Hi friends, today I have the highly requested Cancun travel guide for you! Raymond and I recently went on vacation and wow I have never received so many messages, requests or questions about anything before than when I posted pictures and videos on Instagram stories about Cancun. You seemed to super interested and excited about it so both Raymond and I have worked together to tell you everything we know about Cancun. So sit back, relax, and start planning your next vacation!
Raymond and I are working on a huge “How We Travel on a Budget” blog post for next Tuesday. It will give you so much more insight on how we’ve been able to travel to incredible places for the last 5 years all on a majorly tight budget. It will help you plan any trip anywhere in the world with some tips and tricks that we have learned along the way. The post will include what apps we use, what websites we book our accommodations on, how we save for an upcoming trip and so much more. Make sure to come back next week to read that one, you don’t want to miss it I promise it’s a good one!
Just a little back story, my dad and aunt both live in Cancun and I have personally been more than 5 times to visit and vacation. This last time we visited, was Raymond and I’s second time going together. The first time we went we stayed at an all inclusive and this time around we stayed at my aunts condo which she previously has listed on Airbnb. So we have gone both routes and I will share a bit of both below.
Cancun is the ideal destination for honeymooners, families and bachelorette parties alike. The water is the perfect aqua color and is completely crystal clear. Raymond and I were swimming in about 15-20ft deep water and I dropped my sunglasses and I found them on the sea floor right away. That’s how clear the water is! The weather is perfectly sunny and of course the food is amazing. The locals are extremely friendly and are always happy to help.
Pro Tip: Keep hurricane season in mind when planning your trip. Hurricane season is from August to October but it’s really a hit or miss. We’ve been in mid August and it was perfect but you never know. Just do some research on the weather patterns during the time you wish to go. Before we book anything, we always google the historical weather during the time frame we are looking to go. Like we said, it could be hit or miss but a little research will not hurt.
Prepare to be shocked…we paid $150 each for a non-stop round trip ticket from Dallas to Cancun with American Airlines. Wait, what? Yes friend it was that cheap! If you live in a city with a big international airport this is most likely very possible. January is the best time to go because it’s low season and the weather is absolutely perfect. The flight time from Dallas to Cancun non-stop is 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Booking your flight and hotel together will most definitely get you the best rate on both. Websites like Expedia, Travelocity and Booking.com want you to purchase a package of airfare and hotel all at once so that you don’t spend your money elsewhere. We 99% of the time book both together but this time we did not need a hotel.
Pro Tip: If you all willing to travel at the non popular time of year, then you will save a ton of money. Places like Cancun are much slower in the winter than they are in the summer.
To get to and from the airport to your hotel I recommend booking a shuttle. Its cheaper than taking a taxi and the driver can give you some great advice on where to go if you want to swim with dolphins or if you want to go to Playa del Carmen etc. You should not pay more that $50 for a roundtrip ride.
Pro Tip: My dad actually works in the tourism biz like most people who live in Cancun do, and he relies heavily on tips. So please when you travel anywhere be a good tipper! Especially since the dollar stretches further in Mexico. The staff at hotels, restaurants, and excursions are eager to give you great customer service for a tip. So be sure to include tips into your budget.
This last time we stayed at my aunts condo which she lists on Airbnb for $700/night! That is way over our budget, but if you can afford a sick Arbnb go for it. To me it was so much more peaceful than staying at an all inclusive. It felt homier, more relaxing and we didn’t have to fight anyone for a cabana at the pool. We also bought groceries which were really cheap and kept us on budget. Airbnb’s are also ideal for a large family or if you are travelling with a group. You can split the expense and you can spend more time together.
The other more popular route is an all inclusive hotel. Don’t get me wrong this is also an amazing option. All the food and drinks are included and you have someone waiting at your hand and feet at all times. If you want to be at a comfortable hotel I would say they run anywhere from $900-$1200 a person. Of course you can go cheaper and save money but I would not recommend compromising comfort because it’s your vacation! You don’t want to wish you spent the extra $200 for a better, nicer hotel.
Pro Tip: I would recommend staying in the hotel zone closer to downtown. The hotel zone has lots of restaurants and attractions and it’s worth being close if you are wanting to explore. Also, make sure the beach at your hotel is actually swimmable! There are areas where the current is very strong or where the beach is full of rocks and you cannot swim. Just becuase it is a beach front hotel does not mean you can enjoy the beach.
Food & Drinks
When choosing an all inclusive, read the reviews about the food. If you are like us, when we vacation we go all out on the food. The worst part about a trip is being disappointed about how the food tasted or the lack of research done on dining. Not all Mexican food is created equal and if you are a fan, wait until you try good Mexican food in Mexico!
We went out to eat most of the time during our trip and we mostly had seafood. Cancun has amazing seafood! We had shrimp cocktails, octopus and lobster friend rice and ceviche, my favorite. We also bought tacos from a taco stand and they were delicious. Needless to say you can’t totally go wrong but if you don’t plan on leaving your hotel, make sure the restaurant reviews are great.
If you plan on venturing out into the city to eat, don’t stop at the first place you see. Take a good look and see if it looks like the locals are eating there. Those are probably the good spots and not very touristy.
Pro Tip: If you are on a budget and not staying at all inclusive that is totally fine. If your hotel has a mini kitchen or a fridge, stop by the local Chedraui. It’s a grocery store but only nicer where you will find anything and everything you need. They have a huge wine and liquor selection, groceries and a restaurant that is very inexpensive.
The excursions we have done in Cancun always involve the water. We have snorkeled, swam with dolphins, kayaked and taken the ferry to Isla Mujeres (an island about 30 minutes or less on ferry from Cancun). If you are traveling during high season I recommend booking ahead. Although it will be more expensive, this will guarantee you get to do what you actually want since they fill up fast during the summer. If you are going during off season then I would say to wait and book there since it’s much cheaper.
Raymond and I rented kayaks one day for $50 pesos/per hour each which is about $3! We have also booked a snorkeling excursion at Isla Mujeres for less than $15.
Pro Tip: Anyone that has travelled anywhere knows that you cannot see and do everything in the short time you are there. Make a long list of things you want to see and pick your top 3. If you do book an excursion, I recommend that you book it outside of the hotel. It is usually cheaper. Booking an excursion through the hotel means you pay for the excursion itself and the fee the hotel charges for booking it through them. (The hotel has to make money too). When you see the price of $500 pesos per person, you could probably get it for half of that by booking it directly with the company running the excursion. Also note that doing fewer excursions and having some free time will make your trip so much more enjoyable.
We did go to a couple of plazas that were very nice. They have stores like Zara and Forever 21 but they also have Louis Vitton, Chanel and Gucci. So if you are looking to shop you won’t have to look very far.
- Plaza La Isla: This is a very poplar outdoor mall where you will recognize every store. They also have an aquarium where you can swim with dolphins. They have restaurants like Señor Frogs and a ferris wheel. This is one of the older ones in the hotel zone.
- Plaza Kukulcan: Is the luxury plaza where all the designer stores are located. Its a beautiful shopping mall that is worth a visit.
- Plaza Puerto Cancun: This is the one we went to this last time and it’s the newest outdoor mall in Cancun. It’s has great shops but my favorite part were the restaurants and food court. See below. This is a beautiful spot to visit for dinner or drinks. It over looks over the marina and is very romantic.
Pro Tip: I recommend picking only one plaza to visit and get to know it. When I think of Cancun I think of laying on the beach as much as possible. Don’t stop by a place or eat at places you have back home. You are on vacation so try new things. Don’t be afraid to try new foods as well. If something is on the menu you have never heard of before, order it. It’s so much more fun to try new dishes rather than ordering “enchiladas” or a “burrito”. Common, you’re in Mexico.
If you are traveling from the US, the dollar right now (and almost always) is very high compared to the peso (Mexico’s currency). This is a huge and I mean huge advantage! Our money stretches really far there and if that is not reason enough to travel to Cancun I don’t know what is.
Pro Tip: We recommend you exchange small amounts at a time first thing in the morning. For example if you are taking $300 spending money, do not, I repeat do not exchange it all. Why? Because if you don’t use it, you will have to convert it back to dollars at the end of your trip and lose money. So only exchange maybe $50 at a time and if you run out of pesos they take dollars everywhere but at a lower exchange rate.
My dad and aunt both have lived in Cancun for years and they have shared stories on a couple of things that have happened that I am sure you have heard of too. We have personally never felt unsafe or uneasy when we are in Cancun maybe because we speak the language or maybe because we don’t do anything past 10pm. It really depends where you are in Cancun and what you are looking to do. We don’t like partying or bar hopping late at night and especially not in another country. Of course no one can guarantee your safety anywhere so we recommend you use your best judgement when traveling to another country.
Pro Tip: Never carry your passport with you or all your money at once. Use common sense and your best judgement. If something feels shady, it probably is. Trust me, I have stories.
There you have it friends! I hope you are excited about possibly going to Cancun soon and that this post has helped you plan for it. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions if you have been before.
If you’ve been, please leave a comment with what your favorite part was for everyone to read! If you found this post helpful please share it with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest.
Karen & Raymond