El Mirador beach

Situated on the northeast tip of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Cancún is a popular Caribbean tourist destination. Next to 14 miles of beaches, you'll find a wide variety of resorts, spas, clubs, and malls.

Peak season in Cancún tends to run from December to April. Prices in both airfare and hotel increase dramatically during these times, while dropping in the (northern hemisphere) summer and early autumn months. Late June is especially hot, so come prepared or try the off season. Hurricanes can be a major threat in late (northern hemisphere) summer and autumn.


Resting on the northeast corner of the Mexican Caribbean, Cancún itself was built on a site selected as the ideal spot for a new tourist development by the Mexican government. The state of Quintana Roo was still a territory and this area had few habitants when Cancún was built. It is composed of fourteen miles of pristine white beaches shaped like a number "7", home of the Mayan archaeological wonders, turquoise seas, a bountiful underwater world, and world-class vacation amenities. It is still considered the gateway to the Mayan World ("El Mundo Maya"). Mayan temples and ritual sites are everywhere, some smothered by lush jungle, others easily accessible. Good tourist attractions.

The Cancún hotel zone is almost entirely built around the tourist industry. It abounds with all-inclusive resort hotels. Stay here only if you don't mind spending your vacation with many other tourists.

Downtown Cancún, especially once you get away from the ADO bus station and nearby hostels and hotels, is a real Mexican city. There are many restaurants, shopping centers, markets and clubs in the downtown area that you can visit during your stay.

Those mostly seeking beaches and scuba diving, or who are a bit adventurous, can easily find rooms on equally beautiful and less crowded beaches along the coast just an hour or two south of Cancún. Some Spanish language skills may aid in finding better deals. You can rent a car, or take the bus to Puerto Morelos (about 20 min) or Tulum (1 hr). Playa del Carmen (45 min, $80) is between the two, but caters to the all-inclusive crowd. Taxis are also available.

Those looking for a base of operations who want good or luxury hotels and the advantages of urban life but prefer more local flavor may wish to stay in the Yucatan's main city of Mérida. Many international flights in to Cancún continue on after a stop to Mérida's International Airport.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 28.4 29.4 30.7 32.2 33.5 33.7 34.3 34.8 33.7 31.6 29.8 28.6
Nightly lows (°C) 19.8 20.3 21.0 22.6 23.9 24.7 24.8 24.6 24.3 23.3 21.9 20.5
Precipitation (mm) 104.6 49.5 44.1 41.2 86.9 138.3 77.9 87.5 181.9 271.9 130.3 86.1

Source: Servicio Meteorológico Nacional. See weather forecast at Servicio Meteorológico Nacional

The climate in Cancún is tropical, with consistent hot and humid weather throughout the year, and very warm sea temperatures. You can expect a gentle breeze from the ocean to keep you comfortable. Temperatures reach their peak around May, and you may notice the extreme heat as you travel inland. Prepare for trips to archeological sites: wear light clothing, stay cool, and rest often.

Get in

By plane

Cancún International Airport (IATA: CUN) is Mexico's second busiest airport. It is about 10 km (6 mi) from the hotel strip and 16 km (9 mi) southwest of downtown. One of Cancún's best features is its transport links, as most major air carriers in North, Central, and South America, and Europe offer services to Cancún. There are some extremely cheap charter flight deals available such as from the UK (from around £100) as well as commercial flight deals from several carriers. Airlines that fly to Cancún include:

  • Concourse A (Gates A1-A9 in the octagonal shaped satellite structure): Flights from Canada: Air Canada, Air Transat, CanJet, Sunwing, WestJet. Flights from Europe & Russia: Aeroflot, Arkefly, Blue Panorama, British Airways, Condor, EdelWeiss, EuroFly, Enerjet, JetAirFly, Monarch, Neos, Thomson, Transaero, TUIfly, XL Airways. From South and Central America: Aerolíneas Argentinas, Avianca; LAN; Copa Airlines, TAM, Volaris (Guatemala City and San Jose CR). From the USA & Cuba: JetBlue, Southwest, Interjet (from Miami and La Havana), Aeromexico, Cubana de la Aviacion.
  • Concourse B (Gates B1-B22 in the main building): Domestic flights from Mexico City, Toluca, Monterrey and other Mexican cities with Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris.

NOTE: Some of the above airlines operate seasonally, usually during the winter months in the northern hemisphere, or as charters while others operate more regularly year round. Chartered flights are typically booked through a tour operator or travel agency and not through the airline directly. The above can be subject to change and always mind the information given to you by the airline with your ticket and boarding pass, as well as the information provided by the airport online and via the information boards.

The hardest part of the journey to Cancún (aside from your initial airport check-in) is getting from the luggage carousel to your transportation. Make sure you know who your transport is (in case of prebooking) and find them on the outside, as that is where they will be. Unless you are looking for a timeshare, free meal or looking to burn hours of travel time and money on your vacation, do NOT stop to chit-chat with anyone about booking tours and such. There is plenty of time for that after you get settled in. After you clear customs inspection (the red or green light baggage inspection), do not give your bags to any locals offering to carry them.

There are many companies that provide the transfer service to the hotels in Cancún or the Riviera Maya. All of them have the option of prebooking online; some of them can be booked when arriving but this may represent another waiting time.

There are other transportation firms that provide service to and from the airport for a reasonable price as well. Beware of touts who will surround you when you come out of customs clearance. If you proceed straight, you will find the official information center where they can help you with the ground transportation options. If you purchased shuttle services through online reservation and you don't find your driver, call customer service yourself; do not trust local people who claim to be airport employees trying to "help" you (usually airport employees wait for you to come to them, and not the other way round). The legitimate drivers (and their reps) for these shuttle companies are outside the building, outside the exit glass doors, towards their vehicles.

The airport recently constructed a metal fence right outside of international arrivals. Only airport staff and licensed shuttle and travel agent employees are allowed in (they have to swipe a badge). If you are meeting someone who will be arriving, ask them to leave that area and walk towards the airport to meet their party.

ADO is the main long distance inter-city bus carrier in the Yucatan Peninsula. They offer regular bus service from Terminals 2 & 3 at the airport into town and down to Playa del Carmen. The "airport bus station" is in the bus parking lot outside the domestic arrivals doors at Terminal 2. For international arrivals you turn right, after coming out of the building and walk across to the other side of the building. At Terminal 3 it's a right turn from outside the arrivals doors and past 'Air Margaritaville' (formerly 'Coconuts Welcome Bar') hut.

Also if you want to travel directly from Cancún to Cozumel there is an airline called MAYAir and AeroTucan from the FBO terminal next to Terminal 3 so you can travel directly through Cancún to Cozumel. Otherwise you can also use the ADO bus or a shuttle service to Playa del Carmen and take the ferry to Cozumel, as the ferry terminal is next to the Playa del Carmen bus station.

Be sure to pass the customs before looking for money exchange - for example inside customs zone in Cancún they offer $18 MXN to US $1, which is much lower than even greediest street vendors ask.

Beware of leaving Mexico with enough money. The Mexican Government charges a travel tax of around 500 pesos (US $45) to leave the country from the airport. Most major air carriers may already have the travel tax charged to the price of the ticket, though it is highly recommended that travelers check this before leaving to/from Cancún. For example, Thomas Cook is charging 660 pesos, and U.S. dollars are not accepted. -- The current collective travel experience (from TripAdvisor) shows that almost all airlines flying from the US have already included this tax in their airfare, so there is no need to pay again when leaving Cancún. It seems that only charter flights from the UK do not include this tax and UK travelers may need to pay upon leaving.

Also beware of going through security too early. Food and drink prices almost double and you can't easily go back out.

By car

Driving in Mexico can be an experience. For more information and tips refer to driving in Mexico

By bus

Cancún's bus station is located downtown on the northwestern corner of Uxmal Avenue and Tulum Avenue.

The bus station is served by a taxi rank in front of the station along Pino. Local buses to the hotel zone pass regularly behind the station on the Tulum Avenue.

Get around

Cancún is very easy to navigate. To the South is the airport, to the North is the city and in between on the stretch of land between the sea and the Nichupte lagoon are all the hotels, beaches and bars, referred to as the hotel zone or Zona Hotelera. Downtown is where most residents live and it stretches in on the mainland behind the lagoon.

By bus

Bus is the preferred way of getting around. Buses are cheap and come frequently. Most bus drivers are very courteous and will stop for you even if you are not waiting at a bus stop. Most routes head up and down the main thoroughfare, Blvd Kukulcan, named after the feather serpent which is the main Mayan deity, from the Mayan words kukul (bird) and can (snake). Buses pass constantly but be prepared for possibly cramped and rough ride.

After paying the fare, which is on a per person basis, the driver will hand you a ticket/receipt which are usually printed with advertisements this does NOT serve as a transfer to another bus. Fares are usually $7-8 for destinations within the city, while a ticket to anywhere in the Zona Hotelera costs $10.50. The fare is per boarding, so you pay again if you have to board another bus to complete the journey. Do not expect buses to have amenities such as air conditioning and seat cushions. Many bus drivers speak enough English to help visitors get around.

When you are ready to get off, you can either push the button on top of the hand rail, or if you're not sure of your destination, tell the driver where you would like to get off or point to the destination using a bus map. Most bus drivers speak enough English to understand non-Spanish speakers.

Be careful when the bus is full as pick-pocketing is a concern.

The following companies operate buses locally:

or see:

The websites only provide of list of routes showing them on the map as to where they go. No schedules as they run quite frequently. Another great resource for finding your way around Cancún are the Can-Do Cancún maps & Guides by Perry & Laura McFarlin.

Companies serving the station include all attractions and towns along the coast: the Riviera Express for the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Xel-Ha, etc.) and ADO for the major national destinations. For some Riviera Maya destinations, it's possible to stop the buses on the Tulum Avenue without having to go all the way to the station, however if you are unsure about where to catch the bus then it's best to go to the station.

By taxi

Taxis are plentiful, a bit expensive for the hotel zone and airport, but cheap in the downtown area. Fares for the hotel zone depend on how far along the Blvd Kukulcan you want to go (fares available at hotel receptions and shopping centres), while within the downtown there is a general fixed fare of about 20 pesos per trip, it is best to just ask the driver upon boarding to avoid misunderstandings. By far, the best mode of transportation for the hotel zone is by bus. The bus fare is cheap and getting from Point A to Point B doesn't take very long. However, taxi drivers do not give receipts even if you request them.

Be careful and clear with your taxista. They have set rates on paper for how much they should charge for the trip per kilometer (no meter). You can also obtain a discount about 10% if you ask. If you are splitting a cab with friends, be clear on the number of services, people, and price he will charge to your destination. If your friends get out before you he can charge you twice the amount you negotiated for just a few more kilometers. A "service" is considered to be from start point to a requested stop point. If your taxista is non-cooperative there are about 10 more taxis around every corner.

By car

Be very careful if you choose to drive in Cancún. The police seem to pull tourists over at the drop of a hat during spring break. When you pick up a rental, check that all the lights work. Also when you are pulled over for a light violation, do not be surprised if the police holds out an open palmed hand, while holding your driver’s license hostage in the other. Most police officers are underpaid and will for the most part demand a small bribe to let you off the hook.

See the related travel article driving in Mexico for additional information.

Car Rental companies available in Cancun:


Cancún's Waters



When shopping in Cancún, you can either go into the downtown area or the hotel zone. Downtown is much cheaper, but the Hotel Zone has brand-name goods.




Cancún's nightlife is unlike any other destination on Earth. For some, a day in Cancún doesn't start until tasks like an 11AM breakfast, nap on the beach, and siesta are arduously completed. This is your place to shine.

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but it is not strongly enforced.

Hotel Zone

The Hotel Zone is a huge venue and gets top entertainers and DJs. Don't be surprised to see Vegas like shows spontaneously erupt while you are sipping your piña colada. These clubs can charge large covers ranging from US$20–60 per person, though the cover can include an open bar.

You may find yourself dancing in a conga line, laughing your cares away and speaking whatever Español you managed to pickup. A must for the first timers, and always good fun for returners also. Coco Bongo's entertainment includes a show, complete with girls swinging from the ceilings.

Most of the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) venues listed below are located in Punta Cancun, between Km 9 and 10, in the area surrounding Hotel Krystal, Cancun Convention Center and the Grand Fiesta Americana.

Yaxchilan Avenue

Also try the clubs at Yaxchilan Avenue, located in downtown Cancún, where all the locals hang out.


Cancún has a large range of 3-5 star hotels in the "hotel zone" and some more economical hotels in the city center.

Note that several aging resorts located on and around Punta Cancún are now relying upon heavily discounted vacation packages or all-inclusive deals to fill rooms. They market themselves heavily as a great bargain to starving college students as well as working-class and lower middle class tourists, many of whom are going overseas for their first time. The result is that Punta Cancún is jam-packed with people who can barely afford to be on vacation and perpetuate all the "ugly American" bad tourist stereotypes. If you prefer to spend your vacations around people who can handle their liquor and are sensible enough to only yell in real emergencies, it may be worth it to splurge on a newer resort in the central or southern part of the Hotel Zone. Then you can save Punta for a brief day trip, mainly to reassure yourself why you are paying $100 more per day for a much quieter (and more pleasant) experience.


Most of the "Budget" and some of the "mid-range" category hotels are located in and around downtown on the mainland. Many are also located within a reasonable walking distance or short taxi ride to the bus station on Av Uxmal and Av Tulum (Hwy 307) for those arriving late and/or leaving early. The area is reasonably safe at night. See "By bus" under "Get in" regarding getting in and out of Cancún by bus.


The economical way to stay in the hotels and resorts in some of the "mid range" and in the "spurge" categories is to consider an "all inclusive" on or another similar company which typically would include airfare (on chartered or regularly scheduled flights), airport transfers and hotel stay. Some of these all inclusive packages may also include two or three daily meals and/or an escorted tour or some other organized activity in the area. Checking in at the front desk without prebooking for a room or a pre-purchased all inclusive or packaged tour is the most expensive way to check in.


You could also try out the growing vacation rental market as well. It's a chance to experience Cancún without having to share close spaces with thousands of tourists. They are an alternative if you are willing to go without the frills of room service or resort commodities.

Most resorts in the hotel zone have a travel agent on site during the daytime to assist you with making reservations around Cancún, including the Mayan ruins. It is often better to book activities through these travel agents as they are employed by the hotel and cannot easily cheat you. Activities are also sold at booths found in the busier areas. Prices for the same activities are cheaper in Cancún town than in the hotel zone.

Stay healthy

It is highly recommended that you buy bottled water. Bottled water, depending on size, typically costs 30-50 pesos (US $2.75-4.55). Otherwise, do not drink the water unless your hotel has a water purification system. Most of the resorts in Cancún have purified water at all of the facilities located inside the resorts including the bars and restaurants. The upper-scale restaurants usually have purified water as well, but the water outside of these areas is not safe to drink.

The sun's UV rays are extremely strong in Cancún, even on cloudy days, and will burn any exposed skin on most persons from northern climates within a few minutes. Sunscreens that may be adequate elsewhere may not be sufficient in Cancún.

Because Cancún has powerful waves (see below), do not assume your sunscreen layer will remain intact. Always apply a fresh layer of sunscreen after taking a dip in the ocean.

Stay safe


Expect to be inundated with offers to get free tickets, tours, or other items in exchange for viewing a timeshare presentation while in Cancún. While you will generally be given what is promised for viewing the presentation, expect a very high pressure sales pitch lasting from one to two hours during which you may be given incorrect information or promises that later turn out to be untrue. In particular, despite claims of agencies that can buyback your timeshare, most timeshares are a money-losing proposition for purchasers. As with any major purchase, take the time to research before buying - claims that you must buy something right now should always be treated with skepticism. See also Common scams.

Ocean Currents The ocean currents in Cancún, depending on the season you visit, can be strong. While the currents may not be strong enough to pull you under, keep your guard up at all times. Look for the coloured flags that are planted on the beach as well as ask your hotel's concierge or a lifeguard (if one is available). As a rule of thumb, if you're not a strong swimmer (or a non-swimmer) it is best to stick to the hotel's pool for water fun. Remember, beaches in Mexico are Federal Zones with no life guards on duty, lifeguards may only be found within the beaches at the hotels.

Weather Cancún is a place where the weather can change in a matter of minutes rather than hours. As in most tropical places, rain storms will start quickly and leave as quickly as it came. When a storm lingers, use caution in the water; especially when lightning is present.

Timeshare and condos are a big business all over Yucatan, especially Cancún. "Tourist information" is another word for sales representative. If someone is offering you an "free" tour to anyplace or at a discount this means a 90 minute or longer presentation about condos and time-shares. There are 20 reps waiting on the righthand side when you arrive at the Cancún airport. There are also reps in Mexico city attracting tourists with free Xe-Hal and Chichen Ha tours. These timeshare presentations are not always a waste of time. Some of these timeshare presentations offer coupons or other free offers which can total to several thousand dollars of savings during your trip if you are willing to endure the presentation.

Nothing is free- Most important lesson. Someone comes up to you and says you want a shot of tequlia? Come on its fun. This means you have not negotiated the price.

Don't use ATMs out of the banks- There are ATMs all over Cancún. Use only ones that are inside banks or your hotel. Pharmacies, stores, gas stations are to be avoided. You will become a victim of identity theft or you will find big charges for the commission of using them.

The Buddy System- If you plan to have a long night out in the strip, take precautions and have a friend with you at all times (even walking to the bathroom). Unsuspecting tipsy tourists can be easy targets for petty robbery.



Go next

Routes through Cancún

END  E  W  Valladolid Merida
END  N  S  Playa del Carmen Chetumal

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.