If you’re trying to decide between Mexico and the Caribbean for your next holiday, then the choice isn’t going to be easy. The first is a large, Latin American country with a diverse landscape, miles of amazing coastline, tasty food, and tequila. The second offers picture-perfect, white-sand beaches and crystal-clear aqua under the scorching sun.
But, despite many differences, there are also some similarities. Both Mexico and the Caribbean have access to the Caribbean Sea that is known for its pristine waters. But, in Mexico, there is also the wilder Pacific coast, along with mountains and charming colonial towns.
In this guide, we’ve looked at different aspects of these two destinations, from beaches and things to do to value for money and ease of travel. It should help you decide which is better this year, Mexico or the Caribbean?
Mexico or Caribbean: Getting there
Traveling to both Mexico and the Caribbean islands is pretty easy and you shouldn’t find it hard to get to either of these destinations. However, there is no question that Mexico, being a large country, has more travel options available.
By far the easiest way to get into Mexico is by flying. The largest international airport, located in Mexico City, offers international connections with many major hubs around the globe and lots of cheap, direct connections with airports all over the US. The second-largest airport in the country is in Cancun, the gateway to the popular Quintana Roo and Yucatan states. It’s also possible to drive into Mexico from the US but that can be a lengthy (and potentially dangerous) journey.
Getting into the Caribbean isn’t too difficult either. You can fly into most islands directly from the US, Canada, and Europe. But those are often charter flights, mainly aimed at package holidaymakers. And that means they are more likely to be pricey. That said, there are deals to be had there, especially for flexible travelers. And it’s certainly worth forking out to enjoy the sugar sands of these paradise islands if that’s what you have your heart set on.
Mexico or Caribbean: Beaches
From the pristine, white-sand bays and turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast to golden sands under the palm trees and glassy waves of the Pacific, there are plenty of amazing beaches in Mexico. The country has access to the Pacific Ocean on one side and to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Some of the best beach destinations in Mexico include:
- Tulum (Quintana Roo) – A chilled town on the stunning Yucatan Peninsula. The white sands and mellow turquoise waters are what this place is all about. There are lots of beach bars and bamboo shacks that give this place a less resort-like feel than the nearby Cancun.
- Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco) – A resort town in the heart of the beautiful Bahia de Banderas. Head south to enjoy the unspoiled coves and beaches as you emerge from the tropical forest. The bay protects this coast from the powerful Pacific waves, so it’s a great place for swimming.
- Playa del Carmen (Quintana Roo) – A popular resort town with palm-lined beaches and coral reefs. There are lots of hotels, bars and restaurants behind the beach. It’s the gateway to Cozumel.
- Cabo San Lucas (Baja California Sur) – A beach resort town at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. It’s famous for the rugged cliffs and arches rising from the sea.
- Zihuatanejo (Guerrero) – Once a quiet fishing village, made popular by the Shawshank Redemption’s final scenes.
But it’s the Caribbean that is world-famous for its pristine beaches. The endless powder-white sand bays and picture-perfect turquoise seas are what defines the Caribbean islands. There are so many amazing beaches out there that it’s not an easy task to pick a few, but some of our favorite ones include:
- Shoal Bay Beach (Anguilla) – If you’re looking for that ultimate postcard beach then Shoal Bay in Anguilla is the place to go. With sands as white as sugar and crystal-clear turquoise waters, this beach is something out of this world.
- Eagle Beach (Aruba) – One of the best beaches in the region is Aruba’s Eagle Beach. Miles of white sands and azure aqua are the things you can expect from this popular honeymoon destination.
- Seven Mile Beach (Grand Cayman) – Yet another picture-perfect white sand beach in the Caribbean. As the name suggests, this beach stretches for nearly seven long miles along shallow warm waters. This is where the most luxury resorts in the region are located.
- Grace Bay (Turks and Caicos) – Boastibg soft, sugar sands with the water clearer than that of a swimming pool, Grace Bay beach has calm seas ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Although this beach is very popular, it’s never overcrowded.
Mexico or Caribbean: Things to do
Mexico is a huge country that has plenty of fun activities on offer. Whether you want to visit the Mayan ruins, surf, dive, hike, or just laze on the beach there are things for everyone in this beautiful Latin American country. Some of the best activities in Mexico include:
- Visiting Pre-Columbian Cities – The most famous Mayan ruins in the country are in Chichén Itzá ,with the striking step pyramid dominating the site. But that is not the only place where you can explore pre-Columbian ruins. Other places include San Juan Teotihuacán near Mexico City, Zona Arqueológica Palenque, and Tulum Archaeological Zone.
- Visiting Monarch Butterfly Reserve (Michoacán) – Every year the beautiful monarch butterflies visit the rugged forested mountains of the reserve in masses. The best time to see the butterflies is in spring.
- Climbing Pico de Orizaba – There are nearly fifty active volcanos in Mexico with the highest one rising over 5,600m above sea level. Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America. To hike this sleeping giant requires major preparation and good fitness but those that take on this amazing journey will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
- Tasting tequila – Mexico is the land of tequila and the best place on Earth to taste this alcoholic beverage. Take the tequila train to the home of this spirit in Jalisco and try some of the world’s best tequilas straight from the distilleries.
- Visiting Hierve el Agua (Oaxaca) – This is a natural rock formation that resembles a waterfall. It’s located around 70km away from Oaxaca City.
But what is there to do in the Caribbean? The obvious answer is to enjoy some of the most amazing beaches on Earth. But it isn’t only about soaking in the sun. There are plenty of other fun things to do in the Caribbean. Some of the top activities include:
- Hiking in El Yunque Rainforest (Puerto Rico) – Green tropical flora, gurgling waterfalls, and refreshing rivers are the things you can enjoy while hiking in Puerto Rico’s only rainforest. There are plenty of hiking trails for serious walkers and casual strollers of all sorts.
- Exploring Pigeon Island National Park (St Lucia) – A forested cape at the northern top of St Lucia. There are plenty of walking trails and 18th-century military forts and ruins around the park. You can enjoy beautiful views of Martinique from the park’s two peaks.
- Enjoying the Baths of Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands) – Located in the Baths National Park on the north shores of Virgin Gorda island are these incredible beach rock formations. Two granite boulders create sheltered sea pools.
- Trying Jerk Chicken in Jamaica – Jamaican jerk is an iconic Caribbean treat that every meat eater should try. Jamaica is the best place to try this spicy grilled staple.
Mexico or Caribbean: Nightlife
Like most Latinos, Mexicans are lively and love to have a good time. And of course, one of the things that Mexico is famous for is tequila! With this combination, you can rest assured that Mexico enjoys vibrant nightlife and plenty of fiestas all year round. In spring, hordes of college breakers head to Mexican coastal resorts to party. Some of the best destinations in the country for that are:
- Mexico City – The capital is known for its established nightlife scene. From late-night dance venues in Roma-Condesa through to hipster breweries in Juarez, bohemian art clubs in Zona Rosa and cocktail bars in Polanco, there are party options for everyone.
- Puerto Vallarta – As the sun sets Puerto Vallarta wakes up. The cocktails are mixed in the numerous seafront venues and the DJs play sets in many of the town’s nightclubs.
- Cancun – A popular holiday destination on the Yucatan peninsula known for its vibrant party scene. It’s popular with American spring breakers who seek all-night raves that don’t stop till the sun comes up. The most popular area to party there is Punta Cancun, otherwise known as the party zone.
- Guadalajara – The second largest city in Mexico in the state of Jalisco is a dynamic hub with a great nightlife scene. The best area for drinking here is Chapultepec Avenue and Zapopan.
- Acapulco – It was once the destination for the rich, but these days Acapulco is more famous for its nightlife than the beaches. With loads of clubs, bars, and discos, this place has a pretty hefty party scene.
Caribbean nightlife is generally more chilled than that of Mexico. It’s more about drinking rum in beach bars while dancing to live reggae tunes. But that isn’t the only way to party in the Caribbean. There are plenty of drinking cruises, large music clubs, and casinos too. Some of the best places to enjoy the nightlife in the Caribbean are:
- San Juan (Puerto Rico) – Dancing in until dawn in live-music bars and drinking in several bars, lounges, and rooftop joints, these are the things you can expect in lively San Juan.
- Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) – This is the largest city in the Caribbean that is known for its parties long after the sun goes down. There are loads of bars, cafes, clubs, and discos all around the city, especially in Zona Colonial.
- Barbados – It’s the birthplace of rum. And with that, you can rest assured that there are plenty of places to enjoy it. The best place to party in Barbados is in St Lawrence Gap.
- Aruba – Beachfront lounges, lively cocktail bars, clubs, and casinos are plentiful in Aruba, especially in north Oranjestad.
- Jamaica – Wherever you go in Jamaica, there is music. The sounds of reggae are always about and there are plenty of places to enjoy it. The best nightlife is in Montego Bay and Kingston.
Mexico or Caribbean: Prices
The cost of your trip to Mexico will depend on what you do and where you stay, but generally, Mexico is quite affordable. Hotels can be pricey if you choose to stay in glitzy beachfront resorts in Cabo or luxury hotels in the capital, but there are plenty of budget options out there. And with the cost for tacos as little as 50 cents, you can be sure that a trip to Mexico isn’t likely to break the bank. Getting around the country isn’t too expensive either.
The Caribbean, however, is known for its luxury resorts and beachfront venues that come at a price. That isn’t the case with every island, but generally, a trip to the Caribbean is going to cost you more than one to Mexico. Barbados is the priciest of all, with average daily costs sitting at $300 per person. Other islands that are considered expensive are Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba. The most budget-friendly Caribbean islands are Cuba and Haiti, with the average daily cost ten times lower than in Barbados.
Mexico or Caribbean: The conclusion
Although the Caribbean lures with its picture-perfect beaches that are hard to beat, it is Mexico that comes on top in most categories. With its rich culture and history, diverse landscape, and more affordable lifestyle, we think that Mexico is overall a more interesting travel destination. But that said, there is no question that the Caribbean is incredibly beautiful, though it might come at a price.