Planning a trip to mexico? This Cancun travel guide is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know before visiting! With endless white-sand beaches, a turquoise sea, ancient ruins, a buzzing nightlife, and more, Cancun truly offers something for everyone! In fact, since its development started in the 1970s, Cancun has become the biggest resort area in the country, with more than six million visitors annually. To make things even better, this dynamic region is one of the easiest places to get to from America and a very affordable destination. In this Cancun travel guide we have included our top recommendations for restaurants, nightlife, accommodations, things to do and more!
WHEN TO VISIT
Cancun International Airport has flights connecting from all over the world, making it rather easy and affordable to get to. Once there, you can take a taxi or shuttle to the hotel zone of Cancun, which takes about 25 minutes. However, we HIGHLY recommend setting up your transfer in advance, as the airport transportation scene can be extremely overwhelming! This can be booked through your hotel, through your vacation package, or through an independent company. One company we recommend checking out is Van Travel by Cancun Transfers.
What To Expect
HOW’S THE WEATHER?
Cancun has a rainy season from August through November, which is considered the low season and as a result, the cheapest time to visit. During this time you can expect temperatures between 75-90°F (24-32°C), along with heavy rainfall daily (but the downpours are usually short). The high season, on the other hand, is December – April. During this time there is a much lower risk of rain and average daily temperatures around 82°F (28°C). Prices will also be higher during this time, especially in the hotel zone.
Cancun is pretty easy to get around, as most of the tourist infrastructure is concentrated in the hotel zone. Depending on what hotel you stay in, you may even be within walking distance to the shops, restaurants, and nightlife scene. However, if you stay a bit farther down the sandbar you can get around by the bus, taxi, or rental car.
Personally, we think the easiest and most affordable route of transportation is the bus system! The local buses run all along the hotel zone, 24 hours a day, with tickets costing around 8.50 MXN per ticket (~ $0.41 USD). The buses are very safe and accessible at street side bus stops all along the main road. Taxis are also scattered around, but be prepared to pay a hefty price if catching a cab in the hotel zone. In regards to renting a car, this is a great option if you plan to spend a lot of your trip exploring areas around Cancun. Rental cars tend to be affordable, but be aware that your credit card insurance is not valid when you rent a car in Mexico.
Cancun is divided into two distinct areas: Downtown Cancun and Cancun Island. Downtown is a more of a typical Mexican town on the mainland, where the majority of Cancun residents live. Cancun Island, known as the hotel zone, is the more touristy area and likely where you will want to stay. The area is located on a 15-mile-long sandbar off the mainland, and connected by causeways on either end. You can expect miles of beaches, and heavy concentrations of tourist infrastructure such as restaurants, upscale shopping, and nightlife.
Things To Do
EXPLORE THE CENOTES
The Yucatan cenotes are a type of cave or sinkhole, filled with gorgeous emerald blue water. They are unique to this area and were believed to be sacred by the Mayans many years ago. Today, you can visit thousands of cenotes around the area, each one completely different from the next. Be prepared to swim, snorkel, dive, and soak in breathtaking nature!
VISIT ISLA MUJERES
Take a quick day trip over to this peaceful paradise, just off the coast of Cancun. The small, friendly island has absolutely gorgeous beaches, lots of shopping, and a completely different vibe than Cancun. The best part is renting scooters or golf carts and exploring the island!
SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING
Cancun lies along the Great Mesoamerican Reef, the largest reef in the western hemisphere. The area has over 100 types of coral and more than 160 types of reef-inhabiting fish, meaning the snorkeling and diving is out of this world! Head to the beach town of Akumal to snorkel with sea turtles, or book a diving tour at MUSA, an underwater sculpture park! As avid scuba divers, trust us when we say that Cancun has some of the best diving in the world!
GO DEEP SEA FISHING
Unlike many places in the Caribbean, Cancun has some of the best deep sea fishing! In fact, this year-round fishing destination is actually considered one of the top 10 sail fishing destinations in the world! Book your reservations in advance and get ready for an exhilarating and gorgeous day on the water.
PARTY THE NIGHT AWAY
Put on your heels and get ready to party like never before at one of Cancun’s top nightclubs! This famous nightlife scene is frequented by many of the world’s biggest DJs and performers, drawing massive crowds into the area known as the ‘Party Zone’. We have included some of our favorite nightlife spots in our Cancun travel guide below!
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO TULUM
Once a vital Mayan port city, Tulum is located 85 mi from Cancun and is a must-not-miss! Known for its Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, surfing, markets, culture and cheap eats, it is truly a one-of-a-kind place. Head over to our full Tulum travel guide for more information!
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN
This stunning coastal resort town lies 45 minutes down the coast from Cancun and is one of the Riviera Maya’s trendiest spots! Hop on a bus or grab a taxi and get ready for a day full of shopping and exploring. For more information head over to our blog on all things Playa del Carmen!
The restaurant scene in Cancun is second to none. But be aware that the spots in the hotel zone cater mainly to tourists and are quite expensive. You can expect to pay 500 MXN or more for a meal in these restaurants. Closer to downtown, you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants, with more affordable dishes between 100-300 MXN. We have included a few of our favorite restaurant recommendations in our Cancun travel guide below:
Our favorite entertaining dinner experience in Cancun! You can expect delicious Mediterranean cuisine, a party atmosphere, and an all around over the top experience!
Rosa Negra Cancun
A stylish waterfront venue serving refined Latin American dishes and cocktails. Similar to Taboo, this spot is complete with music and a buzzing party scene!
This upscale, hotel zone restaurant transforms classic Mexican flavors into modern, haute cuisine.
Located at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the hotel zone, this delicious spot offers both terrace dining and private cabana dining!
This steak and seafood staple is another one of our favorites! Located in the hotel zone, this waterfront restaurant is as much about the ambiance as it is the food.
A must-not-miss for our lobster lovers out there! This fine-dining, hotel zone spot has an exclusive lobster farm run by biologists, aka the freshest seafood you can get!
The Party Scene
After spending all day on the beach, it’s time to head out and enjoy one of the best nightlife scenes in all of Latin America! Cancun offers outstanding, and often outrageous nightlife, located right in the hotel zone. The nightclubs, which we will list in our Cancun travel guide below, are some of the best places to meet new friends and dance your butt off well into the morning. To get into the clubs we highly recommend buying open-bar wristbands in advance, many of which can be purchased directly at your hotel. Be sure to bargain when buying wristbands, as you can usually get a pretty good deal. Another great option is reserving VIP tables and purchasing bottles of liquor, but this is substantially more expensive. Here is a list of our top Cancun nightlife recommendations:
Easily Cancun’s most famous club and an absolute must-not-miss! Imagine a massive club, a pumping soundtrack, and a live, Vegas-like show like no other. On any given night, Beetlejuice makes an appearance, Spiderman flies through the air, acrobats perform high above the crowd, and more! The club is buzzing every night of the week and doors open at 10:30pm.
This massive, 8000 square foot club is the largest club in Cancun, hosting over 5,000 people on any given night! With an incredible sound and lighting system, as well as three full stories, this is the place to be for a wild night out! The City plays all genres of music and is well-known for its performance calendar, featuring top international names and celebrity DJs weekly!
Another one of Cancun’s hippest and hottest nightclubs, located right in the Party Zone near Coco Bongo. You can expect Indian-inspired décor with rich, vibrant colors & lush fabrics, bumping club music, bright lights, and to top it off, the front of the club is entirely open to the street!
Mandala Beach Club
Located adjacent to Mandala Cancun is the entrance to the beach party aspect of Mandala! This outdoor house music club is located right on the beach and is complete with a pool, live DJs, bikini contests and more! In addition to being a nightclub, Mandala Beach Club is also our favorite day party in Cancun!
One of Cancun’s newest nightclubs that sits smack in the middle of Cancun’s Party Center! This club, which translates to Little Cow in English, is decorated in red, black, and cow print, and complete with gorgeous go-go dancers. The spot is a bit more casual and tends to be one of our favorite places to grab a few drinks before hitting one of the bigger clubs!
Another perfect spot for pre-drinks or a more casual night out in Cancun’s Party Zone. You can expect a massive food menu and a full bar, as well as a different rock band and karaoke every night! To Top it off, there’s no cover charge and they open early, around 3pm.
Cancun is so accessible, affordable, and diverse that we visit almost every single year! In fact, last February we booked a 5 day Cancun vacation package through Expedia for a whopping $700 each, including round trip flights, all-inclusive hotel, and round trip transportation from the Cancun airport! In addition, it’s a very safe and convenient destination with endless things to do. We hope our Cancan travel guide has inspired you to start planning your next trip! Be sure to check out our other Mexico travel guides, such as this Tulum travel guide!