Jamaica Or Mexico: Which Destination Is Right For You?

Photo by Obi on Unsplash
Photo by Obi on Unsplash
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Planning an escape to the sun but not sure which destination, Mexico or Jamaica, will suit you best? It’s not the easiest decision, as these are two of the most popular vacation destinations in their region, and each attracts millions of visitors every year.

They offer abundant delights, including stunning scenery, glorious beaches, beautiful resorts, delicious food, and vibrant cultures. But there are some differences between them. We’ll look at the size difference, the number of attractions and highlights, safety, and other concerns to help you make the right choice. 

Will you pick Mexico with its myriad destinations, Mayan ruins, and wild nightlife? Or Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae with its laid-back Caribbean charm and beautiful scenery? Jamaica or Mexico, Let’s find out!

Jamaica Or Mexico: Size

Mexico is home to a diverse range of landscapes including deserts and mountain ranges.
Photo by Andres Sanz on Unsplash

One of the most obvious differences between these two destinations is their size. Mexico is massive compared to Jamaica, it covers a landmass of 1.973 million km² compared to Jamaica’s 10,992 km². This size difference means that Mexico often outdoes Jamaica, thanks to sheer abundance. It has more of everything: more beaches, more mountains, more cities, more attractions, and more diversity in its landscapes and culture.

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However, all that size is not necessarily a good thing. It’s not possible to visit the whole country on a traditional vacation. If you wanted to experience ‘everything’ this country had to offer, you’d need to stay for months. However, if you manage your time well in Jamaica, you can explore most of the island and experience its highlights in a week or two. 

Conclusion: Mexico is much bigger, but that’s not necessarily better. If you want to explore every corner of a country on one trip, visit Jamaica. But if you want to return again and again to one country and always have something new to explore, choose Mexico. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Beaches

Both Jamaica and Mexico are home to stunning white sand beaches.
Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

If you’re planning a Caribbean vacation, it’s probably because you’re dreaming of glorious white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Well, neither of these destinations will let you down there.

In Mexico, you can choose between the gorgeous, gentle beaches and warm waters of the Caribbean coast or the cooler, generally rougher waters of the Pacific. On the Caribbean side, you’ll find the big name, famous beach resorts such as Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen with their famous white sands and all-inclusive resorts complete with jet skis and cocktail bars. 

If you head to the Pacific Coast, you’ll find the beaches quieter, less built-up, and the waters perfect for surfing! Head to the Baja Peninsula and Sauyulito for atmospheric surf towns.

If you’d rather be under the water than on it, Mexico is home to one of the longest coral reefs in the world and offers incredible snorkeling and diving opportunities. Head to Cozumel Island to dive a sunken sculpture garden and beautiful coral reefs, or how about swimming with whale sharks off Cancun?

In Jamaica, the beaches are all Caribbean style! With warm azure waters, soft sand, and a glorious climate it’s a beach lover’s dream. The most famous strip, Seven Mile Beach, is where you can find everything from private resorts to lively beach bars to nudist enclaves. For a quieter experience, head south to Treasure Beach or visit peaceful Frenchman’s Cove, immortalized in various Hollywood movies. 

Jamaica is also a surfing hotspot so grab a board and head to famous Boston Bay, Bull Bay for beginner surf camps, or ​​Makka Beach if you’re a pro. Then, get under the waves and swim with stingrays at Stingray City, off Seven Mile Beach, or dive the reefs to look for invasive angelfish and graceful sea turtles. 

Conclusion: Sun worshipers, surfers, and snorkelers will be in paradise in either destination. If we had to choose, we’d say Jamaica embodies more of the Caribbean dream because there’s more chance of getting away from the resorts and exploring quieter coves. But if you want all-inclusive resort strips, Mexico’s got you covered.

Jamaica Or Mexico: Natural Splendour

Both Mexico and Jamaica are home to many natural wonders.
Photo by Jorge Fernandez Salas on Unsplash

Here Mexico’s size works in its favor. The sheer diversity of landscapes from one end of this massive country to the other means there’s something for all tastes. There are no less than three mountain ranges, plus deserts, volcanos, river valleys, canyons, and eerily beautiful collapsed cave systems, Cenotes. Plus the incredible UNESCO world heritage site of Gran Desierto de Altar with its unearthly crater-filled lunar landscape. 

And Jamaica’s not short of a few natural wonders either. On this beautiful island, you can take canopy tours through the thickly jungled interior, cruise up the famous Rio Grande River, or go crocodile-watching. Swim in the color-changing waters of the Blue Lagoon, frolic in waterfalls, hike the Blue Mountains, or raft down one of the 120 rivers. 

Conclusion: Mexico has more diversity and more to see. But Jamaica has plenty of highlights, and you stand more chances of seeing them all on one vacation. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Historical And Cultural Highlights 

Chichen Itza, Mexico's most famous Mayan ruins, draws millions of visitors a year.
Photo by Marv Watson on Unsplash

Mexico is a history lover’s dream and is well known for the Mayan and Aztec ruins scattered across the country. The most famous, Chichen Itza, draws millions of visitors each year, and its iconic stepped pyramid is one of the most visited sights in Mexico. 

The stunning coastal ruins at Tulum are also a favorite with visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula, while the jungle-swathed ruins of ​​Palenque in the south are a photographer’s dream. 

Head to Mexico City for the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, topped with towering warrior statues. Then into the capital’s historic center to see Palacio Nacional and the Catedral Metropolitana. Visit Guanajuato for beautiful colonial architecture, or Oaxaca, renowned for its authentic and traditional Mexican culture. Visit during the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the dead) to see it at its festive best. 

Jamaica might not have ruins and temples, but that’s not to say it’s lacking in history and culture. On the contrary, Jamaica’s cultural roots shine through in every corner of the island and every element of day-to-day life. 

Learn about the island’s history and life under Spanish and British Colonial rule. Visit Port Royal to learn about its pirate history or take a guided tour of 17th-century Fort Charles. Visit the Rastafarian Indigenous Village, a living cultural center outside Montego Bay, or head to the Bob Marley Museum to learn about the icon’s life. True fans can even visit the Trench Town Museum to see where the musician grew up. 

Conclusion: Although both places have their own unique and fascinating culture, Mexico wins this one for its abundance of historical monuments and Mayan ruins. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Nightlife

The nightlife in Mexico is legendary
Photo by Marlon Michelle Corado on Unsplash

Mexico is world-famous for its spring break nightlife featuring beach parties, foam parties, yard-long margaritas, endless tequila shots, and club nights. In fact, the Yucatan coastline from Cancun to Tulum is one non-stop party of young Americans looking to blow off steam. 

But if you fancy a night out that involves fewer body shots, there are plenty of places to find it. Try Guadalajara for a vibrant nightlife experience, Mexico City for its LGBTQ+ club scene, or Acapulco for live music, salsa nights, and super clubs. 

Jamaica is not in the same league when it comes to nightlife. Of course, it still knows how to have a good time – this island invented reggae, after all – but it’s more laid-back fun than you’ll find in Mexico. 

In Jamaica, the nightlife embraces the Caribbean lifestyle with laid-back beach clubs, social rum drinking, and plenty of live music and dancing. And you’ll find that the locals’ nightlife blends with the tourists’ here in a way it rarely does in Mexico.

Kingston, Montego Bay, and fishing-village-turned-resort-town Negril are the biggest nightlife hubs. There, you’ll find everything from cocktail bars with sunset views to nightclubs serving up dusk till dawn dubstep.

Conclusion: Mexico has the edge for wild nightlife, but Jamaica might be the better choice if you’re looking for something more relaxed. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Food

The food in Jamaica and Mexico is varied, flavorful and delicious.
Photo by Roberto Carlos Roman on Unsplash

Mexican food is so much more than what we know from our local restaurants. It’s not all tacos and burritos – although they’re there in abundance! But the more you travel through this country, the more you see that each region has its own wonderful dishes and speciality flavors. 

Be sure to try Pozole, a traditional meat stew that’s best if cooked overnight. Pork marinated in citrus juices, flavourful Mole, and the traditional breakfast of Chilaquiles, corn tortillas fried in salsa and served with eggs and cheese. Delicious. 

When you think of Jamaican food, Jerk Chicken probably springs to mind. And with good reason, this intensely flavored dish – involving a complex blend of spices rubbed into the meat before flame grilling – is a delight for the tastebuds. But if you want to branch out, why not try jerk beef or jerk lobster. Also, try the national dish Salt Fish and Akee. Akee is a fruit with a strange texture and unique, almost nutty flavor. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it dish but a must-try while in Jamaica. 

Callaloo greens are a great vegetarian option. They come steamed with garlic, onion, and salt and are often served with fried dough or Bammys (flatbreads). And be sure to order Blue Mountain Coffee, one of the most sought after and most expensive coffees in the world. 

Conclusion: you won’t go hungry in either destination, but Mexico’s gastronomy has been awarded UNESCO heritage status for its cultural significance, so they win this one. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Safety

Colorful bus on the coast.
Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

Unfortunately, both of these destinations have reputations for being dangerous places to visit. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of crime in these countries doesn’t affect the tourist areas and millions of people visit every year without incident. 

In both countries, the high crime rates stem from drug and gang-related crime that generally doesn’t happen near the resorts. In Mexico, it mainly occurs in the towns that border the US, and in Jamaica, it revolves around the inner cities. 

The tourist areas tend to suffer from crimes such as pickpocketing and mugging. So visitors should be careful to secure their valuables and not take expensive items out with them.

Conclusion: a draw. Neither of these countries is 100% safe, but if you use your common sense and heed any government warnings and safety advice, you should enjoy a safe, crime-free vacation. 

Jamaica Or Mexico: Conclusion

Colorful boats on the sand at Treasure Beach Jamaica.
Photo by Caspar Rae on Unsplash

Hopefully, you can see that despite the many similarities between these vacation destinations, some clear differences should help you decide between them. 

For example, if you want to visit ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins or have always wanted to experience Spring Break madness, you need to head to Mexico. But if you want to explore as much of a country as possible in one or two weeks, and you like your nightlife a bit more mellow and authentic, you should choose Jamaica. 

But if you’re just looking to lie on a stunning white sand beach under the Caribbean sun, eat delicious food and sample the local spirits, you cannot go wrong with either of these destinations. 

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Anita is from Wales and has been a travel addict since her first trip to Australia ten years ago. Since then she's lived and worked in Oz, New Zealand and Canada, worked many ski seasons and travelled widely through South East Asia, Morocco, India and Europe. She's a nomad, freelance writer, foodie, compulsive reader, tea addict and animal lover.