If it’s come down to a decision between Cabo vs Cozumel for your next Mexican adventure, then the choice is probably not going to be easy. You won’t be disappointed with either. Both places have plenty of beautiful beaches, from the golden sands of the Pacific Ocean to the pristine white sands of the Caribbean Sea. But which is better?
On one hand, there is sunny Cabo, with its great surf conditions and a vibrant nightlife scene. On the other, there is Cozumel, with crystal-clear turquoise aqua and colorful coral reefs that will wow even the most experienced of scuba divers. Yep, it’s a tough choice!
This guide to Cabo vs Cozumel will help you decide which Mexican destination to visit next. From the ease of travel, the quality of the beaches, and the general vibes to nightlife and climate, we’ve outlined nine key aspects of experiencing these two top destinations.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Ease of travel
Cabo San Lucas is the full name of the well-known destination, Cabo. It is a popular resort town at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Around 3 million people visit Cabo every year, so getting there isn’t difficult, especially if you’re coming from the US or Canada.
There are plenty of direct flights to Los Cabos International Airport from many North American cities. If you’re coming from Europe or South America, though, you will most likely have to fly via Mexico City or the US first. From the airport, you can easily get to downtown Cabo by either a taxi or a bus, which takes about 30-45 minutes.
Getting around downtown Cabo is a cinch. You should never be far from shops, restaurants, and bars if you stay there – all are within walking distance. If you’re planning on venturing further afield, you can either rent a car, get a taxi, or ride the buses. However, be sure to only use licensed taxis to avoid common scams and try not to drive at night.
When it comes to Cozumel, an island off Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast, getting in may be a little trickier than to Cabo. There is a small international airport in Cozumel that handles a couple of short-haul routes, but the majority of visitors fly into the popular resort of Cancun. From there, you can get a bus or taxi to Playa del Carmen, from where you can get a ferry across to beautiful Cozumel itself. The journey should take around 2.5 hours in all.
Getting around the main town in Cozumel is quite similar to Cabo, as it’s mostly walkable. If you need to get somewhere further than just around the town of San Miguel de Cozumel, however, you will need to get a taxi or rent a moped or a car.
Cabo vs Cozumel: General vibes
Once a sleepy fishing port, Cabo was transformed into a bustling holiday destination in the 80s and 90s. Now, there is no shortage of luxury resorts, condos, large hotels, and golf courses, especially along The Corridor, a road that runs east from the downtown. San Jose del Cabo is the area close to the airport, which has partly retained the Old Mexico style. And Cabo San Lucas, the main town, is dotted with bars, nightclubs, and holiday resorts. These days, Cabo is well known for its wild nightlife scene and millions of people are drawn here to bask in the sun, surf, and party.
Cozumel is very different to Cabo. It’s a quieter, less developed, and more family-friendly destination. It’s an island on the Caribbean side of the country, blessed with some of the most pristine white-sand beaches going. Aside from the largest town, San Miguel de Cozumel, the island is hardly developed at all. It is also a diving mecca, with the Mesoamerican Reef and Museo Subacuático being top spots.
Winner: Draw – bustling Cabo vs undeveloped Cozumel.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Beaches
Expect a rugged mountainous landscape that meets the Pacific Ocean in Cabo. You will find some beaches with crashing waves that satisfy the surfers and some secluded bays, perfect for swimming. You need to know where to go if you want to get in the water because some spots have powerful swells and rips. That said, there are lots of gorgeous options here, whether you’re looking to bask in the sun or enjoy the watersports.
Medano Beach, the longest stretch of sand in the area, is lined with bars and restaurants and benefits from calm waters perfect for swimming and kayaking. Then there is Lover’s Beach near the iconic arch, undoubtedly beautiful but only accessible by boat, while tranquil Santa Maria Beach has very clear waters and coral reefs.
Cozumel has no shortage of those postcard-perfect beaches with sapphire waters and white sands backed by swaying palm trees. This Caribbean Island is located off the Yucatan peninsula, which is famous for its endless beach options. And, while places like Cancun and Tulum suffer from piles of rotting seaweed during the spring and summer months, Cozumel’s west-facing beaches are largely unaffected.
El Cielo on the southern tip of the island well deserves its name – it translates to “heaven” and it really does look the part, although it can only be accessed by boat. To the west, Playa Palancar also lures travelers with its unspoiled sugar sands and turquoise waters. But, if you’re after more beach life, head to Playa San Francisco, where bars are dotted behind the tide line.
Winner: Cozumel for the Caribbean’s picture-perfect beaches.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Things to do
Cozumel is a Mexican diving mecca, with some of the best scuba spots in the world. Snorkelers won’t be disappointed either, with crystal clear waters, coral reefs, and diverse marine life around the island’s coastline. While there are plenty of incredible diving spots across Cozumel’s colorful reefs, beginners will enjoy the Columbia Shallows and Chankanaab Reef the most. For more experienced divers, the Santa Rosa Wall and Punta Tunich are hard to beat.
That is not to say that there is no diving and snorkeling in Cabo. There are also some great spots here, such as Pelican Rock and Neptune’s Finger, but they simply cannot rival Cozumel’s diverse corals and wildlife. But, unlike Cozumel, Cabo is great for surfing, too. Beginners might not have much choice but will enjoy Cerritos, a 45-minute drive north from Cabo. There are also plenty of breaks for more experienced surfers, with Costa Azul leading the way. After an intense session, you can enjoy Cabo’s vibrant nightlife scene, or hit The Corridor to find spas and fine hotel eateries.
Winner: Cabo wins because it’s a bit more diverse than just a diving and relaxation hub.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Nightlife
There is no question that Cabo comes out on top in this category. It’s a proper party town. Downtown Cabo is the place to be if you’re after the legendary nightlife scene. The center is dotted with nightclubs and bars that lure spring-breakers and party-hungry youngsters. Head to El Squid Roe or La Vaquita for loud dance tunes manned by DJs, or go to Dos Jimmys Signature Bar or The Jungle Bar for casual drinks. Yep, there is always something going on in Cabo – just follow the music!
That doesn’t mean that there is zero nightlife in Cozumel. It may not be as wild as Cabo’s, but there are plenty of places to have fun after the sun goes down. The marina in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel is dotted with bars, cocktail venues, and cervecerias. Head to Thirsty Cougar or Agave for the best cocktails in town, or go to La Internacional Cervecería if you’re a beer enthusiast.
Cabo Vs Cozumel: Families
It’s no secret that Cabo is a bit of a party town (just check out our nightlife section above!). Things can be wild here and you’re more likely to come across a tequila bar than a kid-friendly playground in these parts no doubt. That’s not to say Cabo has nada for the little ones. It does. There are pelican-filled coves, boat trips to sea caves, and snorkeling bays aplenty. It’s just that we don’t think it quite lives up to…
Cozumel, an island of managed coral gardens where the kids can meet manta rays and stingrays, snorkel with colorful fish species, and learn all about the strange underwater world of the Caribbean. The isle also has ancient ruins and a Mexican old town with cantinas that serve traditional food. Oh, and it’s only a boat ride from the Riviera Maya, where the family fun can continue in cenotes, in the waterparks, and in the adrenaline-pumping Xplor Park.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Climate
Cabo and Cozumel are on two different sides of the climactic zones of Mexico. The weather in Cabo is warm and mostly dry, with plenty of sunshine. In fact, it is known for some of the best weather conditions in the country, with an average of 360 sunny days in a year. That’s great if you want to bask in the sun on one of Cabo’s beautiful beaches. It rarely rains here, but you may experience some wet weather in the summer between July and October.
It also never gets cold in Cozumel, where the climate is hot and tropical. The weather gets a bit more unsettled than in Cabo, though, with dry and wet seasons throughout the year. The best time to visit is between March and May, when you will get plenty of sunshine and not much rain at all. You should avoid traveling from August to October, when hurricanes can cause havoc on the beautiful island.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Prices
Cabo has no shortage of luxury resorts and glitzy bars and those can cost you big bucks. In fact, the popularity of Cabo has been driving prices up for some years, so you will find that things cost a lot more here than they might in other parts of Mexico. If you choose to stay in beachfront, five-star resorts, you can expect to spend anywhere between $250 and $800 a night. That said, there are still plenty of places to accommodate budget travelers, with prices for basic rooms starting at $30 a night. The average daily budget is around $91 per person.
Although Cozumel is also touristy and the prices are higher than in many places across the country, it is much cheaper than Cabo. On average, people spend about $60 a day, which is almost $30 less than in Cabo. Everything from food and drinks to accommodation will cost you a bit less here. The cheapest rooms can cost as little as $20 a night, and the most expensive, luxury resorts won’t cost more than $450 a night.
Cabo vs Cozumel: Hotels
Cabo is positively bursting with hotel options. There are two main places to know about: The town center and the so-called Corridor, a long run of beachfront properties that connects with the nearby airport town of San Jose del Cabo in the east. The first has B&Bs and compact boho hotels to suit all budgets. The Corridor is more about sprawling resorts with swimming pools and beachfront access. Here are just a few examples of what there is to pick from:
- Villa del Arco Beach Resort & Spa ($$$) – A prime example of a large-scale Cabo resort, with good coast access and a central pool.
- Sunrock Condo Hotel ($$) – A more down to earth midrange option that’s great for budget travelers.
- Nobu Hotel Los Cabos ($$$) – Treat yourself to some pure luxury courtesy of the high-class name of Nobu
Cozumel has a similar vibe but probably less of a resort feel to it. You just don’t seem to notice the big, brash hotels on the shoreline here as much. There are also more places that channel the tropical vibes of the Caribbean region, with palapas sunbeds overlooking the reefs and hammocks strewn between the coconut palms. The one downside? There’s not LOADS of choice, since the range of hotels on Cozumel is limited by its size. Here are a few accommodations that we love:
- Hotel B Cozumel ($$-$$$) – A luxury hotel with a hot tub just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea.
- Hacienda Boutique Mi Casa tu Casa B&B ($$$) – A highly rated stay with an authentic Mexicana feel, complete with a pool and outdoor showers, bright rooms and a leafy garden.
- Villa Escondida B&B Cozumel Downtown ($$-$$$) – Grab a room in this relaxing villa in buzzy Cozumel town.
Cabo vs Cozumel: The conclusion
Cabo and Cozumel are two popular destinations on opposite sides of Mexico. They have some things in common, such as beautiful beaches and oodles of fun things to do (scuba, snorkeling). They are also very different. Cabo is a party town with no shortage of glitzy bars and luxury, five-star resorts. Cozumel, on the other hand, is largely undeveloped and is more family-friendly. While Cabo has great surf, Cozumel is a famous diving mecca.