Cancun Travel Tips
Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Contoy Island, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel Island and the Riviera Maya are located on the north coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo in the southeast of México. The weather is subtropical, with rain showers occurring mostly during summer and temperatures between 36°C and 12°C. Its lush, subtropical forest landscape features mangroves and coastal wetlands. Just off the coast is the second longest barrier of reefs of the world is extended.
Cancun is a city populated by over a million people. Most
residents are from the Yucatán Peninsula, but ever since the beginning
of Cancun’s tourist development in 1971, a number of international
residents have started to call Cancun home.
As the most important city in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun has all the services and amenities that big cities have. Cancun is divided in two parts: a downtown area, which is growing very fast, and the Hotel Zone. The international airport is located 17 km south of downtown Cancun.
Isla Mujeres is located just off of Cancun, and you can get to it from the “embarcadero” (a dock area) in the Hotel Zone. It is also reachable from Puerto Juárez via a ferry or boat, or from Punta Sam via a cargo boat or ferry that carries cars. It only takes 30 minutes to make the trip from Cancun to the center of Isla Mujeres.
Up north from Cancun are Contoy Island and Holbox. Contoy Island is a beautiful nature reserve known for its sea birds and a thriving marine environment that attracts many whale sharks during their seasonal migration. Holbox is a piece of land surrounded by a lagoon coast with a colorful fishing village where you can hide from modern life in the town’s very cozy, small hotels.
South of Cancun is the Riviera Maya which starts in Cancun and ends in Tulum town. The area’s main city is Playa del Carmen, a dynamic, cosmopolitan town 60 km away from Cancun. The Riviera Maya also has many small towns where employees from the surrounding resorts, attractions and small hotels live.Cozumel is a gorgeous island located off Playa del Carmen. You can get to it from Cancun by plane or by cargo ferry from Puerto Morelos. Punta Venado also offers a ferry to Cozumel that takes automobiles. And, Playa del Carmen has passenger ferries and fast boats to get there too.
Cancun beaches feature beautiful white sand with the texture of very fine sugar. This chalky yet exquisite sand feels refreshing even when the sunshine is very strong.
Cancun has two beach areas. The first one is located north of the Hotel Zone, in front of Isla Mujeres. Because its location in the Bahía de Mujeres is protected, it has a calm swell, is a great swimming area for kids, and is ideal for aquatic activities such as wave runners, water skiing, kite surfing, etc.
The other beach area is located at east from Hotel Zone and extends into the wide-open ocean. It features a gorgeous group of beaches with a swell intensity that varies according to the season. For your safety, beaches at hotels and marinas have colored flags to warn you of any dangerous rocks before you jump into the ocean, so be sure to pay attention to those flags.
In the Cancun International Airport, at local hotels, and in shopping malls throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, there are many trusted, professional rental car agencies. If you are planning to travel outside Cancun, we recommend that you rent a car when you arrive at the airport. You’ll find driving in this region to be very easy and safe.
Traveler’s tip: In order to rent a car, you are required to have a credit card, be at least 21 years old, and have a valid driver’s license.
During any season of the year, casual clothing is recommended. Natural fabrics and light colors are the way to go. Wearing swimsuits, beach sandals, and pareos are only recommended by the pool or the beach area. Tennis shoes or comfortable shoes are good for walks in the forest or to visit the archeological sites, nature reserves and parks. Do not forget to bring along casual, but elegant attire for dinner out in one of the exclusive restaurants.
During winter months, we recommend that you bring long pants and sweater.
We also recommend bringing sunglasses and sunblock on your trip. Bug repellent will also be very useful.
You can get any necessary or forgotten items in hotel boutiques, shopping malls, and supermarkets.
Modern communication is easy around Cancun and all Riviera Maya, movil phone and Internet service is readily available at all.
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres have all the necessary communication services you’d expect.
Outside of Tulum, along the road that takes you to the Sian Kaán, there are no public telephones. Holbox has cel phone service and Contoy Island has no service because it is a nature reserve with no buildings or telecommunications equipment.
The region’s landscape is always changing and over hundreds of years, a secondary forest has emerged from the original, lush tropical vegetation. There is a dry season when some trees lose their leaves, so you can easily notice the seasons by observing very dense, green flora or more sparse, dry vegetation.
The Yucatán is geologically chalky, meaning it is made up of a lot of calcium carbonate salts. Under the soil, the ground is white, very permeable and dissolves easily from the rainwater. This has been going on for centuries, forming many renowned underground rivers and caves. Today, visitors can walk, swim or scuba dive through many of México’s most intriguing underground cave systems. Swimming in the caverns and pools is –without a doubt – one of the most unique experiences that this region offers. You will never forget the mysterious worlds you’ll discover as you explore the area’s cenotes (underground cave and pool entrances).
Amidst the local fauna, iguanas are known as the main hosts because you can see them at the entrance to hotels, gardens, golf courses, archeological zones and everywhere else along the Riviera Maya and Cancun. Try to have your camera handy. It is not always easy to spot our abundant wildlife, but if you’re vigilant, you’ll see alligators in the lagoon surrounding the Cancun Hotel Zone. If you travel deep into the forest on an ecological tour, you can run into raccoon families, spider monkeys, wild boar and deer. You can also visit one of the area’s farms or small zoos to see the animals that populate this region.
When visiting archaeological zones, stick to the main roads and paths to avoid uncomfortable encounters with snakes. Some species are poisonous, including the cascabel (rattlesnake), nauyaca and coralillo, however, most wild animals and snakes will flee long before human contact.
The region’s rich aquatic life is diverse and abundant too, teeming with thousands of colorful, exotic fish. This is especially true along the Barrier Reef, the world’s second longest coral reef that runs from Cancun to Guatemala. Diving or snorkeling in the ocean, whether in Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Sian Kaán or all Riviera Maya, you will discover amazing underwater worlds that are home to large schools of tropical fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and other cool species.
Gas stations across México are from a few enterprises with very little different prices. You can get gas or diesel, have your tires calibrated, and purchase any other items needed for your car. There are two types of gas: Magna and Premium. Premium is the highest grade recommended for your car. Most of the time you are required to pay cash, but you can to pay with credit cards, specifically VISA and MASTERCARD. Some have also added ATM machines.
Traveler’s tip: Almost all of the region’s gas stations have a convenience store and telephones.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are one of the major golf destinations due their excellent five brand golf courses: Cancún Golf Club Pok Ta Pok, Riviera Cancun Golf, Iberostar Golf Club Cancun, Playa Mujeres Golf Club, Moon Palace Golf Club, Puerto Cancun Golf.
All of these golf courses have guest services, stores and excellent instructors and you can make a reservation from any hotel, ask to your hotel consierge.
You will find all the basic services that will make your stay pleasant. Supermarkets in Cancun provide any supplies you’ll need for your baby or child, from baby food to toys. There are also readily available medical services, in case they are required. Hospitals are concentrated in Cancun downtown and Playa del Carmen, but most hotels have a doctor on call 24 hours a day.
Kids activities are very popular in this area, and almost all principal hotels have kids clubs or child-friendly activities to entertain them while you rest. There are also many tours and amusement activities for kids and young people, such as aquatic activities, swimming with dolphins, visits to interesting parks, and cultural and archeological outings.
Language and Religion
The official language is Spanish, but practically everybody speaks English. At hotels, travel agencies and transportation services, you can usually find people who speak foreign languages in addition to Spanish and English. Native residents also speak the Mayan language, learned from their great ancestors.
Catholicism is the main religion of this area. Lots of hotels offer religious services during weekends and in some small Mayan towns you can still find services based on Catholicism . In Cozumel, there is a daily mass for visitors who arrive in cruise ships.
Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are equipped with the necessary medical services to cover any emergency and they have drug stores opened 24 hours that can supply all kinds of drugs, most without a prescription. Hotels also have basic medical services or a doctor on call 24 hours a day.
In Cancun, there are four government hospitals, as well as three private hospitals covering an array of special procedures. There is also medical attention and ambulance service from the Mexican Red Cross, private ambulance services, and public air transportation in emergency cases when a patient needs airlifting to a medical unit.
Hospitals in the city of Mérida (Yucatán state), 35 minutes away from the Cancun airport by plane, can provide additional medical services. Hospital costs are very accessible and private hospitals can accept health insurance from other countries.
In case of a scuba diving accident, there is a hyperbaric chamber available in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
México’s official coin is the peso. Its value frequently fluctuates against the American dollar, typically, one US dollar is equivalent to approximately between $17 and $18.5 Mexican pesos.
Without exception, major credit cards are accepted everywhere in and around Cancun and Riviera Maya. MasterCard, Visa and American Express, as well as almost dollar bills are accepted, but $100 bills are not readily accepted and travelers checks might not be accepted everywhere. We recommend you to go to money exchanges office and have your money cashed.
Traveler’s tip: It is always recommended to carry some cash with you.
Most of the hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya do not allow pets. Some small hotels along the Riviera Maya might accept tehm, but you should always check in advance of your stay. There are exceptions for guide dogs or service dogs. Traveling abroad with your pet requires a health statement signed by a veterinarian and a vaccination report to verify the good health of your pet.
The water in this region is potable. It is extracted from deep underground and is rich in mineral salts of calcium carbonate. The mineral content can cause gastrointestinal troubles, so it is recommendable to buy bottled water that is purified and free of salts. Bottled water is for sale everywhere, for environmental care please use olny ypour own bottle.
Traveler’s tip: Because this a tropical zone, we recommend that you avoid drinking water when you are unsure where it comes from.
Cancun is like any other city in the world, you can safe if you are prudent but throughout Cancun, the Riviera Maya and all other places in Quintana Roo, your safety is taken very seriously. Because the economy depends on tourism, we go to extreme lengths to ensure your tranquility and wellbeing.
You can walk relaxed in the international airport, in shopping malls, and on the streets, main avenues and beaches. Authorized transportation in the Hotel Zone is very safe, airport and hotel taxi drivers are very kind and helpful, and their cars are safe. Be careful with the taxi drivers ID. We don't recommend you to walk later on the street.
Highways to Mérida, Chichen Itzá, Tulum, Cobá and other nearby areas are wide and safe. They are constantly monitored by the “Angeles Verdes” (S.O.S personnel) and the Federal Highway Patrols.
However, like in any other part of the world, you have to be mindful when you walk or drive outside the main areas. Never invite someone you do not know into your car or hotel room. It is also recommended not to leave your valuables in sight or unattended. It is better to use your hotel safe. Hotels have very reliable and convenient safety services.
There is no reason to panic when you see news reports on criminality in México. Cancun and the Riviera Maya are places where tourists are encouraged and cared for. You can relax knowing that you will be safe when you are here.
Cancun has all kind of stores with a diverse selection to cover all your needs.
In downtown Cancun there are two shopping malls like Plaza Las Américas and Plaza Malecon, and two traditional markets one called the 28 and other one the 23. You will also find department stores, modern supermarkets and drug stores.
The five shopping malls located in Cancun’s Hotel Zone have clothing boutiques, accessory and perfume stores, familiar brand-name jewelers, souvenirs and handicraft stores with articles from all over the country. The malls also have restaurants, bars and entertainment places. When looking up the mall locations, be sure to go by these names: Plaza Caracol; Plaza Forum; Plaza Flamingo; Plaza Kukulcán; and Plaza La Isla.
Along the Riviera Maya, you can find many interesting items inside the stores of the big hotels. Playa del Carmen invites you to take a walk by its “Quinta Avenida” and take a look at many of the stores featuring specially beach clothing and exotic handicrafts. Playa invite you to go in their mall on 5° Avenue.
The Riviera Maya has shopping malls too and a variety of shops to supply all of your needs in all locations, included next to the principal Federal Road Cancun-Tulum.
Cozumel’s stores and supermarkets are equally well supplied. The jewelry stores on Cozumel are known for their lovely array of Caribbean jewelry.
In a worldwide poll, Cancun was listed as one of the top tourist destinations based on how we treat travelers.
At the airport and hotels, a tip of one or two US dollars per transported bag is recommended for the porter or bellboy. It is also recommended to tip the taxi driver only when you get additional service besides the solicited transportation. In restaurants and bars, it is customary to tip 15% or 20% of the total bill, according to your criteria, but always make sure tip is not included on the check. Tips inside the hotels follow the usual American pattern and they should always be based on your satisfaction during your stay at the hotel.
This entire region is well connected and you can use public transportation and taxis everywhere. We recommend to use hotel's taxis or "sitio de taxi", ask in your hotel. Taxis take passengers to any part of Cancun Riviera Maya or even to Mérida at affordable rates, but do not forget to arrange the price before you get into the cab.
In Cancun, public buses follow routes that go from downtown to the end of the Hotel Zone, back and forth. They are very cheap and practical with a lot of stops. Downtown, we recommend using taxis of "sitio de taxis" they have special phone number that you can contact from your cell phone at any time., they are easily available and also very cheap, just watch out for the peak hours.
To get around the Riviera Maya, you can take the buses that leave from the ADO bus station in Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen downtown or Tulum. These buses are a very safe, practical and cheap way to travel, but if you prefer, you can rent a car or take tours. Just remember to drive safely and take notice of the speed limits.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are located at the northeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula (México) on the Caribbean Sea. The weather is subtropical with rain during summer. Temperatures typically range between 72°F and 97°F during summer, while the coldest months dip to a minimum of 54°F in december and January.
Prevailing winds are warm winds from southeast most of the year. From November to February these winds come from the north, so they get a little cold. During summer, strong tropical rain can fall and leave the environment a little bit humid and warm.
The hurricane season is from June through November. Even though severe hurricanes are not common, the government has a very well organized emergency program in case of threat. Tourists are the first ones to be protected and/or evacuated, and weather information is broadcast everywhere, all day long, to keep people safe and informed.