Cancun and The Bahamas are incredible destinations, both with vibrant cultures, friendly people, unique landscapes, and so much to discover. Both of these are Caribbean destinations. Cancun is most known for its rainforests, mountains, and white sand beaches, and The Bahamas is a crowd favorite thanks to its pink and white sand beaches, endless islands to explore, great diving opportunities, and awesome all-inclusive resorts like Sandals Emerald Bay in The Exumas and Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau.
If you’re caught between these two worlds and you’re trying to decide which destination will be best for your next getaway, have no fear. By the end of this article, you’ll know more than enough to help you make the best destination decision for the ultimate vacation!
The Bahamas makes for the ideal beach escape with more than 2,000 beaches to choose from. These beaches are spread across the chain of 700 islands and over 2000 cays that make up this coral archipelago. There is a beach to suit just about every mood- relaxation time, adventure, and exploration.
The soft white sand of Cable Beach in Nassau is popular with people who want to relax or spend the day trying out new water sports (martini sipping is optional). The Bahamas is home to some of the few pink sand beaches in the world, and one such beach, aptly named Pink Sand Beach, stretches three miles along Harbour Island. Other incredible beaches include Rose Island Beach, Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama Island, and Tropic of Cancer Beach in Little Exuma.
Expert tip: We’ve got the scoop on the best beaches in The Bahamas! Find out which of these many shorelines are total must-sees.
The beaches in Cancun each offer a unique atmosphere that will suit the experience and adventures that you seek. If you’re looking for some downtime and a sun tan, Playa Defines is the place to be! The strong currents will encourage you to stay on shore and get some Vitamin D while relaxing and sampling local food and drinks. If you’re up for an adventure, then the Puerto Morelos beach in the South of Cancun gives you access to the Mesoamerican Coral Reef - the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
When it comes to diving in The Bahamas, you may be wondering what you might encounter beneath the waves. There is just so much to see in the waters around The Bahamas, and there are so many locations to dive! This is definitely one of those diving destinations where you’re going to need a solid plan to stay on track. Make up your mind about which of the incredible dive sites you want to explore first, and you’ll be well on your way.
Some divers prefer to start in Nassau (the capital), with dive sites like Runway Wall, the James Bond Wrecks, and Bahama Mama. From Nassau, it’s easy to make your way to the other islands like Eleuthera where you can dive at Current Cut, Grand Bahama with the popular Tiger Beach, Bimini’s Victory Reef, or the Andros Barrier Reef in Andros. Snorkelers and scuba divers will both be happy in The Bahamas for the wide range of spectacular dive excursions to choose from, suitable for all dive levels.
Insider tip: Snorkeling and scuba diving are among the inclusions of Sandals and Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean. Check out these great scuba diving sites in The Bahamas and snorkeling spots in The Bahamas before you travel!
Diving introduces you to a whole new way to see the world. In Cancun, you can snorkel or scuba dive in places like Isla Mujeres, which is a perfect day trip. This is best reserved for the months of June through to September and is ideal for divers who won’t be intimidated by big sightings – like whale sharks. There are many types of reef fish to see, and dolphins can often be found swimming a little further off. Lobsters and eagle rays are also common sightings, and you may spot various species of sea turtles, sailfish, lobsters, and maybe even nurse sharks.
Some of the best diving spots in Cancun include the MUSA Underwater Museum which features some interesting sculptures you won’t have to dive too deep to see: Minesweeper Wreck, Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, The National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos, The Cave of Sleeping Sharks, and Xel-ha eco-park.
Big game fishing is popular in The Bahamas where fishermen can catch huge fish lurking in the waters such as blue marlin or yellowfin tuna. A visit to The Bahamas during spring or early summer can get you a catch of either of these fish and sometimes even the popular sailfish. Flat fishing is a possibility too, and you can try to catch the elusive bonefish that are known to swim as fast as 40 miles per hour at the first sign of trouble!
Expert tip: While Andros, Bahamas is known as the Bonefishing Capital of the World, there are lots of awesome places to go bonefishing in The Bahamas, including Exuma and Nassau. Fishing in Nassau, especially, could be the highlight of your stay in The Bahamas!
Fishing in Cancun is an adventure just about everyone can enjoy, whether you are an experienced fisherman or not. Fishing takes place throughout the year! From winter up until July, you can catch sailfish that have migrated to Cancun during the cold season. Marlin is also a popular catch, and you can engage in deep-sea, sport, or big game fishing. Consider shared charters with companies such as Aquaworld, where everyone on board gets a try. Private charters are available too, where you can rent a boat for the day and enjoy a cold beer as the boat traverses the waters in search of barracuda, tarpon, snapper, and more amazing catches!
Island-hopping in The Bahamas is a must if you want to experience all this territory has to offer. Even if you choose to stick to one island, you’re sure to find a ton of fun things to do in The Bahamas. Here are a few of the best experiences available:
A boat tour through the Exuma Cays can lead to a full day of adventure in The Bahamas. You might have the chance to feed the iguanas, swim with the stingrays, and hunt for starfish. Other notable animal experiences in these cays include the Swimming Pigs. These “Beach Babes” of Big Major Cay are adorable, photogenic, and love attention from humans.
On the southwestern coast of New Providence in The Bahamas lies Adelaide Beach, one of the best snorkeling sites in The Bahamas. It’s quite easy to get to as well, whether you are walking, driving, or catching the bus. If you visit during the week, you’ll probably have it all to yourself to explore the waters and marine life. Love Beach also has a lovely reef just off the coast of western New Providence. For guided snorkeling tours, Island Routes is a great option!
All lovers of nature ought to visit the Primeval Forest National Park in New Providence, Bahamas. Seven and a half acres of land lie peaceful and untouched with a range of flora and fauna as far as the eye can see. This park is well known as a hardwood forest where hemlocks, pines, and mosses can be found. The park is usually open from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., but call to find out if you’re unsure whether the park will be open on a particular day.
This national park is the first of its kind in Eleuthera and can be found in the Governor’s Harbour in the center of the island. Its 25 acres are protected by The Bahamas National Trust which safeguards its rich vegetation and historical, medicinal plants. A tour of the Mangrove Boardwalk takes you through this unique area while the Coppice Trail lets you see all the butterflies and birds that live there. You’ll need to book in advance if you want a guided tour of this plant preserve.
This spectacular body of water is truly a magnificent wonder of nature that leaves many in awe of the contrasting colors of the waters. This Glass Window Bridge is often called “the narrowest place on Earth” where a long strip of rock with a width of only 30 feet, separates two bodies of water. On one side are the turquoise waters of the Bight of Eleuthera and, on the other the dark blues of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mayans were some of the early settlers in Cancun and their developments and artifacts have created a rich history on this island. Here are a few places you can visit and some activities worth trying out in Cancun:
Riding an ATV around this Mexican city will grant you an opportunity to explore the mangroves, grasslands, and white sandy beaches along the way. Some tours offer to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and provide refreshments to keep you going.
This tour will take you to Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan site where the Kukulcan pyramid can be found. The Valladolid is an old Mayan city, and Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ik Kil Cenote, a lovely natural sinkhole, can also be found near Chichen Itza.
A reef and shipwreck snorkel tour can be a fun way of exploring the wonders of the ocean whilst vacationing in Cancun. A trained guide will take you and your friends to some of the best sites and underwater statues, and expose you to the most vibrant coral reef. These tours are usually suitable for all ages.
The El Rey ruins once served as the hotspot for maritime trade in Cancun, back in 1200 AD. In the present day, these ruins are popular among visitors looking for a quick tour that is easily accessible.
Whale sharks are gentle creatures that roam the waters of the ocean, feeding on small marine animals and mollusks. A knowledgeable trainer can tell you all about these harmless animals before you dip into the water to snorkel and swim alongside them in their natural habitat.
A visit to the Nassau Straw Market is a must when visiting The Bahamas. The local vendors take pride in the variety of crafts, pottery, and jewelry on sale - some of which is made with the native botanical plant, agave sisalana (sisal). The vibrant colors and authenticity of this market make for an exciting experience in and of itself, and the vendors are often willing to negotiate as well. The Bahamas Craft Center offers some more goodies, while Marina Village on Paradise Island has souvenirs, designer boutiques, restaurants, and live entertainment.
The Hotel Zone in Cancun is home to La Isla Shopping Village and Kukulcan Plaza - two of the most popular malls on the island. There are lots of boutiques and stores as well as handmade Mexican crafts in malls such as Plaza Caracol. The flea market downtown also has lots of great deals on items and souvenirs, and you can find high-end designer stores on Luxury Avenue.
Though its beaches are quite popular, The Bahamas also has several nightclubs and bars in Freeport and Nassau that make for a fun night out on the town. One of the more popular options is Bond Nightclub, a classy but lively club where you’ll fit right in if you’re dressed to the nines. Aura Nightclub is also a great clubbing option if you desire a little more luxury - a glass dance floor, two bars, and a VIP section. The Skybar at Cable Beach offers a unique rooftop lounge experience where you’ll have an awesome view of the big lights in this little city.
Coco Bongo and the City and Mandala are among the popular nightlife entertainment options in Cancun where both locals and visitors like to party the night away. If you’d like VIP service, you can always reserve a table but the open bar option is cost-effective and more liberating. Carlos N Charlie is pretty exciting too with the best DJs, live bands, and a salsa special on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Though locals are prohibited from gambling, you are welcome to try your hand at any of the tables and machines. Atlantis Casino on Paradise Island has over 119 tables with games such as Roulette and Poker. It’s open 24/7 and is one of the largest casinos in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the Baha Mar Casino in Cable prides itself on being the “largest upscale casino in The Bahamas,” and has 18 types of table games and more than one thousand slot machines.
Games such as Baccarat, Roulette, Holdem, and Craps are popular games played at many casinos in Cancun. Red Casino at Grand Oasis Cancun is the only one of its kind to be located within a resort and horse racing and sports book betting is popular here. Casino Palace Cancun has a games room and televised sporting shows whilst the Dubai Palace Casino has more than 450 slot machines.
Evidence of The Bahamas’ history as a British colony can be found in the colonial-style forts in New Providence: Fort Montagu, Fort Charlotte, and Fort Fincastle. These were built in the 1700s and tours of these sites capture the island’s history. Fort Charlotte dates back to 1788 and includes moats and dungeons. Fort Fincastle is a 1793 stone fort and lighthouse, while Fort Montagu dates back to 1741 – guided tours are available at these historic locations.
In 1815, Parliament Square was built to resemble some of the most impressive infrastructure found in North Carolina at the time. These pink-colored buildings now house official government venues, such as the House of Assembly where officials meet. Since 1921, the Supreme Court has also been housed here.
The Queen’s Staircase refers to the 66 steps that lead up to the historical 1793 Fort Fincastle. These limestone steps serve as a grand entrance to the fort and are named in honor of the late Queen Victoria of England. Construction took place in the late 18th century and was a tedious process, taking more than a year to complete.
The Cloisters and Versailles Gardens can be found on Paradise Island in Nassau. This large garden extends about 75 feet and it is located near Nassau Harbor. Stone steps, marble statues, and the sweet smells of bougainvillea, hibiscus, and other fragrant flowers can be found in this beautiful garden. This definitely can be a romantic experience, with lots of photo ops!
In 1737, the Government House was built in Nassau on a 10-acre estate on Mount Fitzwilliam Hill. Today, it serves as the official residence of the Governor General of The Bahamas. Tours of this historic building are available at pre-scheduled times – while there, take some time to scope the Nassau Harbor from this vantage point.
The 17th-century Christ Church Cathedral is known as the oldest church in The Bahamas. It is regarded as the “mother” of all Anglican churches. Throughout the years it has gone through many changes having been destroyed, rebuilt, and extended. In fact, the 1900s was the era when several restorations took place and this church can now be found on George Street in Nassau.
Any visitor who yearns to learn more about Cancun should stop by The Maya Museum to take a look at the hundreds of Mayan artifacts kept as a way of preserving this crucial historical time. These include jewelry, ceramics, and sculptures of the Mayan people as well as skeletal remains from 14,000 years ago. There are architectural and art exhibits, and you can stop by the San Miguelito archeological site located nearby.
To the north of Cancun lies the El Meco archeological site in the Bay of Isla Mujeres, which is just about seven kilometers from the hotel area. At a height of 40 feet (12 meters), the El Castillo pyramids in El Meco have the highest structure of its kind in the northern peninsula and it is believed to have been used for maritime navigation since it was first occupied in 200 AD. A climb to the top of the El Castillo site offers an aerial view of the Caribbean Sea.
Kukulkan Boulevard separates San Miguelito and El Rey, two sites that were once connected a long time ago. San Miguelito was an agricultural and fishing area with four specific areas, known as the North Complex, Dragon Complex, the Chaak Palace, and South Complex, with the last two being the most well-preserved.
The word Ek’ Balam means “black jaguar” in Mayan and refers to the city which existed from 600 BC to 1600 AD and measures 15 square kilometers. Since 1997, these ruins have been preserved so well that there are 40 or so buildings ready for you to explore.
The Pyramid of the Magician, which serves as the tallest building of the Uxmal ruins, was built on other pyramids which already existed. Due to this, the site has been named Uxmal which means “thrice built”. This ancient city is believed to have been inhabited by about 20,000 Mayans.
The Bahamas is a tropical archipelago that includes 700 islands and more than 2,000 cays. Most of these islands are not as developed as the capital, Nassau, but many are still major tourist attractions and are preserved by the Bahamian government. Though The Bahamas is very well preserved and green in general, on the more developed islands the infrastructure is quite advanced in comparison to some Caribbean islands.
The topography of The Bahamas is rather flat, so you won’t find much in terms of waterfalls and rolling hills. The territory does however have a number of interesting limestone cave systems, some of the deepest blue holes in the world, and beautiful woodlands.
Expert tip: The Bahamas is warm and beautiful year-round. Check out our articles on the best time to visit The Bahamas for more on the temperature, weather, and activities available at different times of the year.
Cancun is located on the northeast point of the Yucatan Peninsula, 350 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. Cancun is a tropical region with predominantly flat terrain, and many limestone caves.
In The Bahamas, the peak season occurs during the months of December to April. During this time, temperatures range from 63°F- 82°F, making it the perfect time to escape from colder climates. Even if you can’t make it to the islands during this time, The Bahamas is amazing to visit year-round.
The peak season in Cancun begins in November and, like many Caribbean islands, ends in April, which is about the end of winter in the United States. There’s also another peak during spring break around Easter.
People from The Bahamas are known as Bahamians. Bahamians are generally friendly, and laid-back. The Bahamas has a colorful colonial history. About 91 percent of the population is Afro-Caribbean, and English is the main language spoken in the country.
People who hail from Cancun are known as Cancunenses. They are known as lively, amicable people. Around 90 percent of the population speaks Spanish, with a small percentage being fluent in regional dialects. English is also widely spoken.
The majority of Bahamian residents are of African descent and they continue to practice the cultural traditions of their ancestors, which can be seen particularly in celebrations like Junkanoo - the national carnival. Junkanoo is a festival where people adorn themselves with costumes and dance and sing to music as they parade the streets. This festival is the perfect depiction of the laid-back nature of the island’s people, and just how much they appreciate and are willing to share their own culture.
Mexico is well regarded for its rich culture, and its cities such as Cancun are no different. Centuries ago, the Mayans occupied this island and left their landmarks, which still remain proof of their brilliance, advancements, and interesting culture.
English is the official language of The Bahamas. Many people in The Bahamas also speak Haitian Creole or a Bahamian dialect that includes African elements.
Spanish is the language most widely spoken in Cancun, much like Mexico in general. Many tourism workers also speak English. Mayan is another common language, particularly with the indigenous population. Many people will converse with visitors in English and then converse between themselves in their native tongues of Spanish and Mayan.
The options are endless for unique dishes in both Cancun and The Bahamas. What you’ll really have to decide on before heading to either of these destinations is whether you prefer Spanish food or the heartwarming flavors of the Caribbean.
The Bahamas is great if you want to try classic Caribbean food, but even with the similarity of cooking styles in the islands, the food scene in The Bahamas has an identity of its own. Some of the commonly used ingredients in Bahamian cuisine include guava, rock lobster, and conch. There are hints of cooking flair from the American South in the seasonings and some of the side dishes, such as grits. Other dishes like fresh seafood, fried fish and chicken, and peas n’ rice are common to the Caribbean and complement some of the more original Bahamian dishes.
Popular menu items in The Bahamas include minced lobster, conch dishes (conch salad, conch fritters, cracked conch, conch chowder), baked macaroni and cheese, steamed/baked chicken, and beverages like Switcha (Bahamian lemonade), Sky Juice (a cocktail with coconut water, gin, and condensed milk), or a local Caribbean beer like Kalik or Sands.
Popular dishes in Cancun include Marquesitas (crispy crepe rolled up and filled with melted shredded cheese and a sweet filling), castacan (fried pork belly), panuchos (tortilla shell stuffed with refried beans with added toppings), salbutes (similar but less crispy than panuchos and also with no refried beans), sikil pak (Mayan pumpkin seed dip), tacos de Cochinita Pibil (slow-roasted pork dish), sopa de lima (lime soup), drinks like pozol (highly energizing), the Banana Monkey (coffee liquor, chocolate, banana, and coconut), Michelada beer, and so much more. There’s definitely no short supply of things to try in Cancun, which is great for adventurous travelers.
Soca and calypso are popular in The Bahamas, especially around the time of carnival which is observed annually in May. Other popular threads include the traditional ‘rake and scrape’ music originating from Cat Island. Concertinas, Goombay drums, and a handsaw are typical features of this genre, which usually features instrumental tunes. While on vacation in The Bahamas, you’ll find that American culture has also influenced the music there in recent times. Famous musicians from The Bahamas include The Baha Men, Ronnie Butler, and Kirkland Bodie (KB).
Cancun is an entertainment center in Mexico where lots of famous artists perform and live. Celebrities such as Marc Anthony, Lusi Miguel, and Usher have performed in Cancun over the years. Locally, the music here has Mexican flair, but international hits are also popular on the entertainment scene.
Islands in The Bahamas including New Providence Island (Nassau), Paradise Island, Abaco, the Exumas, Eleuthera, and Harbour Island are popular choices for you to The Bahamas. Sandals Emerald Bay in the Exumas is a great all-inclusive option, which includes an award-winning Greg Norman's Championship golf course. This resort is set on the beachfront with water sports and land sports galore - all included in your stay. In Nassau, Sandals Royal Bahamian is a dream for couples who want the royal treatment, and a chance to explore a private island as part of their all-inclusive vacation!
It’s a good idea to stay in Zona Hotelera if you’re interested in being near the beach in Cancun. This area is also a good place to find luxury and all-inclusive hotels. Budget travelers will prefer the Cancun Downtown / El Centro area. Punta Cancun is a good nightlife option and Isla Mujeres is great for families.
In The Bahamas, it’ll be easy to get around on a “jitney”, which is the Bahamian term for the local bus. Jitneys cost $1.25-2 (Bahamian or U.S.). You can choose to take either a jitney or a cab from the main airports, which includes the Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) in Nassau and Freeport’s Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO), to your place of accommodation. Guests staying at Sandals resorts in The Bahamas don’t have to worry about this, of course, as roundtrip airport transfers are included in their all-inclusive package. Fare-wise, you’ll pay around $32 USD from the airport to downtown Nassau, $22 USD to Cable Beach, and $38 USD to Paradise Island.
You’ll be able to get around Cancun fairly easily by bus. You’ll pay around 12 Mexican pesos (about 60 cents) for a one-way trip. The bus is a lot cheaper than getting a taxi. When hiring a taxi, the general rule in Cancun is to choose your taxi and don’t let this work the other way around. You can identify a government-certified taxi as these will have a license with a picture of the driver and the taxi number on display inside. Usually, taxis of this type have meters, which unfortunately don’t always work. Make sure the price of your ride is determined before getting in.
The Bahamian dollar (BSD) maintains a steady 1:1 exchange rate with the USD, but the latter is still a widely accepted currency in the islands. The Bahamian economy runs mostly on tourism and offshore banking, and it is the richest country in the West Indies. Though this is a high-end destination, you may still encounter street peddlers. You don’t need to feel intimidated - if you’re not interested in what they’re selling, a firm “no, thank you” will suffice.
The currency exchange rate between Mexican Pesos and USD is about 21.5:1, but the exchange rates can go up and down over time. USD is widely accepted in Cancun, though it is advisable to convert some of your money into the local currency before going out shopping, exploring, or on excursions as this can cause your funds to stretch a bit more. This is because the rule of thumb exchange rates used at various vendors and stores may vary.
The Bahamas is a tourist-oriented destination, and many people have shared positive experiences of their vacations on the islands. Travelers can feel safe leaving their resorts in The Bahamas, as the islands’ government pays special attention to the safety of both its visitors and its residents. When Downtown (Nassau) and in more populated areas, you’ll notice a visible police presence while you go about your explorations. Like in any other destination, avoid going out into secluded areas alone.
Cancun is one of the most sought-after destinations in Mexico. Of course, you should always exercise caution within the confines of your accommodations, as well as out in the city. There have also been reports of people becoming sick after consuming contaminated alcohol in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. As this is a popular destination, it’s certainly something visitors should be aware of.
There’s nothing like a vacation in the tropics to help you relax, unwind, and live your best life. With so many islands to visit in the Caribbean alone, it can be difficult to decide where exactly you want to go. The Bahamas and Cancun are close enough to the U.S. that you can avoid a long flight, but the differences between these destinations may have you wondering which is better for your vacation plans.
Cancun is a nice vacation gateway that stands out due to its culture and landmarks. However, there are few beach destinations that can compare to The Bahamas. The territory’s simply out-of-this-world beaches are waiting to be savored, and there are far more adventurous experiences to enjoy thanks to its multitude of islands. Both areas have a lot to offer to foodies, whether you’re in the mood for Spanish food or Caribbean cuisine.
The Bahamas eases ahead of Cancun when it comes to phenomenal accommodation options. All-inclusive resorts like Sandals offer a luxurious experience where you will have everything you need all in one place. The unlimited food, drinks, and entertainment in your all-inclusive vacation package will certainly take your Caribbean getaway to the next level!