Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Cancun Travel Tips: Attractions, Weather, When to Go

Hotels and resorts line the Cancun waterfront in what is known as the hotel zone. Credit: Depositphotos
Hotels and resorts line the Cancun waterfront in what is known as the hotel zone. Credit: Depositphotos

A beach vacation in Cancun, Mexico, is popular with tourists because of its luxurious hotels, convenient location and many things to do. The beaches aren’t bad, either.

I have plenty of Cancun travel tips after several trips there, but these five are the most important ones:

  1. Go in the spring and not the winter for seawater with comfortable temperatures.
  2. The best regional attraction is a day trip to Chichén-Itzá.
  3. Isla Mujeres is the best nearby attraction.
  4. Avoid spring break because of high prices and large crowds.
  5. Avoid going in the fall because of heavy rains.

Hotel and Resort Tips

Cancun is one of the easiest beach vacation destinations in the Caribbean for hotel and resort visitors.

Cancun beach.© 2019 Scott S. Bateman

They will fly into Cancun International Airport and from there take a 15- to 20-minute drive via taxi, rental car or shuttle bus to their hotel on the water. The Cancun hotel zone is on a lengthy and narrow strip of land surrounding Nichupte Lagoon. Hotels and restaurants are lined up closely together on the main road—Kukulkan Boulevard—with many shops and restaurants on the lagoon side and the hotels facing the ocean.

Many more hotels and especially all-inclusive resorts line the coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, which is 40 miles to the south. The Kukulkan strip is a mix of hotels and resorts; places to the south of Cancun have an emphasis on all-inclusives.

Tourists who take a taxi or shuttle bus to their hotel rather than a rental car have another advantage with the location. Cancun has an inexpensive public bus system with buses that run along the boulevard during both day and night. Vacationers can hop on by their hotel and hop off a few miles down the road at a restaurant or tourist attraction.

Most of the Cancun hotels are in a strip known as Zona Hotelera. Prices vary greatly; most of them stay in a range of $150 to $500 a night.

Tourist Attractions

What the Cancun hotel zone doesn’t have are any major attractions nearby. Because of the lagoon location, Cancun has a heavy emphasis on water sports including scuba diving, snorkeling and boating.

The hotel strip is 19 miles long, and visitors can eat at more than 500 restaurants. The intense concentration of shops, hotels and restaurants in such a small area creates many things to do. Note: Be careful with the Mexican peso exchange rate; as we found out, a few unscrupulous restaurants will take advantage of unwary tourists.

Visitors can take boat tours to Isla Mujeres to swim with the dolphins. While there, they also can see sandy beaches and brick streets, bright clapboard houses, snorkeling opportunities, a turtle sanctuary and other activities such as the Garrafon National Park. Two more dolphin facilities are now located near Kukulkan Boulevard.

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a major Cancun area attraction. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Other popular attractions include the huge Mayan ruins at Chichén-Itzá, plus other ruins at Calakmul, Palenque, Tulum and Uxmal. The ruins require visitors to have either a rental car or excursion bus to reach them. Chichén-Itzá is especially impressive; a visit by excursion bus will cost $60 or more per person.

Anyone with a rental car may want to drive less than an hour south to Playa del Carmen for the great shopping district on 5th Avenue. It is a festive, open-air pedestrian mall lined with shops and restaurants that runs for more than a mile near the waterfront. It is often packed with cruise visitors from Cozumel. The famous Mayan ruins of Tulum are just south of Playa del Carmen.

Cozumel is a quick ferry ride across the water from Playa del Carmen. It has many more things to do, especially diving and snorkeling. (Despite its reputation for reefs, our Cozumel snorkeling experience was fairly routine compared to places such as St. Thomas, although others may do better.)

Cancun Vacation Weather

Cancun monthly rainfall
© 2022 Scott S. Bateman

The average daytime temperatures in Cancan range from the low 80s Fahrenheit in the winter to the low 90s in the summer.

Nighttime temperatures range from the high 60s Fahrenheit in the winter to high 70s in the summer.

Nighttime temperatures in winter will cool seawater and make it feel chilly at times for swimmers, even during the day.

The driest months are February through April. The rainiest months are September and October during the Cancun hurricane season.
Vacationers who think about visiting Cancun should keep the weather in mind. Although the city is usually warm to hot, the total rainfall varies greatly from season to season.

Rainfall is lightest from March through June when the daytime temperatures average from the mid-80s to low-90s Fahrenheit. The average year-round temperature is 80 degrees.

The city has far fewer visitors in September and October when it averages about nine inches of rain each month during the annual Caribbean hurricane season.

Some research shows that Cancun gets touched by a hurricane about once every two to three years or has one pass nearby. In one case, tourists were forced to flee the city in August 2007 because of Hurricane Dean.

Tourism / Best Times to Go

This video explains the best time to visit Cancun and avoid the annual hurricane season.
Full-Screen Version | YouTube Caribbean Channel

The most popular month to visit Cancun is July followed by December and then June, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

The summer popularity flies in the face of the summertime hurricane threat. Tourism increases during the summer because of families with school children on summer breaks. Between tourism and weather, the best time to go to Cancun is during the spring months. Otherwise, earlier in the summer is better than later.

A Cancun vacation is convenient because the city is within easy reach for most U.S. citizens. Flight times are about 1.5 hours from Miami and about four hours from Chicago.

Cancun is the third most popular place to visit in the Caribbean region. As a result, airlines offer a large number of flights from airports in the U.S.

That makes it easy to schedule a flight. It also keeps airline tickets less expensive than other Caribbean destinations that are farther away and less popular.

Cancun is not a cruise destination because it does not have a cruise port, but it certainly is a popular hotel and resort destination. Only Dominican Republic and Jamaica are more popular.

Currency / Tipping

Currency is the Mexican peso, but U.S. currency and most major credit cards are widely accepted.

Although most businesses are honest, be careful with paying by credit card. Some businesses may charge a high service fee for exchanging dollars and pesos. Some may use an inflated exchange rate. It is wise for tourists to know the exchange rate when visiting there.

Tipping is about 10-15 percent with 15 percent being more common. The hotel room tax is 12 percent, and the departure tax is $17.

Culture / Geography

The official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken. Locals within Cancun and who live in the tourist area commonly speak English. It is less common to find English speakers for anyone who ventures outside the tourist area.

The low-lying island located in the state of Quintana Roo is about 16 miles long and about a half mile wide. The longest barrier reef in the Americas is just offshore and helps create a unique L-shaped lagoon. Cancun Island connects to the mainland city of Cancun by a causeway.


Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
July 21, 2023

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