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Cancun Travel Guide: Fun in the Mexican Sun

When you’re looking for a sun-drenched vacation, it’s natural for Mexico to spring to mind. And for good reason; there’s no shortage of sunny things to do in Cancun, one of Mexico’s top hot spots for travellers. If a beach vacay sounds right up your alley, read our Cancun Travel Guide.

Travelling to Cancun in 2019

Mexico is one of the very best value destinations for Canadians looking to escape the cold and have a little fun in the sun.

White sand beaches, gorgeous turquoise waters, crashing surf, blissfully warm lazy days, and wild party nights are yours for the taking. And let’s not forget the history, hospitality, delicious food, and jungle-bound adventures. There are many things to do in Cancun that will make your vacation a winner so why not plan yourself a little getaway to this beautiful part of the world?

Cancun travel essentials and tips

  • It’s hot and humid (up to 95% in the summer) so pack light clothing and plenty of swimsuits.
  • Electricity is 110V 60C, the same as Canada and the U.S. so there’s no need for plug adapters (yay!). Older hotels may not have 2-prone sockets, so it’s best to ask when you make your hotel booking.
  • Canadians don’t need a visa to enter Mexico. Your passport will be stamped upon arrival for stays of up to 180 days. Be sure your passport is valid for a minimum of six months after your return flight. If arriving overland, a visa fee of US$36 is payable. This fee is included in fares when arriving by plane.
  • Although the Mexican peso still exists, you’ll find many places quote and accept USD.
  • The Hotel Zone is the main tourist area in Cancun. It’s set along a gorgeous strip of coastline that juts away from the mainland.

Best Things to Do in Cancun in 2019

Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza  archeological site in Yucatan, Mexico
Cancun Travel Guide | Skyscanner Canada

1. Day trip to Chichen Itza

One of the top things to do in Cancun requires you to leave the buzzy Hotel Zone. The ancient Mayan temples of Chichen Itza are about 200km inland and amongst Mexico’s top attractions. Unless you’ve rented a car, the easiest way to see the famous landmark is with a guided tour from Cancun. If you do decide to go on your own, plan for later in the day when the sun is low in the sky for the best travel photo opportunities. And take cash – the ATMs don’t always work.

2. Visit the Tulum Ruins

Like Chichen Itza, the ruins of Tulum are a must for many travellers who’re into architect and history. Tulum is about two hours from Cancun (along the coast) so again, an organized tour of the ruins is probably your best bet. There are even tours that combine visiting the ruins with jungle hikes into caves and also, snorkelling. But, if you have a rental car, it’s easy to drive yourself.

3. Go to Isla Mujeres

Take the 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun to the stunning Island of Women (Isla Mujeres) for a day of simple exploration. Rent a golf cart and travel the tiny island (just 6.5km) to discover ancient ruins, gorgeous beaches, and Garrafon Reef Park, which offers zip lining, kayaking, swimming pools, sauna, hammocks and more fun and relaxing things to do for your Cancun vacation.

4. Snorkel the reefs and shipwrecks

There are plenty of tour operators offering half day snorkel trips that will take you to the best places to see what’s under the sea. Can’t swim? No problem. Total Snorkel Cancun has short trips for non-swimmers and snorkel beginners so you won’t feel embarrassed or scared in the water. Don’t forget to wear your reef-friendly sunscreen!

5. Party at sea

For the ultimate sun-soaked event, hop aboard a party boat such as the Dancer Cruise for a great time at sea. Your day on the catamaran begins with breakfast as you drift to the first stop. Take salsa lessons, sunbathe on the deck, or go snorkelling. Enter the cool water by slide or diving board before a yummy Mexican lunch, then a trip to Isla Mujeres. On the way back to Cancun, there’s live entertainment and a stocked bar to get things loose.

High angle view scuba diver photographing Cancuns underwater statues, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Cancun Travel Guide | Skyscanner Canada

Things to Do in Cancun on a Budget

1. Laze on the beach

Of course, beach time is going to be on your Cancun bucket list! So, grab a towel, sunscreen, a bottle of water and get your bum in the sun. Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is so beautiful, you’ll think you’ve stepped into a living postcard.

2. Snorkel off the beach

If going on one of those fancy all-day snorkel trips is out of your budget, don’t worry, you can still go snorkelling. Rent or buy a cheap snorkel and mask set from one of the many dive shops around the city (or bring your own). If you’re staying at a beachside hotel, they may have the gear you can borrow.

3. Browse downtown Cancun

Some visitors skip seeing downtown Cancun so they can spend more time on the beach or along the Hotel Zone. But walking around the city will give you insight into the “real Cancun”. For a bit of shopping, head to Mercado 28 for bargains on t-shirts and Mexican souvenirs.

Best Time to Visit the Yucatan Peninsula

It’s natural to want to escape the Canadian winter and head south for sunshine, which means December through April is the most popular time to visit Cancun. It’s also the best time to visit for the weather as you’re almost guaranteed perfect blue sky days with temperatures between 24-28 degrees Celsius. As well as being busy in general, remember that February and March are Spring Break months, so expect many students having the time of their lives. If you’re after the party vibe, this may be the perfect time to visit Cancun.

The rest of the year is still great, but just know that you may have issues with the weather (but there’ll be fewer people). September through November is hurricane season, which is usually the least busy time to go to Cancun. You may get rain and wind, or a full-blown hurricane. And high humidity is definite.

Top Things to Do in Cancun When it Rains

1. Visit the Mayan Museum

Museum hopping is one of those ideal rainy day in Cancun outings. Mayan culture and history is plentiful in this part of the world and the Museo Maya de Cancun (Mayan Museum) is excellent for an introduction. There is an entry charge of 75 pesos (C$5.50).

2. Get wet underground

If you’re going to get wet, may as well do it while seeing something extraordinary. Rio Secreto Nature Preserve is an underground river and stunning cave system that will take your Cancun vacation to awesome-ville. Take a guided tour through the nature park and wade through the cave river to see the wonders of what lies beneath.

3. Try some tequila

When it rains, pour some tequila down your throat. There are plenty of bars just waiting to serve up Mexico’s most famous drink with a little salt and lime. For a free tequila tour, go to the Tequila Factory Cancun in Puerto Morelos for a spirited afternoon. This place is a little out of the way, so you may have to hire a driver.

Subject: A panoramic view of the hotel district of Cancun at sunset. A popular tourist beach destination. The Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya in Mexico is a well developed vacation location with numerous hotels and entertainment districts.
Cancun Travel Guide | Skyscanner Canada

Where to Eat, Drink, and Party

Aside from suntanning on the beach and snorkelling in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea, some of the next best things to do in Cancun is eating and drinking. And there’s no shortage of places to get your fill.

Start your food fest with an authentic Mexican food experience. For US$15, the guys at Taco Tour will take you to four different eateries serving real deal tacos. After about 2.5 hours of taco eating, if you’re still hungry or just thirsty, you’ll find more awesome eats and lots of tequila at Hacienda Tequila Cancun located in the touristy Hotel Zone.

Cancun is a party place and you won’t have to look far for a hopping nightclub. For a wild night on the dance floor, try Coco Bongo, Party Rockers, and Dady O. Sometimes these clubs have staff who walk the floor with shots and a water pistol full of booze. Before you partake, please know you’ll be expected to pay afterwards. And if you don’t have any cash on you, the staff will be pretty upset. Always carry small bills with you and expect to pay a cover charge to get in.

Flying to Cancun

There are several airlines flying from Canada to Cancun either directly, or with stops along the way. Naturally, you’ll find Canada’s favourite carriers, Air Canada and Westjet, as well as Mexico’s budget carrier, Interjet.

In 2018, customs did away with their famed red light/green light bag checking system and declaration forms at some terminals. In its place, all suitcases are scanned unopened. Depending on when you travel in 2019, the old red light/green light system may still be in place. The infamous traffic lights at customs require passengers to press a button. If you get a green light, you’re waved through customs without a second glance. If you get a red light, your bags will be thoroughly checked.

Once through customs and into the arrivals terminal, you may be inundated with taxi drivers and time-share reps wanting your business. If you pre-book a shuttle or choose a hotel with a free airport shuttle, you can avoid the indecision and stress of which driver to hire. If you’re renting a car, know exactly what you’re getting before you sign the car hire contract.

Ready to Plan Your Next Vacation?

Now that you have a Cancun Travel Guide at the ready, you’re all set to start planning your Mexican beach getaway. You’ll find everything you need to book cheap flights, best hotels, and even car rental right here at Skyscanner. Download our handy app to have everything at your fingertips!