Belize vs. Puerto Vallarta: Which One Is Better?

Not sure if you should visit Belize or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for vacation? Although there are many similarities between both places (think: beautiful coastlines, waterfalls. delicious foods, and fascinating cultural activities), there are many differences to consider as well. 

In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know when it comes to accommodation, food, attractions, and cost. I’m here to give my honest opinion about which area you should choose for your next vacation! 

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Which is Better? Belize vs. Puerto Vallarta?

Belize and Puerto Vallarta are two drastically different destinations. Belize has more of a tropical setting compared to Mexico (at least on the Pacific Coast), so it’s better if you’re looking for white sands and crystal clear waters. But you should choose Puerto Vallarta if you want lots of diverse activities. This city has gorgeous beaches, mountains, and rainforests, all within a short drive from each other. 

However, there are so many things to consider when deciding between these two places. It’s also important to look at activities, weather, and even travel costs when planning your vacation.

Location and Weather

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One significant distinction between Belize and Puerto Vallarta lies in their location and weather patterns, each offering unique experiences to travelers. Belize, situated on Central America’s eastern coast, enjoys warm temperatures, typically in the mid to high 80s. Despite its inviting climate, visitors should be mindful of the high humidity, often surpassing 85%, and the hurricane risk during the wet season from June to November. However, hurricanes are relatively infrequent, striking roughly once a decade.

Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, shares the tropical warmth, with temperatures ranging from the mid-80s to low 90s. Its rainy season parallels Belize’s, yet it faces fewer hurricanes, thanks to its Pacific Ocean location. This city’s popularity as a tourist destination is partly due to its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and the availability of direct flights from various North American cities via airlines like Alaska Airlines and Aeromexico, making it easily accessible for Americans and international visitors alike.

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If your vacation plans include swimming or snorkeling, the quality of the coastline is paramount. When comparing the beach experiences of Puerto Vallarta and Belize, you’re presented with two distinct offerings, each remarkable in its own right.

Belize’s coastline, skirting the Caribbean Sea, boasts pristine beaches characterized by crystal-clear waters, soft, sugary sands, and a serene ambiance. A notable highlight is the Belize Barrier Reef, the world’s second-largest coral reef system, making Belize not just a haven for beach lovers but a prime spot for snorkelers and divers alike. Beyond its coastline, Belize invites exploration of its numerous cayes and islands, each featuring idyllic beaches accessible for day trips.

Though Puerto Vallarta’s beaches might not fit the classic tropical beach image, their beauty is undeniable, framed by lush rainforests and dramatic mountain cliffs. The Pacific waters here can be cooler and rougher, especially during the winter months, making them less ideal for swimming but offering a backdrop for a myriad of on-land activities.

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Activities and Attractions

In Puerto Vallarta, a treasure trove of activities awaits, offering something for every type of traveler, from adventurous souls to those seeking relaxation:

  • Scuba Dive at Los Arcos: Discover the vibrant underwater world.
  • Sunset Watching on the Malecon: Experience breathtaking views.
  • Hike to Mirador de la Cruz: For panoramic cityscapes.
  • Cultural Tours in Zona Romantico: Dive into local food and walking tours.
  • Visit the Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe: A spiritual landmark.
  • Zipline the Superman: Thrill-seekers will enjoy Mexico’s longest zipline.
  • Whale Watching (December to March): Encounter majestic marine life.
  • Golfing at Vista Vallarta Golf Club: Perfect your swing with scenic views.

Belize shines as a paradise for underwater adventures, offering a spectrum of unique experiences that cater to snorkeling, diving, and swimming enthusiasts:

  • Diving the Blue Hole: Explore one of the world’s most famous dive sites.
  • Swimming at Shark Ray Alley: Swim close to diverse marine life.
  • Boating to Caye Caulker: Experience island serenity.
  • Exploring Xunantunich: Wander through ancient Mayan ruins.
  • Wildlife at Cockscomb Basin: Discover Belize’s diverse animal sanctuary.
  • Snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve: Immerse in underwater wonders.
  • Cave Exploring: Venture into Belize’s extensive cave systems.

Both destinations offer their unique set of attractions, with Belize being a significantly cheaper destination, ideal for those looking to spend less money on their next trip, and Puerto Vallarta offering a more luxurious travel style with its range of nicer hotels and star restaurants, despite potentially higher travel costs.

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Regardless of your budget or the duration of your stay, both Belize and Puerto Vallarta offer fantastic accommodation options tailored to meet a wide range of preferences.

For those heading to Belize, deciding on a base location is key. Belize City, as the country’s largest city, is brimming with various accommodations from hostels and hotels to vacation rentals. It’s a hub for historical and cultural exploration, though it may not be the ideal choice for beach lovers.

For a beach experience, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are top recommendations. Ambergris Caye is renowned for its luxury beach resorts and boutique hotels, catering to a more luxurious travel style, while Caye Caulker offers a laid-back vibe with its quaint guesthouses, beach hotels, and eco-lodges, presenting a significantly cheaper destination for those looking to spend less money.

Puerto Vallarta shines with its diverse accommodation choices, from the bustling city center and Romantic Zone to the more expansive beachfront hotels to the north and south. The city stands out for its all-inclusive resorts, catering to various price ranges, making it a popular tourist destination, especially during peak travel times like spring break. While Belize does feature all-inclusive resorts, they often skew towards the more exclusive and upscale end of the spectrum compared to Puerto Vallarta’s offerings.

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Whether you’re searching for the bustling city life, beachside relaxation, or all-inclusive luxury, Belize and Puerto Vallarta are equipped to enhance your travel experience. With options ranging from budget-friendly to high-end, alongside the availability of cheap flights to both destinations (PVR for Puerto Vallarta and BZE for Belize), planning your next trip according to different travel costs becomes easier, allowing you to choose accommodations that align with your preferred level of travel and activities.

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From fresh seafood to street-fried snacks, Belize and Mexico are two culinary destinations for hungry foodies. 

The food in Belize is influenced by many cultures, including Mestizo, Mayan, Garifuna, Creole, and Caribbean. Rice and beans are a staple of almost every meal, although they can be eaten with meat or seafood. You’ll also find lots of ceviche, conch, and even tamales and tortillas! 

One of my favorite foods in Belize is a fry jack. This deep-fried dough is stuffed with different ingredients (like eggs, cheese, or meat) and is usually eaten in the morning.

On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta’s cuisine is traditionally Mexican. Tacos, enchiladas, pozole – it’s almost impossible to find bad food here. And because it’s by the ocean, there are also a lot of dishes that utilize fresh seafood. Things like ceviche, fried fish tacos, and aquachile are all very popular in this region of Mexico.

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As the sun dips below the horizon, it’s time to swap daywear for evening attire and dive into the vibrant nightlife that both Belize and Puerto Vallarta have to offer. Renowned for their dynamic after-dark scenes, these destinations promise memorable nights out, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.

In Puerto Vallarta, the heart of nightlife pulses within the city and the Romantic Zone, where a plethora of bars, salsa clubs, and venues offering live entertainment line the Malecon, PV’s bustling waterfront promenade. Those seeking a more refined night out might find Marina Vallarta appealing, with its selection of upscale cocktail lounges and bars boasting scenic waterfront views, marking it as a popular tourist destination known for its lively ambiance.

Similarly, Belize offers a rich tapestry of nighttime activities. San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and Belize City are hotspots for those looking to explore a variety of bars, nightclubs, and lounges. For those in search of a more relaxed evening, Caye Caulker provides a laid-back alternative with its reggae bars and beach clubs, perfect for unwinding to the sound of waves and music.

Travel Cost 

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The cost of a vacation to Mexico and Belize significantly varies based on individual travel preferences. While it’s possible to indulge in the luxury of high-end resorts and fine dining, costing thousands, there’s also the option to explore these destinations on a budget. Opting for hostels and local eateries allows for an affordable yet enriching experience.

To offer clarity on potential expenses, here’s a comparison of costs for various experiences in Puerto Vallarta and Belize, reflecting their appeal across different price ranges and travel styles.

Puerto Vallarta Costs:

  • Mid-range hotel: $50 – $100 per night
  • Luxury hotel/all-inclusive: $200 – $400 per night
  • Local restaurant meal: $5 – $10
  • High-end dining: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $40 – $60
  • Zip Line Tour: $35 – $50
  • Food Tour: $40 – $60

Belize Costs:

  • Mid-range hotel: $30 – $80 per night
  • Luxury hotel/all-inclusive: $300 – $500 per night
  • Local restaurant meal: $5 – $10
  • High-end dining: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $30 – $70
  • Xunantunich entrance fee: $5
  • Cave tour: $100 – $150

Both Belize and Puerto Vallarta stand as captivating destinations, offering unique experiences to travelers. However, considering what activities and experiences you’re most looking forward to can guide you in choosing the right destination for your next trip. Whether you’re drawn to Puerto Vallarta’s popularity and vibrant nightlife or Belize’s interesting jungles and underwater adventures, planning your visit around the best time from January to April ensures a memorable vacation tailored to your preferences and budget. With accessible airports (PVR for Puerto Vallarta and BZE for Belize) and the availability of cheap flights, rental cars, and diverse accommodation options, setting the itinerary for your journey becomes a seamless process, promising an adventure that aligns with your desired level of travel and experiences.