8 things nobody tells you about Cancun 

Can we resist the stunning paradise of Cancun and the rest of the Riviera Maya?

The warm sun on your skin, the refreshing wind running through your hair and the magical blue view of the beaches we all dream about. Sounds wonderful. And it is!

 I live in Cancun and trust me when I say, Cancun never ceases to amaze me.

As with any city, Cancun has its dos and don’ts. And hopefully these tips will help make this trip a lifetime memory, for good reasons!

I am going to help you avoid any type of struggles while planning and traveling Cancun, and make it a trip you will never forget.

Cancun’s 6:00am sunrise by Bruno Fernandez

 


WHEN TO TRAVEL 

After speaking to a lot of my British friends, I found that they are always concerned about the time to travel and the weather here in Cancun.

Because, who wants to travel half way around the world to end up spending the majority of their time inside a hotel room?

Even if it’s a 5 star Hotel, the sun is the main reason a lot of people visit this paradise.

Cancun is sunny and hot most of the time. I could say 350/365 day of the year. Here the weather is on average around 27 degrees and the humidity makes it almost impossible to wear denim jeans or jumpers, unless you are used to it. The busiest seasons are spring break (March)  and summer (June and July).  These times are when most of the tourists are in their 20s-30s, looking for fun and to party.

Our rainy season is around September and October.

Although it is classed as the rainy season, we still have a lot of sunny days around this time, there’s just always the risk of a washout. These months tend to be the cheapest time to travel to Mexico. Flights and hotels are usually never fully booked.

The most expensive times to visit Cancun are around Christmas and New Year. This is the time when a lot of families come from the US and other parts of Mexico to spend their holidays close in the sun. Also the weather is a lot cooler than the hot summer months.


ZONES


It is important for you to know that Cancun is divided in many zones. The main two are the Hotel Zone (Zona hotelera) which is basically the land that divides the sea from the lagoon. And Cancun Centro which is the highlighted yellow part in the map.

The rest of Cancun is also nice, but around these two zones you can find most of the amenities you might need. Like restaurants, bars, nightclubs, supermarkets, bus stations and the sightseeing points of the city.

A lot of holiday makers visit Cancun and never leave the Hotel Zone.

By doing this you are missing out on so much that the city has to offer! In downtown Cancun we have restaurants bars and outlet malls at a fraction of the price of the Hotel Zone.


TRANSPORTATION

From the moment you leave the airport gates, the adventure begins. It’s hard to believe some of the transport and taxi prices. I’ve witnessed it myself so don’t hesitate to negotiate for  the price of transportation. Most of the time the first price you hear, may not be the real one.


The international airport of Cancun is basically in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t have a transfer included it is necessary to take a cab or the bus.

Learn and apply the basic ‘¿Cuánto me cobras a…?’ Which means, ‘How much is for a ride to…?’ Based on the zones I told you about, there are different ways to get to your finial destination.

To get to your hotel within the hotel zone

I recommend you to pay for a particular transfer with the same travel agency you booked the flights and your hotel room. It is direct and has no last minute extra charges.

Most of the time your reservation inside a resort includes your transfers. Get everything sorted before your flight. If you don’t have a ride, take a cab. It will charge you around $500 Mexican pesos.

View from Malecón Torre Rio

To get to your hotel around the downtown area.

At Cancun Centro you can find different places to stay, from small and and nice hotels, to a clean and colorful hostels. You can even get a cozy apartment for a reasonable price.
These places normally don’t cover the transfer from the airport but here you have two options to make your way to Cancun as handy as possible.

One of the easiest and fastest options you have is taking a taxi or a ride. You’ll pay aproximately $300 to $400 Mexican pesos or ($20  US). Although, American dollars are accepted almost everywhere in the city. I recommend paying with the local currency when you are to pay a particular person or freelance.

 $1 US dollar = $17-18 Mexican pesos.

If you are more of an independent traveler you can also find another way to Cancun Centro. The second option and the cheapest one, is to take an ADO bus. You can find them at the tiny ADO bus station just outside the airport.

As you make your way out of the airport’s door you will find people selling this bus trip to downtown, DONT FALL FOR IT! They are basically reselling you the bus tickets. Only 5 times more than it normally costs.  Don’t let anyone selling tickets to persuade you. Sounds very exaggerated but it’s truth. I’ve seen it first hand on my way back home, and the guy trying to sell me the ticket looked pretty embarrassed when I told him I was a local and knew how much the real price was.
They normally try to sell you a bus ticket to Cancun at $ 400 pesos (20 US). The regular price is 70 pesos (4 US). Big difference.

You only have to walk a few meters  from outside the main terminal and you will see these red buses going to the center of Cancun. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes to arrive.

 


TOUR THE CITY 

Cancun is a young developing city. Based on tourists who fell in love for this Mayan paradise and then changed their residence, coexisting with the locals.

That’s my family’s case. My mom and dad just came for their honeymoon and instantly fell for the place. And here we are.

There are many ways to explore the city with less than a dollar. My local tip is to jump into the downtown bus. It travels different routes through the city just for $9.50 Mexican pesos. R1 buses, which you can also take at the downtown bus stops, go all the way through the Hotel Zone for as little as 12 pesos.

Sunday local market at Region 100

Here you can check your routes and where to wait for the buses. It is the official public bus website.

As I told you before, Cancun is developing very fast in favor of tourists. There is a brand new doble decker tour bus called Turibus Cancun. It takes you to 18 of the most popular points of the city. This tour is an excellent option if you want to know more about Cancun’s history.  You can also take it late in the afternoon and enjoy a light show with music. A good way to start the party!



TOUR THE PENINSULA 

The Riviera Maya isn’t just Cancun. But it is a beautiful and good place to start the journey. Travel around and discover amazing places. Renting a car is perfect to roam and stop wherever and whenever you want.

Day road trips are pretty common around here. All of the places are relatively close and easy to get there. The only thing you’ll need is a good playlist and a peninsula map .
Some ideas of places to visit are Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Akumla, Bacalar, or Holbox.

      Also check out My list of favorite cenotes!





NIGHTLIFE 

It doesn’t matter the place of the Riviera where you are during the weekend. It’s something you have you experience. It is the most cheerful part of the whole week. When the local people finish their long routine. Making their way to the party, get a few drinks and dance all night.

Remember, MEXICAN = PARTY

Nightclubs/bars have a cool and tropical atmosphere. Plus most places have an open bar, pay at the door, and that’s all drinks sorted for the night. It’s too easy to enjoy yourself.

Avoid drinking on the street, it is prohibited. This law is quite flexible when you are at the Hotel Zone (Cancun) or at the 5th Av (Playa del Carmen) but I recommend you to avoid it. Don’t make of yourself an easy target to the police.



THE MEXICAN POLICE

O-oh! This is the dark side of Cancun. Maybe you’ve already read this somewhere else. It’s not as bad as it sounds but is true. Be careful with the police.

Unfortunately corruption is very common in Mexico, and the police certainly know how to recognize an outsider. To save yourself any uncomfortable experiences with the law. Be aware of your behavior in public places, and always take a form of transport back to your hotel after a night out.



BASIC ESPAÑOL.

I find really easy to travel when you know English, is one of the most popular languages nowadays. But I really love to learn new words. In case you share the same feeling, here are a few vocabulary words.

HOLA             HELLO

BAÑO             TOILET

CERVEZA        BEER

POR FAVOR    PLEASE

YES                   SI

NO                   NO

INGLES           ENGLISH

DISCULPE      EXCUSE ME

GRACIAS        THANK YOU

If you have any questions, leave your comments below and I’ll get back to you.  I’ll be glad to help you with your planning.

If you know any of your friends that are planning a trip to Cancun and you think this guide could be helpful, share it with them!

Best vibes!

 

 

Cancun travel guide, from a local!

Cancun is beautiful, and it’s also the place I’m lucky enough to call my home.

Having lived here for the last 21 years, it’s safe to say I know it well!

You might think the people that live here spend all their days at the beach getting that ‘golden tan’. Or checking out one of the hundreds of insane Cenotes! But the truth is, most of Cancun’s population just don’t have the time. Working really really hard, a lot of them don’t know the paradise that awaits them just outside their door.

Playa Forum Beach, in the Hotel Zone

 

As for me, I consider myself a ‘pata de perro’. Which literally translates to ‘dog’s paw’ and is used to describe a person that can’t stay in the same place. I’ve spent a lot of my time travelling and look to explore as much of an area as possible when I’m there, my hometown is no exception.

So if you are planning on visiting Cancun, or you are one of the lucky people who have settled here and are after some inspiration.

Hopefully this guide will help you experience the full beauty that Cancun has to offer.


WHERE TO STAY:

There is no shortage of options of where to stay in Cancun. The Hotel Zone is the most popular, renowned for its luxury hotels and resorts. Located right on the beach it is perfect for soaking up the sun. As for myself, I’m more of an independent traveller, I like to be around the local scene and experience different cultures. If you are the same, getting a place in Cancun Centro might be the best option.

There are a lot of hostels available in Cancun Centro, also known as ‘downtown’ offering good rates, and they are close to all amenities.

The main beaches are all located in the Hotel Zone, but they are all easily accessible from downtown by either bus or taxi. Another option is to rent a room or an entire place using Airbnb. This way you can stay with a local offering advice and travel tips, or have an entire place to yourself fairly cheap! I personally have used it in numerous countries and have found the hosting site to be one of the best ways to learn about a place, as normally the hosts are very knowledgeable about the area. Not to mention some listings are great value for money (Some places even have their own pool!).

The map below shows the best zones in the city center to stay.

From here you’ll find everything you need quite easily such as: supermarkets (or Oxxo which is a 24/7 convenience store), bars, restaurants, markets, downtown buses, and the ADO bus station (inside the red circle).

Map of Cancun Centro

 

If you stay in the hotel zone. Better known from Google Maps as Boulevard Kukulcán, then expect a more luxury vacation. The map below shows the beaches and plazas in the the Hotel Zone, with free access to some of the nicest beaches in Cancun.

 

Hotel Zone, showing access to beaches

TRANSPORT:

There are many different forms of transport when exploring Cancun. We have cheap buses that run almost all day and night, minivans, taxis and of course you could hire a car.

Just be prepared for the Mexican style of driving!

The bus station is called ADO and can be extremely helpful if your plan is to travel around the Yucatán peninsula. All buses feature air-con and reclining seats and are surprisingly comfortable, totally worth the low fare.

You can find ‘downtown’ buses  driving around the city for easy access to the Hotel Zone and other areas for as little as $12 Mexican pesos. These buses virtually run all day and night so really handy for getting around on a budget.

Taxis here are everywhere, you’ll notice the white and green cabs as there is only one taxi company in Cancun. The drivers here are smart, they especially recognize fresh meat. so make sure to negotiate the price before getting into to cab!

For more local tips check out The 8 things nobody tells you about Cancun


WHAT TO DO:

CHICHÉN ITZA

Surely you’ve came across a picture of it somewhere. It is the biggest Mayan complex around and is located in Yucatán, just 3-4 hours drive from Cancun. It is part of UNESCO’s world heritage sites aaaaand one of the 7 wonders of the world!

My advice is if you want to know about the Mayan history and culture,or just be impressed by the sheer size and design of temple, then take a tour. There you will come across small villages, cenotes, the tropical food and of course the stunning Chichén. Tours can be arranged at most hotels or public places.

The Kukulcán Pyramid, during the equinox!

 

The Mayan people were true pioneers. You can explore and learn more about them in places like Uxmal, Palenque (at the beautiful Chiapas), and Tikal (Guatemala). I have visited all these places too, so feel free to ask for any advice!


CENOTES

Check out my list of favorite cenotes!

In simple terms these are basically holes in the ground, filled with clear water. They are natural sinkholes, which occur due to the erosion of limestone (popular here). Once the limestone has eroded, it ends up leaving a void which eventually collapses, revealing the paradise underground.

We call them ‘Xibalba’ the underground world.

There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula to choose from and you must at least visit one if you are visiting Cancun. The beauty of them is breathtaking! Every single one is unique and some even include activities such as zip lining and abseiling!

Here I am at Sahamal Cenote, just one of over 2500 cenotes in the Yucatán area!

 


ISLA MUJERES

Also known as the Island of Women, it is located 30 mins from the coast of Cancun and is the place to relax, wander and eat fresh fish ‘tikinchick’ style. Transport to this stunning island ranges from a catamaran tour to a ‘water taxi’ which is a fairly cheap small ferry located in the Hotel Zone or at Puerto Juárez . Once there, a popular option is to rent a golf cart to explore the island from coast to coast. All you need is a driving license.

My personal highlight of the island is ‘Playa Norte’. A beach that seems to be a natural pool with soft waves and crystal clear waters. It’s located a short walk away from the dock and often has yachts anchored in its shallow waters playing music to give the place an extra good vibe! Don’t forget to bring a few drinks with you. It’s always a good time to try the local beers, like Tecate or Indio.

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

 


PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Becoming more and more popular every year, this is a town that’s definitely worth a visit (especially is you like shopping!). Here you can walk along the 5th avenue and get a delicious tequila-passion fruit ice cream, or maybe two. My favorite place is called ‘Tepoznieves’. Located at the crossroads Av. Constituyes and 5th avenue. This shop has refreshing homemade ice creams (or ‘artesanales’ which means made by native people) and is sooo important in a country full of Häagen Dazs and Basqkin Robbins).  If after that pleasant experience you want to shop around but are undecided whether to shop colorful handicrafts or brand accessories, stay calm, find some sales and you’ll find the perfect deal and even get both.

Playa del Carmen also boasts a great party scene. Just a short ride from Cancun, and with ADO buses running until the early hours of the morning. It’s well worth a day trip and night out. It’s also renowned as an expats home, you’ll find people from all over the world living here. If travelling, I recommend you stay in the town and you can easily make some new friends.

My favorite place to hang out is Playa Mamitas beach club, here you can chill while you keep experiencing the effect of tequila in it’s different presentations. Playa del Carmen is the perfect place to be if you want to party, enjoy nice drinks and a have good time.

La Vaquita, Nightclub

TULUM

 

The hippie town. Located 40 minutes away from Playa del Carmen and 1:30 from Cancun. The best way to get there is taking an ADO bus or even a minivan, which drives faster and sometimes can be a better price than the bus.

The town itself has a really friendly vibe and is a backpacking hotspot, full of trendy bars and hostels. Also here you can visit the amazing ruins. A stunning setup as it is the only Mayan complex with a beach in the backyard, lucky them!

Tulum Ruins

 

I know sometime a healthy lifestyle can be hard to get while you travel, I’ve been there before.  So a good option here for you can be to rent a bike and ride to the local fresh market or all along the bike paths which guide you around the town and to the mini hotel zone. Because bikinis and bicycles go together right?

My last advice for Tulum is go to visit the beaches (any of them will leave you breathless). Then at night visit the main square and enjoy a delicious marquesita (ask for Dutch cheese and Nutella!) Thank me later =)

XCARET

This eco park is one of the biggest in Latin America, and one of my favorite parks around. It reminds me of Disney Land but a sort of jungle version! Xcaret which means ‘small inlet’ in Mayan, will guide you to a full nature experience, meeting for the first time amazing animals and trying the delicious Yucatán tradicional dishes.

As a local I recommend to get the ‘Xcaret Plus’ entry, which includes meal and drinks, safety lockers and access to more underground rivers.

They have such a wonderful Mexican performance at night that is just out of this world!

‘Los voladores de Papantla’ at Xcaret Park


PLAYAS

The beaches here are amazing. White sand and crystal clear water, they are like a page from a travel brochure. The weather is also pretty brilliant all year round. So let the sun kiss your skin and just chill, enjoy the paradise. Sounds like a hard job to do, right? The only items you need will be a beach towel, high factor sun cream, a little bit of oil and a coco loco on the beach.

My personal favorite is Playa Gaviotas (marked in the second map at the begging of the post). It is a long stretched beach where you can chill, rent a bed or have the full party experience at the nearby Mandala Beachclub. There are shops close by for supplies and also locals wandering the beach selling drinks and food. For free access there is a path between Cocobongo nightclub and Mandala beachclub, which guides you to this paradise. We call it commonly Playa Forum.

Forum beach, Cancun

NIGHT LIFE

The nightlife in Cancun is famous for a reason.

Good music, open bar, an amazing show performance, and the best party atmosphere in Cancun. All at the same place. Cocobongo is part of Cancun’s biggest attractions. And there is no way possible you won’t have a good time here. It has to be experienced so see the true madness that works so well, you won’t be disappointed.

I didn’t realize the difference between the time people go out to party in other countries until I visited them. Mexicans as you might know, are not really attached to an specific agenda. They start going out after 10pm. And Cancun never sleeps, so don’t worry about what time you start your night.

A little tip: Try new drinks like Paloma (lime soda and tequila) and Cuba libre (coke amd rum), popular here in Mexico.


PLUS!!!!… WHAT TO EAT

Because I’m sure most of you think we just have tacos and burritos on our diet. So wrong! Mexican cuisine is a fusion of indigenous and European cooking. It is true we love tortillas but we have so many different tradicional dishes across Mexico, its considered as an intangible heritage of humanity.

Our basics in the Yucatán peninsula are:

  • SALBUTES/PANUCHOS
  • CHOCHINITA
  • TIKINCHIK
  • ARRACHERA
  • SEAFOOD
‘El Jarocho’ Restaurant, Cancun
Marquesita at Valladolid’s main square

If you are planing a roadtrip to Yucatán here I got some good ideas and advices.

 


 

MUST PACK

These essentials are what I recommend you must bring if travelling to Cancun:

  • Camera/GoPro/Drone etc
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • A hat ( the sun has no mercy)
  • Swimwear
  • Flip flops
  • Snorkel mask

I know and love Cancun from head to toe, if you want to know more about Cancun and the surrounding area feel free leave your comment below and to contact me. I’ll be glad to share more of my experiences and help you plan your journey!

Best vibes!

 

 

Like it? Share it!