I get this feeling it is cold wherever you are and you can’t wait for some sunshine during your Spring break. I remember when I lived up North, I was always looking to escape the cold! Having said that, one of my favorite, quick getaway spots is Cancun, Mexico. I went right after Spring break was over and highly recommend going there especially if you are new to international travel. Ready to go? Hold up! You don’t want to go without reading my first timers guide to Cancun.
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WHERE TO STAY
Finding the right type of place for your stay is so crucial for any trip and my first timers guide to Cancun wouldn’t be complete without some of my recommendations .
You will find an abundance of hotels in Cancun, especially in Hotel zone. You can either choose an all-inclusive or another hotel and explore the local food scene on your own terms. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many Airbnbs that caught my attention, hence, I am not recommending any this time. Keep in mind, since most of these hotels are located in Hotel Zone, you are guaranteed to be near the beach regardless of the hotel you go with.
Most hotels offer shuttles to and from the airport, which is about 25- 30 mins away from this area.
- Real Inn Cancun – $60 per night- reasonably priced, but really nice interiors, best value for your money. Has stunning views of the Nichupte Lagoon, beach is about a 3 mins walk from across the street.
- Marriott Cancun Resort– $150 per night – beachfront resort, perfect for a relaxing trip.
- Grand Fiesta Americana Coral beach Cancun resort and spa– $255 per night – Sophisticated and luxurious resorts with ocean view rooms.
- Hotel Casa Maya– $94 per night- Under $100 per night for those on a budget trip and yet want to enjoy the sun & beach.
- Ritz Carlton Cancun– $455 per night- You get what you pay for. Has everything that the Ritz Carlton brand is known for and stunning views. Has luxury written all over it, with outdoor dining options by the beach.
- Secrets the Vine Cancun– $335 per night- Adults only, AAA Four Diamond resort. Offers private transfers to and from the airport and much more.
- Melody Maker Cancun– $239 per night- Great nightlife, excellent DJs especially for Spring break.
- The Westin resort and spa Cancun– $135 per night
- Hotel NYX Cancun– $94 per night
- Dreams Sands Cancun Resort & Spa– $320 per night
WHAT TO DO
- Cancun Underwater Museum– A boat takes you to the underwater museum , plan for about 3 hours on the trip. The ticket includes equipment and refreshments, lockers. Great experience for experienced and inexperienced snorkelers.
- Xcaret Park– An amazing theme park with underground rivers, lots of fun in water, land or air activities. You can fly on a zip line like a bird, go rafting in the rapids, or take the wheel of a powerful Monster truck. Highly recommend visiting the park!
- Tour of Isla Contoy– The island is about 22 miles away from Cancun, book a full day tour and plan to have spend a full day of fun in the sun on this stunning island.
- Mercado- Pick up some local hand-made souvenirs.
- Day trip to Tulum and Cenote Dos Ojos
- Chichen Itza– Another great day trip option is visiting one of the 7 wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. Couple of tips- you can either rent a car to get there or book a tour, regardless, it is a 3 hour drive, so plan to spend an entire day there. Also, it is really hot walking around on the open fields, especially afternoon. Make sure you have plenty of water, sunscreen on, and a hat!
- Akumal– Swimming with turtles or snorkeling is also a great way to spend your day at the beach. Again, booking a tour is one option, or you can just show up and purchase tickets at the door which I did. I got a package which included a guide for a non-swimmer like me and underwater photos.
- Tulum Mayan Ruins– If you do not want to go all the way to Chichen Itza, you can visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There is also a stunning beach nearby.
- Ventura Park– If an oceanfront water park sounds fun to you, then check out Ventura Park. Excellent way to spend time with your family or friends!
MUST KNOWS TIPS
- Best time to travel? I went right after spring break which I found was a good time, the weather was perfect, there were no crowds, flights and hotels were a lot cheaper compared to peak season. My round trip flight from Philadelphia to Cancun was around $174. Thanks for Frontier airlines. Read my hones review on Frontier Airlines here.
- Real Inn Cancun quick review– The hotel was a really nice surprise. Clean, sophisticated designs, and very inexpensive. We got upgraded to the first floor which had an infinity pool right outside my patio doors! The restaurant in the hotel had a nice view of the lagoon but the food was not so good. It was very blah tasting to me and it was same with the Starbucks in the hotel, did not taste the same like back home.
- Food– If you are looking for more authentic food, I highly recommend getting out of Hotel Zona and exploring the surrounding areas a bit. You can definitely tell, the nearby hotels all cater to its tourists.
- Essentials– If you are looking for a grocery store to purchase essentials such as water, medicine, etc., there are a couple of grocery stores in the area.
- Currency– The official currency is Mexican peso, however, a lot of the touristy areas do accept U.S. dollars. I recommend carrying lots of singles for tips as well as withdraw some Pesos from the ATM at the airport upon landing. (I typically do not use a currency exchange agency due to the poor conversion rates they offer).
- Language– You’ll be surprised by how widely English is spoken there. Tourism is a very important and big industry in this area. But it does not hurt to brush up on your basic Spanish which can help you interact with the locals.
- Transportation– I rented a car from the airport, it was $7 per day! I did it without the option to add a GPS which was going to be additional $15 per day and it was a stick shift. Parking was free at the hotel. Your hotel can book a reliable taxi for you in case you don’t plan to drive.
- Excursions– You can either pre-book your tours through sites like Trip Advisor, Airbnb Experiences, Expedia, etc., reserve them through your hotel once you arrive there, or rent a car and drive around. I chose to drive to Chichen Itza instead of taking a tour, which was about 3 hours away, without a GPS. I wouldn’t recommend driving without GPS in case you detour and get lost. Tours must be booked in advance, buses leave early in the morning before 7:00 AM. Most hotels can help you book the tours. You can also book other excursions such as snorkeling, jet skiing, or visit another popular destination, Tulum.
- Safety tips: Cancun is touristy area, I stayed at Hotel Zona area and felt safe walking around even at night. However, just like any other place, use your common sense and best judgement especially if you plan to venture out of this area. Do not flaunt your valuables, do not carry your passport around (maybe only a copy), don’t partake in illegal activities, try to do some research beforehand to avoid being scammed. In short, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Memorize the local police, ambulance, fire department numbers.
Finally, what do you think?Are you convinced now to plan your next trip to Cancun? As you plan your first visit to Cancun, this guide will have done 90% of the work for you. I truly hope you enjoy your visit, whether you are going for Spring break or any other time of the year.
Let me know if I missed anything about Cancun in the comments below, I will be happy to answer them.
PIN ME– FIRST TIMERS GUIDE TO CANCUN