Caribbean vacations
Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Cancun Travel Tips and Visitor Information

A vacation in Cancun, Mexico, is popular with tourists because of its luxurious hotels, convenient location and many things to do.

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 during the fall because of heavy rains.

Visitors will find that Cancun is actually a lengthy 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.

One added advantage for tourists is an inexpensive public bus system with buses that run along the boulevard during both day and night.

Like most destinations in the Caribbean region, Cancun has a heavy emphasis on water sports including scuba diving, snorkeling and boating.

Families swim with dolphins at Isla Mujeres. Other popular attractions include the huge Mayan ruins at Chichén-Itzá, plus other ruins at Calakmul, Palenque, Tulum and Uxmal.

Anyone thinking about a Caribbean trip will find that Cancun has many large hotels, plenty of shopping, restaurants and nightlife, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.

More About Cancun

Cancun Island off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is the place to go in one condensed location for beaches, nightlife, excursions to Mayan ruins and the enclosed lagoon that provides a myriad of watersports opportunities.

The hotel strip is 19 miles long, and visitors can eat at more than 500 restaurants. The intense concentration of shops, hotels and restaurants on such a small area creates many things to do.

It is a nicely packaged vacation like a visit to the many all-inclusives of Dominican Republic. Go to Cancun for simple relaxation with the potential to keep active.

It is at the opposite end of the spectrum with an island such as St. Kitts, where tourists go almost entirely for relaxation. Cancun is 10th in total tourism.

Cancun Attractions

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a major Cancun area attraction.
Unique attractions include the island of Isla Mujeres and the Mayan ruins of Calakmul, Chichén-Itzá, Palenque, Tulum and Uxmal. The ruins require visitors to have either a rental car or excursion bus to reach them.

Anyone with a rental car may want to drive 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.

Cozumel lies about 40 miles to the south 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.)

Standard attractions include the seemingly endless beaches and the many water sports.

Cancun Weather

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. Most recently, tourists were forced to flee the city in August 2007 because of Hurricane Dean.

Tourism / Best Times to Go

Cancun vacationsThe most popular month to visit Cancun is July followed by December and then June.

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 stopover 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.

 > Category: Travel Tips   

February 16, 2017

More Tips