If there is a place in the world tailor-made for vacationing at any time of the year, it would have to be Cancun. Located in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, the city enjoys an average annual temperature of 25 degrees. Travelers can take refuge there and enjoy that tropical paradise during any season.
Cancun celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020. Mexico’s National Tourism Promotion Fund (FONATUR) launched the area as the country’s first Integrally Planned Center (CIP) back in April 1970. For half a century Cancun has maintained its title as the most recognized Mexican tourist destination worldwide, thanks to everything it has to offer.
How much do you know about Cancun? Do you plan to travel there soon? We visited this paradise in order to share the experience, along with some practical advice for whoever plans to visit it. Enjoy your trip to the fullest with the following facts.
The beaches of Cancun are its main attraction, both for their pleasant temperature throughout the year, as well as how they check all the boxes: white sand, crystalline turquoise waters, and public access.
Cancun has public and private beaches. You can go to the public ones free of charge. However, some require you to consume at restaurants and beach clubs to make use of their tents, umbrellas and lounge chairs by the sea.
All kinds of watersport equipment is available for rental at the beaches for kayaking, snorkeling, diving and jet skiing, among other activities. You can also book boat, speed boat and paragliding trips.
The main public beaches in Cancun are Tortugas, Punta Nizuc Beach, Las Perlas, Langosta Beach, Chac Mool Beach, Gaviota Azul Beach, Las Palmas, Ballenas Beach, Marlin Beach, Linda Beach and Delfines Beach. Of all these, Delfines was the one we enjoyed the most since the water remains shallow for more than a hundred meters out to sea.
Cancun is also recognized for its variety of accommodation, with something for every budget. There’s a reason that Cancun’s most well-known area is named Zona Hotelera, which literally means “the hotel zone.” This area, also known as Cancun Island, comprises 23 kilometers full of hotels, beaches, restaurants, shopping centers, bars, residential areas and night spots. All connected to each other by Kukulcan Boulevard.
You can pick from the world’s top hotel chains such as The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Renaissance, InterContinental, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Dreams, and Hard Rock Hotel, among many others. If you like iconic places with stunning architecture, stay at the Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun. If you prefer boutique hotels, or maybe all-inclusive hotels, there’s plenty to choose as well.
Lodging options in Cancun even extend outside the Zona Hotelera. There are comfortable places all around the city. Even in less commercial areas like Puerto Juarez, you can find excellent options like All Ritmo Cancun Resort & Waterpark. The beach there, for instance, affords you more privacy, as well as a panoramic view of the Zona Hotelera.
Everything you’ve heard about Mexico and spicy food is true. Even packaged snacks such as regular Doritos are made with hot sauce in this country. If you have a sensitive stomach, come prepared to take care of your tummy.
That said, hotels and restaurants in Cancun always offer a non-spicy option, or at least one not as strong, being aware they’re in a tourist area. Now, should you fail to tell your server, your meal or cocktail may very likely be served with plenty of spicy ingredients and may be inedible depending on your tolerance.
We had many great culinary experiences in Cancun, especially in Playa Delfines. You can sit by the waves there and order local dishes such as ceviche, tacos, gorditas and of course, every flavor of margarita imaginable. Mall restaurants in Cancun surprisingly offer plenty of variety, flavor and large portions, as is the case with Don Carbon Restaurant.
A restaurant not to be missed is La Parrilla Cancun. They have the complete Mexican experience with live mariachis, a buffet with all the typical dishes and a fairly extensive menu of Mexican delicacies.
Another slightly fancier option is Cantina La No. 20, where Mexican food takes on a more gourmet form, presented with style, while at the same time preserving all its flavors.
In short, you can find great food anywhere in Cancun. Don’t be afraid to try new things in places like food parks and municipal markets. The more you know about this delicious cuisine, the more you’ll enjoy all the options in Cancun to the fullest.
4 Theme Parks
In addition to its beaches and hotels, Cancun is a very important tourist area because of the high quality of its theme parks. They offer a wide variety of great activities from adventure, ecological and historical experiences to water activities such as swimming among dolphins. All this within huge, secure facilities full of courteous and professional staff.
Perhaps the most recognized theme park provider in the entire Rivera Maya is Grupo Xcaret, which manages several parks and tours fir for all ages within the area. The logistics and precision with which they run their properties and organize their tours is impeccable.
Among Xcaret’s best known destinations are:
- Xcaret by Mexico: Its main property, equal parts water, theme, amusement and eco-archaeological park, nestled between rainforests and underground rivers.
- Xplor: Located in Playa del Carmen and known for its zip lines over the treetops.
- Xplor Fuego: Offers the same experiences of Xplor, such as zip lines, subterranean caves and jungle excursions, but at nighttime.
- Xel Há: A water park near Tulum, focused on nature and majestic views. Known for its 40-meter high Scenic Lighthouse, from which you can slide down.
- Xenses: Alternative park based on optical illusions and the exploration of the five senses.
- Xavage: Perfect for adrenaline lovers, with rafting adventures, rope circuit, zip line and monster truck.
- Xoximilco: A “floating Mexican party” inspired by Xochimilco in Mexico City, specifically its renowned boat trips through the canal.
We enjoyed Xoximilco in particular. This nocturnal fiesta aboard a trajinera sails through a river full of surprises and live performances, rowed by a single individual just like a gondola. The trip includes dinner on board, with Mexican culinary options. (And plenty of tequila!) Xoximilco is an excellent option for couples.
5 Shopping Malls
We love shopping as we travel, especially when we find stores not available in our country of residence or with cheaper prices after taking dollar exchange rates into account.
Cancun, for example, has many shopping centers with international stores such as Old Navy, Best Buy, Sephora and H&M. In addition, you can find local brands and souvenir shops with local merchandise.
The shopping centers in Cancun have a wide variety of restaurants with local cuisine, as well as an international menu. Some even have fun alternatives, as is the case with La Isla Cancun Shopping Village. There you can find Aquarium Cancun, a fun interactive aquarium with more than 140 species on display. La Isla also houses the Cancun Wax Museum. Those who want an aerial view of the Zona Hotelera can board the Gran Rueda Cancún, the top attraction of La Isla, a huge Ferris wheel located on the mall’s front entrance.
Cancun’s top shopping centers are Plaza Las Américas, La Isla Cancun Shopping Village, Kukulcan Plaza, Puerto Cancun Marina Town Center, Las Plazas Outlet Cancun and Forum by the Sea. Each one complements your experience in Cancun, offering you options for all tastes.
Cancun nightlife is bustling. There are spots within the Zona Hotelera where the streets transform at sundown into one single party. Look for hotspots like Coco Bongo Show & Disco, Señor Frog’s and The City, among others. You can also sit in one of the bars located at the top shopping centers and spend a fun night.
Restaurants, meanwhile, offer mostly live music and happy hour for their visitors. Area hotels hold daily activities and shows as well for their guests. Some even organize parties which non-guests can attend.
You can also hire nightly activities in the parks like the one we mentioned earlier in Xoximilco. You can book a pirate ship, for instance, and have yourself a swashbuckling party on the sea. Some tourist agencies organize VIP visits to nightclubs in Cancun and nighttime jungle activities.
Cancun does not have public transportation available for tourists. Minibuses travel along the beaches, but neither adequate bus service nor Uber are available here. Your best bets for staying in a hotel, or on your own in that city, are to rent a vehicle or use local taxis.
Official Cancun taxis are quite secure, with standard price rates that vary by distance and time of day. You can request them in hotels and at the airport, but you’ll have to book them by phone on your own if you are staying at an Airbnb.
Avoid riding taxis without proper identification visible.
When you book a tour or activity, as in many tourist destinations, the provider company facilitates the transfer. Some hotels offer in their packages transfers to and from the airport at no additional cost.
From Cancun you can take a ferry with companies like Ultramar, which take you to the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, among others. You can also rent yachts, boats and other vessels.
If you decide to drive a vehicle in Cancun, keep in mind that the streets are filled with roundabouts. Acquaint yourself with the routes you will be frequenting during your stay. In addition, locla authorities are quite strict about drinking and driving laws. Police frequently stops vehicles to test driver blood alcohol levels with breathalizers. You will receive a substantial fine were you to exceed the legal limit.
In short, Cancun has something for any type of vacation, from family friendly options to more adult fun. Every traveler deserves to discover and enjoy this Mexican tourism mecca, which has delighted the world celebrates for half a century.