This article is from the March 2001 The Mexico File newsletter.
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East Coast, West Coast

by Lynne Doyle 

Lynne Doyle is a subscriber from Maine who recently took her first trip to Puerto Vallarta after visiting Mexico’s East Coast for several years.  

After sampling the delights of Cancún and the Yucatán for many years, this year – thanks to Dave Simmonds and Bernie Santos – we finally got to the West Coast and Puerto Vallarta. However, since I’ve been excusing myself for my love of Cancún ever since I hooked up with The Mexico File, and since according to Frommer’s, they are the two most visited resorts in Mexico, it seems I did a little involuntary comparing of the two. Here’s a little of what I found in my journal when I got home.  

From the northeast U.S., you can leave in the morning and be on the beach in Cancún at noon. To get to PV requires 18 hours of travel (more time in Houston than anybody needs), a slow crawl to your room and at least a day to recover.  

PV has wonderfully quaint cobblestones; Cancún has an idiot-proof bus system.  

Cancún has pristine coral sand beaches with not a rock or seashell for a hundred miles. PV offers rocky, gritty sand, gorgeous shells I’ve never seen before (plus one specimen supposedly only found in the Caribbean!), and the sound of surf to go to sleep by. 

PV has an art gallery on every corner. I’ve searched for ten years in Cancún and found only one...but there are at least five American chain gyms.  

In Cancún, the sky is always blue, the water always turquoise, and it never, but never, rains. PV has a breathtaking sunset every night.  

PV has traditional architecture, a handsome centuries-old cathedral and picturesque white buildings with red-tiled roofs. Cancún features five (count ‘em, five) malls just like the ones at home.  

Cancún has broad, spotlessly clean tree-lined streets with tópes to control vehicle speed. PV has narrow, crowded streets with foot-high curbs to control rainy season runoff from the mountains.  

Both PV and Cancún have abundant quantities of folk art from all over Mexico and both cities sport the pricing expected of major tourist attractions. You really need to go to the representative states for good buys.  

Cancún is a planned resort where shopping of interest to tourists is concentrated and easily accessed. In PV, to get to our favorite folk art gallery, we passed a pharmacy, several restaurants, a nail salon, a beautiful private home, a hardware store (Mexican style...), a place to buy car batteries and a children’s clothing store, not to mention negotiating those curbs.  

PV has several large supermarkets and, price-wise, they’re a steal. Cancún has one and the prices are much the same as at home. We couldn’t find skim milk in either place. 

In Cancún, you can buy lots of leather goods, but most of it is made in either the U.S. or Taiwan. In PV you can watch your belts and huaraches being made.  

IN PV, they not only wrap well, but will also ship reliably and for reasonable cost. As a collector of Talavera pottery, this is a big deal to me. In Cancún, I have yet to find a shop that knows how to wrap for travel, and currently, no one offers shipping service.  

No one will ever describe either Cancún or PV as economy vacation spots, but in Cancún if you did deep enough, you can find clean economy hotels and non-Mexican restaurants at bargain prices. In PV, while there is at least one economy hotel, if you need to eat cheap, you’d better like tacos.  

In PV, forward-thinking restauranteurs post notices announcing water purification systems. In Cancún, drinking the water is never a problem.  

Cancún is a great place to go to rest, beach, drink, party and renew. In PV you can be as lazy or as busy as you want to be.  

In both Cancún and PV, all Mexicans seem to think all Americans are rich. 

In PV, you get to shop, eat, travel and share the sidewalk with the Mexican people, at the same time that you experience their culture. In Cancún, the only Mexicans you will see are either waiting on you, selling you something or driving your taxi.  

Cancún has Mayan ruins. PV has the Pacific humpback whale.  

In PV everyone speaks English. In Cancún everyone understands English.  

In Cancún, you can walk for half a mile and still be only up to your knees in water. In PV, the undertow can and will knock you on your ass and steal your $300 sunglasses.  

The entire Yucatán peninsula is as flat as a board. In PV, the majestic Sierra Madres run right into the sea.  

In Cancún, some of the hotels have peacocks and iguanas living on the grounds. In PV, you can see downy egrets, great white herons, pelicans and brown boobies as you stroll around town.  

In PV, at least the Mexicans are native to the area. In Cancún, even the Mexicans are from somewhere else.  

In both Cancún and PV, all Mexicans seem to think all Americans are drunks.  

In Cancún, you can sweat 24/7/365. In PV, while days can be warm, the dawns and dusks are mild and restorative.  

The West Coast has earthquakes. The East Coast has hurricanes.  

In Cancún, the salsa is made of tomato, onion, etc. In PV, salsa consists of jalapeño with some other stuff thrown in.  

PV had Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Cancún has the folks from Baywatch. 

From a plane, Cancún looks like Miami. PV looks like Mexico. 

In PV, lots of great places can be reached only by boat. In Cancún, an air-conditioned taxi can get you anywhere you want to go.  

Both Cancún and PV are overrun with beach peddlers and timeshare salespeople, although in PV there are more of them and they seem a little more enthusiastic.  

In PV, a house tour will take you to Mexican-style homes built in the 20th century. In Cancún, before 1971, there was nothing but sand.  

In Cancún, all public baños are functional, but some of them don’t have seats. In PV, it’s hit or miss in terms of flushing, but they all have seats.  

For every good cook in Cancún, PV has two master chefs.  

PV has Memo Barroso’s La Casa de la Hotcakes. Cancún doesn’t.  

Cancún has lots of pre- and post-Hispanic history all around it. PV has a little colonial history here and there.  

In PV, there are several different kinds of stores that carry English paperback novels at reasonable prices. In Cancún, there is one, FAMA, that has a limited inventory of paperbacks that cost as much as a hardback.  

Both PV and Cancún area photographer’s dream, although with vastly different subject matter.

My very patient husband occasionally accompanies me to Cancún. He is actually talking about spending the winter months in PV....