Your Ultimate Cancun Travel Guide 2023
Are you planning a vacation to Cancun, Mexico? Look no further than this comprehensive guide for your perfect Cancun vacation! From the white sandy beaches to the vibrant nightlife, Cancun has something to offer for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort stay or an off-the-beaten path adventure, this guide will help you plan your dream vacation. We’ll cover everything from the best places to stay and the most delicious food to the best activities for a fun-filled getaway. Read on for the ultimate guide to planning your perfect Cancun vacation! Check out our Merida travel guide if you will be visiting the Yucatan Peninsula for a period of time.
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Cancun
- Visit The Mayan Ruins: Explore the ancient history of Mexico by visiting the Mayan ruins in Cancun. The most famous ruins are Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba, each offering a unique experience. Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes and sunscreen!
- Go Snorkeling Or Diving: Cancun is known for its crystal-clear waters and colorful marine life. Snorkeling and diving tours are available for all experience levels, from beginner to advanced. Discover the underwater world of Cancun and see tropical fish, sea turtles, and even sharks.
- Enjoy The Beaches: With its warm turquoise waters and white sand, Cancun is famous for its beaches. Relax under a palapa (thatched umbrella) with a good book, soak up the sun, or take a dip in the Caribbean Sea. The most popular beaches are Playa Delfines, Playa Chac Mool, and Playa Tortugas.
- Swim With Whale Sharks: Between May and September, you can go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and swim with whale sharks. These gentle giants can grow up to 40 feet long and are harmless to humans. This is a unique and unforgettable experience for all ages.
- Experience The Nightlife: Cancun is famous for its party scene, and there’s something for everyone. From beach clubs to nightclubs, there are plenty of places to dance the night away. Don’t miss Coco Bongo, one of the most famous nightclubs in Cancun, where you can watch impressive shows and dance to the beat of the music.
Best Tours In Cancun
Tours in Cancun are an excellent way to explore the sights and nearby areas. Unless you intend to rent a car in Cancun (which I don’t recommend), tours offer the most convenient means of transportation while keeping costs in check. The expenses for getting around can accumulate rapidly, making tours a wise choice for navigating the area.
Where To Stay In Cancun
- Hotel Zone: Also known as Zona Hotelera, this is the most popular area for tourists to stay in. The Hotel Zone is a long strip of resorts, restaurants, bars, and beaches that runs parallel to the ocean. This area is perfect for travelers who want to be in the center of the action.
- Downtown Cancun: Downtown Cancun, or El Centro, is a more local and cultural experience compared to the Hotel Zone. This area offers affordable accommodations, authentic food, and markets for souvenir shopping. Downtown Cancun is perfect for budget-conscious travelers who want to experience a more authentic side of Cancun.
- Puerto Cancun: This upscale neighborhood is known for its high-end resorts and marina. It is located between the Hotel Zone and Downtown and is ideal for travelers who want to be close to the city center but away from the crowds.
- Playa Del Carmen: While technically not in Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a popular destination just a short ferry ride away from Cancun. This vibrant town is known for its beaches, nightlife, and bohemian atmosphere. It’s a great option for travelers who want to experience a different side of the Yucatan Peninsula.
- Isla Mujeres: Another nearby island, Isla Mujeres offers a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere compared to Cancun’s bustling tourist scene. The island is known for its beaches, snorkeling, and charming small-town feel. It’s a perfect option for travelers who want to escape the crowds and experience a more tranquil vacation. If you plan on going check out our guide on how to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres!
Top Cancun Hotels
- Nizuc Resort & Spa: Located on a secluded beach, this luxurious resort offers stunning ocean views and world-class amenities such as private pools, a spa, and gourmet restaurants.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun: Another luxury resort situated on a pristine beach, The Ritz-Carlton boasts elegantly designed rooms, a full-service spa, and exceptional dining options.
- Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun: This all-inclusive resort caters to adults-only and offers a range of activities, from poolside relaxation to live entertainment in the evenings. The resort also features several restaurants and bars, a fitness center, and a spa.
- Secrets The Vine Cancun: This adults-only resort offers a luxurious experience with stunning ocean views, gourmet dining, and access to a private beach. The resort also features multiple pools, a spa, and a variety of activities and entertainment options.
- Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun: Situated on a white-sand beach, this luxury resort features spacious rooms with ocean views, a full-service spa, and several gourmet dining options. Guests can also enjoy various water activities such as jet-skiing, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Where To Eat In Cancun
Cancun has a vibrant culinary scene, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Here are the top five places to eat in Cancun:
- La Parrilla: This restaurant offers a wide range of traditional Mexican dishes, such as guacamole, tacos, and ceviche. The portions are generous, and the prices are reasonable.
- Puerto Madero: If you’re looking for seafood, Puerto Madero is the place to go. This upscale restaurant serves fresh fish, shrimp, and lobster, as well as steak and other meats.
- Hacienda Sisal: This elegant restaurant is located in the Hotel Zone and specializes in Yucatecan cuisine. Some of the must-try dishes include cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and sopa de lima (lime soup).
- Elefanta: This vegetarian restaurant offers a unique dining experience with its fusion of Indian and Mexican flavors. Some of the popular dishes include lentil soup, samosas, and masala chai.
- La Habichuela: This family-owned restaurant has been a Cancun institution for over 40 years. The menu features traditional Mayan and Mexican dishes, such as chile en nogada and mole poblano. The restaurant’s ambiance is also noteworthy, with a lush garden and a waterfall.
No matter what your taste buds desire, Cancun has something for everyone. These top five places to eat in Cancun are a great starting point for experiencing the city’s diverse cuisine.
How To Get Around Cancun
Cancun is a city with great public transportation, making it very easy to get around. Here are the different modes of transportation you can use:
- Bus: The bus is the cheapest mode of transportation in Cancun, with fares ranging from 12 to 14 pesos per ride. There are several bus companies operating in Cancun, but the most common are the green-and-white buses that run along the hotel zone. You can also take buses that run to the downtown area of Cancun and other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula.
- Taxi: Taxis are available all over Cancun and can be hailed on the street or ordered by phone. Fares are not standardized, so be prepared to haggle for the fare before getting in the taxi. To avoid scams, only use taxis that have official markings, such as those from the Cancun Taxi Union.
- Rental Car: If you plan to do a lot of exploring, you may want to consider renting a car. Rental cars are available at the airport and throughout the city. Driving in Cancun is relatively easy, but you should be aware of the local driving habits and traffic rules.
- Bicycle: Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in Cancun, and many hotels offer bicycle rentals to their guests. You can also find bike rental shops throughout the city. Be aware that cycling in the heat and humidity of Cancun can be a challenge, so bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
- Ferry: If you plan to visit Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, you will need to take a ferry from Cancun. Ferries run regularly from the Puerto Juarez port and the Ultramar Ferry Terminal in the Hotel Zone. You can check out our Cancun to Cozumel guide here.
In summary, getting around Cancun is easy, with plenty of options for transportation. Choose the method that suits your needs and budget, and enjoy your time exploring this beautiful city.
Cancun, being located in the Caribbean, is blessed with a tropical climate that provides warm temperatures year-round. However, like any other tropical destination, Cancun experiences varying weather patterns throughout the year.
- Spring (March to May): Spring in Cancun is usually characterized by temperatures averaging in the low 80s Fahrenheit. Although it is relatively dry, this period can witness sudden rainfall that usually doesn’t last long.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the hottest time in Cancun, with average temperatures of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also the rainiest season, with daily afternoon showers that provide a break from the intense heat. However, this is also the time of the year when Cancun is most crowded, and hotel rates are at their highest.
- Fall (September to November): Fall in Cancun is characterized by high humidity and occasional tropical storms. Although the average temperature remains in the high 80s Fahrenheit, this season also witnesses fewer crowds and lower hotel rates.
- Winter (December to February): Winter is the coolest time in Cancun, with temperatures averaging in the mid to high 70s Fahrenheit. It is also a dry season, with little to no rainfall. This makes it an ideal time for travelers who are looking to escape the winter cold of their hometown.
Overall, Cancun’s tropical climate is enjoyable all year round, but travelers should take note of the different weather patterns that come with each season and pack accordingly. It’s also essential to stay informed about the weather forecast and tropical storm warnings before planning a trip.
Best Time To Visit Cancun
Cancun is a popular tourist destination all year round due to its warm and sunny weather. However, if you want to make the most out of your trip, the best time to visit Cancun is between December and April. This period is the dry season, where you can expect warm and sunny weather with low humidity levels.
If you’re not a fan of crowds, avoid visiting Cancun during peak tourist season, which is from mid-December to mid-January. This period is when hotel and flight rates are at their highest, and the beaches and attractions are overcrowded. If you don’t mind a little rain, visiting Cancun during the rainy season (May to October) can also be a great idea. Not only will you get to enjoy cheaper rates, but you’ll also experience Cancun’s lush and green landscape.
During the rainy season, afternoon showers are common, but they usually don’t last very long. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Cancun’s breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. Overall, the best time to visit Cancun depends on your personal preferences and budget. But if you’re looking for the perfect balance between great weather, affordable rates, and fewer crowds, the period between December and April should be your go-to.
How To Stay Safe In Cancun
As with any tourist destination, it’s important to take necessary precautions to stay safe while traveling in Cancun. Here are some tips to ensure your safety during your trip:
- Stick To Well-Lit And Populated Areas: Avoid venturing off into secluded areas or alleys, especially at night.
- Avoid Carrying Valuables: Keep your jewelry, expensive camera, and large amounts of cash in a safe at your hotel room, and only carry the necessary amount of cash and credit cards while exploring the city.
- Don’t Leave Your Belongings Unattended: Keep an eye on your bags and belongings, especially in crowded areas like the beach and public transportation.
- Use Authorized Transportation: Always use licensed taxi services, public transportation, or prearranged transportation through your hotel. Don’t hail a taxi off the street.
- Be Cautious Of Street Vendors: Don’t engage with aggressive street vendors or accept free samples of food or drink. Stick to reputable restaurants and cafes.
- Be Aware Of Common Scams: Be wary of strangers offering tours, exchanging money, or asking for help. If something feels too good to be true, it probably is.
- Respect Local Customs And Laws: Follow the local customs and laws to avoid any legal trouble or unwanted attention from the police.
By following these tips, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable trip to Cancun. Don’t let fear stop you from exploring this beautiful city!
Cancun Customs and Etiquette
It’s always a good idea to know about the customs and etiquette of the country you are visiting, and Cancun is no exception. Here are a few things to keep in mind while in Cancun:
- Greetings: Mexicans are known for their warm hospitality and you can expect to be greeted with a friendly “hola” or “buenos días” when you meet someone. Handshakes are the common form of greeting for both men and women, but it’s also common for women to hug and kiss on the cheek.
- Respect: Mexicans have a strong sense of respect for their elders, and you should always address someone older than you as “señor” or “señora”. Also, try to avoid discussing sensitive topics such as politics, religion, and drug cartels as these can be viewed as offensive.
- Tipping: Tipping is expected in most places in Cancun, and it’s a good idea to tip your servers, bartenders, and hotel staff between 10% and 15% of your bill. Taxi drivers usually don’t expect a tip, but it’s a nice gesture to round up the fare.
- Dress Code: Cancun is known for its beaches, so it’s perfectly acceptable to dress in casual beachwear during the day. However, it’s best to dress modestly when visiting churches or other religious sites. Also, if you plan to visit any high-end restaurants or clubs, you’ll want to dress up a bit.
- Language: While Spanish is the official language of Cancun, most people in the tourist industry speak English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble communicating. However, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Spanish as a sign of respect.
By following these customs and etiquette guidelines, you’ll be able to navigate Cancun with ease and show your respect for the local culture.
Other Things To Know About Cancun
Aside from the beautiful beaches and bustling nightlife, there are some important details to know before visiting Cancun. For starters, Cancun is a city located in the southeast region of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The official currency used in Cancun is the Mexican Peso, although US dollars are widely accepted. It is recommended to have a mix of both currencies on hand.
Spanish is the official language in Cancun, but many locals speak English, especially in tourist areas. Knowing a few basic phrases in Spanish can go a long way and help you communicate with locals. Cancun follows Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). It is important to keep this in mind when planning activities or scheduling transportation.
Additionally, it’s important to note that Cancun has its own customs and etiquette. It is customary to greet people with a handshake or hug and it is considered polite to use formal titles such as “Señor” and “Señora”. Tipping is also expected in most situations, with a standard rate of 10-20% depending on the service. With these details in mind, you’ll be better equipped to navigate and enjoy all that Cancun has to offer.
Cancun Travel Costs
When planning a vacation, one of the most important factors to consider is the budget. Cancun is known for being a luxurious destination, but there are still ways to visit on a budget. Here’s a breakdown of the various costs to consider when planning your Cancun trip.
- Flights: The cost of flights to Cancun varies depending on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Flights during peak travel season (December to April) tend to be more expensive than off-season flights. To save money, consider booking your flight well in advance or taking advantage of last-minute deals.
- Accommodation: Accommodation in Cancun can range from budget-friendly hostels to luxury resorts. Hostels can cost as little as $10 per night, while mid-range hotels and resorts can range from $50 to $150 per night. For those seeking luxury, expect to pay over $300 per night. Airbnb is also an option, with prices ranging from $20 per night for a shared room to $500 per night for a luxury villa.
- Food And Drink: Eating out in Cancun can be expensive, especially in the touristy areas. Expect to pay around $10-$20 per meal at a casual restaurant, while fine dining can cost upwards of $50 per person. To save money, consider eating at local eateries and food stalls, which offer authentic Mexican cuisine at a fraction of the price. As for drinks, a beer can cost around $3, while a cocktail can cost up to $15.
- Activities And Attractions: The cost of activities and attractions in Cancun can vary. Entrance to Chichen Itza, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico, costs around $30 per person. Swimming with dolphins and zip-lining can cost upwards of $100 per person. However, there are plenty of free activities in Cancun, such as visiting public beaches and exploring the local markets.
- Transportation: Taxis in Cancun can be expensive, with a typical ride costing around $20. Public transportation, on the other hand, is much cheaper, with bus rides costing less than $1. Renting a car is also an option, but expect to pay around $50 per day.
Overall, the cost of a Cancun trip can vary greatly depending on your preferences and travel style. By doing your research and budgeting accordingly, you can plan a fantastic vacation that fits within your budget.
Finding Affordable Flights To Cancun
Booking affordable flights to Cancun can be a daunting task, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, with a little bit of planning and research, you can score great deals on airfare. Firstly, try to book your flights at least 2-3 months in advance. This gives you ample time to research and compare prices on different airlines and travel booking websites. Also, consider traveling during the shoulder season (September to November or April to May) when prices tend to be lower compared to the peak season.
Another tip is to be flexible with your travel dates and departure airport. Flights departing on weekdays are often cheaper than weekend flights, and smaller airports near you may have better deals compared to larger ones. You can also sign up for airline newsletters and fare alerts to get notified of discounted flights to Cancun. Keep an eye out for flash sales and promotions, and don’t forget to check for airline rewards programs and credit card deals that offer miles or points towards your next flight. Finally, consider bundling your flight and hotel together as a package deal, which can save you money in the long run. You may also want to consider checking out Punta Cana as another vacation destination.
Backpacking Cancun Suggested Budgets
Backpacking is a great way to explore Cancun, especially for those on a budget. However, it’s important to plan your trip well to make the most of your money. Here are some suggested budgets for backpacking in Cancun:
Low Budget (less than $50 per day):
- Stay in hostels or budget hotels
- Eat street food or cook your own meals
- Use public transportation or walk to get around
- Participate in free activities such as visiting beaches, parks, and historic sites
Mid-Range Budget ($50-$100 per day):
- Stay in mid-range hotels or Airbnb accommodations
- Eat at local restaurants and cafes
- Take public transportation or shared taxis
- Participate in paid activities such as water sports, snorkeling, and tours
High Budget ($100 or more per day):
- Stay in luxury hotels or resorts
- Eat at high-end restaurants and cafes
- Take private transportation or rent a car
- Participate in premium activities such as spa treatments, yacht rentals, and private tours
Regardless of your budget, it’s always a good idea to bring some extra cash for unexpected expenses and emergencies. Remember to research prices and negotiate where possible to get the best value for your money. Happy backpacking!
Cancun Money Saving Tips
Going on a Cancun vacation can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. With a few simple tips, you can save money without compromising the quality of your trip.
- Avoid High-Season Rates: Peak season for Cancun is typically between December and April. This is when the prices for hotels, activities, and flights are at their highest. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, consider going during the low season. This is from May to November when the rates are lower.
- Shop At Local Markets: If you want to save money on food, shop at the local markets instead of eating at expensive restaurants. Here you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood for a fraction of the cost. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get to experience the local culture.
- Take Public Transportation: While taxis are convenient, they can be expensive. Public transportation, such as buses or collectivos, is a much cheaper option. These run frequently and can take you to many popular destinations around Cancun and other locations such as Cancun to Tulum.
- Look For All-Inclusive Packages: Many hotels in Cancun offer all-inclusive packages that include food, drinks, and activities. This can save you a lot of money if you plan to spend most of your time at the resort.
- Skip The Tourist Traps: There are many tourist traps in Cancun that are overpriced and underwhelming. Do your research beforehand and skip these attractions. Instead, opt for lesser-known but equally beautiful spots like Xcacel Beach or the Tulum Ruins.
- Don’t Forget To Bargain: Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices at the markets or with vendors. You can often get a better deal if you’re willing to haggle.
By following these tips, you can have a fantastic Cancun vacation without breaking the bank.
What To Pack For Cancun
Packing for Cancun is all about being practical, comfortable, and prepared for any situation. Here are some essentials to pack for your Cancun vacation:
- Swimsuits: With so many beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters, swimsuits are a must for any trip to Cancun.
- Sunscreen: The sun in Cancun can be strong, so make sure to bring a good-quality sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin.
- Lightweight Clothing: The temperature in Cancun is warm all year round, so pack light, breathable clothing such as shorts, sundresses, and lightweight tops.
- Comfortable Shoes: Sandals, flip-flops, and sneakers are all great options for exploring the beaches, Mayan ruins, and other attractions in Cancun.
- Waterproof Phone Case: Whether you’re swimming, kayaking, or enjoying water sports, a waterproof phone case will ensure that your device stays dry and protected.
- Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be prevalent in Cancun, so pack an insect repellent to keep the bugs at bay.
- Travel Adapter: If you’re traveling from a country with different power outlets, a travel adapter will allow you to charge your devices without any issues.
- First-Aid Kit: Be prepared for any minor injuries or illnesses by packing a small first-aid kit with items such as band-aids, pain relief medication, and antiseptic cream.
- Camera: Cancun has some stunning sights, so make sure to pack a camera or a good-quality phone camera to capture all your memories.
- Beach Bag: Pack a beach bag to carry all your essentials such as towels, sunscreen, and water bottles.
By packing smart, you’ll be ready for anything that Cancun has in store for you. Don’t forget to leave some extra room in your luggage for souvenirs!
Can You Drink Tap Water In Cancun?
As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that tourists avoid drinking tap water in Cancun. The tap water is not necessarily unsafe to drink, but it may contain microorganisms that can cause stomach discomfort or other illnesses. As a result, it is best to drink bottled water, which is widely available at convenience stores and restaurants throughout the city. Many hotels also provide bottled water for their guests.
It is also important to note that some travelers may be more sensitive to changes in water quality, even in bottled water. It is advisable to check the seals on any bottled water that you purchase, to ensure that they have not been tampered with. Additionally, you may wish to use bottled water for brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth, to avoid ingesting any contaminants.
If you are concerned about the environmental impact of buying bottled water, you may want to consider using a reusable water bottle with a filter. This will allow you to refill your bottle with tap water while removing any impurities. Just be sure to research different brands of water bottle filters to ensure that they are effective in removing local contaminants. Overall, while it may be tempting to drink the tap water in Cancun, it is not recommended. By taking precautions and sticking to bottled water, you can avoid any potential stomach discomfort or illnesses during your vacation.
Other Things To See And Do In Cancun
Beyond the popular tourist spots, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Cancun that are worth checking out. Here are some recommendations:
- Visit the El Rey Ruins: This ancient Mayan site is located right in the hotel zone and features several well-preserved temples and structures.
- Explore The Underwater Museum: The Cancun Underwater Museum is a unique and unforgettable experience. You can snorkel or dive among over 500 submerged sculptures and see how they interact with marine life.
- Take A Day Trip To Isla Mujeres: This charming island is just a short ferry ride away from Cancun and is perfect for a day of relaxation and exploring. Don’t miss out on the stunning Playa Norte beach. You may also want to travel a bit further north and visit Isla Holbox.
- Visit The Xcaret Eco-Park: This eco-archaeological park is a great option for families and nature lovers. It features a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, a coral reef aquarium, and much more.
- Check Out The Mercado 28: If you’re in the mood for shopping and bargaining, this bustling market is a great spot. You can find all sorts of local crafts, souvenirs, and delicious food.
- Take A Sunset Sail: Enjoy the beautiful colors of the sunset over the Caribbean Sea on a catamaran or sailboat ride.
- Go On A Cenote Tour: There are several breathtaking cenotes (natural swimming holes) in the Yucatan Peninsula that are easily accessible from Cancun. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore these natural wonders.
Cancun has something to offer for every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural experiences, you’re sure to find it in this vibrant and beautiful destination.
The Bottom Line
Cancun is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. With its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife, there is no doubt that this city has a lot to offer. But, just like any other tourist destination, Cancun has its own set of quirks and nuances that you should be aware of before planning your trip. By following this comprehensive Cancun travel guide, you will have all the necessary information you need to make the most out of your trip. From where to stay to what to pack, we’ve got you covered. Additionally, we’ve provided a few tips and tricks to help you save some money, stay safe, and get the most out of your Cancun experience.
All in all, Cancun is an ideal destination for anyone looking for a relaxing beach vacation. With its world-renowned nightlife, beautiful beaches, and numerous attractions, there is something for everyone in Cancun. So, pack your bags and get ready to make some amazing memories!