Guide: Visiting Cancun, Mexico
You’re visiting Cancun, hooray! Flights will go through Cancun International Airport (CUN). Depending on where you’re going, taking a shuttle service could be the most convenient, albeit pricier, way of getting out of the airport. We booked through Luxury Van Transportation and were promptly picked up by a guy holding a sign with my name on it and driven in a private air-conditioned van to our destination. No need to wait for others’ stops in comparison to a shuttle bus.
What to bring
- Swimsuits – Lots of them! You’re probably going to be in the ocean or pool every day.
- Sunblock – Get one with zinc oxide to really combat the powerful rays of the sun. I still got 3 shades darker after obsessively applying sunblock every day
- Mosquito Repellent – Those buggers will be determined to eat you!
- Sunglasses, Hat
- Raincoat, Umbrella – Especially if you’re going during the rainy season. The rain shouldn’t stop you from having too much fun though!
- Cameras – Make sure you do your research if you’re planning on bringing a drone to Mexico! Drone photography has so much potential in beautiful Mexico, but you don’t want any trouble. Read about my tips and experience here.
- Snorkel or Scuba gear – You can easily rent this if you don’t have your own
- US Dollars – Do not use the currency exchange service at the airport after you arrive. They will give you a terrible exchange rate – $13 MX to $1 USD when it could be up to $18 elsewhere. The US dollar is strong and pay in USD when you can so you know exactly what you’re paying. Having a credit card without international fees is handy too, like Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve.
Hotel or AirBnB?
If you’re going to visit the area purely for poolside drinks and doing as little as possible, go with a highly rated resort. There you will find comfort, cleanliness, good food, and peace of mind to take a vacation from everything and really soak in the relaxation.
We like to be on our feet and have a busy schedule planned for every day of traveling, so the resort life is not for us.
Our trip was planned with diving and snorkeling jam packed into the itinerary. In this case, I’d recommend splitting up your trip between an AirBnB and hotel. Start with the AirBnB so you can increase the quality of your stay as your days go along.
We kicked off our stay in Isla Mujeres at an AirBnB, “Maya Casitas” smack dab in the middle of downtown. For just over $30/night, we had a nice room in a great location that made my wallet extremely happy.
We stayed in Isla Mujeres for three days, primarily to go snorkeling with the whale sharks. It’s easy to get to Edson’s place. After you land in Cancun, take a shuttle to the Ultramar Ferry station and get on a ferry that runs every 30 min to Isla Mujeres. Edson’s place is a short walk from the ferry station (5-10 min) and conveniently located near many restaurants and bars. It was also 5 min away from where we met our whale shark tour guides so everything location-wise was perfect.
Our host provided breakfast every morning which was a bonus. We only utilized this one day since our tour guides provided breakfast as well the other days, but it’s a nice way to kick off your morning without worrying about what to eat.
We stayed in the #3 casitas which is tucked into one of the inside corners. It was pretty small but enough space for two people. We did a lot of stuff in the ocean throughout the three days on Isla Mujeres and could’ve used some more ventilation to dry out our things, but you do get what you paid for and the room is definitely sufficient. There is AC which is nice and helps cool down and dry the room.
After our few days on Isla Mujeres, we took the ferry back to the Cancun side and stayed out the remainder of our trip at a resort.
There is a main resort area called “Hotel Zone” which is middle walkable and is filled with tons of restaurants, including familiar American chains like Outback Steakhouse.
Our hotel was the GR Solaris, an all-inclusive resort that was in a secondary hotel area just south of Hotel Zone. This area is closer to the airport which is nice, but not too walkable and doesn’t have as many restaurants or attractions to visit outside of the resort.
Make sure to bring somewhat dressy clothes (long pants, close toed shoes for guys) because the nicer restaurants at the resorts will require a dress code for you to eat there, even if it is included in what you’ve paid to stay at the hotel.
Tip your maids when they clean your room because believe it or not, one maid can make a mere $5 USD a day working at the hotel.
Anyone and everyone will try to make a dollar off you, so be smart about what you spend on at the resorts!
Uber is available but we waited on average 15-20 min for one to arrive. They are cheap and convenient, especially if there is a language barrier, but the drivers will ask for one passenger to sit in the front seat as they get some trouble from the police officers and taxi cabs around. You’ll even see taxi drivers with stickers on their cars that say “UBER IS ILLEGAL,” but you should be able to get one fine.
What To Do
There’s so much you can do and most of it involves the great outdoors!
- Snorkel/dive the Cenotes
- Jungle tours
- Beach time
- Visit the Mayan Temple
TripAdvisor has amazing guides and real reviews from other travelers that can help you plan out your itinerary. It’s also a handy place to look for good places to eat while you’re traveling!