles, manta rays, and more.

Altogether, Cancun’s underwater experiences offer a perfect changeup from the city’s inland adventures.

Which Is Better – Puerto Rico or Cancun?

Because both destinations offer so much diversity, it’s hard to choose between Puerto Rico and Cancun. In other words, both are worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.

To help you decide which is truly better, here are each destination’s strong points:

If you’re looking for exciting nightlife, beach adventures & relaxation, and a little history and culture on the side, choose Cancun. Granted, Cancun may be a top-notch pick for party animals, but it also has a lot to offer beach lovers. Plus, with just enough underwater and land adventures, active travelers will also enjoy vacationing in Cancun.

Now, what about Puerto Rico?

This destination has it all x2. Beaches, activities, history, culture, and even nightlife. With more than 300 beaches to explore, it’s safe to say Puerto Rico is the ultimate beach-lover destination. Combined with its diverse landscape and dozens of activities, outdoor junkies will fit right in.

Without a doubt, Puerto Rico is a place that offers an abundant number of activities, be it underwater or inland.  From lively to secluded beaches, there’s no doubt you’ll find a beach that aligns with your vacation needs. And that includes waterfall climbing, hiking, cave exploring, water rafting, diving, and so much more.

Last but not least, the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico are just one of the many natural wonders of the island. If there’s one thing Cancun is undeniably a better choice for, it’s the nightlife. Plus, it’s more wallet-friendly too.

FAQ

How Far Is Cancun From Puerto Rico?

Cancun is 1,331.6 miles (2,143 km) from Puerto Rico. Considering the distance, the best way to reach Puerto Rico from Cancun is via plane.

Puerto Rico vs. Cancun Beaches

Both Puerto Rico and Cancun have beautiful beaches. However, it really boils down to variety and natural beauty.

It’s safe to say that Cancun has the most beautiful beaches but is limited in options. In addition, Cancun’s beach scene is livelier and more touristy. Whereas Puerto Rico has several options if you’re looking for privacy, seclusion, romance, liveliness, and more.

This is also not to say that Puerto Rico’s beaches are lacking in regard to natural beauty. Several of Puerto Rico’s beaches are stunning and beautiful. That being said, these beaches are mostly found on Puerto Rico’s nearby islands.

Overall, you’ll find more opportunities to relax and unwind on Puerto Rico’s beaches than in Cancun. For the island hopper, Puerto Rico is an absolute king when it comes to variety and selection. In contrast, if you enjoy lively beaches and city vibes, Cancun’s beaches may be better for you.

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