There’s no question that Cancun and Punta Cana are two of the most popular destinations for an all-inclusive vacation. Cancun is the most visited Destination in Mexico, while Punta Cana is the most visited destination in the Dominican Republic. Each location offers visitors a wide selection of all-inclusive properties at prices that range from ultra-luxurious to totally affordable. Both destinations have been breaking records this summer, proving that tourists are flocking to the regions. For those who are on the fence about which area to choose, this article will help determine a winner!
Travel Off Path has pitted each location against each other in a head-to-head comparison to determine the best all-inclusive destination. For clarity, we’ve broken things down into sections, including pricing and resort options, beaches, weather, activities, safety, as well as flight connectivity and cost, and traveler interest.
For this comparison, we assumed a one-week vacation during January, a peak travel month for both areas. Specifically, we chose January 14th to January 21st, with flights in and out on each of those days as well. All prices shown are based on two people traveling together.
All Inclusive Costs & Options
One of the driving decision-making factors for vacations is cost, so it’s worth exploring how Cancun and Punta Cana rank against each other. To make the comparison of properties relevant to more than just luxury travelers, we will explore two categories; 4-star properties & 5-star properties. Average costs were found using booking.com and the dates of January 14th through January 21st.
Only all-inclusive properties were considered, and pricing data was pulled on September 5th. We combed through all available properties to get an average cost of each category, and the results are below:
4-Star Stack up
Number of Available 4-Star All Inclusives
- Cancun: 17
- Punta Cana: 5
- Cancun: $276 per night
- Punta Cana: $239 per night
Average User Rating Out Of 10
- Cancun: 7.68
- Punta Cana: 7.22
5-Star Stack up
Number of Available 5-Star All Inclusives
- Cancun: 50
- Punta Cana: 63
- Cancun: $505 per night
- Punta Cana: $422 per night
Average User Rating Out Of 10
- Cancun: 8.46
- Punta Cana: 8.08
Pricing: Who Wins?
Based on average prices alone, Punta Cana has the upper hand in this category.
In total, Cancun has 74 all inclusive properties to choose from, while Punta Cana has 72. Cancun has more 4-star options than Punta Cana, implying more affordability. However, on average, Cancun’s 4-star properties are over $30 more per night than Punta Cana. Similarly, Cancun’s 5-star properties are, on average, about $80 more per night than Punta Cana. This isn’t to say that Cancun has no affordable options, though.
For instance, the 4-star Hotel Dos Playas Faranda Cancún is just $200 per night for the dates explored. The cheapest option for a 4-star stay in Punta Cana, the whala!bávaro, comes out a little more affordable at $187 per night. It should also be noted that, on average, Cancun’s 4-star and 5-star properties have slightly higher user ratings.
What’s a tropical vacation without a beautiful beach? That first step onto that white-sand Caribbean beach is almost worth the cost of the flight alone. When choosing between Cancun or Punta Cana, it’s important to know which has beaches better suited to your travel style. We’ll break down the top 5 beaches for each destination and their differences. Beach rankings were found using Tripadvisor.
Top 5 Punta Cana Beaches
Top 5 Cancun Beaches
The single biggest difference between beach days in Cancun vs. Punta Cana is the level of development. In Cancun, the long stretch of sand in the hotel zone is jam-packed with restaurants, shops, hotels, and endless activities for tourists to take advantage of.
Conversely, Punta Cana’s beaches are less developed and offer a more authentic tropical beach vibe. While hotels certainly dot the shores, it’s much easier to find a secluded stretch of sand to soak up the sun.
Beaches: Who Wins?
When it comes to beaches, there’s no specific metric that can decide whether Cancun or Punta Cana is the ultimate winner. However, it can certainly be an influencing factor when deciding which destination is for you.
If you prefer your beach days to be close to a seemingly endless array of activities, Cancun may be for you. The tradeoff is that the beaches will be much more busy and crowded. But if that’s your vibe, then Cancun is perfect!
Punta Cana will be a better place for travelers who like to carve out their own space at the beach. However, the price you’ll pay for fewer crowds and seclusion will be less access to amenities. That’s certainly not to say there aren’t activities and restaurants to try, simply that they are not as condensed into one area as they are in Cancun.
The gorgeous weather offered by both Cancun and Punta Cana is one of the many reasons travelers flock to these areas over the fall and winter. A week of sunshine and warm weather is a wonderful way to break up the winter into more manageable sections. January is the dry season for both locations, and rain doesn’t tend to stick around. For days that it does rain, it often storms for a short period and quickly goes back to beautiful sunshine.
Below, we have laid out average temperatures and other information for the month of January in each destination.
- Average – 74.6°F (23.6°C)
- High – 77.7°F (25.4°C)
- Low – 72.3°F (22.4°C)
- Rainfall Average: 9 Days with Rain, averaging 3 inches (51mm)
- Average Humidity: 71%
- Average Water Temperature: 79°F (26°C)
- Average – 76.6°F (24.8°C)
- High – 78.9°F (26°C)
- Low – 74.8°F (23.8°C)
- Rainfall Average: 11 Days with Rain, averaging 2 inches (51mm)
- Average Humidity: 76%
- Average Water Temperature: 80°F (27°C)
Weather: Who Wins?
Cancun and Punta Cana have such similar averages in January that it is difficult to determine an ultimate winner in this category. Both destinations will offer a welcome respite from the cold of winter. However, for those who don’t like it too hot, Cancun may be better on average due to the lower humidity levels and slightly lower average temperatures.
Cancun and Punta Cana offer a wide range of activities to enjoy during your stay. The most significant difference in offerings is the style of activities available. While there are many overlaps, such as snorkeling, watersports, and swimming in cenotes, each destination has its own feel and unique offerings for travelers to enjoy.
Cancun’s hotel zone is like a giant 15-mile-long playground. It is the heart of tourism in Mexico and is designed to offer endless entertainment to those visiting its shores. Nightclubs, restaurants, shopping malls, beach clubs, and more are all just a quick taxi ride or walk away when you stay in the hotel zone. An extensive list of every activity available would require several pages, so we’ve listed a few of note below:
- Xoximilco Cancun – A self-named “Floating Fiesta” awaits visitors heading to Xoximilco. Guests board colorfully decorated gondolas with an open bar and a three-course meal. As you venture through the park’s canals, you will see many different bands and shows. This is just one of Cancun’s many dinner shows, but it certainly sets itself apart from the rest!
- Nightlife – Cancun’s nightlife is incredible, and there are some wildly popular places to go. Coco Bongo is a must and is arguably Cancun’s most famous nightclub. With live performances, balloons, confetti, bubbles, full stage lighting, incredible music, and much more, guests will enjoy the party of a lifetime.
- Day Trips Galore – Not only is Cancun itself packed with things to do, but it also has easy access to some pretty incredible day trips. From Cenotes to ancient ruins, many adventures await. Tulum is one of the most popular day trips, allowing visitors to visit an ancient Mayan archaeological site.
Punta Cana Activities
Punta Cana is an excellent place for travelers who appreciate the outdoors and have an adventurous spirit. While it also has nightlife options, there aren’t nearly as many as Cancun. For an adventurous day off the resort, travelers can ride ATVs through the interior forests, zipline through the trees, swim in a cenote, or ride a horse on the beach at sunset. Here are a few activities of note in Punta Cana below:
- Scape Park – This 247-acre park is a great way to take part in a host of outdoor activities all in one place. Swim in underground caves, zipline along a cliff, go caving, snorkel at Bucaneros reef, or float around in the turquoise waters of Hoyo Azul, a hidden cenote.
- Visit Saona Island – Saona Island lies off the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and is a nature reserve free from major development. If you want to feel like you are walking along the beach in an untouched tropical paradise, this is where to do it. Day trips include a boat ride to the island, often with an open bar and a buffet lunch.
- Unique Night Life – While Punta Cana may not have as many options as Cancun when it comes to nightlife, it certainly has some unique ones. One of the most interesting has to be Imagine Cave Disco. Built right into natural caves, this nightclub sets the tone for what is sure to be a memorable night.
Activities: Who Wins?
If we base the winner purely on the number of activities offered, then Cancun is a clear winner. However, every traveler has their own unique tastes when they visit a new place. For travelers looking to spend more time outdoors adventuring, Punta Cana may be the way to go. Cancun is the way to go for travelers seeking a destination that feels much more urban and is teeming with endless things to do.
All inclusive properties in Cancun and Punta Cana are considered safe destinations. When venturing away from the resorts however, visitors should exercise increased caution. The most common crime affecting tourists in both destinations is petty theft. Criminals assume that tourists have a lot of money, smartphones, jewelry, and other valuables.
The U.S State Department classifies The Dominican Republic and the Quintana Roo State (where Cancun resides) as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. Advice from the state department for Level 2 areas includes:
- Stay aware of surroundings
- Do not resist a robbery
- Don’t display signs of wealth
- Follow local advice of resort or tour guides for safety
Both countries should be safe for travelers who stick to well-known tourist areas and activities. However, by the numbers, Cancun comes out ahead for safety. Mexico has a crime rate of 54.19 while the Dominican Republic has a crime rate of 61.02. This means that per every 100,000 people, 61 of them are subject to a crime in the Dominican Republic while 54 are subject to a crime in Mexico.
Flight Connectivity and Costs
Hotel and general costs in the area are just two pieces of the puzzle when planning a trip. Another sizeable piece is flight costs and how easy it is to get to where you are going. Below we’ve broken down how well-connected Cancun and Punta Cana are to the United States and Canada.
Cancun Connectivity and Cost
For the month of January, there are 40 U.S. cities and 16 Canadian cities that fly nonstop to Cancun. Notable U.S. cities with direct flights include Miami, New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Notable Canadian cities with direct flights include Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Below are some prices for a round-trip ticket to Cancun from January 14th to January 21st.
Toronto to Cancun Round-Trip (YYZ to CUN)
- Price: $512
- Airline: Air Transat
- Luggage: Free Carry On, $54 Checked Bag
New York City to Cancun Round-Trip (JFK to CUN)
- Price: $356
- Airline: American Airlines
- Luggage: Free Carry On, $60 Checked Bag
Punta Cana Connectivity and Cost
For the month of January, there are 20 U.S. cities and 8 Canadian cities that fly nonstop to Punta Cana. Notable U.S. cities with direct flights include Miami, New York City, Atlanta, Austin, and Chicago. The east coast has the upper hand for flights to Punta Cana. There are no direct flights to Punta Cana further west than Austin, Texas, for the month of January.
Notable Canadian cities with direct flights include Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Below are some prices for a round-trip ticket to Punta Cana from January 14th to January 21st.
Toronto to Punta Cana Round-Trip (YYZ to PUJ)
- Price: $569
- Airline: Air Canada
- Luggage: Free Carry On, $46 Checked Bag
New York City to Punta Cana Round-Trip (JFK to PUJ)
- Price: $470
- Airline: JetBlue
- Luggage: Free Carry On, $60 Checked Bag
Flights: Who Wins?
Cancun is the winner when it comes to both flight connectivity and flight prices. While flights to Punta Cana aren’t overwhelmingly more expensive, Cancun consistently has lower prices. Also, Cancun has double the number of direct flights to both the U.S. and Canada. Cancun also has further reaching nonstop flights, whereas Punta Cana only goes as far west as Austin, Texas. As Punta Cana continues to grow in popularity, we will likely see more cities offering direct flights. For now, however, Cancun is cheaper and easier to fly to.
One key indication of the general population’s interest in something is how many people search for it on Google. To see how interested people have been in Cancun and Punta Cana over the last year, we compared the two using Google Trends.
Looking at the graph above, we can see that for the past year, Punta Cana has been about half as popular as Cancun when it comes to Google searches. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Cancun is better, simply that it is searched for more often. Also, this only takes into account searches within the United States.
The Bottom Line
Cancun and Punta Cana both offer incredible all-inclusive experiences for travelers heading for warmer weather and sandy shores. Which one comes out on top will ultimately be a decision for each individual traveler.
Cancun is better connected and cheaper to fly to, offers endless activities, and has world-class beaches with incredible amenities right along the shore. If you are after easy access to activities, late-night parties, and a more lively vibe, Cancun is for you.
Punta Cana has cheaper accommodations, offers more secluded beach experiences, and caters to travelers who enjoy adventuring outdoors when they aren’t relaxing at one of its luxurious all-inclusive properties. If you are after a location that feels less developed and more authentic, Punta Cana is for you.
Both destinations offer amazing experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime, and either one would be well worth a visit. Punta Cana and Cancun are both winners in our book. The best advice we can give travelers wondering which one to choose would be… choose both!
This article originally appeared on Travel Off Path. For the latest breaking news that will affect your next trip, please visit: Traveloffpath.com
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories