Although winter may be here, spring break is fast approaching, which means a special family trip is on the horizon. But where to? Cabo San Lucas, also known as Cabo, is a city at the southern tip of the Mexican Baja California Peninsula, and together with San José del Cabo, is known as the municipality of Los Cabos. Cabo has been rated one of Mexico’s top 5 tourist destinations. Punta Cana is a renowned resort town in the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic—also a frequented vacation spot. So, which one is right for you? Both locations are real contenders. The answer, of course: it depends on what you’re in the mood for.
Resort life vs small town charm
There is a tourist corridor along the coastal highway between Los Cabos’ two cities. To date, high rise construction has been limited. While resorts, hotels, and golf courses have been developed, travelers can still discover smaller, more isolated and undeveloped beaches. The area is popular for its beaches, scuba diving spots, balnearios, and the El Arco de Cabo San Lucas attraction, as well as for its wildlife. If you want to leave the resort, the entire family will find the town of Cabo a charming, safe, and friendly place to walk and enjoy the shops, bars, and restaurants.
Punta Cana, on the other hand, boasts epic resorts, but leaving them is something you probably don’t want to risk. Some say it’s not quite as safe outside the resorts, but regardless, Punta Cana doesn’t have a historic town center, so this discourages would-be explorers a bit as well. If what you want is to take advantage of the beaches, spas, water sports, catamaran cruises, or take a swim with the dolphins, this spot is for you. There are also several golf courses to travel to should the urge strike.
Punta Cana’s balnearios face both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. With 35 km of uninterrupted white sand, its beaches are considered first-rate both within the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. For those who desire, going topless is also permitted. The expansive main beach, Playa Bavaro, is gorgeous, with powdery white sand and coco palms sweeping the shore. But there are endless other worthwhile beaches to choose from as well.
Cabo’s beaches are very beautiful too. Some offer safe swimming and exceptional snorkeling, while others have incredible surf breaks and tidal pools that make exploring a daylong activity. But a good number of Cabo’s beaches are a little difficult to walk in places. They can at times be sloped, and the sand is coarse. Playa Solmar offers stunning views and is relatively private, but swimming is not an option due to strong currents and large waves. Lover’s Beach can be reached by water taxi for about $20 from the marina or Medano Beach. You can rent snorkel gear and umbrellas, and purchase water or beer, but be sure to bring a lunch.
There’s no denying that both Los Cabos and Punta Cana are blessed with incredibly appealing climates, especially for those seeking year-round warmth. There are a few subtle differences, however. Los Cabos is on the edge of the desert, making it hot and dry, and it is one of the sunniest places in the world, with an average of 320 days of sun each year. The average annual temperature is 24C—with January being the coolest month. Punta Cana is hotter and more humid, with an average temperature of 26C. The weather is fairly consistent year-round. During the day, temperatures can reach 35C. Very little rain falls in the area, mostly because of the often-flat landscape—a combination of savanna and mountains.
The roads in Cabo are quality, making it easy to drive miles to interesting locations many miles away. Take a day trip to La Paz and visit several coastal villages on the way. Take the secluded Pacific Coast highway and explore the historical center on a guided walk.
Those wanting to break free from their Punta Cana resort can head out for a Santo Domingo sightseeing tour, sign up for a surfing lesson, or take a catamaran cruise to Saona Island. For more of the countryside, safari tours, horseback riding, and dune buggies are offered.