Most of us long for a warm getaway to escape the brutal winter weather and what better place than the coast? Few destinations compare to Hawaii, as this tourist hotspot boasts incredible beaches, scenery, and cultural experiences. However, have you considered Mexico if you’re looking for something different yet not far from home? If so, keep reading because we’ll examine Hawaii vs. Mexico.
Hawaii and Mexico are popular tourist destinations, benefiting from beautiful beaches, incredible biodiversity, stunning oceans, and rich cultural and historic backgrounds. Hawaii’s mild climate makes it a pleasant yet expensive destination, while Mexico is vast with many different ecosystems.
While you might deliberate a dream holiday in either of these destinations, do you know their similarities and differences? What are their points of interest? And when is the best time to visit?
While Hawaii and Mexico share several similarities, there are significant differences between these tourist destinations. The table below compares the most prominent of these differences.
|Location||Islands Central Pacific Ocean||Central America (in Latin America, South of North America)|
|Size||The islands together equal around 10 970 square miles.||Mexico covers an area of roughly 761 606 square miles.|
|Population||1 474 265 (2022)||127 543 049 (2022)|
|Coastal waters||Pacific Ocean||The Pacific Ocean borders Mexico on the West and the Atlantic Ocean on the East.|
|Economy||Hawaii has a 2022 GDP forecast of $97 161 000. Their main sector is tourism/visitors, which impacts other sectors, including transportation, services, and retail.||Mexico has a developing economy, and the industrial sector is the largest. In 2020, Mexico’s GDP was $1.076 trillion.|
|History||Hawaii became the 50th US state as late as 1959.||Mexico became a sovereign country in 1821.|
|Best season to visit||Summer, between March and September||April to May (Spring) and again from September to October (Fall)|
|Cost of visiting||Roughly $274 per day (includes: $61 for meals, $29 on transport). The average hotel price per night for a couple is $341. For a family of four, a Hawaiian holiday will cost roughly $10 000.||A Mexican holiday costs roughly $87 per day. The average hotel price in Mexico per night for a couple is $71 (but ranges from $38 to $201). It would cost a family (of four) roughly $2 050 for a 7-day holiday.|
|Tourist friendly||Yes, across most of Hawaii||Yes, but certain areas are better for tourism, while others are dangerous.|
Although Mexico has a significantly larger GDP, Mexico is one of the most divided countries according to wealth. As much as 44% of the population lives in poverty.
Hawaii Vs. Mexico: Reasons For And Against Visiting
If you’re deciding between a trip to Hawaii or Mexico, there are several factors to consider. The table below explores some reasons for and against either destination.
Reasons to Visit
|Beautiful natural scenery, including volcanoes and waterfalls.||A diverse landscape of different biomes supports the second most biodiversity in one country.|
|Incredible ocean||Incredible scenery|
|Rich biodiversity.||The diversity of two oceans.|
|Rich cultural heritage and history.||A rich history and cultural heritage.|
|Hawaii is safer overall for tourists.||Mexico is far less expensive to visit.|
|There are many atolls and smaller islets that have fewer tourists.||Mexico is larger, with more to see and do.|
|Hawaii has a better climate for tourists.||More “space” so you don’t feel as surrounded by other tourists.|
Reasons Not to Visit
|A popular tourist hotspot, making it potentially overcrowded.||Some areas in Mexico are significantly more dangerous than in Hawaii.|
|Hawaii is more expensive to visit.||Depending on the season, there might be hurricanes in some areas.|
|Dangerous marine life.||More dangerous wildlife.|
|Volcanoes.||Risk of disease.|
Hawaii and Mexico have fundamental differences in size, topography, and geology, among other criteria.
However, both regions have prevalent volcanoes, volcanic activity, and tectonic activity (earthquakes).
Hawaii is an archipelago of various islands located in the Pacific Ocean. These volcanic islands (the tops of underwater volcanoes push through the ocean to create islands) are 2 397 miles from the US and 5 293 miles from the Philippines.
There are eight major islands, including:
- Hawaii (The “Big” island)
- Kahoolawe (The “Target” island)
- Kauai (The “Garden” island)
- Lanai (The “Pineapple” island)
- Maui (The Valley” island)
- Molokai (The “Enlightening/Friendly” island)
- Niihau (The “Forbidden” island)
- Oahu (The “Gathering Place”), with the capital Honolulu.
Aside from these large islands, there are numerous atolls and smaller islands (124 islets). Together, these islands form a crescent-shape stretching from Kure Atoll (in the west) over 1 500 miles to Hawaii in the east.
Mountains are a prominent feature of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii (the Big island) boasts some impressive mountains, the tallest of which are Mauna Kea (13 796 feet) and Mauna Loa (13 678 feet).
Aside from mountains, there are hills and craters across the islands, and most islands have a “sloped” topography.
The basaltic lava that the islands originate from weather produces andisols, mollisols, and oxisols soils (across the islands) which are ideal for agriculture.
Hawaiian ecosystems include:
- alpine stone deserts
- coastal strands
- Coral reefs
- lakes, marshes, ponds, swamps, freshwater streams, estuaries, and bogs
- Lowland dry forests
- moderately humid forests
- sub-alpine parklands
- wet rainforests
Hawaii has a suburb collection of endemic species in these habitats, including:
- Honeycreepers (a group of six endemic bird species)
- Nēnē (a goose species)
- ‘Io (a hawk species)
- ‘Ua’u (Hawaiian petrol)
- ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a (the Hawaiian Hoary Bat)
- Hawksbill turtle (Honou‘ea)
- Fern species (‘Ama‘u and Hāpu‘u)
- The Mauna Loa Silversword (‘Āhinahina)
- Ōhelo (a red berried plant essential as a food source)
- Several tree species (‘Ōlapa, Koa, Hau kuahiwi, and ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua)
Together, the islands have around 750 miles of coastline. The Big Island has roughly 266 miles of coastline, with numerous black and green sand beaches and with few white calcareous beaches.
There are numerous cliffs and steep shores (active gradient) surrounding the coastline, many with evidence of lava flows. Hawaii beaches also have many headlands and coves.
Mexico forms part of the Americas, with its northern reaches in southern North America (with whom it shares a border) and its southern reaches in Central America (Mexico shares a border with Belize and Guatemala in the South).
The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans hem Mexico on either side, creating unique environmental conditions on either coast. On the Atlantic side, the area directly adjacent to Mexico is called the Gulf of Mexico, which includes the Caribbean sea.
Mexico is roughly triangular and is 1 850 miles long from northwest to southeast. Mexico is roughly 1 200 miles along its northern border (at its widest) and 135 miles at its narrowest point ( at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec).
Aside from the mainland, there are several islands and archipelagos, including:
- Tres Marías (in the Pacific Ocean)
- Cozumel and Mujeres (off of the Yucatán Peninsula)
Tectonic movements (from the North American Plate) and several volcanoes (including the active 17 930 feet Popocatépetl) contributed to the rugged regions and mountains in some areas.
Mexico is a large country, divided into 9 distinct physiographic regions:
- Baja California
- The Cordillera Neo-Volcánica
- The Gulf Coastal Plain
- The Mexican Plateau
- The Pacific Coastal Lowlands
- The Sierra Madre Occidental
- The Sierra Madre Oriental
- The Southern Highlands
- The Yucatán Peninsula
Mexico has an array of ecosystems, including:
- Coniferous forests
- Coral reefs
- Tropical deciduous forests
- Xeric (dry) shrublands
- Cloud forests
Mexico is home to some incredible species, many of which are also endemic or endangered, including:
- Brown sea cucumber (Isostichopus fuscus)
- Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata)
- Jaguar (Panthera onca)
- Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Mexican ajolote salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum)
- Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
- Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
- Scarlet macaw (Ara macao)
- Vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus)
- White nun orchid (Lycaste skinneri)
The Mexican coastline ranges between 5797 and 6911 miles (depending on the source). Mexico’s coasts vary, with many vast white sandy beaches, several cliffs, and numerous coral reefs to explore.
The coastline includes numerous rocky headlands and an incredible diversity between the West and East.
The Tropic of Cancer influences Hawaii and Mexico. Hawaii lies slightly south of the Tropic, while it divides Mexico roughly in half.
North, above the Tropics, Mexico experiences significant temperature fluctuations, with a maximum of exceeding 110°F. The minimum “low temperature” rarely drops below 32°F, and precipitation is less than 20 inches.
South of the Tropics, Mexico receives its highest rainfall between May and August. August to October, experience tropical storms and hurricanes (from the Atlantic and Pacific). Mexico’s temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the year, changing (roughly) 10°F between seasons.
The South and central regions receive roughly 40 inches of rainfall.
Mexico is large with diverse climatic conditions. The northern regions are deserts, while the Mexican Plateau is arid and semi-arid, moving south to rainforests.
Interestingly Mexico experiences vertical climate changes (due to the various elevations in the country).
- Sea level to 3 000 feet – an average temperature of 77°F (hot regions)
- 3 000 to 6 000 feet – 66 °F (temperate regions)
- 6 000 to 11 000 feet – 59 °F (cold regions)
- In Central Mexico, above 11 000 feet is the permanent snow line.
Hawaii has two recognizable seasons and a mild tropical climate. Although the climate is humid, the northeast trade winds maintain pleasant temperatures year-round.
The temperature usually fluctuates between the high 70°F in summer and a low of 70°F in winter. Like Mexico, the temperature decreases by roughly 3.5°F for every 1 000 feet gained. The mountain tops experience a winter extreme of 1.4 °F.
Rainfall varies across the islands, with the wettest receiving 450 inches annually. Honolulu receives around 23 inches.
As a tourist, you’re spoiled for choice in Hawaii and Mexico, with many incredible points of interest and places to see.
Some of the not-to-be-missed places in Hawaii include:
- Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu
- Many National Parks, including Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park (Kauai) and Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
- Waikiki Beach
- Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu
- Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu
- Mauna Kea, Hawaii
- Papohaku Beach Park, Molokai
Popular activities in Hawaii include:
- Scuba diving and snorkeling
- Spending the day at the beach
Mexico’s array of places to see include:
- Historical ruins, including Teotihuacan, Monte Alban, and Chichen Itza.
- National Parks, including Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and Palenque National Park
- Cancún and the Mayan Riviera
- Tulum (beach)
- El Arco
- Días des los Muertos, Oaxaca
- Catedral Metropolitana and Santa Prisca Church in Taxco
Popular activities while visiting Mexico include:
- Scuba diving and snorkeling
- Beach “hopping”
- Cliff diving
- Jungle exploring (with a guide)
Hawaii and Mexico are both fantastic holiday destinations. Both offer spectacular natural beauty, and although Mexico is more diverse, many people prefer Hawaii’s climate. While Mexico is larger, with more to see and do, Hawaii is generally safer to visit. However, a holiday in either is a great idea, provided you plan your trip carefully (Hawaii for budget, Mexico for safety).