Cancun is a great place to experience 21st century Mexico as it has everything you want from your vacation – beaches, resorts, food, shopping and also experience the Mexican culture. One can easily spend a week’s vacation here around its beautiful beaches & upscale resorts. Cancun, however has a lot more to offer in the form of archaeological sites like Mayan ruins, water and theme parks, night life, kids friendly resorts:
- Hotels (To be ‘All inclusive’ or not) – All-inclusive resorts are quite popular in Mexico and there is no better place than Cancun to experience them. It is a good mix of North-America style resorts with Mexican culture-like hospitality. You pay just one upfront price, and you don’t have to worry about racking up extra charges for food, drink, and entertainment while on vacation. Add in a beachside setting, and in some hotels, it’s even possible to leave your kids behind in a day care. I would recommend you to do a good research before booking one – like availability of vegetarian food options, kids care, swimming pools, transportation etc. Costco offers good deals for ‘All inclusive’ hotels in Cancun. You can also book condos from vrbo.com and always get grocery from Fred Meyer and Walmart which are not too far.
- Beaches – The blue water beaches, soft white sand, crystal clear water make for pretty awesome looking beaches. If you’re looking for a swimmable beach, look for resorts near the middle of the “7” – like near the Hyatt and Riu Cancun (tip: Cancun Island is shaped like a number 7). Some of the beaches towards the bottom of the “7” are still pretty awesome, but less swimmable. Playa Delfines, North Beach and Playa Forum are few of the popular beaches around.
- Chichen Itza – Chichen Itza is the largest and most famous ruin locally, and the one that “everybody” does when they go to Cancun. Your hotel should be able to easily set you up with a bus tour to/from Chichen Itza. If not, there will be flyers in the airport and around the hotel strip for them. Or you can rent a car and go yourself. My one recommendation if you drive – take the toll road. It costs money, but it’s much faster and safer than going through all the little towns you have to pass through otherwise. It is several hours’ drive from the coast, so it’s pretty much a full day trip. Alternatively, you can book tour packages at gotobus.com too.
- Tulum – Its about 1-2 hour drive from Cancun with nice wide highways. You might have to walk a little through the heat to get to the ruins. IMO, the ruins are less impressive than Chichen Itza but are on a cliff overlooking the sea, which is quite picturesque.
- Xcaret eco-archaeological Park – One of the many eco-parks near cancun area. It offers snorkelling, underwater swims, swims with dolphin tour and good food options. There are few other eco-parks around the area like Xplore, Xel Ha etc.
- Old Cancun/Cancun Downtown – There are really two downtown Cancuns–the tourists’ section, and the locals section. For the more adventurous, go downtown Cancun where the locals go. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and maybe even a festival going on. The restaurants are good and cheap almost all around. Sometimes guitar players will wander in off the street and play personalized songs for you.
- Coco Bongo nightclub – If you want to experience the nightlife of Cancun that it is famous for, this is the place to be. Apart from DJ, music and drinks, there are a stunning stage shows featuring incredible performances, special effects.
- Attractions like Isle Mujares island, Club Med, Playa del Carmen, Akumal are also worth exploring.
These are few tips which will come in handy:
- Visa is not required to enter Mexico if you have a valid US visa.
- Cancun is hot and humid during summers with temperatures ranging in 80-100 F. Best time to visit cancun is december when its lot more pleasant but be prepared to shell out more $$s.
- Its a good idea to rent a car if you are planning to stay there for a week or planning to go local sightseeing. There are plenty of bus services too which are comfortable and air conditioned. If you do plan to rent a car, make sure your car insurance covers Mexico. Buying an insurance in Mexico is quite costly.
- Its very hard to find any veggie option if you are eating Mexican. In Downtown Cancun its easy to find Pizza Hut, Mc D etc. Indian food is hard to get. Few ‘All inclusive’ hotels do have Indian food options though. Lookup Spanish words for “no meat” and “beans” and “vegetables” 🙂
- Avoid going to any timeshare presentations. They claim they “only take a couple of hours” and will offer you a free breakfast, free meals, and big discounts on tours in order to talk you into going, but these things will take a minimum of four hours, and the sales staff are VERY high pressure and get very rude if you refuse to buy.
- Cancun is one of the safest places in Mexico esp the areas around hotel and downtown.