CANCUN – Mexico’s Caribbean jewel

 
10 March 2022

CANCUN – Mexico’s Caribbean jewel

Visiting the Caribbean usually conjures up visions of the islands of Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados for example, but have you ever given thought to one of the jewels of the Caribbean on the North American coastline, situated in  Mexico?  Well, Cancún might hold some surprises for you and could be well worth considering visiting!

This city situated on the Yucatán Peninsula is world-famous for its stunning turquoise coloured sea waters, white sandy beaches, numerous and varied resorts and vibrant nightlife. These are what primarily attract visitors to the famous Mexican beach town.  

Cancun is composed of two distinct areas: the more traditional downtown area known as “El Centro”, and “Zona Hotelera”, a long, beachfront strip of high-rise hotels, nightclubs, shops and restaurants. Cancun is also a famed destination for students during North American universities’ spring break period and visiting Cancun at this time comes with its own set of “challenges”.

The best time to go to Cancun is usually between May/June and late November because Mexico’s hurricane season stretches from late July to late October.  Hotel prices are lower, it’s less crowded, tours on offer are about half the price of rates offered during Spring Break, and food, in general, is also much more affordable. Also, be aware of the sargassum seaweed that has been known to wash up on the beaches during Cancun’s Spring and Summer which can affect swimming and water sports.  Avoid visiting during Christmas, the New Year period, and especially during the North American Spring Break as these are the most hectic travel periods for Cancun and may just blunt the edge of what would otherwise be a “sharp” experience.

Some great things to do apart from enjoying the beaches and the wonderful warm waters

Take a dip in a swimmable cenote.Take an excursion to cenote Zacil-ha (just one of the many thousands in Mexico) if you want to experience swimming in a crystal clear, invigorating freshwater “sinkhole” while surrounded by lush jungle.  An experience to remember!

Playa Delfines Photographic Parador. Leaving Cancun without having taken a photo or a selfie or two in the city’s famous viewpoint, would be like having a snow cone without the snow!

 

Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA)

MUSA, the Underwater Museum of Art, is located in the National Marine Park of Cancun and Isla Mujeres. It has more than 500 sculptures installed on the seabed distributed in three galleries: Manchones Gallery, in Isla Mujeres where the sculptures are located 8 meters. (26 ft.) deep; Punta Nizuc Gallery and Punta Sam Gallery, both in Cancun, with sculptures conveniently situated at a depth of 4 meters. (13 ft.) is therefore VERY accessible to snorkelers.

Mercado 28

Without a doubt, one of Cancun’s gems, located in the centre of the city, is the Mercado (Market) 28.

Here you will find a treasure trove of Mexican souvenirs and handicrafts as well as many restaurants, all providing that special unique Mexican atmosphere.

Palapas Park

If you're looking to spend a day as a local or with the locals, you definitely have to go to Palapas Park. Located in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from Mercado 28, you can eat Mexican snacks (like the delicious marquesitas, a kind of rolled cream that is usually filled with ball cheese), buy a snow cone to relieve the heat, buy hippie crafts or watch a public show or enjoy the live music.

Mayan culture

Cancun’s Mayan Culture is its crowning glory. Learn about the incredible and ancient Mayan culture by visiting one of our incredible archaeological sites and museums. Dare to visit the Xibalbá (the underworld of the Maya) and get to know their secrets by exploring their caves and underground rivers. The aura of mystery and majesty still lingers around the Mayan ruins and archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba to mention but a few. These are all within easy reach of Cancun. 

Things to know that will make planning your visit just that much easier

Cash is king

Seeing that many restaurants and gift shops do not accept plastic money (credit cards etc.) having enough Mexican Pesos is a necessity in Cancun.  A good tip is to NOT exchange cash at the airport, rather exchange it at smaller kiosks in town as they offer better exchange rates.

Check your hotel’s location before making your reservation

Very many of this city’s numerous hotels are located over 1 hour away from the city centre and quite far away from all the action in Cancun. Use an online map to filter hotels according to location, whether it is in Downtown Cancun, the Hotel Zone, or right on the beach.  Then check its affordability.

Make use of the hotel’s free shuttle service

The unwary tourist may think taking a taxi (there are no metered taxis in Cancun) to the hotel is a good option, in three words, it is not.  Why pay for something that with a little forward planning you can get for free?

Haggle

Haggling is a common practice throughout Mexico, especially at places like street fairs, food stands, and beach huts. The locals are used to a bit of back and forth when it comes to settling on a price. Always allow the seller to give you a price first before offering about 40% lower. Many times, the seller will come back with a 2nd price that falls in the middle. Paying in cash will also help you get a better rate.

Stick to bottled drinking water

Although the tap water in Cancun does in fact meet the standards of safety, it is always a good idea to stick with bottled drinking water.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Why take chances of coming down with some exotic tummy bug when you should rather be enjoying your holiday?

Use reputable tour operators.

Whether you’re looking to visit Mayan ruins, island-hop on a yacht, or dive with whales, Cancun’s got a tour and a reputable tour operator for it.  For a better price, find a private tour agency in the city instead of booking through your resort.  As a rule of thumb, most one-person tour agencies in Cancun should be treated like scams.

Avoid booking tours with ‘representatives’ who stop you on the street, usually offering a price that’s too good to be true, because, well, they usually are. 

 

Pack more than just beachwear

It’s a good idea to pack a few warm clothes and even a small folding umbrella, as nights in Cancun can be rather chilly and rains are common from August through February.  Keep daytime clothing casual - shorts, tank tops, and slops are perfect for most days in Cancun but pack a light jersey for outdoor dinners or late-night walks on the beach.

Safety first

Though Cancun is considered to be a safe town to visit; the locals are friendly and crime rates are low compared to other Mexican cities, it is recommended that visitors stick to well-populated areas like downtown Cancun and the Hotel Beach Zone. While most people never run into any trouble, there are several troublesome areas close to Cancun so be aware of them and avoid them.  The Hotel Zone has a 20km arc of beautiful white-sand beaches lined with resorts and hotels and is considered to be the safest part of the city so why not linger there?

Getting around

Cancun is relatively easy to navigate and get around simply because many of the best attractions and sightseeing spots are located in the Hotel Zone.  The Hotel Zone is the main tourist area of Cancun and is very walkable.

Aside from that, there are tons of taxis available and a really great bus service; which sees a bus coming by every five minutes.  The busses are also cheap, with a one-way fare typically costing about 12 Mexican Pesos (roughly 60 cents in US currency).  Most travellers to Cancun agree that the bus is by far the best way to get around. A TOP TIP is to retain your bus tickets so that you can use them to redeem discounts at local stores.

There are the usual options of taxis and hire cars (both of which are expensive) but with such a reliable bus service we don’t recommend (excuse the pun) going that route.

Bicycles are also available for hire

Of course, should you want to take an excursion to one of the outlying islands like Isla Mujeres (highly recommended) you will have to catch a ferry.  Ferries run all day between the island from three different docks in the Hotel Zone.

Finally, though not a way of getting around, consider travelling in a submarine to 30 metres below the sea’s surface!

And here, to whet your appetite is a list of just a few hotels voted the best in Cancun:

Beachscape Kin Ha Villas and SuitesWestin Resort and Spa
Canopy Hilton Cancun La IslaDreams Sands Cancun Resort and Spa
Óleo Cancun PlayaHard Rock Hotel Cancun

Finally, there isn’t really much of a language problem in Cancun because the locals working in the tourist/hospitality industry are usually comfortable speaking English.  If your Spanish is good, all the better for you because that language is Mexico’s official language.

Entonces, damas y caballeros, ¿por qué no hacer y ver algo diferente? Los brazos de Cancún están abiertos de par en par para todos los turistas. (So ladies and gentlemen, why not do and see something different?  Cancun’s arms are opened wide for all tourists.)