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Cancun Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More!

February 2021

Cancun Hotel Guide. The best places to stay in Cancun
Gorgeous Cancun

Island Life Mexico is your #1 resource for all things Mexican Caribbean! Our guides are loaded with informative articles by locals and our unique tours and experiences are top-rated in the area.

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Welcome To Cancun

Like all of the glittering beach towns in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun was once a  Mayan cultural center. This particular piece of land was essential for the Mayan fishing and maritime trades. After the Maya left the area and prior to the 1970’s, Cancun was all but forgotten. Surviving with but 100 residents.

Fast forward to the 1970’s, when the Mexican government deemed Cancun the best place to build the next tropical, tourist destination. It was a slow build. The Mexican government actually had to finance the first few resorts themselves because took a lot of convincing to get investors interested. Yet by the mid 1980’s, Cancun had achieved its goal. It was the IT destination in Mexico.

Yucatan Map

Rich with history and irresistible nature, Cancun quickly became a mecca for local and foreign visitors. Since 1989 Cancun has been considered the most dynamic city in Mexico. Pillow soft sand, warm seas and dreams coming true keep patrons coming back year after year.

Below is our guide to making the best of your visit including many of the top things to do in Cancun. We hope you enjoy!

Cancun Today
Cancun Today

Where is Cancun?

Cancun City and the adjacent L-shaped island area known as Isla Cancun, are located on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean side. Located just north of the Riviera Maya coastal area, Cancun is one of Mexico’s easternmost points.

Adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Cancun is in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, and world-class diving and snorkeling. This is DEFINITELY the island life!

mesoamerican barrier reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Cancun Turtle
Hey Buddy!
Island Life Mexico Yucatan Map Large

Yucatan Map - click to enlarge

When To Visit Cancun

The tropical climate in Cancun is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.

  December – April is the dry season with low humidity, more temperate weather and trade winds that bring refreshing breezes.

  May – November is the rainy season. Hot temperatures, high humidity and intense, although usually short, thunderstorms occur daily. This is the hurricane season too, with peak risk in October generally.

Cancun Beach, one of the top things to do in cancun
Another Beautiful Day in Cancun

How to Get to Cancun

There are a few ways to get to Cancun.

   By Air: Most people fly directly to Cancun as numerous international flights arrive in Cancun daily. The international airport is located in Cancun City (Centro) and is just 13 miles from the Zona Hotelera. From the airport guests can rent a car or take a bus, taxi or shuttle service to their accomodation.

Some suggest the easiest way to get to town is by hiring a shuttle ride in advance. The tour company will send a driver to meet you at the airport and take you directly to your location. Keep in mind, your hotel/resort may also have complimentary airport pickup so be sure to look into that and reserve in advance.

   By Bus: The most affordable and slowly becoming one of the most popular forms of transport, busses go everywhere you want to go and most are airconditioned. From the airport there are frequent public busses available into the city. From Tulum and Playa del Carmen busses are also widely available. Consult your hotel for pickup locations.

   By Taxi: Taxis are everywhere and will take you straight to your accommodation. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taxi’s from Playa del Carmen or Tulum are convenient but can be expensive.

   By Car: Renting a vehicle may be the most convenient choice depending on how much exploring you plan to do on your own. It is an easy and affordable option. The roads between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum and very straightforward and safe.

How to get to cancun
Kukulcan Avenue in Cancun

Cancun Highlights!

The Top 5

  1. Visit El Ray Ruins, located in town. This is a great way to see the history of the area without having to go all the way to Chichen Itza.
  2. Hit the shore at Playa Tortugas. A beautiful stretch of beach with perfect waves for swimmers of all levels
  3. Make time to visit the REAL Cancun. Head to Downtown Cancun and see how the locals live and experience some authentic Mexican food.
  4. Swim in a Cenote. This is a must-do while in the area. There are dozens to choose from so you could spend a day or a week hopping from one to another. See our ultimate Cenote Guide.
  5. Shop at Mercado 28. A classic open-air market with food stalls and local artisans, it holds everything you didn’t know you wanted.
Playa Tortugas, one of the top things to do in cancun
Playa Tortugas
Cenote Azul, Yucatan
Cenote Azul, Yucatan

Where to Stay in Cancun

From an all-inclusive to hidden gems, Cancun’s accommodations meet the needs of all types of travelers. Not surprisingly, most of the resorts and chain hotels exist in more crowded Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) but don’t dismiss the wide array of more affordable guest houses and boutique lodging options in Centro (downtown), many equipped with lush gardens and pools.

The most important thing when deciding on your lodging is location. Be sure to research where you want to be before you book. That said, there is always a taxi or bus ready to whisk you away.

Encantada Tulum, One Of The Best Hotels In Tulum Mexico

For hotel recommendations, check out our Cancun Hotel Guide

What to Do in Cancun

There is so much to do in Cancun! From live shows to sailing cruises and more, it’s really easy to make each day in Cancun a special experience. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy!

1. Explore Cancun City's Food & Markets

Street Food
Street food vendor serving Elote

Explore Ciudad Cancun, aka downtown Cancun, and wander the colorful streets and markets. If you’re feeling bold, be sure to taste the amazing street food, talk to locals, and experience the real Cancun.

While you’re there, be sure to check out Mercado 28, a traditional outdoor market with food stalls and local artisans selling all kinds of unique items.

2. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Sculptures at MUSA underwater sculpture park, one of the top things to do in cancun
Sculptures at MUSA underwater sculpture park

Hire a tour company to jet you around the lagoons or go with a dive shop and see what lies beneath.

The Underwater Sculpture Museum at MUSA has become quite a popular attraction in recent years. Over 500 sculptures were built and installed in the blue shallow waters in an attempt to rebuild the reef system that has been under attack from tourists and warming seas for years. But there are plenty of other diving and snorkeling options! Get in the water and explore, a true treasure awaits.

3. Go To A Night Club

Cancun Nightlife, one of the top things to do in cancun
Cancun Nightlife

You are in the Mexican Caribbean’s party center after all!

The northern part of Zona Hotelera is called Punta Cancun and is the nightlife party area with plenty of clubs and tourist bars. Some say the best club to dance and drink the night away is Coco Bongo but don’t let us sway your decision, there are many places to party on offer, mostly in the Zona Hotelera.

4. Take A Sunset Sailing Cruise

Sunset Sailing in Cancun, one of the top things to do in cancun
Sunset Sailing in Cancun

Feeling something a bit more relaxed and maybe even romantic?

A sunset sailing cruise is guaranteed to set you at ease. Cancun is known for its incredible sunsets. What better way to wind down and fall softly into relaxation than this?  Snacks, drinks, soothing waves, gorgeous sky…if you need anything else you are just being too greedy.

5. Go To A Lucha Libre Show!

Lucha Libre!, one of the top things to do in cancun
Lucha Libre!

Is there anything more uniquely Mexican than a luchador wrestling match?

No, is the answer. These fighters train for years and have mastered the art of entertainment. Go, enjoy, cheer and maybe have a cervesa or a coctel.

     Yucatan Highlights Map

This map shows many of our Mexican Caribbean highlights. To open the table of contents, click on the icon in the top left corner of the map. This will allow you to sort through the different types of highlights! Click on the points of interest or the icons on the map itself to access additional info.  You can open the map in its own window to make it larger if you’d like.

     Rotate mobile to expand map
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Oh man, as a first time visitor to Cancun I was completely overwhelmed and your guide just saved my life! Seriously thank you so much for posting this. It has made my visit so much more relaxed. I am going to read the Cenotes one next!

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