Being Canadian, I’ve always been aware of Cancun as a go-to destination for North American ‘Spring Breakers’ and all-inclusive-loving families. But at Travel Nation, I’m noticing more and more that we’re being asked to arrange tailor-made holidays and even self-drives that include Cancun and the wider Yucatan Peninsula. Having put together some itineraries for sun-craving Britons, I was inspired to check out Cancun myself.
I booked a weeks’ all inclusive at the Cancun Bay Resort, an ideal location between the Hotel Zonero and Cancun town. Slower paced and boutique-y, the Cancun Bay Resort is ideal for young romantic couples, families or older vacationers. It’s also perfectly located for hopping on the local buses to the town or the Hotel Zone. The beach here is relaxed and calm, tucked in the corner of Cancun bay away from the hectic Playa del Fines.
It’s worth knowing that Cancun offers the full range of accommodation styles; the typical 20-storey mega-resort with 4 pools, nightclubs, parties and beach activities; ‘casas’ which have a local, family-friendly vibe and boutique hotels with smaller restaurants, less chaos and relaxed pool settings. We can book hotels of any of these styles at Travel Nation – just ask.
Cancun makes a great destination for a family vacation, a stag or hen party, a wedding, a backpacking trip or a spot of luxury and pampering. Whatever the purpose of your visit, here are some things I recommend you do.
Don’t let the air-conditioned stalls and clean glass windows fool you, these markets are similar to those found in South East Asia. You’ll find everything from hot sauce to tequila, kitchy I HEART CANCUN T-shirts, beach towels and jewellery. Get ready to barter.
If something catches you eye, play it smart and don’t look too interested, cut their price in half (at least) and get ready for a price battle (they’re used to the ‘all inclusive’ crowd, so they often get away with asking price!).
Playa Tortugas is more laid back than Cancun. You’ll find long-term backpackers working at pubs and serving beer who are always good for a conversation, as you sit in your plastic beach chair and indulge in some authentic Mexican grub.
Grab a chair and enjoy an ice cold cerveza or take your own drinks and just find a patch of sand for the day. Bungee jumping, flea markets, horchata drinking and people watching, this is as informal as the Mayan Riviera will get.
There’s no need to call a cab even if you’re nervous about local transport. Bus drivers are friendly and speak English and it’s only about 8 pesos for a one-way journey anywhere in town. Jump on and let the driver know where you want to go and he’ll give you a shout when you’ve arrived.
Buses here go in two directions; into town or towards the Riviera. They are fast and efficient and all it takes is throwing an arm in the air to get their attention. Be ready to pay with coins as soon as you board, they barely come to an entire stop at each station; just long enough to jump on board!
Even if you’re not staying at Cancun’s best resort - ME Cancun by Melia – I recommend you set some aside some budget for a day pass (about $85USD).
This hotel is split down the middle and caters to all styles of 20-30 somethings: excitement and the social scene to one side and relaxation with chilled vibes on the other. It’s on prime beach-front real estate and the magnificent infinity pool stretches the length of the property. From its contemporary-chic lobby and reception to its world-class restaurants, vibrant pool parties, spas, lounges and patios, ME Cancun is the place to be.
It’s worth taking the bus out to Playa Delfines - one of the top 10 beaches in Mexico. The sand is soft and stretches for miles and its one of the only beaches without hotels behind it. Grab some drinks and snacks (there aren’t many shops or cafes nearby) and enjoy the calm, warm, turquoise and space to spread out. It’s also the perfect spot for your quintessential ‘Cancun sign’ selfie!
Isle Mujeres is an island off the coast of Cancun, just a cheap and quick ferry ride from Playa Tortuga. The pace of life is slower here, and you’re more likely to find a relaxed beach and space to snorkel. You can visit a turtle sanctuary and see all different sizes of marine turtle from the teeny to the enormous, or take the opportunity to dive off the coast at the underwater sculpture park.
We can organise a day tour to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza or Tulum. Pickups are available from all hotels (which we can arrange) or you could take the independent route and grab a local bus to the central station (Cancun town centre) and book a ticket on the comfortable and air-conditioned coach bus. Schedules are regular and the experience you’ll have at Chichen Itza is worth a bus ride.
For something less crowded, head instead to Tulum where the crowds are smaller and it’s less effort to get there. The photos and scenery are breath-taking as the ruins are situated on a clifftop, but be aware the size of the ruins is dwarfed by what you would see at Chichen Itza.
I’ve arranged some self-drive itineraries for customers at Travel Nation and on arrival in Cancun, I realised the road systems are actually a lot more organized than I expected. They are wide-paved (similar to the rest of North America) and the signage is remarkably efficient (in both Spanish and English). Stick to the Yucatan and you’ll be fine. Some driving distances you might consider are:
If you’d like to add a stay to Cancun to your round the world trip, or book a tailor-made holiday to Mexico, we can help. Here are some example multi-stop flights that include Mexico and we can also show you how to combine Mexico with Cuba, or with Guatemala and Belize and on to Costa Rica – the sky’s the limit! For more ideas, simply call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.