Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Cancun Vacation Review: Mostly Positive Experiences

Cancun vacation review
© 2018 Scott S. Bateman

A Cancun vacation is appealing because of the convenient location of this lively city on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

It is located a little more north than most Caribbean destinations, and that makes it quicker to reach by plane for people visiting from the United States and Canada. It also means plane tickets are cheaper because less fuel is needed for getting there.

The city becomes packed with college students during spring break. The high season runs from December through April, although water temperatures are somewhat cool during the winter.

For people wanting fewer crowds and better weather, April and May are better choices.

June through September are hot with average high temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But our summer trip was comfortable.

Our Vacation Tips

We have now gone three times and had three different experiences.

February was quieter than we expected. The strong trade winds and chilly water made swimming uncomfortable for us as well as others on the beaches. Most of us stayed in the heated hotel pools.

A spring trip that included a day trip to Chichen Itzen with the entire family was well worth the time and cost.

A trip for just my wife and myself included an excursion to swim with the dolphins at Isla Mujeres. It was nice but not as memorable as the massive Chichen Itza.

All three trips gave us some impressions in common:

  • Overall, the excursions were great.
  • Dining, nightlife and public transportation were above average.
  • The water is safe to drink.
  • The main tourist area also is quite safe.
  • Hotel staffs were friendly and professional.
  • The public bus system on Boulevard Kukulkan is convenient and inexpensive.

We also had two negative impressions:

  • The beaches were not as good as expected or as good as some other Caribbean destinations. Damage from bad weather had reduced the amount of sand, which is trucked in every year. A later trip showed some improvement.
  • One major restaurant in a prominent location did a bait and switch on the price of our meals. We learned the importance of knowing the exchange rate which varies with every establishment.
Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is the best excursion in Cancun. © Scott S. Bateman


We went on three excursions during our visits to Cancun and liked all three choices.

The first was the swim with the dolphins at Isla Mujeres, a small island about a half-hour ferry ride from Cancun. At that time, it was one of the few destinations in the Caribbean with a dolphin swim experience. Many more such places have been built since then including another one in Cancun itself.

We spent about an hour in the water with eight other people. The dolphin was cute and remarkably well-trained.

The price was higher than most Caribbean excursions. But it was not out of line considering the time we spent with the dolphin, the length and amenities on the boat ride, and a small amount of food and refreshments included in the price.

The second excursion was a full-day trip to the large and extensive Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

This highly educational tour with a knowledgeable guide provides views of great numerous ruins and a thorough background on a fascinating culture. It is highly recommended as a family excursion.

The third trip was a drive down the coast from Cancun to the resort area of Riviera Maya and its most important city at Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen has an excellent tourism district on Fifth Avenue with tons of shopping and dining. The Xcaret ecological park is six miles south of Playa del Carmen. The Mayan ruins at Tulum are 50 miles south.


Cancun hotels
View of Cancun hotels. © Scott S. Bateman

As I mentioned before, one of the best times to visit Cancun is in April or May after the spring break visitors have gone away.

Don’t go in September and October when average rainfall is the highest unless it is a last-minute vacation and the weather forecast looks good.

If anything is worth spending extra money on the vacation, it’s a day trip to Chichen Itza for its uniqueness, educational value and plenty of great photos.

Swimming with dolphins is a fun experience that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime. But the same experience is available at plenty of other destinations in the Caribbean.

For anyone who hasn’t visited before, it’s helpful to know that everything lies along a 13 mile strip with just one road—Boulevard Kukulkan—that circles around the Nichupte Lagoon.

A handful of restaurants will probably lie within walking distance of the resort. Otherwise, anyone who wants to reach just about everything else will need the bus system or a rental car.

Finally, choose restaurants in advance by going online and looking at reviews to make sure they are credible and treat their customers fairly.

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.
November 06, 2021

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