Cancun is one of the premier beach destinations in the world. With 14 miles of pure white sand and a vast choice of hotels and resorts, this Mexican coastal city is heaven for sun-seekers and water sports lovers.
In fact, Cancun was created with the needs of tourists in mind. This means that the island and nearby coastal resorts are packed with resorts. There are family resorts with water parks attached like the All Ritmo, as well as adult-oriented complexes like Le Blanc.
Dine at gourmet restaurants on freshly caught Caribbean seafood. Enjoy a couple of cocktails by the sea at the Blue Gecko, before diving into lively clubs like Coco Bongo to party the night away.
On the other hand, you can always take it easy, letting sunny days pass by lounging on the perfect beaches. Whichever way you choose to spend your vacation, Cancun is a great place to be.
The 14 miles of unspoiled, soft, inviting sands are the main attraction of Cancun. Stay in a hotel on the island and be a few seconds away from the sun loungers and the placid, warm waters of the Caribbean sea.
Cancun is a great place to dine on fresh seafood. Try the lobster curry at La Habichuela, the shrimp dishes at Calypso’s or the fish tacos at El Fish Fritanga.
Cancun is a magnet for jet skiers, wakeboarders, snorkelers, divers, and para-sailing fans. Rent catamarans and cruise the bay, go kayaking around Isla Mujeres, or enlist an expert captain to fish the rich Caribbean waters.
Cancun was developed specifically for tourists. It’s major aim is to provide a luxury service for visitors, which is why there are so many high-end but affordable resorts. There are adult-only options like Le Blanc, family-friendly choices like the Iberostar, and golf-centered resorts like Moon Palace.
Between January and May, Cancun is a vibrant nightlife center. In the center of town, don’t miss Las de Guanatos, which blends great Mexican food and live music. On the island Blue Gecko is a relaxed bar where the cocktails are served into the late hours.
Swimming with dolphins in the warm waters of the Caribbean is a classic Cancun experience. To get to know these sensitive, gentle creatures, head to Delphinus Punta Cancún.
Located around 10 miles off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is the best place to go for reef diving and ocean swimming. It’s full of attractions, from the Turtle Farm to the Hacienda Mundaca, which was the home of a 19th century slave trader and pirate.
Cancun’s premier museum is also one of the most unique in the world, as it’s completely submerged. Dive, snorkel or take boat trips to see reefs made from sculptures and find out about Cancun’s marine life.
Food is one of Cancun’s greatest attractions. Visit super restaurants like La Habichuela or Lorenzillo’s to dine on lobster, shrimp, and fish stews of the highest quality.
Located around 45 minutes south of Cancun; Playa del Carmen is a stunning beach resort, famous for its glamorous visitors, fine beaches, and high-end cocktail bars.
Cancun’s peak season is between December and April, when northern visitors are attracted by the tropical sunshine, the rains are very light, and hurricanes hardly ever materialize. January and February offer the best weather, and conditions become ever more humid during April and May. Avoid Cancun in September and October, as this is hurricane season in south-eastern Mexico.
Most tourists arrive at Cancun International Airport, which is just 6 miles away from the white sands. When you’ve passed through baggage reclaim, the cheapest way to reach the seafront is via ADO or Riviera buses, which costs around MXN$40. Taxis are more convenient. You need to purchase tickets from authorised machines next to the taxi rank. The fare should be about MXN$400.
It is possible to drive all the way from the U.S. border to Cancun, though at a distance of 1,400 miles, it’s a long haul. If you do choose to drive, simply follow Mexican highway 180 all the way to Cancun.
Group ADO is the main bus company serving Cancun, and their buses stop at Calle Pino. A few other services are also provided by Autocentro. However, visitors from the U.S. will need to take a combination of buses to reach Cancun, resulting in journey times of more than 24 hours.
Cancun being a resort-based city, has a huge array of hotels to choose from. Broadly speaking, visitors can choose between hotels on the island or in the Downtown area on the mainland. On the island, Krystal Grand is an excellent resort hotel with 6 restaurants and a private beach, while Hotel Flamingo is a comfortable high-end option, and the Grande Caribe Resort offers a spa facility on site. In the Downtown area, Hotel del Sol on Playa Blanca has good access to the beach and it’s within walking distance of town, while the Hotel Santa Maria offers affordable suites in the center of the city.
The Hotel Zone – Also known as the Island, the Hotel Zone is where you’ll find the 14-mile beach and most of Cancun’s resort hotels. It’s the ideal place to relax on the beach or enjoy spa treatments at hotels like Le Blanc. You can rent catamarans from Samba Catamarans, head out fishing, or strap on a scuba tank and explore nearby reefs with Coconut Divers.
Downtown Cancun – Where most of Cancun’s locals call home, central Cancun is a residential and commercial center with excellent transport links to beaches in the north and south. You’ll also find plenty of excellent restaurants like La Habichuela and Du Mexique as well as “mercados” (markets) with open-air stalls.
Punta Nizuc – Located at the south end of the island, Punta Nizuc is totally dedicated to tourism. Here you’ll find Club Med resorts, the Riviera Cancun Golf Resort and, more importantly for families, the popular Wet and Wild Cancun Water Park. It’s also conveniently located for getting to the airport.
Buses are a cheap, reliable way to get around Cancun. Be sure to have a stash of pesos to pay the driver, though. Basic fares in the center of town are MXN$10.50. If you need to travel to a resort on the Riviera Maya, you can also catch regular buses operated by Riviera Express, which links Cancun with resorts like Playa del Carmen.
There are always plenty of taxis to hail in central areas of Cancun, and the fares are low. In Downtown Cancun, the basic fare is MXN$20, but be sure to negotiate a rough price with your driver before leaving.
Driving is a good way to get around Cancun and the Riviera Maya, but beware of over-zealous police officials. Check with your car rental agency that all of the lights work and everything is in order. Otherwise, you should be fine. Rental agencies at the airport include major firms like Avis and Budget, and rental rates are around MXN$30 per day.
Although Cancun is a major tourist resort, visitors will find that the cost of living is much lower than any U.S. city.
There are some great places to shop for clothes and souvenirs in Cancun. For example, there are the Mercados (check out numbers 23 and 28 in Downtown Cancun). In the Hotel Zone, La Isla Mall is the place to go for major labels like Tommy Hilfiger or Swarovski (and also includes an aquarium with dolphins). Be sure to visit Lapis Jewelry Factory on the island as well. Vivid blue lapis jewelry is a local speciality, and there will always be some beautiful pieces on offer.
Living isn’t expensive in Cancun outside of the major hotels and high-end stores. Expect to pay around MXN$28 for 12 eggs and MXN$112 for a good bottle of imported wine. Places to head for basic groceries include street markets and supermarkets like Royal Market, Super Aki, and Superama.
There’s a huge variety of dining options in Cancun, from cheap street food to high-end gourmet eateries. The best restaurant in town is probably La Habichuela. Try the Cocobichuela, a seafood curry served in a coconut shell. Peters Restaurante is a cheaper option in the Downtown area, while Lorenzillo’s on the island is a great place to dine by the sea. The best street food options are definitely the taco stands in Parque las Palapas. Expect to pay around MXN$50-70 for a high-quality meal.