Cancun in Mexico is a tourist and holiday paradise as it can be seen in travel magazines – a wonderful introduction to the diversity of Mexico with a touch of North America and Europe. In this article you will find all the advantages of Cancun and its surroundings, as well as travel knowledge about this wonderful located at the Caribbean Sea.
Beautiful beaches, but very touristic
Cancun is located directly at the Caribbean Sea and brings many great memories and experiences to millions of people every year. But what makes a trip to Cancun attractive? The short version of this answer: The beautiful beaches, crystal clear sea and Caribbean climate most of the year.
In Cancun there is a huge selection of beautiful hotels with first class service for every price range. English is also spoken fluently in all the good hotels here, so you can get along well without Spanish. This is not a matter of course in Mexico. Because even in big cities like Mexico City or Guadalajara you can’t get along well without basic knowledge of Spanish or without a Mexico travel guide*. In Cancun, on the other hand, in tourist areas, all everyday things are easily done in English: taking a taxi, ordering food or buying a nice souvenir in the numerous shops. However, the prices for souvenirs are much higher here than in other parts of the country.
But due to its very international orientation it is very touristy compared to other places in Mexico. What for the vacationers of Spain are exuberant Englishmen and Russians, in Cancun there are Americans, Canadians or richer South Americans. Also some Russians have already developed a taste for it and celebrate extensively in Cancun. If your accommodation is not on the party mile near the hotel zone (Zona Hotelera), you can have a great time in Cancun. But if you are looking for fun, this is definitely the place to be at night.
Why you should visit Cancun
The beautiful Caribbean beaches with crystal clear, aquamarine blue water invite you to swim and sunbathe. In spite of large tourist streams there is always some nature to enjoy – even on busy beach promenades. There are often small fish in the sea and of course the omnipresent pelicans, which hunt for small fish and crustaceans during the day.
Furthermore, there are many shopping possibilities. Especially for shoppers and luxury lovers shopping malls like Puerto Cancun are very attractive. You can find all well-known brands there like: Louis Vuitton or Lacoste* but of course also surf brands like Billabong* or Quicksilver*. Even well-known European chains like H&M or C&A have stores here. There is really something for everyone in the shopping area including a huge selection of snack and fast food restaurants. Puerto Cancun is really worth an afternoon trip!
Cancun is certainly best known for its annual Spring Break event. This huge party is a mixture of binge drinking and bridal shower, according to friends. Cancun is very popular as a spring break destination for young Canadians and Americans. If you like partying, you should experience the annual parties in February.
Cancun also has one of the most important international airports in Mexico. Therefore Cancun is also a good “gateway to Mexico” from Europe or other parts of the world. You can for example fly to Mexico from Frankfurt or New York at a relatively low cost and then fly to other cities like Tulum, Guadalajara or Mexico City.
Activities in Cancun
In Cancun, there are many nice ways to pass time. One can of course sunbathe endlessly or relax in the sea. Beaches like Playa Delfines (beach of the dolphins) or Playa Tortugas (beach of the turtles) are recommended for sunbathing. At Playa Tortugas there is also a ferry that goes to Isla Mujeres (Island of Women). I personally have not used this ferry yet, because the trip cost about 1000 Pesos (± 50€). I find that a bit too expensive to see a small crowded island full of (North American) tourists. But there are cheaper ferries at another local port. But the beach there is said to be very nice if you catch it on a less crowded day.
Those who find this too boring can learn to surf at hot spots or improve their existing surfing skills. The sea in Cancun is very lively and offers some good waves even on calm days. Also extreme sports like paragliding are often offered directly on the beach. There are also numerous possibilities to rent JetSkis or boats to have fun in the water. However, you should think about the environment and not use them all afternoon. Neither the other people nor the pelicans or fishes would like that very much 😉
Especially relevant for couples: There are many weddings celebrated in Cancun every year. In 2016 there were about 18 million weddings. And every year between 10-15% more weddings are registered in Cancun than in the previous year. It is almost part of Cancun’s image that you can meet newly married couples in restaurants or on the beach while taking pictures.
Are you more of a village person? You might want to check out the magical silver village Taxco
Great places in the Cancun area
There is also a lot to discover in the surroundings of Cancun. It is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and there are several other popular places to explore. Playa del Carmen or Tulum are especially popular. In the immediate vicinity of Tulum there is also an old Mayan ruin that can be explored.
Also in this small town many things of the everyday life can be arranged in English and one meets as many Americans or Canadians here as in Cancun. The island Cozumel is also easily accessible from Cancun. However, it is considered quite expensive, even if it is said to be extremely worth seeing. Unfortunately we have not been there ourselves yet.
In addition, there are numerous cenotes in the surroundings of Cancun. Cenotes are freshwater lakes underground or in caves. In some of them you can swim and the water is very clear! Also worth a visit is theadventure park of Xcaret. There are a variety of shows with traditional dances, music performances, a hotel, good food, a water park and much much more.
You can find more tips on Cancun, Cozumel and Yucatan in the Lonely Planet travel guide*
A Brief History of Cancun
How did Cancun become the party paradise for college students and party people from all over the world? Until the 50s the area around Cancun was largely untouched and was inhabited by fisherman. In the past, the center of Cancun was a kind of swampland. This was then gradually drained and the first luxury hotels were built due to the favorable climate and as an alternative to the famous destination Acapulco.
Many hotels were very quickly raised by American and Canadian investors. Canadian and American veterans also increased their investments in hotel construction in the 70s, 80s and 90s. This also explains the focus on this target group in the member-only or club hotel sector. Many people from all over Mexico are drawn to Cancun to work in the city’s many hotels and restaurants. The majority of them are located in the hotel zone, which is about 20 km long.
There are so many wonderful hotels that are quite affordable, especially in the low season, although the prices in Cancun are quite on a European level compared to other Mexican cities like Guadalajara or Merida. Of course, all big hotel chains can be found there, so prices for a stay there are practically unlimited. There are countless middle class 4 star hotels with very good service as well as 5 star premium hotels.
Some member-only hotels are particularly popular with North American retirees and veterans of the US Army. However, these are not bookable publicly without being a member. They adjust perfectly to these older guests and offer a full service, so that many of them hardly ever leave the hotel or their bungalow. This service can of course be enjoyed by all guests – a lucrative business!
Tip: If you prefer city experiences, have a look at my Mexico City Tips.