The first translation of Cancun was Kankun – “nest of snakes,” although I cannot find a definitive answer as to why – perhaps it’s related to the mangroves that used to surround Cancun.
If you read blog posts or forums on Cancun, people will either list day trips for you to do (so things not in Cancun) or tell you just to fly in and get out.
I think that like anywhere, you need to give it a few days to form your own opinion. Sure, Cancun is a major tourist destination, but that was the whole point of Cancun it was a government-backed investment.
If you would like to know “how to spend 2 days 100% in Cancun” click ‘read more.’
In this article, you’ll find: (click to be taken there)
The Basics: How to get there.
Getting Around: Transport Options
My Top Choices: What you should see.
My Recommendations: Where to eat & drink, What to listen to & read.
Where to Stay: Where I stayed or where friends stayed.
What I did: My diary entry.
Other Recommendations: Things we missed.
All my posts have a key:
⏰ Opening Hours. 📍Location 🕒Distance
💰Cost 🎫Ticket 📝 To note. 🎒What to bring.
♿ Accessibility 🌱Vegan / Veg Options 🔗Links
any affiliate links will always have (affiliate) next to it
- You cannot drink the tap water in Cancun.
- Do NOT go swimming in areas that are not designated for swimming. There are signs advising crocodiles and there are crocodiles.
- Be Sun Smart! Make sure you Slip, Slop, Slap!
- It’s HOT. Stay hydrated, catch the buses and book a place with a pool.
Getting to Cancun
The airport you’ll be flying into is Cancún International Airport (CUN) and is the second busiest airport in Mexico.
• Aeromexico (Skyteam frequent flyer network)
• Interjet (which has incredible leg room & really good luggage – I flew with them to Cuba.)
• Volaris – cheap flights between Mexico + USA.
• VivaAerobus is also an airline you’ll hear about; but they’ll charge you extra for luggage, seating and even printing your ticket at the airport!
Depending on where you’re flying from – It’ll vary hugely in price.
|USA / CAN||Try using the international / local Volaris which seems to have deals all the time! Spirit Airlines are also a great airline for cheap flights. Canada has direct from Toronto > Cancun often!|
|AUS /NZ||Try flying into Texas International Airports to avoid LAX at all costs. If you can find a cheap flight to Texas – Interjet flies from both locations and you may be able to snag a deal.|
|ASIA||China Airlines often have cheap flights. Otherwise get yourself to a main hub (BKK) and try flying via LAX.|
|EUR||Try Condor (since WOW went bankrupt thanks WOW) for budget friendly, otherwise like majority – you’ll fly via Canada or USA.|
+ 🚌 Bus from AIRPORT
💰$88.00 MXN | $6.75 AUD | $4.60 USD | £3.57 | €4.14
When you leave immigration to collect your luggage, there is an ADO ticket booth. ADO buses leave from the domestic terminal frequently.
do not take a taxi from outside the ADO station.
Autobuses de Oriente is the largest company within Mexico. They’ve got free wifi at stations, and often on the bus too. Toilets, reclinable chairs, outlets and a film (in spanish) are all there too.
💰Prices Vary – but make sure you book at LEAST a day in advance, this often saves you 30-50% off the price.
🕒Generally as per hours Occasionally delays do happen – make sure you’ve got some reading material, podcast downloads and Netflix downloads just in case.
📝You can’t purchase your tickets online unless you’ve got a mexican card but y you can use a third party website; ClickBus
the downside is that you’ll pay third party fee + you need to print.
If you’ve got the time and 100% know when you want to go – just go to the station and buy them.
For a full interactive guide on using the ADO Buses, read Off Path Travel’s post here.
Collectivos are mostly used to pick up workers and locals along the highway meaning they stop and start – a lot. If you’re really on a budget and long term travelling – yes by all means take a collectivo but if you’ve got the funds available – take the ADO. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Getting around in Cancun is pretty easy. The main bus you will be using is the Red Route One Bus which takes you from Downtown to the Hotel Zone.
Make sure you take taxis off.the.street and not from ‘vendors’ who will charge you x2-3.
Confirm the price before you accept the ride.
As of June, 2019 – Uber has been working in Cancun.
Have the application already set up before you go + use wifi or grab a phone sim.
I personally, for seven weeks told myself “I’ll get a phone sim card tomorrow” and never got one. If you believe you’d like one – read this blog post on “Best Prepaid Mexico Sim” by TravelTomTom.
⏰ 09:00 – 18:00 | Closed Mon | Last Entrance
📍Blvd. Kukulcan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera,
💰$70| $5.37 AUD| $3.66 USD | £2.85 GBP | €3.29 EURO
🚌Take the Red Route 1 Bus for $12 MXN.
📝 bring mosquito spray for the Archeological site.
Although not all the Spanish is translated into English, the museum itself holds a vast range of Maya artefacts that are pretty interesting. There are ceramics and artisanal products for viewing. One room had two films playing at the same time, which did give me a headache.
This museum includes the Archeological Site of San Miguelito, which relates to the Postclassic period of 1200 AD – 1500 AD. It’s separated into four parts and was an essential part of a complex network of economic activities of that time. A lot of communities during this time placed their location behind protective dunes. You’ll be able to walk through paths of native flora and fauna, seeing the occasional iguana.
⏰ Mon – Fri 08:30 – 13:00 + 17:00 – 20:00
Sat: 08:00 – 13:00
📍Margaritas 15 Centro, 22 Cancun
This was the first church built in Cancun. It dates back to 1970-72. The focal point is the windowed cross once you enter, the diagonal walls reach up, giving it the illusion of so much more room. I can’t tell you what type of architecture style it is, but I’d LOVE to know.
⏰08:00 – 19:00
📍2 13, Xel-ha M, San Miguel de Allende 28,
🚌Take the Red Route 2 Bus
📝 barter/bargain. don’t accept the first price.
“Long-running flea market with food stalls & lots of shops offering souvenirs, apparel & other goods” – Google.
If you haven’t purchased anything in Mexico and you’re about to fly out – I recommend going here. It might be a little pricey than other places – but if you’re good at negotiating, you shouldn’t have an issue. I personally didn’t have any heavy sales tactics thrown at me, but I never really do. I just say
“no gracias, solo quiero mirar” “No thanks, only want to look.”
Parque de las Palapas
⏰ 24 Hours.
📍77500, Tulipanes LB, 22
💰€ EURO| $ AUD| $ USD | £ GBP
📝 cheap food, cheap eats.
A place to grab some snacks, buy some crafts or watch the occasional musical show. Later in the night they’ll have a range of different local food vendors (churros are always a good choice!)
⏰ 24 Hours.
📍Kukulkan, Zona Hotelera,
🚌Take the Red Route 1 Bus for $12 MXN.
📝 toilets available.
♿I would say not really, however, I did see wheelchair users down there.
Great beach with a large CANCUN sign for selfies/photos although there was a HUGE line when we were leaving in the afternoon (gotta do it for the ‘gram tho.) There are shaded areas and people come around offering beers, water + food. The ocean isn’t rough and the water is warm.
OTHER BEACHES OF NOTE
• Playa Tortuga
• Playa Forum
• Chac Mool Beach
• Playa Langosta
• Playa malida
⏰ 10:00 – 23:00
📍Blvd. Kukulcan, La Isla, Zona Hotelera
💰€ EURO| $ AUD| $ USD | £ GBP
🚌Take the Red Route 1 Bus for $12 MXN.
If you need anything here, this is the place to grab it. They’ve go high end stores, more reasonable ‘high fashion’ stores and if you need an American coffee fix; Starbucks. If you walk down to the end of the shopping plaza, you’ll get a good view of the lagoon – Nichupte.
This shopping centre also holds
• Interactive Aquarium (basic blog post here)
• La Gran Rueda Cancun (blog post here.)
• Cancun Wax Museum (example of ~models~ here)
⏰ 10:00 Sun: – 12:00 | Mon – Wed: – 01:00
Thur – Sat: – 02:00
📍 Av Carlos Nader 25, Bancos, 2, 77500
🌱has vegan tacos
With 1 taco for an average of 22 pesos, friendly service and cheap beers it’s hard not to return here (no really, I ate here 4 days in a row.) The menu is in both Spanish & English and they have wifi.
⏰ 08:00 – 22:00 | Closed Sun.
📍 Av Carlos Nader 66, 3, 77500
🌱vegan + vegetarian
An incredible menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whatever you’re feeling, Mexican or Western – The place has got options for you. With a backyard patio, air-conditioned room and organic + natural store adjoined – I loved coming here.
⏰ 07:30 – 21:00
📍 Av Carlos Nader 27, 2A, 77500
🌱Almond milk available.
⏰ 15:00 – 03:30 | Mon – 02:00
📍 Blvd. Kukulcan 9, Punta Cancun, Zona Hotelera
📝 Free Entry (what got us here lmao)
It’s got free entry, a live band and they do a weird part in which everyone gets balloons. You’ll do a conga line for a shot. A photographer will take a photo of you, place it on a bottle of Tequila if you wish to buy – and you BETTER believe I got the picture. Best overpriced tourist gimmick you can get.
If you’re in Cancun to P-A-R-T-Y you’ve probably gone to the right place! Read a general overview of all the nightclubs + bars by The Better Vacation here.
“At the ripe old age of 21, back in 1957, Peissel gave up his Wall Street activities & went off alone to the Mexican jungles of the Quintana Roo territory where he discovered several Mayan cities lost for over 400 years. This seething jungle was the site of one of the highest civilizations ever achieved by humanity. The Mayan Indians have ruled the jungle there for 3700 years. Those Mayas still living in the jungle today preserve the physical type but have almost no memory of their vanished splendor.” – Goodreads
Coffee Break Spanish by Radio Lingua Network
“Learn Spanish in coffee-break lessons from the Radio Lingua Network. In each lesson we’ll focus on the language you need to know and before long you’ll be making yourself understood with native Spanish speakers. Season 1 lessons are for absolute beginners, and the courses increase in difficulty as the seasons progress. ” – Apple Podcasts.
🔗Apple 🔗Spotify 🔗Sticher
- Independent: The Battle for the Beaches of Cancun.
- Mongabay: A mangrove forest in Cancun that was home to many crocodiles, boas, eagles, herons, frogs, squirrels and iguanas is destroyed
WHERE TO STAY
⏰Check In : 15:00 – 00:00
Check Out : 06:00 – 12:00
📍Av Carlos Nader 2A, 2A, 77500
📝 – adults only +18. There are two in Cancun – make sure you’re selecting ‘NOMADS’ and not Mezcal (unless you want to stay in the hotel zone – then do!)
📝 If you book online via their website, you may be able to get a free dinner. If you book via booking.com however, it’s cheaper.
The main thing that got us at this hostel was the location. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the ADO Station, the mentioned Taqueria is right across the road and with the OXXO and Supermarket nearby, you don’t need to walk more than 5 minutes.
The Cafe Wake and Bake is adjoined to the hostel, so you never have to worry about not having caffeine. The staff are beyond friendly. I’ve stayed here 3 times now.
|🍽Breakfast||$3 USD for coffee/tea, juice, fruit plate and choice of eggs, omelette, french toast.|
|🛁Bathrooms||shared within dorms – shower and toilet seperate. Showers are clean, large & have great pressure. Towels included.|
|🛏Rooms||Comfy beds with shelf, powerpoint, light and usb port. Each bed is a bunk with their own curtain.|
|🎲Facilities||Cafe downstairs, common area and daily activities such as cenote/beach tours. Pub games such as flip cup, beer pong etc. Book shelves, balconies on each floor.|
|🍺Bar||Mexican and international beers. Draft on tap.|
WHAT I DID
Arriving into Cancun was a breeze… well actually it wasn’t (because of me.) My best mate suggested we buy bus tickets, so I grabbed my phone and booked them online… from the wrong website… I then had to re-purchase them from the ADO Booth (classic.) The ADO was easy, quick, and we arrived at the station in no time. We checked into our hostel; Nomads and grabbed some beers and food on the rooftop. Also, my friend ruined our sheets by leaving the lid off her texta… which we tried to wash out and failed… miserably
While my friend was feeling a bit unwell, I decided to venture out into the hot, hot, hot, hot day. I walked to Palapas Park, Iglesia Cristo Rey and up to the Mercardo 28 (in which I didn’t buy anything, because I have no room in my backpack currently..) I also did go through Artesano Park, which has vendors selling handmade things from around 18:00.
Checking out Museo Maya De Cancun is probably the most cultural thing you can do in Cancun – without making a day trip. There are other ruins within Cancun; Yamil Lu’um looks really lovely, but I haven’t managed to make it there (yet – I might do it when I return.) We went to buy water. When I asked how far the beach was – he said “not far” now, I assume Mexico’s “not far” is the complete opposite of America’s “it’s far.” both the extremes and not all true. After walking what seemed forever, we managed to finally get to the beach .. now i’ve been to the beach (I have) but it was WARM? The water was WARM. I swear I’ve been to the beaches in Miami and Lima, but the water was nothing like Mexicos. We ended our long day with beers and food at the Taqueria (which is going to be a common, repetitive thing… because I pretty much ate there every night. THEY’RE REAL GOOD TACOS OKAY)
Before heading to Cuba, we checked into Kavia Cancun Hotel for a night. It wasn’t the best (wifi was shitty which meant I couldn’t download ANY Netflix series before Cuba and believe me – Fleabag on Amazon Prime got us through. I recommend 100% except the amazon factor so)
When we got back from Cuba, and after my friend left to return to Australia, I went for a walk to Marina Puerto Cancún in which I spent too much money at Sephora, walked around aimlessly and listened to podcasts. Mostly, I stayed in the Cancun Hostel going to the OXXO, Taqueria, Rooftop and my bunk for 5 days. I was just… mentally exhausted from Cuba and my body & mind were like nup!!! relax!!! do nothing. So that’s what I did.
Honestly, I liked Cancun. Sure it’s a party fest, and expensive but you’ll meet people that will give you tips on what to see and do within other places in Mexico. It’s a hub for everyone, and you should enjoy it while you’re there.
- Swimming with Whale Sharks : Availability : Daily (May 24 to September 17) Of course… we arrived into Cancun a DAY LATER. Unbelievable. Honestly. Please do your research into swimming with Whale Sharks and pick a tour that’s economically friendly, has a good reputation and follows rules & regulations.
Article: Is Whale Shark Ecotourism Really Eco-Friendly?
- Coco Bongo – It just didn’t sound like my thing. I’ve seen “Cirque du Soleil” in Vegas wondering “was I supposed to understand this? I didn’t understand this? Should I have understood this?” So Cocobongo was very low on my list. It’s also hella expensive.
If you wish to know what it’s like; check out Lisa’s (GirlAboutTheGlobe) post on what it was like. It’s from 2013, but it still pretty relevant from what everyone says.
- Yamil Lu’um – to access, you need to go to beach Playa Marlin and walk 14 minutes.. See photos & what they know (not much) about it here.
- Tequila Museum: It’s not a museum, more of a store – but they have decent variety so if that’s your jam – go.
Have you been?
What did you see / eat / do?
Do you ever feel guilty about just doing nothing while travelling?
Let me know below.
As always, stay cool.