Montego Bay vs. Cancun

Montego Bay and Cancun are both popular Caribbean beach destinations, but they do have some differences. If you’re trying to choose between Montego Bay vs. Cancun for your next vacation, check out our comparison to help you decide.

Our Montego Bay vs. Cancun Quick Picks

  • Montego Bay vs. Cancun Cost: Cancun
  • Montego Bay vs. Cancun Nightlife: Cancun
  • Montego Bay vs. Cancun Safety: Tied
  • Montego Bay vs. Cancun Beaches: Montego Bay

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Overview

Both of these destinations are in the Caribbean, offer beautiful beaches and plenty to do, and are easy to get to from the U.S. They can each get quite crowded, especially during peak season and holidays like spring break. Both Montego Bay and Cancun can also be affordable or expensive depending on where you stay and when you go.

However, Montego Bay is on the island of Jamaica, and Cancun is on the coast of Mexico, so they differ in local culture, cuisine, and language. 

Montego Bay is the liveliest town in Jamaica, known for activities, watersports, cultural and historic sites, shopping, festivals, and nightlife. You’ll find white sand beaches, calm water, and a variety of restaurants and bars.

While there are plenty of things to do in Montego Bay, there are also all sorts of fun excursions you can take to go ziplining, hiking, river rafting, waterfall swimming, scuba diving, and more.

You’ll have a range of accommodations to choose from in Montego Bay, from inexpensive hotels to boutique inns to luxury all-inclusive resorts that are perfect for families or couples.

Cancun is also a lively spot. Located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, this exciting resort town has white sand beaches, crystal clear water, a range of activities both in the town and nearby, and shopping. It also offers great restaurants and plenty of nightlife.

You can spend your whole vacation on the beach and in your resort, or head out to explore on land or in the water. Not only is the snorkeling and scuba diving excellent in the Caribbean, but you can also swim in “cenotes,” which are amazing natural sinkholes. There are also incredible historic sites such as Mayan ruins nearby.

Cancun has a variety of accommodations options as well, from inexpensive hotels to upscale boutique hotels to swanky all-inclusive resorts for both adults and families. Many of these are in the famous “Hotel Zone,” which can be quite crowded and busy.

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Beaches

If you love a beautiful white-sand beach, you really can’t go wrong with either Montego Bay or Cancun. They both offer a variety of beaches with sparkling warm water and plenty of amenities, and both are top destinations for snorkeling and scuba diving. However, Cancun’s waters are particularly clear and have extensive reefs, wrecks, and the largest underwater museum in the world.

Montego Bay Beaches

Montego Bay is one of the most popular spots in all of Jamaica, and one of the biggest draws is the beaches. Located on the north coast of the island, Montego Bay offers the perfect blend of city bustle and calm nature. Beaches have soft white sand and lovely turquoise water, and there will generally be restaurants, bars, and watersports available.

There are multiple beaches to choose from in Montego Bay. If you stay at a beachfront resort, you’ll have access to a white-sand stretch with plenty of amenities. You can also beach hop at top local beaches like Doctor’s Cove, said to have restorative mineral springs, Cornwall Beach, and Dead End Beach. Dead End Beach is especially popular for sunsets.

Most of the beaches in Montego Bay tend to be busy, since it’s such a popular area, but Cornwall Beach is a quieter option.

Cancun Beaches

Located along the Caribbean, Cancun is known for its white-sand beaches and turquoise-colored water. Watersports like jet skiing, paddleboarding, and parasailing are offered on every beach. You can also book a deep-sea fishing trip or go scuba diving or snorkeling at cenotes or coral reefs.

Another option is taking a 30-minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, which is a tiny island near Cancun. While there, you can rent a golf cart and explore the island or chill on the beach sipping a cold cerveza (Mexican beer).

However, since Cancun is such a popular place for tourists, the beaches can get busy. If you want to check out a local beach off the beaten path, then we recommend going to Isla Blanca. You will need to rent a car and the road can get rough, but it’s a secluded beach away from the crowd.

One thing to watch out for in Cancun is the occasional appearance of sargassum seaweed, which isn’t much of an issue in Jamaica. 

Montego Bay Airport

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Cost

Depending on where and when you choose to go, Montego Bay and Cancun can come in at very different price points. 

In general, there are a lot of different options you will find when planning a trip to Cancun or Montego Bay, but the resorts in Cancun tend to be slightly less expensive. Flights to Cancun also tend to be less expensive, likely because there are more options available. 

However, both Montego Bay and Cancun can be affordable options. They can also be very expensive. The cost of your trip will depend on where you’re flying from, what time of year you visit, and what types of accommodations and activities you prefer.

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Weather

Weather in Montego Bay and Cancun is very similar. Like most tropical climates, both Montego Bay and Cancun have rainy and stormy seasons. The good news is that most of the time, the weather is sunny, and it is always warm.

Montego Bay Weather

The weather in Montego Bay is warm year-round, but there are rainy and dry seasons. Jamaica’s dry season is mid-December to mid-April, so this is one of the most popular times to visit.

Montego Bay’s rainy season is between May and November, so there can be frequent rain showers. There’s also a risk of hurricanes, although it’s pretty low in Jamaica. They are most likely in August, September, and October. However, this is when you can find some of the best deals, so it may be worth visiting then as long as you get travel insurance.

Cancun Weather

Cancun has a tropical climate with 250 sunny days per year. The rain falls mostly in the wet season, between May and October. During the year, highs range from low 80s to low 90s, and lows from upper 60s to high 70s.

The best time to visit Cancun is December through April. It’s the peak season but the flights are often cheap. Between mid-March and early April, however, it’s packed with tourists on spring break.

Cancun in the summer has frequent thunderstorms and overcast days. The beaches can be windy and muggy, and the water is rough. Hurricane season is June to November, so if you plan a trip to Cancun during those months, you will want to get trip insurance.

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Resorts

Both Montego Bay and Cancun have great accommodation options. Both of these tropical hot spots are known for their all-inclusive resorts, but you can find plenty of other options too, ranging from inexpensive to boutique hotels.

Montego Bay Resorts

Sandals Royal Caribbean

One of two Sandals adults-only all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean features a gorgeous white-sand beach and a private offshore island with another beach plus a pool with a swim-up bar and a restaurant. This is also where you’ll find amazing overwater bungalows for a super-luxurious and romantic stay.

There are 9 restaurants, 6 bars, several pools, a wide range of complimentary watersports including snorkeling and scuba diving, land activities, nightly entertainment, a fitness center, and a spa. You also have access to all the facilities and amenities at nearby Sandals Montego Bay, via a free shuttle service.

In addition to the overwater bungalows, you can choose from a wide array of accommodations including swim-up suites and beachfront suites–many of which come with oversized soaking tubs for two and butler service.

Half Moon Resort

This elegant resort hosts celebrities, royalty, and everyone else on its breathtaking stretch of the Caribbean. A family-run hotel, Half Moon Resort features something for everyone, from couples to families.

Foodies will love the fresh, locally sourced ingredients, used to create traditional Jamaican food and other delicious offerings at 4 restaurants. The romantic Sugar Mill Restaurant is one of the top restaurants on the island.

Choose from rooms, suites, or large villas with private pools and butler service. Enjoy 5 bars, multiple pools, watersports, golf, tennis, horseback riding, a fitness center, a playground, and a spa.

Cancun Resorts

In Cancun, the most popular place to stay is the Hotel Zone, which includes more than 100 hotels and resorts ranging from 2 to 5 stars. You can also find more secluded options if you prefer a quieter stay.

Le Blanc Spa Cancun Resort

The award-winning adults-only all-inclusive Le Blanc Spa Resort is brimming with deluxe treatments and luxurious amenities. From lagoon-style pools and spas to wide terraces and plush rooms, the hotel allows you to spend your holiday in splendor. The price is on the steep side but if you have the budget, it’s worth it!

Located on one of Cancun’s best beaches, guests can partake in water activities or go to the spa to get pampered. The resort has six restaurants and several pools to choose from. You can also go golfing.

Moon Palace Cancun

Moon Palace Cancun is a large all-inclusive resort offering over 2,400 rooms that feature marble countertops and floors. Guests can lounge in luxury with bathrobes, slippers, daily restocked mini bars, liquor dispensers, whirlpool baths, and 24-hour room service.

What sets Moon Palace Cancun apart from other all-inclusive resorts in Cancun are the onsite amenities. These include a water park featuring a FlowRider surf simulator, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and a bowling alley. Teens and kids can also enjoy kid programs, while adults can take advantage of the unlimited cocktails, spa, and hydrotherapy area.

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Things to Do

You can be sure that whether you visit Montego Bay or Cancun, you’ll never be bored. Both of these destinations offer a ton of activities, many of which are similar. However, there are some differences.

Montego Bay Activities

As we mentioned above, Montego Bay has several beautiful beaches to choose from, whether you want to relax on the sand or be more active. There are plenty of watersports options here, from snorkeling and scuba diving to paddleboarding and kayaking to boat rides and parasailing. 

You can snorkel right off the beach in Montego Bay along thriving coral reefs that are just offshore. Or visit the Montego Bay Marine Park, which allows snorkeling and scuba diving in its protected waters that are home to a wide variety of marine life. You can also go swimming with horses in Montego Bay. 

Other activities in Montego Bay include golfing, river rafting, touring local historic homes, shopping, and dining on delicious local cuisine whether at casual cafes or gourmet restaurants.

Area excursions include jungle safari tours, hiking, horseback riding, ziplining, Jamaican bobsledding at Mystic Mountain Adventure Park, Dunn’s River Falls, Green Grotto Caves, historic sites, botanic gardens, and the Appleton Rum Estate. 

Cancun Activities

Aside from relaxing on the beautiful beaches, some of the most popular activities in Cancun are snorkeling and scuba diving. These are excellent here due to the thriving local reefs and marine life, as well as plenty of shipwrecks and the world’s largest underwater museums. It’s also worth visiting two gorgeous nearby islands located, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. 

An activity that Cancun offers which Montego Bay does not is the opportunity to explore ancient Mayan ruins. The former capital of Mayan civilization, Chichen Itza is located two hours away. Another nearby town to check out with beautiful beaches and interesting ruins is Tulum.

You can also take a cruise off the coast to enjoy secluded beaches on nearby islands. There are several companies that will take you to see the nearby jungle and small islands, and to go snorkeling. Most cruises include some type of food and drinks or an open bar.

Cancun offers great shopping experiences with upscale malls such as La Isla and Luxury Avenue. It’s also famous for its vibrant nightlife including nightclubs and beach bars. Coco Bongo, Señor Frogs, and Mandala are the most popular spots for tourists.

Montego Bay vs. Cancun: Safety

Recently, both the U.S. and Canada have issued “reconsider” travel warnings for those planning trips to Jamaica because of a rise in crime.  However, plenty of people visit Montego Bay without issue

While Cancun is considered a safe place to visit, there is cartel activity there. However, this crime usually isn’t targeted toward tourists, and the police presence is very strong. It’s recommended to stay in the touristy areas, such as the Hotel Zone.

When visiting either Cancun or Montego Bay, use common sense and don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. Most crimes affecting visitors are petty thefts and scams, so it’s important to be cautious when outside your resort. Don’t carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry, stay in busy areas, don’t get inebriated, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and keep your eyes on your drink at all times.

Regardless of which destination you ultimately choose, just remember to practice basic safety protocols and you should have a great time.

The Verdict: Which is Better, Montego Bay or Cancun?

So which is better, Montego Bay vs. Cancun? The choice is up to you. Both of these Caribbean destinations offer plenty of fun in the sun, just with a different flavor. No matter which destination you pick, you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime. 

Which one do you choose? Let us know in the comments. And if you’d like help planning your trip, feel free to contact one of our expert travel agents!

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