Let’s face it. There is a reason Mexico is so popular with travelers and expats alike. In a country where you can have your taco and eat it too, it’s not easy deciding which place to relocate. The debate of Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo has been ongoing for years. But I’m about to help you put that to rest. I’m here to help. You can thank me later.
It’s no wonder why there’s a scuffle over Puerto Vallarta or Cabo. They are both incredible locations, each with their own flavor that make them distinct. But what they both have are more than 200 days of sunshine, breathtaking scenery, heart-stopping adventures, and Mexican food to die for.
Nevertheless, a few variances in the lifestyle and the city’s accoutrements will help you find the right home for you.
Let’s dive in.
Just a quick note, I’m using Cabo as the catchall for Los Cabos unless otherwise noted.
Landscape Debate of Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo
Los Cabos is a bizarre mix of arid desert, rugged mountains, and magnificent beaches. Picture a desert with cactus meets golden sand beaches. It’s truly a unique landscape. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s at the tip of a peninsula and snuggled between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean.
Puerto Vallarta Landscape
Puerto Vallarta is where the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains meet the Banderas Bay that meets the Pacific Ocean. The town is surrounded by jungles, hidden islands, and stunning beaches.
The verdict in the landscape skirmish of Puerto Vallarta vs Los Cabos goes to…
There can be no loser here.
It depends on what’s your flavor.
Are you a desert lover? Cabo is calling your name.
Prefer the tropical vibes of the jungle? Puerto Vallarta needs you.
The Weather Debate of Puerto Vallarta or Cabo
Let’s be real, snowbirds flock to Mexico in the winter with good reason. Because winter in the States can really suck – Chicago, I’m looking at you.
When it comes to the weather, the difference between Cabo and Puerto Vallarta is really in its humidity and rainy season.
Average temps in the mid-70s make for that perfect year-round warmth. The humidity averages 65%, so it’s got more of the arid climate of the desert vs the tropical climate of Puerto Vallarta.
Cabo has a hurricane season from June to November. Hurricanes don’t occur every year, but bad storms do.
Puerto Vallarta Weather
Puerto Vallarta has more of a tropical climate with the average humidity hovering around 79% – think hot and sticky just as you’d expect from a beachside locale.
Like Cabo, the average temps are in the upper 70’s so it’s not much different in that respect. However, the humidity can make it feel hotter than the thermometer reads.
When it comes to hurricanes in the battle of Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo, Cabo loses. Puerto Vallarta is in the Banderas Bay. However, its position makes it more protected and less susceptible to destructive seaborn storms.
Puerto Vallarta has a rainy season from June to November as well. Still, it’s more of a case of nasty storms vs devastating hurricanes.
The Cabo San Lucas vs Puerto Vallarta weather showdown goes to…
Puerto Vallarta barely tips over Cabo in the weather department because there is less risk of hurricanes.
The Beach-Off Between Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta
Some people think any beach is a good beach if there is sand, and you can sit under an umbrella with your chelada and a juicy book. But that’s not entirely true. Let me explain.
Cabo has 19 blue flag beaches, which means they are super clean in and out of the water. So, it’s basically a beach symbol of excellence. And although Cabo has 19 of them, and they are postcard-perfect, there is one underlying challenge with most of them.
There are incredibly strong undercurrents at most beaches in the Los Cabos area, making them great to look at, but not great for swimming.
So, if you are a swimmer, you better be strong and know how to handle the currents. Or head over to the couple of beaches that are perfect for lazing, floating, and swimming, like Medano, Chileno and Santa Maria. Those beaches are also ideal for snorkeling and finding Nemo.
If you’re the kind of person who loves long walks on the beach, but when it comes to dipping in the water, you prefer chlorine over saltwater, then the Cabo beaches are right up your alley. You have miles of them to choose from on both sides of the peninsula, so get to walking.
Puerto Vallarta Beaches
The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are protected by the bay and can be a bit narrow in places.
There aren’t as many miles of uninterrupted beach as there is in Cabo, but almost all the beaches in Puerto Vallarta are swimmable.
So, if you’re a snorkel off the beach kinda water-baby, then Puerto Vallarta is the better choice for you.
The winner of the Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta beach-off is…
Puerto Vallarta takes the medal on this one. It’s all well and good to have lovely long romantic walks on the beach. I get that. But not to be able to enjoy said beaches for fear of undercurrents = no bueno.
Things to do in Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta
If you are a golfer, Cabo is your playground. Not that Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have golf courses, quite the contrary. However, Cabo is known as the Golf Capital of Latin America. And that’s hard to beat.
Cabo offers insane adrenaline sports like flyboarding, jet skiing, ziplining, skydiving, bungee jumping, parasailing. Oh yeah, can’t forget sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Or sea lion and whale watching.
I think you get the point.
So, here’s where it gets sticky. Puerto Vallarta offers all of that too. Just with a different backdrop. However, when it comes to shopping and art galleries, Puerto Vallarta edges out Cabo.
They both have fantastic hiking and surfing.
In the things to do battle royale between Los Cabos vs Puerto Vallarta…
it’s a draw.
It’s impossible to tell which place has more to offer.
If you’re a golfer, go to Cabo.
An art lover? Head to Puerto Vallarta.
No matter which one you choose, you can’t lose.
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo for the Culture Craver
Real talk = neither of these cities are overflowing with the culture of untapped towns off the beaten path. Neither Puerto Vallarta or Cabo are hidden gems anymore. The tourist trade has been strong for decades. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a little culture if you know where to look.
Since Cabo San Lucas is well-trodden by expats and tourists, head to its shyer sister town of San Jose del Cabo for a more authentic and rustic vibe. It’s only 30 minutes away, but feels like a world apart with its colonial buildings and quaint cobbled streets.
Puerto Vallarta Culture
Even though Puerto Vallarta sits squarely on the beaten path, it has retained some of its culture and deep-rooted history. Its traditional, red-roofed homes and the charismatic old town still have a local feel.
Not surprisingly, Puerto Vallarta is called the San Francisco of Mexico. This is because one of the country’s most iconic artists, Manuel Lepe, is from there. Plus, the sizeable LGBTQ+ population keeps the art scene booming.
Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco, the birthplace of tequila and mariachi music, and Puerto Vallarta has kept a firm hold on both.
The cultural showdown of Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo goes to… drumroll, please…
Puerto Vallarta. If being in a culturally rich and artsy city is vital to you, then hands down heads to Puerto Vallarta.
The Wrap Up
So, which is better, Cabo or Puerto Vallarta?
For me personally, it’s Puerto Vallarta.
It’s all well and good that Cabo has 19 blue flag beaches to walk upon. But that’s just a colossal tease since I can’t really swim in most of them. Not to mention, I like the humidity in Puerto Vallarta. It does wonders for my curls.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Cabo. And love taking vacations there.
But for living, Puerto Vallarta has my heart.
But which one is better for you? Cabo or Puerto Vallarta? Tell me in the comments below.