15 Insider Tips for Planning a Trip to Cancun

With sunny beaches and vibrant nightlife, Cancun is the ultimate destination for a great getaway.

But before you pack your bags and hit that beach, there’s quite a bit of planning involved – do you stay in the heart of town or book a secluded boutique hotel; rent a car or explore via public transportation?

Whether your vacation is for a special occasion or just want to take in some much-needed sun, we’ve got it covered.

Let us help take some of the guesswork out of your epic vacation!

Read on to find out when’s the best time to visit, where to stay, local must-sees – plus all those extra bits and bobs that make these types of adventures unforgettable.

When to Go

Cancun is a popular tourist destination, so it’s important to consider when you want to go.

In our opinion, the best time to visit Cancun is in the month of May, after the high season and before the summer heatwave hits.

The busiest times of the year are during the winter months and spring break (between December and April); prime travel time means larger crowds!

If you want to avoid tourists, the best time to visit is during the fall months. It’s rainy, but the downpour usually doesn’t last long.

Keep in mind that hurricane season runs from September to October, so you may want to avoid travel during this time if you’re concerned about weather conditions.

luxury all inclusive resort in Cancun
luxury all inclusive resort in Cancun

Booking Your Flight

Planning a trip to Cancun? Thrilling – but also expensive. The biggest expenditure comes down to that one dreaded expense: the flight.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But you don’t have to worry about spending an arm and a leg – by doing some smart research, you can make airline tickets surprisingly affordable!

Take advantage of deals and specials, search for multi-stop flights, or use rewards points.

With these steps, you’ll be sure to get from point A to Cancun without breaking the bank.

Check out our guide on scoring the best deals on airline flights here.

How to Get There

Cancun is located in Mexico, so you will need a passport if you’re traveling from the United States. You can fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) and then take a bus or shuttle to your hotel.

If you want your stress levels to stay low, you need to make sure to plan your transfers ahead of time. Don’t get scammed by the not-so-reputable taxi services once your plane has landed!

Our personal favorite is USA Transfers which offers reliable and affordable transportation from the airport direct to your hotel.

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Where to Stay

Arriving in Cancun and wondering where to stay? The famed Hotel Zone is a mecca for mega-resorts and all things luxe -it’s practically an all-inclusive trip within a trip.

From on-site bars, restaurants, and even entertainment teams, it seems like everything you’d ever need (or want!) is just steps away from your resort room.

Sure, these all-inclusive resorts come with a heftier price tag, but comfort and convenience rarely come cheap.

If you need convincing, we go into further detail on whether it’s worth it to stay at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.

That being said, if you’re slightly more budget conscious, there are rental homes and hostels downtown worth investigating.

And for those that want to live in the lap of luxury, these swim-up suites in Cancun are calling your name.

Beautiful White Sand Beach
Beautiful White Sand Beach

Is there Seaweed in Cancun?

If you’re visiting Cancun and want to keep seaweed as far away as possible, you could say the Hotel Zone is your white knight.

Although sargassum may occasionally wash up on shore, these beaches remain one of the few places you won’t spot any slimy strands stretching out towards the horizon.

For a seaweed-free experience, make sure you stay in the Hotel Zone and avoid the coastal area that runs along the Riviera Maya.

Currency & Tipping

If your heart is set on white sandy beaches and sipping fruity cocktails sans worries, then you need to start off your journey by understanding the currency used (Mexican pesos) and appropriate tipping etiquette.

Most of the smaller shops and eateries that are outside the Hotel Zone only accept pesos. To make life easier, always carry around pockets of smaller cash amounts that can be easily exchanged for goods and services in the country.

Also, tipping is widely customary in Cancun; check out our guide to tipping in Mexico.

Planning Your Bucket List

Cancun is all about partying, beach bumming and pampering – and it’s pretty much the paradise of any young adult.

But if you thought Cancun was nothing but bars and nightclubs, then you’re in for a surprise – La Isla Cancun Shopping Village has an aquarium, handicraft stores and the hottest brands from around the world!

Besides top-notch shopping, the beaches here are on another level; whether it’s sunbathing or snorkeling, Cancun has that in spades.

We recommend spending a day at the Underwater Museum of Art, where you can marvel at 500 underwater sculptures surrounded by vibrant sea life.

And if you want to venture out further, catch a ferry to Isla Mujeres for diving and some more beach time!

Excursion to Tulum
Excursion to Tulum

Book Excursions in Advance

If you’re planning a trip to Cancun, you best be ready to nail down all the details.

The last thing you want is to get to your destination and realize you’ll be missing out on your dream excursion or, otherwise, be charged through the nose for it.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, do yourself a favor and book your tours in advance!

If you fail to plan ahead and ensure everything is secure before departure, the only thing that is guaranteed is disappointment 🙁

We highly recommend Viator or GetYourGuide for booking tours – they’re the best in the industry!

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What to Eat

Cancun is the kind of place where happy tourists’ stomachs can come to rest, with a mix of Mexican and international chain restaurants for all sorts of price ranges.

If you’re looking for some more authentic Mexican food though, it’s best to avoid the touristy areas like the Hotel Zone.

Don’t forget to make a stop at one of the top taco spots in Cancun, and maybe even book yourself a tequila tasting while you’re at it.

Needless to say, eating happens to be one of life’s greatest joys in Cancun!

Nightlife

Cancun knows how to party! From the months of March to April, Cancun transforms into a playground for those looking for a wild and unforgettable night.

The best party resorts in Cancun come with their own bars and lounges, some hosting several-storied nightclubs.

Entertainment includes themed parties, foam parties and all-you-can-drink booze that’ll make your head spin in the morning.

Looking for a really wild night? Check out popular hotspots like Congo Bar, Mandala and Coconut Bongo – where the raves last from night till daybreak.

Forget taste and class – it’s all about having fun with YOLO as your only motto in Cancun.

Nightlife in Cancun
creative cocktail in a glass

Renting a Car

Planning to hit the open road? While some countries require an international driving permit in addition to your license from home, don’t stress if yours is in English: you don’t need a separate driver’s license if you are coming from the USA.

Cancun is blessed with some of the most affordable car rentals around, so don’t forget to take advantage!

Plus, you’ll likely find that most hotels provide free parking for their guests – perfect for saving a few extra bucks.

Buying Travel Insurance

It’s time to be prepared for any unpredictable events which may happen during your much-deserved vacay.

That means investing in international travel insurance – trust us, when it comes to saving those vacation funds (which can easily evaporate with a single misfortune), it pays to get smart and get insured!

We highly recommend World Nomads for your travel insurance – purchasing online is quick and painless, and they offer different policies depending on your needs.

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Pros & Cons of Visiting Cancun

The pros of visiting Cancun are pretty clear – you get to have an envy-worthy tan, amazing beaches to lounge in, and late nights full of fun!

Whether you feel like snorkeling or soaring through the trees on a zipline, Cancun is ready to fulfill your wildest dreams.

And if exploration isn’t your thing, then just relax and soak up the sun – as it’s stunning all year round.

With its vibrant nightlife scene, your days will be filled with laughter and adventure; it’s no wonder so many flock to this coastal paradise.

Visiting Cancun can certainly be an exciting experience – but there are some downsides that visitors should be aware of too.

For starters, it can often get very crowded, making it feel like a tourist trap. On top of that, prices may be higher than in other parts of Mexico.

Also, the high level of commercialization can also take away from the authentic Mexican experience you may be searching for.

Marina Puerto Cancun
Marina Puerto Cancun

Is Cancun Safe for Tourists?

Yes, Cancun is safe for tourists looking to relax and have a great time. While some reports of violence and illicit activity might appear scary, it’s nothing compared to other destinations like Acapulco.

As long as you stick to the more popular areas and keep an eye on your belongings, you should be able to enjoy everything Cancun has to offer without worry.

Budget for 1 Week

A week in Cancun may sound like a luxury that requires a steep budget, but it can be quite attainable with careful planning and resourcefulness.

For the average traveler, this Mexican getaway is approximately $2800 for two people.

Taking a trip to Cancun promises sun, surf, and all the margaritas you can drink!

Though your tropical getaway won’t come for free – an average one-week trip for two will be about $2800.

That may sound steep, but it’s easy to see why when you consider what that amount covers; accommodation and flight, plus food is included in that price tag.

The only part of your vacation where you’ll be taking out cash is probably if you want to go on any extra excursions – but hey, who are we to deny you that adventure?