When I think of Cancun, I get vivid images of wild parties and large hotels lining the beautiful white sand and Caribbean blue water, while those things are true, If you dive a little deeper there is a lot more on offer.
My first trip to Cancun was back in 2009 and I remember being underwhelmed so was hesitant to add it back onto my list for my fourth return to Mexico, but my friend hadn’t been here before and who was I to deny to her the experience of Cancun, You really do have to see it for yourself.
This time around I had nine nights in Cancun and used it as a base to catch up on work, bask in the Mexican sun and explore the city in more depth. Here are my top tips to make the most of your visit.
Where to Stay
This time around I was craving space and had a budget of $100 a night, We decided on a three bedroom apartment booked through Air BNB, The complex is called Las Gaviotas and it is located in the exclusive residential area of Pok – Ta – Pok. Some apartments have views of Nichupte Lagoon, the Hotel Zone, and the Pok – Ta – Pok Golf Course. It is in the heart of the hotel zone and only a couple of minutes by taxi to the best beaches and entertainment. I recommend our apartment (Number 409) which is a split level 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom apartment with rooftop terrace – It was nothing fancy but was comfortable, spacious and an amazing price for that location. Make sure you get them to confirm the apartment number as they did try to give me a different apartment to the one I saw in the photos online.
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If you prefer a hotel and are wanting the full beachfront experience which I highly recommend, Below are my favourite properties in the hotel zone plus a hostel for budget travellers, you will find that all the hostels are in downtown Cancun.
5 Star – Le Blanc Spa – An adults only, all inclusive retreat on Cancun’s best beach
4 Star – Live Aqua – An adults only oasis with a modern, relaxed vibe
3 Star – Fiesta Americana Cancun Villas – A mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas that have a mexican influence in there heart of the hotel zone
Hostel – Mezcal Hostel – In the heart of downtown, It is close to the ADO bus terminal and only 15 minutes to the nightlife of the hotel zone
Where to Eat
Restaurante Natura – The perfect place for healthy meals and fresh juices in the hotel zone. We ate here a lot and it never disappointed
The Surfin Burrito – Next door to Natura and exactly as the name depicts, burritos, although the tacos are epic too. Tiny little hole in the wall place with a super relaxed vibe.
Cocos & Grill – Perfect spot for an authentic Caribbean seafood lunch on the beach with access to their beach club with pool and palapas
Fish Fritanga – Amazing Mexican food set on Nichupte Lagoon
Vegan Planet – If you’re wanting healthy and you’re staying downtown, Go here.
Le Chique – A 15 minute drive south of Cancun leads you to the village of Puerto Morelos and the incredible Le Chique. Headed up by award winning chef, Jonatán Gómez Luna, Make sure you visit here for a special occasion to enjoy their 14 course dining experience.
Puerto Madero – Sometimes you need a great steak and a fabulous glass of malbec… This is where to go!
Casitas – Private and romantic, dining in cabanas on the beachfront at the Ritz Carlton is a must for lovers
Where to Explore
Cancun has some beautiful beaches to relax on – Check out Playa Delfines, Tortuga, Langosta, Caracol & Linda.
The Nightlife is fun with some huge clubs like Mandala and Coco Bongos being my favourites to party, even if they are a little too commercial for my taste.
My favourite thing about Cancun is how easily accessible it is to other areas in Mexico and although I recommend staying longer at each of these places to truly experience them, You can do these as part of a day trip if you’re shorter on time.
Mercado 28 – If shopping is your thing and you’re looking to pick up local souvenirs, Visit the Mercado 28 in downtown Cancun to pick up your wares.
Diving – The best diving in my experience is from Cozumel but the nearby Museo Subacuático de Arte which is also accessed easily from Isla Mujeres has over 500 sculptures planted on the sea bed for marine life to colonise and inhabit whilst increasing biomass on a grand scale.
Isla Mujeres – A 30 minute ferry ride from Playa Tortugas is the ‘Island of women’ in all its Caribbean glory. If you can swing a few nights, do it but if not, you can take an early ferry across, hire a golf cart for the day to explore, watch the sunset and ferry back to Cancun. I’ve been here a couple of times and love this island for its chilled vibe and beautiful beaches, Playa Norte is the one for the best swimming.
Isla Contoy – A national park which is one of the most important areas for nesting birds is a must for bird lovers or anyone wanting a slice of untouched island life – Only 200 visitors are allowed per day.
Chichen Itza – One of the most important Mayan sites in the area can be easily done in a day by organised tour, although I recommend doing this solo by driving and staying nearby so you can get there early to avoid the crowds in the heat of the day and have freedom to visit some nearby cenotes on the way too.
Tulum – Two hours south of Cancun you can visit Mayan Ruins set on one of the most beautiful beaches. While you can also do this in a day I recommend staying here a few nights as there is so much to do and see in this area including a bunch of incredible cenotes and a laid back, healthy living, yoga lifestyle.
Cenotes – Visit one of the numerous cenote adventure parks such as Hidden Worlds, Xplor, Selvatica, Xcaret or Xel – Ha for a full day of fun and exploration.
Please leave me any questions in the comments below.
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