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A Traveling Insider's Guide To Cancun

Here's how to get the most out of your trip to Cancun. | By Cassandra Brooklyn | June 2, 2022 (Updated February 27, 2023)

Cancun is synonymous with vacation perfection. While the city may initially bring to mind soft sand and clear blue water, it’s also home to world-class restaurants, interesting museums and fascinating day trips. Think Chichen Itza, Playa del Carmen, the Tulum ruins, Isla Mujeres and Xcaret Park. Whether you consider an ideal escape to be relaxing at the resort or snorkeling and swimming in cenotes, Cancun has you covered.

Here are our top tips for making memories in Mexico:

  • Catch some rays: Cancun is sunny most months of the year — take advantage of the beautiful weather and explore the great outdoors

  • Go with the flow: Cancun is full of surprises; let your concierge give you some on-the-ground suggestions at arrival to fit your mood

  • Look ahead: Some restaurants, museums and other attractions are only open certain days of the week — plan ahead so you don’t miss a thing

Overview of a rocky cliff and blue ocean
The Mayan ruins of Cancun are sure to amaze.

Why visit Cancun?

Cancun is a sun-kissed city with modern art and architecture, a rich culinary history and easy access to secret swimming holes, underground cenotes and world-famous Mayan ruins. Traveling with children? There are also plenty of theme parks to keep little ones entertained.

 Woman relaxing by the pool in a luxurious beachfront hotel resort at sunset enjoying perfect beach holiday vacation
Sublime sunsets are a year-round staple in Cancun.

When is the best time to visit Cancun?

Fun and sun are pretty much year-round perks in Yucatan Peninsula, but given Cancun's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the rest of the Caribbean and the Central American coast (areas that often experience hurricanes) it’s worth considering how the weather might impact your trip. Hurricane season is from June through November, with storms most likely from August through October. There are also fewer travelers during these months.

Group of happy multiracial friends talking and laughing having a conversation at lunch
Grab your pals and head for the Hotel Zone — it offers food, fun and everything in between.

Planning your trip to Cancun

As you’re considering where to stay in Cancun, think about the sort of vibe and amenities you’re looking for. Most tourists head for the “Hotel Zone,” a 14-mile (22 kilometers) stretch that includes resorts, restaurants, boutiques and booming nightclubs. If you want something a little more secluded, consider staying near the end of the zone. The hotels on the northern end of Cancun have more shopping and popular beaches, while hotels on the southern end, including Hilton Cancun, an All-Inclusive Resort, are more laid-back with less crowded beaches.

Bicycle Tour
Bikes are a great way for the whole family to get around.

Getting to and around Cancun

Most visitors arrive at Cancun International Airport, about a 25-minute from downtown and to many of the all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. Upon exiting the airport, you’ll likely be greeted by drivers holding signs for specific travelers or hotels. To avoid any confusion, speak with your hotel in advance to arrange a private taxi or shuttle.

Adventurous travelers could also catch one of the area’s regional buses, like ADO, from the downtown terminal to visit other cities along the Riviera Maya. If you’re staying local, renting a pedal bike or an e-bike is a fun, sustainable way to cruise the beach.

Mexican musicians mariachi on a city street
Cancun's culture can be found all over.

Cancun's culture and customs

Life in Cancun is busy when compared to some of the smaller cities on the Yucatan Peninsula, but if you plan to spend most of your time on the sand, you might never know it. Days on the beach are relaxing and easy-going, while nights spent out on the town promise spirited fun.

Don’t be fooled, however. Cancun is more than just a party destination. The area is near many Mayan archaeological sites like Chichen Itza and Coba, alongside biologically diverse seas, lagoons and cenotes that are teeming with plants and animals that can only thrive in the presence of respectful travelers. The swimming and snorkeling in this area is second to none.

Mexican culture is warm and welcoming, especially at the dinner table. Hosts, chefs and servers will do everything possible to ensure you leave happy — and full. Be sure to try one of the region’s most celebrated delicacies, cochinita pibil, an intensely flavorful roast pork dish marinated with orange juice and achiote seeds and topped with pickled red onions — served alongside a delicious margarita, of course.

From diving into cenotes to diving into a plate of delicious cochinita pibil, Cancun is a feast for the senses that promises lasting memories for years to come.

Cassandra Brooklyn is a freelance writer specializing in travel, culture, and all things outdoors. She's the author of the cycling guidebook, Cuba By Bike, and has bylines in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, Forbes, The Daily Beast and Lonely Planet, among others.

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