Let’s face it. There is a reason Mexico, whether it’s Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, 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 and start a new chapter. 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 decide between Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta.
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 distinct brand of awesome. But what they both have in common 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 and settle the Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta debate once and for all.
Just a quick note, I’m using Cabo as the catchall for Los Cabos unless otherwise noted.
Landscape Debate of Puerto Vallarta vs Los Cabos
Cabos Cabo Landscape
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 or Cabo 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.
Weather: Difference Between Cabo and Puerto Vallarta
Whether it’s Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta, 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 the degrees of humidity and the duration of any rainy season.
Are you looking for comfortable, year-round warmth? Well, Cabo has you covered, with temps in the mid-70s all year.
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, so know this going in.
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, so it might be uncomfortable for some.
What’s one of the key differences between Cabo and Puerto Vallarta? Hurricanes. Cabo loses this round, I’m afraid.
Why? Puerto Vallarta is in the Banderas Bay, but 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.
In summary, then, this round of the Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo showdown goes to…
Puerto Vallarta barely tips over Cabo in the weather department because there is less risk of hurricanes.
Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta Beaches: Who Wins?
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 beaches debate 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! Unless you’re a super strong swimmer, Puerto Vallarta has the edge here.t not to be able to enjoy said beaches for fear of undercurrents = no bueno.
Cabo or Puerto Vallarta for Families
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 for good reason. And that’s a hard reputation to beat.
Plus, Cabo offers insane adrenaline sports for the whole family, like flyboarding, jet skiing, ziplining, skydiving, bungee jumping, parasailing. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Or sea lion and whale watching if you’re looking for something a little tamer.
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 activities like shopping and art galleries, Puerto Vallarta edges out Cabo.
They both have fantastic hiking and surfing, too, which makes it even harder to choose between Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta.
Okay, so Cabo vs Puerto Vallarta: which one wins the activity showdown? Well, I’ll be honest…it’s a draw.
It’s impossible to tell which place has more to offer.
If you’re a golfer, go to Cabo.
Looking for a wider range of activities? 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, so if you’re looking for raw culture, you’ll need to wander off road a little. 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.
Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo: Final Scores
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 I 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.
Want more details? I got you covered! For more tips about Puerto Vallarta vs Cabo real estate, listen to this podcast.
I’ve been to both places. They are very different for sure! Cabo has won my heart❤️ Since I don’t swim in the ocean and don’t mind. I have snorkeled lots in Cabo, going to the local beaches is great fun even if I don’t speak Spanish. I love watching the amazing whales every year, right from the beach and the whale sharks are right there in LaPaz. Looking out over the Pacific Ocean, all you see is water for miles and miles, breathtaking! Sunsets are spectacular 😊
I totally Love Puerto Vallarta and may move there form Las Vegas Nevada in the near future. The people are the friendliest I have met in my travels in Mexico. Cabo is not for me! Way too touristy and doesn’t really have the Mexican feel that I like. The beaches are downright dangerous! I saw a lady drown there when a wave knocked her and her husband down as he was taking a picture of her. It pulled her under and she unfortunately did not survive. She was there for her grandsons wedding. Some of the locals are relentless asking you to buy something or just holding their hat out. In PV when you say no Gracias they leave you to go on your way. I am going to Cabo this month but only because I got invited for my friends 50th birthday. After that I am trying to decide where to go next in Mexico as I am looking to retire there soon. Mazatlan, Zihuatanejo, Huatulco, La Paz to name a few. If you have any recommendations let me know. I am a 62 year old single and so I do need a vibrant beach location not a sleepy village.
If you want to stay on the west coast of Mexico, check out Todo Santos which is also a nice town. I’ve heard nice things about Sayulita and Bucerias is growing. If you want to venture to the east coast then check out Merida (beautiful but 30 minutes to the ocean), Playa Del Carmen, Tulum… lots to check out! I just got back from Playa Del Carmen so will be posting videos on the whole region in the next couple of months on my YouTube Channel (search: Modern Aging). Best of luck in your search 🙂