Cancun vs Hawaii: An Honest Comparison in 2024

Jason Gass
Last Updated: January 22nd, 2024

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Cancun and Hawaii are both highly popular tourist locations. Both offer visitors a wide variety of activities and things to experience. As tropical locations, with great beaches, both Cancun and Hawaii are great for a wide variety of travelers. However, when comparing Cancun vs Hawaii, there are some obvious differences and some clear similarities.

In this article, I will take you through some of the things you need to know about these two popular vacation spots. I’ll give you some answers to some common questions, and offer suggestions about how each spot is best for different travel needs.

A Quick Overview & Comparison: Cancun vs Hawaii

If you are looking for a quiet holiday with lots of outdoor adventure, Hawaii is your spot. For a budget holiday with great beaches, and vibrant nightlife, head to Cancun for a great time.

When it comes to picking a vacation destination you really need to consider the type of vacation you are looking for. While Cancun and Hawaii both offer visitors a tropical, beach vacation experience, they are two very different places. Visitors to Cancun and Hawaii will come away with very different holiday memories.

Cancun

Cancun-Forum-Beach

Cancun sits on the eastern coast of Mexico. It is a bustling city that has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Mexico. With crystal blue waters and soft, white beaches, Cancun is the ideal location for the traveler that wants to enjoy sun and sand.

Located on the Caribbean Ocean, the warm shallow waters off the coast of Cancun are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. In fact it is one of the most popular places in the Americas to enjoy underwater exploration.

In recent years, Cancun has become a popular destination for college spring break trips. What makes this a great spot for partying and letting loose is the wide range of nightclubs, bars and themed restaurants. If you aren’t into the nightlife, don’t worry, the city also offers numerous restaurants that serve everything from traditional Mexican fare to steak, sushi, and even Italian and American cuisine.

Hawaii

Hawaiian-Fire-Dancers-At-The-Ocean

Hawaii is a chain of islands located south west of the US mainland. The five islands are a combination of active and dormant volcanoes. Each of the islands is unique in its culture, natural environment and recreational activities.

For visitors to Hawaii, each island can be a complete vacation on its own. Many visitors select where they are going to visit based on the experience they are looking for. For example, visitors that are searching for the best beach experience in Hawaii may decide to vacation on Oahu. This island is home to the state capital of Honolulu, but also has great beaches, world renowned surf, and amazing food and resort options. Oahu is also the busiest of the Hawaiian islands.

Tourists that want to experience the volcanos will prefer to experience the big island of Hawaii. This island has 5 active volcanoes, the most famous being Kileuea. If you are looking for a quiet spot to get away from the tourists, the island of Kauai offers pleasant beaches and smaller resorts.

The versatility of Hawaii is what makes it such a popular tourist destination.

Cancun vs Hawaii: A Quick Guide to Choosing

Now that you have a little bit of information about Cancun vs Hawaii under your belt, I offer you a bit of additional information about both Cancun and Hawaii. In the section below I’ll give you some of the most important things you need to know about Cancun and Hawaii to help you make the best vacation choice.

Chichen-Itza-Observatory

Cancun Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 55.1 sq mi
  • Population – 1,023,000
  • Rainy Season – June-September
  • High Season – December- April
  • Top Sights – The Hotel Zone, Maya Ruins Of El Rey, Cenotes, Chichén Itzá
  • Major Airports – Cancun International Airport

Cancun is a beach-lovers paradise. With miles and miles of sugary sand beaches, turquoise water, and lots of beachside resorts, it’s hard to argue that Cancun is one of the best beach locations in the world.

While the history of Cancun is long and colorful, most people come for the sand and sun. The city is full of restaurants, great shopping, and vibrant nightlife. For those that love to let loose when traveling, the numerous bars and nightclubs offer plenty of entertainment. Because Cancun has become so popular as a tourist destination, it is very Americanized. You can easily get around speaking English, and many places even take US currency for products or services instead of pesos.

For those that want a bit of a different adventure, Cancun offers activities like jungle tours, scuba diving, and even day trips to ancient Mayan ruins of El Ray, Cenotes, and Chichén Itzá.

Waterfall-In-Hawaii

Hawaii Mini Guide

Hawaii, while home to beautiful beaches, is really the ideal travel location for someone that is looking for outdoor adventures and an opportunity to experience new cultures. Hawaii is home to some of the most diverse natural systems in the world. Not only can you experience beautiful beaches, but you can also climb rugged mountains, explore jungles, and walk to amazing waterfalls.

Hawaiian culture is a unique experience as well. It is a melting pot of people that have influenced everything from food and drink to clothing and language. Hawaii is said to offer one of the most friendly vacation experiences. The “aloha” culture of the state is all about being welcoming to all that cross your path.

The 7 Key Differences Between Cancun and Hawaii

If you are still trying to decide between Cancun and Hawaii, here are seven ways that the two locations are different as vacation spots.

1. Which Is Better for Activities?

People-Surfing-On-Honolulu-Beach

Hawaii offers so many different activities that it is really hard to compare it with other vacation spots. In a single vacation, you can try your hand at surfing, play golf on an amazing course, explore a lush tropical rainforest, go to a luau, and experience an active volcano firsthand.

2. Which Is More Family Friendly?

Hawaii is my pick for the more family-friendly when comparing Cancun vs Hawaii. Sure the flight is long, but when you get there, it is really easy to keep everyone entertained. Kids will love experiences like going to a luau or watching sea turtles on the beach. You can even tour a pineapple plantation. For active kids, Hawaii offers surfing, hiking, and zip-line tours of the rainforests.

Cancun is a fun spot for older kids, however, it isn’t great for smaller children. This doesn’t mean that Cancun can’t be a great spot for your family. Just make sure you have activities in mind for your kids before you travel.

3. Which Has Better Nightlife?

Moon-Palace-Cancun

Cancun is known for its nightlife. With plenty of nightclubs, fun bars, and themed restaurants, there is hardly a corner that doesn’t have someplace fun to hang out after the sun goes down. Many resorts also cater to those looking for exciting evening entertainment. If you want a hopping nightlife on vacation look for Cancun resorts with dance clubs, or shows.

4. Which Is Cheaper?

Cancun is by far the cheaper of the two options. Here’s the thing, when you fly to Hawaii, the flights are expensive. Then you get there and pretty much everything you’ll buy on the islands costs more than on the mainland. Why, you might ask? Because very little is produced in Hawaii, so it must be shipped.

If you’re on a budget and want a great vacation spot, Cancun is a great option. If you plan correctly, flights to Cancun can be very affordable. And there are lots of ways to save money even on really nice hotels and resorts when you travel to Cancun.

How Does the Food Compare? Or Which Is Better for Restaurants & Eating Out?

Hawaiian-Food

My pick for food when comparing Cancun vs. Hawaii is Hawaii. This island state has so many cultural influences that create an amazing food scene. You can enjoy American, Japanese, Samoan, Hawaiian, Mexican, and the list goes on. The larger cities also have some really delightful upscale restaurants if you are looking for a fancy spot. Also, try a luau, for a fun cultural food experience.

5. Which Is Easier to Get To?

Of the two, Cancun is the easiest to travel to. First, from most places in the US, it is a fairly short plane ride. Once you are in Cancun, travel to your hotel is just a taxi or shuttle ride away. Sure, you will need a passport to enter the country, but this is not a difficult process.

6. Which Is Easier to Get Around Town?

La-Isla-Shopping-Center-Cancun

Cancun is definitely the easiest of the two places to travel around. Most resorts are located near the city center, so a taxi ride is the easiest way to town. The central part of Cancun is also fairly walkable.

Hawaii, being a state and spread across five islands, will require a rental car, maps, and if you are moving between the islands, another plane ride.

5 Questions to Help You Decided to Travel to Cancun or Hawaii

Honolulu-Beach-Hawaii

Now that you know some of the differences between Cancun and Hawaii, here are answers to five questions that travelers ask when comparing Cancun and Hawaii.

Is Cancun or Hawaii Better for Hotels?

Hotels in Hawaii tend to be a bit quieter and better maintained. While there are some beautiful spots in Cancun, most hotels take a bit of abuse with so many tourists passing through their doors. Hawaii offers everything from chain hotels, all-inclusive resorts, beachfront condos and golf resorts.

When Should You Visit Cancun or Hawaii?

If you are planning your vacation location based on timing, here’s what you need to know about the best times to visit Cancun and Hawaii.

Cancun has the best weather and is less busy from December to early March. March and April are traditionally busy with spring break travelers. May through September it is very hot, and September through November is hurricane season.

Hawaii weather wise is perfect just about all year round. The shoulder months are the best time to visit. During April, May, September and October, you can enjoy lower rates on hotels, and fewer visitors at tourist spots.

Is Cancun or Hawaii Better for Outdoor Adventures?

If outdoor activities are a must for your next vacation, Hawaii is a must. There are so many options for ways to explore the great outdoors on the five Hawaiian islands. Cancun isn’t a bad spot for outdoor adventures, but you’ll find that most of the options are centered around the ocean.

Is Cancun or Hawaii Better for Remote Work?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found themselves stuck in Hawaii. So the state worked hard to ensure that the infrastructure was capable of handling the massive amounts of people working remotely. If you have to do remote work while traveling Hawaii is quieter and has better infrastructure than Cancun.

Is Cancun or Hawaii Better for Beaches?

When it comes to beaches, Hawaii may have more diverse beaches, but Cancun offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The soft, sugary, sand combined with warm clear waters make beaches in Cancun the perfect spot for enjoying the sun.

About The Author

Jason Gass

Jason Gass is a Colorado based freelance writer and blogger whose goal is to share a good cup of coffee and great stories around a campfire with close friends. When he’s not working, he spends most of his time traveling, searching for the best breweries, and road-tripping in his teardrop trailer with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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Jason Gass

Jason Gass

Jason Gass is a Colorado based freelance writer and blogger whose goal is to share a good cup of coffee and great stories around a campfire with close friends.
When he’s not working, he spends most of his time traveling, searching for the best breweries, and road-tripping in his teardrop trailer with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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