Cancun, Mexico Travel Guide Last Updated: Sep 2022
Cancun has exploded in popularity in the recent decade, and it’s now among the most popular winter-travel destinations in the world. It didn’t even exist until the early 1970s, and now it’s lined with hotels and very crowded in season. In fact, the greater Cancun area consists of the Hotel Zone, downtown, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and more. Here is our guide for where to stay in the Cancun area for your own style.
Why Visit Cancun
If you are planning on just sitting on the beach during the day and drinking at night then Cancun can fit into a lower budget, but if you are planning on doing water activities where you are renting equipment and such then you’ll discover prices to be quite high. The best deals on food and drinks are the local places (still with English menus) clustered near the main nightlife and shopping area in the Punta Cancun district. Otherwise you might have little choice but to eat at your hotel and pay whatever they charge. If you want to do some of the attractions and especially if you are coming with kids you should read our the Go Cancun Card review.
Things To Do In Cancun
Most people who come to Cancun are happy to relax on the beach or at the resort pool during the day, but there are plenty of other options for those with the energy.
Visit a cenote for photogenic swimming
The most unique and Cancun-specific thing to do is visit a Cenote (si-NO-tay), which is a sea cave with an opening in its roof. There are dozens of these places close to Cancun and you’ll hear about options once you arrive. Some are cheap to enter and others are part of large nature parks that can also include food and drinks for one price.
Visit some famous ruins
Tulum has a relatively small and popular group of ruins just outside of town and perched along the beach. You can visit on a tour or even by public bus.
Chichen Itza‘s ruins are much larger and more famous, but also much farther away. You’ll recognize the photo of the pyramid at the heart of the complex. They are about 3 hours from Cancun by bus, and it’s easy to book a tour that takes you there and another few stops as well.
Visit a local island
Cozumel is a large island directly across the straight from Playa del Carmen, and Isla de Mujeres is a smaller island across from the Cancun Hotel Zone. In both cases you can book a ferry or a tour that can also include other things such as fishing or sailing.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN Cancun
Almost everyone visiting Cancun will be spending most (or all) of their time at a large resort on the beach, and those places are fairly expensive. You can find some more affordable food and drinks in the small town area around the corner of the hotel zone. Prices are lower in the city of Cancun itself, although there isn’t much to see or do there so it probably isn’t worth it for most visitors.
These prices are for cheap meals in the Hotel Zone. If you go Downtown you can eat for far less.
$2.90 - $5.80
In the Hotel Zone the best deals are the small local places in the heart of the nightlife/tourist area.
$4.74 - $9.49
You might have to look around for reasonably priced places unless you head Downtown, which is probably not worth the savings.
$8.43 - $12.65
Beer (.33l bottle)
Look out for happy hours and bucket specials to avoid paying the highest prices. The clubs charge double this range.
All of the things mentioned in our Things To Do section are also popular with tours. Your hotel will probably have a tour desk that offers dozens of options, usually with pick-up directly from your hotel.
The Tulum Ruins are about 90 minutes south of Cancun’s Hotel Zone and only about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen.
Tours going to the islands of either Cozumel or Isla de Mujeres are popular as all-day excursions. They can include boat transportation as well as fishing or sailing or all food and drinks, and many also include a beach stay on the island for a few hours.
Many ground tours of the area will stop at one or more cenotes, often for a swimming session of an hour or two. Do yourself a favor and visit at least one of these gorgeous sea caves to see what all the fuss is about.
WHEN TO VISIT Cancun
TEMPERATURE AND RAINFALL
Cancun WEATHER ADVICE
Cancun has extremely pleasant weather for most of the period from November through March, although it can rain in downpours at almost any time of year. The rainy season runs from May through October, though summers aren’t nearly as rainy as many other tropical places. Ocean breezes keep things nice most of the time, though expect fairly high humidity even during the dry months.
While Cancun is definitely cheaper than cities like Los Angeles or Miami, it’s not really the bargain that many people are hoping for. The nicer hotels charge prices that aren’t too far from similar hotels in Hawaii, and hotels lower down the quality range can be disappointing. On the other hand, you can get excellent rates at many of the all-inclusive hotels, especially in the low season, but even during peak periods if you book early enough.
Cancun Hotel Seasons
Hotels in Cancun are at their peak in price and activity during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks, as well as during the Easter vacation weeks in late March and April. The rest of the period from December through April is considered the high season, so starting in May bargains can be had, and during summer you can often get great deals at some of the nicer hotels.