It’s that time of year again for your family vacation and you are trying to decide between Cancun and Hawaii.
Deciding what kind of tropical trip you’d like to take between Cancun and Hawaii can be difficult.
Cancun vs. Hawaii- Best place to visit as a family traveling:
|Cost for a Family for 1 week. 2 adults 2 kids||Safety||Things to Do||Overall Family Value|
|Cancun||Estimated 3550||Higher Crime Rate||Comparable||Less Family Friendly|
|Hawaii||Estimated 7000||Lower Crime Rate||Comparable||More Family Friendly|
I will discuss an in-depth comparison of:
- Comparing cost
- Safety for the family
- Things to do in each place
- Overall family value.
This way you can make the best decision based on how much you want to spend, what you see the whole family doing together, and more.
In my opinion, they’re both stunning places that you should see in your lifetime. But let’s dive into which one ought to be first!
Cancun vs Hawaii – Best Place to Visit as a Family Traveling
I’ve been to Cancun many times and Hawaii once. I can tell you they are both dreamy heavens filled with fruity cocktails, sandy beaches, vitamin D showering over you from the sun, and amazing cuisines.
Cancun and Hawaii are each an oasis in their own right, I’d like to acknowledge early on that both are great vacation destinations.
I do not dislike either location, only playing devil’s advocate to give you the best argument for and against each destination.
The major factors which may influence your decision on choosing to go to Cancun or Hawaii could include:
- Cancun being significantly cheaper
- Hawaii being significantly safer
- Arguably more to do in Hawaii
- Arguably better food in Mexico (subjective but we all travel to feast, right?)
- Equivocally stunning beaches but different as it’s flatlands vs. mountains
Each place has its pros and its cons.
This guide will help you weigh out factors you may not have considered yet, and the answer should be clear fairly early-on if you know where your values lie.
It seems like the ideal place to start is what you’ll be doing on your getaway.
Activity Comparison between Cancun & Hawaii
You will not be bored in either location. It’s a getaway, and the unique sensory experiences will have you on the edge of your seat for the newness alone.
The Major Attractions to See in Cancun
- Snorkeling and Tanning at the Beach – The obvious resort go-to activity. Some of the most popular beaches include Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas (known for being great for family and children because of the smaller waves), Chac Mool Beach, and Playa Forum.
- Stay in The Hotel Zone or “Zona Hotelera”– This is exactly what it sounds like, the hotel area where you may find the best resorts and beaches. All inclusive is the way to go in Cancun so check the Hotel Zone before making other arrangements.
- Downtown Cancun (Ciudad Cancun) – For delicious street food, small shops, green parks, and Mexican Wrestling! Meander down to Avenida Tulum to witness the authentic Cancun.
- Tour the MUSA Underwater Museum – Perhaps the most unique on this list, the Underwater Museum is something I haven’t yet done but have always wanted to. It’s arguably the most artistic activity in Cancun, with 500 sculptures underwater in haunting placements. The meaning behind the eerie scene is to encourage coral reef preservations. One of the top rated activities for only $30 a person!
- Dive Through the Cenotes – If you’re a nature lover looking to escape the touristic traps on the beach scene, head into the jungle and find a Cenote oasis to swim in. Watch your worries melt away as you hike through nature’s best and relax in the ancient pools of high minerality that the Mayan’s used to find so healing.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS: Cenote La Noria, Verde Lucero, Cenote Mojarras, Cenote Selvatica, and Verde Lucero, which even has a zipline into the falls!
Chichen Itza Maya Ruins – These beautiful ruins are some of the most unique things to see and are an UNESCO world heritage site. The oldest building in Chichen Itza dates from the 5th century and includes a 98-foot tall pyramid with 9 terraces around.
Many people believe this symbolizes heaven having 9 levels. It takes 2.5 hours from Cancun and is worth the trip to see how Mayans lived thousands of years ago.
There is so much more to do in Cancun, but I can’t spend all day talking about Cancun when I’ve got another top contender to research!
The Top Attractions to Check Out in Hawaii
- Swimming with Dolphins – The cliché but magical thing that you should do while in Hawaii
- Explore Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island – This island is still alive, molding and shaping itself as the mountain comes to life with the heat of shifting plates beneath the surface. A place to marvel at how small and mortal we are while experiencing the best of the natural beauty of Hawaii. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa is one of the biggest. They were just erupting and active in 2018, and it shut the park down for a while. Enjoy these volcanoes but don’t get too close!
- Visit Pearl Harbor on Oahu – Part of the World War II Valor for the Pacific National Monument, this is a place to be reflective and honor our lost troops. It can be very surreal to be in a place where something so intensely traumatic happened. It’s a life-changing feeling that will humble your entire family. Worth it to expand the children’s minds and let them know the world is a big place with a huge history.
- Helicopter over Jurassic Falls in Kauai – This is a very popular way to experience Hawaii because the mountains and velvet valleys are so entrancing from this perspective. Imagine the jungles flying by you as you’re 400 feet in the air. Bonus points if you catch any dinosaur glimpses!
The Bamboo Forest – Maui’s Pipiwai Trail has so much more than “just” the bamboo forest. Along the way, you’ll pass several waterfalls, including the 200 foot Makahiku Falls with an “Infinity Pool” at the top.
NOTE:I do not recommend indulging in a swim at this pool. If a flash flood came along, you’d be swept down the falls in the blink of an eye.
- Stairway to Heaven in Oahu – This is a once in a lifetime hike for any mountain climber! Do be sure to research beforehand as some sides are illegal to cross on. You should enter from the backside. Check updated announcements because there have been changes with this recently.
- Sail the Napali Coast of Kauai – An islander dream that can nourish the soul. A nearly 20-mile stretch with the most stunning views you can imagine. There are 4,000-foot cliffs; some of the best snorkeling and maybe even some dolphins will decide to swim beside your boat. Talk about magic!
Go to a Luau – There is really no Hawaii vacation happening unless you are making time for a luau! Maui is the spot and considered the most authentic place to enjoy your evening with dancing, kalua pig, colorful leis, and the whole shebang!
Experience how the Polynesians celebrate and you’ll be forever changed. Make reservations through the Old Lahaina Luau website or an excursion portal like Viator or Trip Advisor.
Cost Comparison of Cancun vs. Hawaii
Generally speaking, it will be more expensive to go to Hawaii than Cancun. This is due to conversion rates for currency, popularity, supply, and demand, and accessibility.
My recommendations for the cheapest trips are to go all-inclusive resorts.
Whether it’s Cancun or Hawaii you decide on, air-inclusive, and food inclusive will save you the most money.
Before hopping to the calculator, let’s make it clear that this is not a one-size-fits-all question. In reading reviews to create this section, I found a top forum answer that basically said, “My wife and I spent $40,000 for first-class and a top-class resort.” To which someone else responded, “I fainted when I read this.”
You don’t need to spend a lot, but it will depend on your preferences for quality and how expensive the excursions you want to do are.
These are rough budgets that will need to be filtered through what you want to do on your getaway.
The Estimate for A Week in Cancun
– Flights – $180-350 a person (right now they’re $180 from Houston, TX). Flight schedules change throughout the year so it will completely depend on the season if you’re looking to go during a holiday, if it’s peak or slow. Let’s average to $250 a person to be safe.
– Taxis – $50 to be picked up to hotel, $50 shuttle back to the airport at the end, $150 for the week if you plan to leave the resort. Maybe $0 if you plan to stay where you’re at. Let’s call this $100 estimate.
– Accommodations and Food – All-inclusive resorts are the most popular option for Cancun travelers. Rates are around $150-500 a night per person. Most week-long packages can get the entire family for $1,000-3,000 for 4 people (2 adults, 2 children). Estimate an average of $2,000 a family here.
– Drinks – It can be included in your resort cost, but on average it will be around $50 per adult per day = $700 for the week.
– Activities – If you are going to the beach, it will be included in your resort costs. Excursions like the Mayan tours, sailing, snorkeling, etc. can be around $70-150 a person. Let’s budget $500 for activities for the whole family for the week.
Total Estimate for Cancun – $3,550 for a family of 4 for the week (2 Adults, 2 children)
The Estimate for a Week in Hawaii
– Flights – Airfare will again depend on the time of year and where you’re located. On average to fly from the East coast is around $900 a person, from the Mid-west is about $700 a person, and from the West Coast $450 a person. Let’s average this at $700 a person for a total on air for a family of 4 of $2,800.
– Taxis – Transportation may be a bit different in Hawaii because you have to go between multiple islands which involved ferries or private boats. This can get quite expensive. If you need a shuttle between each island, it can be between $30-150 a person. Let’s average this to be $500 in transportation for the week.
– Resorts and Food – Again, all-inclusive is your best bet and is what most tourists do when visiting Hawaii. The average rate is $300 to $700 per person if you’re going for a resort and spa of high ratings. You can estimate this to about $2,000 for the family for a week long stay.
– Activities –Many activities in Hawaii can be free (beach included with resort, watersports and equipment on the beach included, hiking is usually not with a charge, etc.) the only things you’ll need to account for are if you want to get a helicopter tour of the islands, go sailing, diving, or snorkeling.
Swimming with dolphins, for example, is usually between $150-200 a person. Let’s pretend you’re going to do more than just one snorkeling trip for the whole week, and budget $1,000 for family activities to be safe.
– Drinks – Again included with the resort but usually about $50 per adult per day is the cost. You can estimate $700 for week.
Total Estimate for Cancun – $7,000 for a family of 4 for the week (2 Adults, 2 Children).
As you can see, Hawaii can easily cost double what Cancun may cost.
These are just estimations and if you want to take that $40,000 trip, be my guest!
You’ll have a lavish time! But for families that often are trying to save money for living expenses and college savings, Cancun will be the more economical option.
Safety Evaluation of Cancun vs. Hawaii
Now, you may have thought in the last section, ‘Wow, Hawaii is more than I thought it was, Cancun all the way!’ But have you considered how safe it is for your family and children?
To give my personal opinion, I’ve never felt in danger while in Mexico, and I have been to 5 or 6 cities.
The reason why is because all of them were more touristic and heavily patrolled by the police force and security. This means they will be lower in crime.
It’s no wonder why the touristic spots are safer. Mexico depends heavily on its touristic income to support the entire nation.
If people stopped coming because they were scared, Mexico would have a big issue on their hands.
Just last year a man was killed on a resort beach and summer headlines in the last year have features nightclub shootings and other crimes.
Instead of giving my opinions, I’d rather point you towards the statistics and figures so you can make your own decision.
According to Numbeo.com, these are the statistics of crime rates in Cancun, updated August of 2019:
|Level of crime||43.6||Moderate|
|Crime increasing in the past 3 years||66.28||High|
|Home broken into and things stolen||50||Moderate|
|Worries being mugged or robbed||45.45||Moderate|
|Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery||41.11||Moderate|
|Problem corruption and bribery||67.22||High|
The murder rate in Cancun was 205 in 2017 and rose to nearly 540 reported murders in 2018. Almost all of these murders were exclusively drug related to the cartel.
But what does the U.S. Government think? Well, Cancun isn’t even on the list of ‘Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in Mexico.’ It’s absolutely nowhere near the top because as I said, it’s a tourist town.
The point being, don’t wander into the authentic Mexico alone and stay near the resort.
Just to put it into perspective, with the number of people killed in Cancun last year, nearly double die from falling out of bed each year.
Also, nearly twice as many people die each year from contact with lawnmowers than there were homicides in Cancun.
Is the murder rate of Cancun really high enough to bother being worried about? It’s up to you.
Some countries that share the same ‘Threat Level,’ according to the U.S. Government are:
- United Kingdom
Tourism is actually up in Cancun with 40 million people traveling in 2017, and a nearly 13% increase in 2018.
Crime Rates in Hawaii
The numbers are ticking up, but Hawaii is still deeply below the national average of violent crime rates, based on newly-released figures from the FBI.
251 Violent crimes per 100,000 residents
242 Violent crimes per 100,000 residents
Last year, there were 40,392 property crimes statewide. That translates to more than 2,900 property crimes per 100,000 people.
Leading the property crimes in Hawaii: Larceny theft. Those were 29,574 of those cases last year statewide, down from a 10-year high of 42,010 in 2015.
The crime rate in Hawaii was very low in 2016 (actually lower than the national violent crime rate average by 22.13%). It is said the rate in 2019 is going to be even lower than 2016.
Hawaii is experiencing record-breaking low crime rates.
It is undeniable that Hawaii is the safer option, but I believe you’ll be safe in Cancun as well if you stay where the tourists do. It is statistically unlikely that anything will happen to you in either location.
Food Options in Cancun vs. Hawaii
This will be a shorter section because you’ll know if you love Mexican food or not! Hawaiian food is a bit more unique, but each explores fusion.
- Hawaiian cuisine may include – influence from the Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and other native cultures that coexist in Hawaii. Pineapples are key, and you may try things like local grinds, poi, poke, kalua pig, salmon and amazingly fresh seafood, chicken long rice, and more.
- Mexican cuisine may include – fajitas, quesadillas, chips and salsa, all the guacamole your avocado-loving heart can bare, fresh tortillas, and margaritas round the clock. Need I say more?
It will be easier to find fast food in Cancun if you leave the resort because you are in a touristic town that ends up with more American influence than you may expect.
I would say either of these options will leave you with fabulous food, so there’s no wrong choice!
Advice for Traveling in Each Cancun & Hawaii
I want to end by offering some advice. Regardless of which destination you choose, you should know the proper safety tips and cultural appropriations to have the safest trip for your family.
Tips for Traveling to Cancun
- Avoided isolated areas and stay close to the resort. If you’re going into town, be sure you’re in a safe area and not getting too deep into the city.
- Stay in well-lit streets, especially if wondering the streets alone at night.
- If taking money from an ATM, do so in busy streets while it’s daylight or from the bank.
- Don’t wear fine jewelry out. You don’t want to attract this much attention.
- Keep your drink in your hand all night if you go out because you don’t know who could slip something in it.
- Don’t hail a taxi. Have your hotel call you one or order it yourself from a reputable company.
- Never give your passport to a police officer as they’re often corrupt in Mexico and scam tourists. Ask for the officer’s name, patrol car, as well as a copy of the written fine. Don’t let them make you pay it there on the spot; this is a scam.
- The safest areas are Cancun Beaches, Isla Mujeres, Shopping Malls, Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Chichen Itza, and Tulum.
- Areas to avoid are: Downtown Cancun (safe during the day in touristy parts like the Avenida Tulum and Las Palapas), the outskirts of Cancun, and markets where pickpockets wait.
Tips for Traveling to Hawaii
- Don’t go with a stranger and only walk to areas outside of the resort if the guide is well-trusted.
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry and keep valuables at home or in a safe. Report missing items immediately.
- Keep your car (even rental car) locked at all times as this is the highest crime rate in Hawaii, cars being broken into and valuables being robbed.
- Set up your shuttles, transportation between the islands beforehand. These are not things you’ll want to figure out last minute. Hawaii will take a bit more planning.
General Tips for Both Locations
- Leave a copy of your travel itinerary and contact information with friends. I do this regardless of where I go so someone has a copy of where I’ll be.
- See your doctor to ensure you’re in good enough health to travel.
- Check with your medical insurance before leaving and see that you will be covered during your trip. Also, confirm with your credit card company, oftentimes your credit card covers you for travel but not outside of the U.S.
- Know where the embassies and nearest hospitals will be from where you will be staying.
- Register your travels with the U.S. Department of State Here.
Final Verdict for Overall Family Value
My final thoughts are that Cancun and Hawaii are both stunning locations that you need to see in your lifetime.
Each has very different activities.
There is so much to do in each destination that it’s almost impossible to get bored.
Based on the safety of Hawaii, I have to recommend it for families over Cancun.
But if money is the most important factor for you, then Mexico all the way! I’ve never felt in danger in Mexico, even walking through the non-touristic city streets.
The bottom line, Hawaii has more nature to explore while Cancun has so much nearby history to absorb.
I hope this guide has been helpful to you as you weigh all the many factors!
Decisions can be a beast but take peace in knowing that regardless of choice, your family will love you forever for taking them on a breathtaking getaway.
Happy Travels to you, Ohana! Adios and a loving Aloha too!