CANCUN TRAVEL TIPS
With endless white sand beaches, a turquoise sea, spectacular hotels, an exciting night life, and amazing cuisine, Cancun is the perfect destination for all sorts of vacation, and for any budget from family or friends reunion, to couples romantic getaway, and solo travelers and waters port lovers.
And also those who prefer less touristic places and are keener on road trips, a couple of nights in Cancun will certainly make it a great start of a wonderful journey through Mexico.
A Cancun vacation won’t certainly disappoint you. Especially if you read this guide. 🙂
I have lived in Cancun for 9 years now and in I have put together this epic guide of Cancun where I will share everything I know about this so renewed destination, one of the most popular in the Mexican Caribbean.
Here I will give you all the practical tips that you need to know to make the best of your stay and organize your vacation in Cancun.
CURRENCY: Mexican Pesos 1 USD = 19 MXN (approx)
WHERE TO EXCHANGE MONEY: Avoid exchanging your currency at the airport or in your hotel. The best place to do it is a bank or an exchange bureau. There are many commercial plazas in the Zona Hotelera.
ELECTRIC SOCKET: In Mexico, there are two associated plug types, types A and B. Plug type A is the plug that has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug that has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. Mexico operates on a 127V supply voltage and 60Hz. Make sure to pack a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic devices.
Working in Mexico is more complicated and you should put yourself in the hands of a good lawyer that can look after all the paperwork for you and spare you all the hustle and headaches.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO CANCUN?
There is a lot to say about Cancun and safety. I cannot hide the dreadful episodes that have recently been in the news about Cancun.
They are certainly not encouraging people to travel here, and with a reason. However, I am still convinced that tourists and travelers are not targets for an organized crime unless you are personally involved in drugs and related matters.
I would always use lots of common sense and a vigilant eye but wouldn’t let the facts prevent me from traveling.
I put together a very detailed guide on how to stay safe while traveling in Mexico which will offer great guidelines on being smart when you travel to Cancun, besides some helpful Spanish vocabulary.
Also, I would always have travel insurance when I travel. I specifically recommend going with World Nomads as they have the best adventure travel coverage, covering activities like snorkeling, hiking, etc. And if you upgrade to explorer status, it’s a little more expensive but it has more extended coverage, including diving.
I have recently discovered also Safetywing as it’s been specifically recommended by different travel companies and professional travelers, especially for their userfriendly website and fast response. Safetywing has many advantages especially for nomads, one of which is being able to pay on a monthly basis and cancel at any time. You can check out their site as well and compare the two companies to chose what works best for you.
The official language is Spanish, or better said, “Castellano”. Most people, especially those who work in tour activities and hotels will speak good English. If you are like me and love to explore rural areas, there are chances that you will encounter people who don’t speak English at all. Worry not!
Mexican people are very hospitable and warm and with a smile and gestures you will be able to get along very well with locals and it’s the best way to get to know them.
Smiles and a fun game of charades is a great way to get to know the locals. In any case, it’s always good to know a few words.
In this post, you will find some words and phrases to help you out.
Knowing a few words and have a basic understanding of the language is always helpful especially in unwanted circumstances.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO CANCUN
Despite in Cancun you have 2 seasons, winter and summer, climate is very similar, warm and sunny most of the time all year round. However there are a couple of things to consider:
- Summers are much hotter and humid
- In August through October you are more likely to find rainy day and better chance to see a hurricane
- December through March is the high season for the milder temperature and lower humidity and less chance of rain
- The above information cannot be 100% reliable because it can rain a lot in February and not one drop of rain in September
Having said that I wouldn’t really bother and I would travel in the season that is most convenient for you.
GETTING TO CANCUN
Cancun International Airport is one of the most important international hubs in Mexico with flights connecting from all over the world makes it easy and much cheaper to travel to Cancun and the entire Yucatan Peninsula, including the Riviera Maya.
It’s very easy to find cheap flights to take you there, what’s tricky is coming out of the airport, which can become an hassle if you are not prepared. I wrote a detailed guide on all the step you will go through. It’s nothing to worry about but it’s better to know before you get there.
The post includes also the best way to get to your hotel and how not to get scammed by the airport vendors.
Check out the post: What to do when you arrive at Cancun Airport
HOW TO MOVE AROUND CANCUN
Moving around in Cancun is very simple. Here below I am going to list all your options.
Local Urban Buses
Along the Hotel Zone, local buses run all day and night long, and you can’t go wrong. At the cost of a few cents of a dollar you can get from one side to the other of the Hotel Zone, useful to explore the beaches. Please bear in mind that every time you get out of a bus, your ticket expires, and you will have to pay again if you get on another one, even right away.
It will happen if you want to go downtown, to Mercado 28 for example, some of the busses will take you straight from the hotel zone others will end their trip at the end of the Avenida Kukulcan and then you will need to change. Ask the driver for directions.
If you need to get to more remote areas, such as Isla Blanca or El Meco, for example, I would suggest you should take a taxi, less adventurous, but much easier. Mind that taxis in the Hotel Zone are insanely expensive, I would say a ripoff. However, you cannot call a taxi from somewhere else as they have the control of the area and the hotels are bond to refer to them. Kind of insane, but it is what it is.
Also if you want to get a taxi from the airport it is not convenient at all and you should definitely organize your transportation ahead of time or get an ADO.
Uber didn’t survive in Cancun, because taxis would beat them away, literally and that tells a lot.
You can rent a car, and you will find a lot of car rentals agencies around, but you should be careful of the very low rates that are advertised but will inflate significantly when you need to add insurance and all the extras, which you will need. Unfortunately, your credit card insurance is not valid when you rent a car in Mexico. More on Driving in Mexico in this post.
From Cancun to anywhere by bus
If you wish to travel around Mexico from Cancun by bus, it’s super easy as Cancun is connected to the most important city and turistic locations in the Yucatan Peninsula and outside. At the ADO bus terminal, you will find buses to anywhere including Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, Playa del Carmen, and Chiquila’ (Holbox), Chicheniza, Uxmal. You can even get to San Cristobal de las Casas or Mexico city by bus. It is a little long way but certainly an experience.
WHAT TO PACK FOR TRAVELING TO CANCUN
I have written a complete guide on what to pack for your trip to Cancun. However, as a quick overview, a few of my must-bring items when you travel to Cancun are a travel water bottle, sand-free beach blanket (you will get beach towels in your all-inclusive hotel, but it’s useful if you go visit other beaches, and you should), RFID travel wallet, a plug adaptor (if you are coming from US you won’t need it as the sockets are the same) and a good pair of travel sandals that are fancy and comfortable at the same time depending on the kind of trip you want to have.
THINGS TO DO IN CANCUN
As I was mentioning before Cancun is a destination for everyone.
You can bask in the sun all day on the spectacular beach getting pampered in your Luxury Resort, or you can explore the city and the surroundings. There are so many things that you can do and most of the visitors don’t know about it.
Here are a few of the best places to see and things to do in Cancun.
Paddleboard and kayaking in the Nichupte’ Lagoon
One of the most overlooked spots and one of my favorite is the Nichuptè Lagoon. A huge mirror of sweet water that separates the city from the hotel zone. It has been recently cleaned and it’s home of juvenile fishes that hide in the mangroves, beautiful birds and if you are lucky you can even spot dolphins.
I have found companies that organize kayaking and paddleboarding in the lagoon, the best and most ecological way to explore it. If you do it at sunrise or sunset, what you will see will add to the experience. I promise.
Check out my detailed post by clicking here.
Get a glimpse of the Mayan culture visiting the brand new archeology museum and the tiny archaeological sites in Cancun. Of course they are not Chichen-Itza, but still, they will give you an idea of the Mayan civilization and their history. It’s all located a few miles from your hotel in Cancun.
In this thorough post, I am giving you more precise information.
You can rent a car and travel around on your own or join organized tours and have an experienced guide taking you around.
Besides extraordinary beaches, you can explore local markets, visit archeological sites, do exciting water-sport activities and enjoy the nightlife.
Explore the beaches of Cancun
One of the highlights of Cancun is the endless white sand beach washed by turquoise crystal water. It’s actually one unique beach 18 km long, only interrupted in one point by km 8, by Crystal Palace hotel (former Hyatt).
Although the entire coast is occupied by huge hotels, the beach is totally public and you can hang out anywhere you want as long as you are not using the hotel’s facilities. There are a few spots along the Zona Hotelera road where you have access to the beach and in this article I explain where are the best points and why and how to get there.
Visit Isla Mujeres
At only 30 minutes ferry boat from the Hotel Zone, where most probably your hotel is located, this tiny island, a little overcrowded with tourists and souvenirs shops, still make it a great day tour. You can either join an organized catamaran tour if you want to merge snorkeling, party and a quick peek on the island or you can go on your own and take your time to explore. There is quite a bit to see to keep you busy all day, but don’t forget to keep a few hours on the beach to admire the spectacular sunset from Playa Norte.
If you want to know more about Isla Mujeres check out this thorough post where I am sharing all its secret spots and best places to see and stay (if you wish to spend a couple of days on the island)
Take a trip to Valladolid
The nearest colonial city that will connect you with the local culture to understand what Mexico is about. Unfortunately, although so beautiful, Cancun won’t show you exactly what Mexico is. If you stay in Cancun and you don’t explore around it’s like you haven’t been to Mexico.
Here are the articles about Valladolid and its surroundings, everything you need to know.
Go see the jaw-dropping pink lakes of Las Coloradas
Located at about 3 hours drive from Cancun, these spectacular lakes are indeed pink, it’s not a photoshop trick, although some of the Instagram photos are a little too saturated, they do serve the purpose.
You cannot swim in the lakes of course. They are part of a salt factory that’s been there for ages. You can read more about it and how to visit Las Coloradas in this article.
The trip is certainly worth the three hours drive and you can add a visit to the biosphere of Rio Lagartos and a stop at the spectacular archeological site of Ek Balam.
Festivals and Celebrations in Cancun
I don’t normally like to travel during celebrations period because crowds tend to freak me out. However, there are a few celebrations in Mexico that are really worth a visit even if you are like me. The most important is the day of the dead, celebrate all around the country in a very special way.
It’s a feast with special candies, colorful dresses and makes up, creative altars to welcome the already gone family members whose soul will return in these days to pay a visit.
It looks like a Mexican Halloween, but although it falls on the same date and it might recall it, it has a totally different meaning, more spiritual I would say, and its own unique origin.
I will write an extended post on it but I leave you with this thorough article from the National Geographic if you want to learn more about it. Unfortunately in Cancun, it’s not one of the best places to celebrate it. The city of Oaxaca or Pazcuaro are the most popular for the spectacular organization.
However, if you are in Cancun on the Riviera Maya, you might want to celebrate the day of the death in Xcaret an amusement park that for that occasion offer a remake of the ancient celebrations.
Nightlife in Cancun
I have to say it is not really my thing to go out at night as I am a morning person and I don’t drink, or very rarely I can have a glass of wine. But I thought I would have added a few iconic places that I know about and are worth mentioning.
COCOBONGO – talking about iconic places, this is one indeed. Their shows are incredible. They have different performances representing music celebrities of all times, such as Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Michel Jackson, and many more. For sure it’s worth going at least once. I love the music of the 80s as well.
MANDALA – I’ve never been there to be honest. But I am just including the place for the sake of information because I know it is one of the top ranked places to go. I would suggest that just a week before you check on their page about their different nights and rates. They have different kind of pass and rates. ENJOY!
EL RINCON DEL VINO I like this place, is small and cozy, with a little terrace and live music. You can also have dinner if you like Spanish style tapas. A place for a tranquil nights in good company.
MORA MORA I have mentioned it in the restaurants in Cancun but I just found out they are also very active with night entertainment, Offering alternative music and dance floor. They have different events and guests DJ playing, so you should check on their Facebook page about their weekly program.
Well, for the moment the list ends here, but I promise I will investigate further to give you more information.. so check back later…
TOURS FROM CANCUN
If you prefer traveling with a group tour, I have recently joined a partnership with G Adventures. They are a super reputable company and have been running tours around the world for ages. The reason why we love G Adventures is that they have loads of different tours that cater to different age groups. And if you are traveling alone, because you love it but you wish to join a tour for certain parts of your journey for different reasons, there you will certainly find people of your age and with similar interests whenever you feel like mingling with likeminded people. They have tours that spam from Mexico city all the way to Guatemala or even farther south to central America if you wish to combine different countries or tours that focus on specific regions.
So if you don’t feel like traveling by yourself, it’s understandable. I love traveling on my own, with the freedom to do whatever I want and at the time I want, but there are certain situations in which I prefer to have a guide to take me around so I don’t have to think about anything, other than enjoying the place.
On the other end, you also have the possibility to book daily tours that will take you to wherever you want to go but you will be “free” again at the end of the day. This is the ideal solution if you really don’t feel like renting a car, or you have limited time and want to visit many places and/or you wish to have a professional guide that gives you information on the area.
Cancun offers a wealth of day tours to absolutely anywhere you want to go. You can either decide while you are there in your hotel and ask the concierge or the agents at tour desk to give you advice.
Or you can even book in advance so you know beforehand the costs and you don’t have to think about other expenses once you are on vacation.
Here I am including some tours from Cancun that you might want to consider.
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT IN CANCUN
In gastronomy, Cancun is second to none. Although there is nor exactly a traditional regional cuisine here, you can find a variety of restaurants of all kinds and budget. From Yucatecan cuisine, or Mexican in general, to Thai, Indian, Peru, Italian and much more. Fish and meat lovers and vegans alike fill find their happy food place in Cancun.
In my 8 years in Cancun I have tried quite a few places and I have collected my reviews in a thorough post, which is actually a little guide on the restaurants in Cancun and it’s actualized with the newest restaurants.
PLACES TO STAY IN CANCUN
I am not sure how many resorts there are in Cancun but according to the official visitors’ bureau site, there are over 32,000 Cancun hotel rooms catering for everyone. From couples looking for a romantic luxury getaway to family all-inclusive resorts, from high end to budget hostels. hotel to the downtown hotels for the budget traveler.
It is indeed a destination for anyone. The only thing is you have to know where you are going.
Although I am not a big fan of all-inclusive, I need to give credit to the spectacular all-inclusive resort choice that we have in Cancun. I have selected my favorite brands for you in a separate post for you, while here below you can find my pick for each category.
The so-called hotel zone, right on the beautiful beach, is where you find the most upscale hotels, although they have now opened a couple of hostels as well, for the budget-conscious travelers who want to enjoy the beach.
In downtown Cancun, far from the beach, you can find any sorts of accommodation from business hotels to hostels or apartments.
You can find the best deals on booking.com site, where I also book my hotels.
TOP LUXURY ALL-INCLUSIVE ADULT ONLY – LE BLANC SPA RESORT