When you hear “Cancun,” you may picture college students flocking for spring break. Or maybe you imagine a quiet resort beach, with nothing to do but relax to the sound of the waves. Or maybe you see ancient Mayan ruins, someone grabbing a street taco or a group of friends going on an adventure to an underground lake.
The truth is that Cancun is all of those things and more. It’s also the type of place you can go solo, with your partner or with a group of friends or family.
A jaunt to Cancun is cheaper than a Disney trip but more exotic than a stay along the Atlantic coast. Located in southeastern Mexico in the state of Quintana Roo, Cancun is situated on the Caribbean. Warning: Once you’ve set foot in the Caribbean, you will scoff at all other beaches (no offense to all other beaches, of course). White sands warm your toes and the water is at once teal blue and crystal clear.
Cancun also works for just about any budget, with hotels that range from affordable to high-end. Most resorts are located in what’s known as the hotel zone, a thin stretch of land between the airport and downtown Cancún. Regardless of where you stay, if you’re in the hotel zone, you’ll be right on the gorgeous beach.
I’ve been to Cancun multiple times; my family stays at a resort called the Hyatt Zilara Cancun. And well, it’s pretty fabulous. Full disclosure: My parents have a timeshare there, so it’s a lot more affordable than it would be otherwise. But either way, it’s well worth the price. There are four on-site restaurants and a buffet, and you can get room service at any time, day or night, which is part of the all-inclusive price. The resort staff are masters of their craft, whether it’s bartending, serving at the restaurants or cleaning the rooms. Everyone is helpful, kind and amazingly efficient.
From what I’ve heard, many if not most resorts in Cancun are like this. It’s just a matter of finding a fit based on your budget and what type of experience you’re looking for. Here are some tips to ensure your trip to Cancun is a vacation to remember:
Do your research
Read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. See if there’s a Facebook fan page for the resort you’re interested in — they are populated with people who share pictures, advice and every other type of info you could think of. Thorough research will help you select a place to stay within your budget, but also based on the level of service, food and other amenities. Opting for a cheaper stay doesn’t have to mean sacrificing in other areas. Doing research also helps you understand dynamics such as tipping at all-inclusive resorts. For example, at the resort where we stay, tipping is included, but we still tip extra because the service is exemplary.
Splurge on an excursion
Even if your goal is to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, consider spending at least one day doing something you can’t do at home, like swimming with dolphins, visiting Mayan ruins, snorkeling, parasailing, scuba diving, or visiting what’s known as a cenote, an underground lake. Some of these are available right in Cancun and others require a ride of an hour or two. The region is full of natural beauty and opportunities to explore and have fun, with or without kids. Cancun also boasts a bustling nightlife, with dance clubs and shows, if that’s more your scene. At many resorts, you can book these excursions directly, although a stroll down the road will lead to a kiosk where you book activities. If an excursion is either out of your budget or not of interest, many resorts offer on-site entertainment, including live music or shows in the evenings and other special events.
Check out the local shopping
Cancun is interesting because there are plenty of high-end retailers, but also markets full of handmade, authentic Mexican goods. These range from jewelry and other trinkets to toys and beautiful painted ceramics or glassware. There is no shortage of options for souvenirs. And don’t be afraid to haggle a little if you’re up for it.
Don’t worry too much about the exchange rate. As of the end of 2017, one U.S. dollar was equal to about 19 Mexican pesos. In my experience, while out shopping and even for tipping, U.S. dollars work just fine and most shops will calculate your total in dollars.
Get married there!
Admittedly, this should be arranged prior to boarding a flight to Cancun, but after witnessing my sister wed on the beach outside of our resort, I am on board for any and all destination weddings in Cancun. I think it’s safe to say most of us who planned a wedding found it tedious and stressful, what with the thousands of details, family drama and never-ending to-do lists. Conversely, my sister had a wedding planner at the resort who made sure everything was taken care of. The day went off without a hitch, with the beach wedding that was relaxed yet breathtakingly picturesque. If I could go back in time, I’d have my wedding on the beach in Cancun.
Story topics: Out & About