Updated in January 2023
Trying to decide between Hawaii and Mexico for your next warm-weather escape? Either way, you’re in for a paradise of natural beauty. Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to consider the differences that separate these vacation destinations from each other. We’ve gathered how each size up in the basics of activities, affordability, weather, beaches, and tips on where to stay.
If you’re struggling to choose between these two beautiful beachfront travel destinations for your next trip (our favorite kind of dilemma), here’s our take on what to factor in when deciding between Hawaii and Mexico for your vacation.
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. completely made up of islands, and as the world’s largest island chain, beautiful beaches are one of the things it does best. Transport yourself to a world filled with dramatic landscapes, delicious cuisine, and flawless weather––no passport required for U.S residents. Whether you want to take in the rugged scenery of Kauai, catch a wave in Oahu, or lounge on the beaches of Maui, you can choose your own adventure among the islands.
Welcome to views aplenty. Hawaii certainly offers a variety of beaches for water sports and family fun. Step out onto pristine white sand beaches, stunning black sands at Waianapanapa State Park, red sands at Kaihalulu Beach, and even green sand at Papakolea Beach. Catch a wave in the home of surfing at Cove Beach Park, Diamond Head, and Shipwreck Beach. For swimming spots and family-friendly beaches, check out Poipu Beach, Waikiki Beach, and Hanauma Bay State Park Beach.
Though both vacation destinations stack up pretty even when it comes to beaches, Hawaii offers mountain views, a more outdoor atmosphere, historic surfing, and a variety of different colored sand beaches that Mexico does not.
Mexico mirrors Hawaii in many ways as another culturally rich destination with beautiful beaches for days, but more than that, the country boasts stunning cenotes. Cenotes are underground chambers or deep water wells that make for some of the most gorgeous swimming spots due to their dramatic geological features, remote locations, and crystal-clear waters. It isn’t a true Mexico vacation without checking a refreshing cenote swim off your travel bucket list.
Spanning over 7,000 miles of coastline, many of Mexico’s popular beaches are found within its stretch of Caribbean Sea, with powdery white sands and gentle waves. If you want to keep comfort at your fingertips, Mexico is the place to do it. Major resort areas like Cancun, Tulum, Cabo San Lucas, and Jalisco, which tend to be more commercialized, have the benefit of nearby bars and dining options, as well as ample beach rentals for chairs, cabanas, and snorkeling gear. If you’re taking a family vacation, stick to laid-back, swimmable beaches like Medano Beach, Playa Paraiso, and Santa Maria Beach. For surfing, extraordinary views, or a little bit of quiet time, head to Playa Delfines, Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach), and East Cape along Baja California Sur.
When comparing beaches, the Hawaii vs. Mexico debate comes down to what you’re looking for. Mexican beaches offer gentle waves, a few more luxury comforts, convenience, and the unique alternative of swimming at a cenote.
Its range of tropical beauty, geological features, ample marine life, carefree air, and jungle adventure have made Hawaii a tourist destination for generations. Whether you’re interested in active exploration off-grid, family-friendly fun, or deep relaxation, you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your vacation plans in Hawaii.
You can spend a week on beach activities alone, between surf lessons, dolphin cruises, and snorkeling along colorful coral reefs. Daredevils can chase adrenaline swimming with sharks or scuba-diving around shipwrecks, or the family can catch a glimpse of sea turtles resting at sunset at Ho’okipa Beach Park.
Back on land, there are tropical birds, luaus, farmers markets, aquarium tours, jungle zip lines, volcano hikes, and mountain tunnel tubing. For couples, savor a candlelit dinner by the beach, a romantic stroll through botanical gardens, or a coffee farm tour to accompany your delicious morning cup of joe.
Hawaii is a perfect go-to safe family vacation destination, with no shortage of activities. Though the travel time may be longer and its attractions a little more dispersed, Hawaii makes a fantastic starter trip before venturing to a new country.
While Mexico matches Hawaii on its endless list of beach activities and jungle adventures, it does offer a few things Hawaii doesn’t. The country is a beloved stop for its lively nightlife, incredible Mexican cuisine, bustling cities, and ancient Mayan ruins. The luxury beachfront resorts are unbeatable and even though transportation takes a little bit to figure out, it's worthwhile for all the sites you can explore.
Take on Mexico’s turquoise coastline with a day of paddle boarding, snorkeling, or a dip in the waves. Further inland, birdwatch in the jungle, tour the country restaurant by restaurant, or step back in time with a trek through historic ruins. A major draw to Mexico is its one-of-a-kind experiences, like Chichen Itza, one of the most well-preserved archaeological sites in the world, as well as the country’s supply of enchanting cenotes. After a strenuous day of sightseeing, there’s no better way to unwind than indulging in a spa night or couples massage by the water.
Taking into account the language barrier and focus on nightlife, Mexico might be a better option for a couples getaway or trip with friends than a family vacation, unless you’re bringing older kids who don’t need as much entertainment.
Because of Hawaii’s remote location, surrounded by water, nearly everything in the archipelago is imported, leading to steeper costs that can trickle down to tourists. Though these islands are definitely worth the splurge, they aren’t always easy to reach from the mainland, which also contributes to the price tag. From the West Coast, you can catch a nonstop flight that will get you there in six hours, but East Coasters are looking at 11+ hours in the air.
Despite the fact that a trip to Hawaii is more expensive than Mexico, the destination makes up for it as soon as you land on those lush isles.
You can’t beat the country’s affordability—even luxury options are easier on the wallet than most counterparts in the U.S. If you’re looking for easy-to-access budget travel with no shortage of cultural encounters, a Mexico vacation is where you’ll find it all.
As a country that shares its borders with the United States, Mexico gets major points for proximity. Depending on where you depart from, you could land on foreign soil full of geographic diversity, exciting culinary history, and ancient culture in as little as two hours.
Seeking blue skies and a tropical breeze? Keep in mind Hawaii’s rainy season and tropical storms when arranging your travel plans. The islands are most at risk for rain and severe storms from July to September, so stay up-to-date on the area’s forecast before you fly out.
Weather does vary a little from island to island as well. Kaua’i, in particular, receives the most rainfall out of the four major islands, so prepare for intermittent rain when you pack.
Something to consider when traveling to Mexico without a doubt: the weather. From late summer to late fall, the coastal regions of the country experience a rainy season, as well as the uncertainty of hurricanes. To be safe, it’s a good idea to look into travel insurance in case a change in weather or storm event disrupts your vacation plans.
In the summer, temperatures can easily climb above 90 degrees. If you’re bound for Mexico during this time, be sure your vacation rental comes with air conditioning, or have a plan to cool down when you’re out on an adventure. With all the oceanfront and pool options, we’re sure you’ll find just the place.