Cancun

Destination Location

Cancun
  • 21.1606, -86.8475:primary
  • 21.0365009307861, -86.8770980834961:secondary
Hotel reviews summary
4.5

Our guest rating from 12 reviews

Overview

When you land at Cancun International Airport, you’re only 30 minutes away from jumping into the postcard-perfect turquoise waters of this popular beach city.

With a great selection of hotels and restaurants to suit any budget, it’s not hard to see why Cancun is the Caribbean’s top vacation destination and one of Mexico’s main tourist draws. There’s a lot to love in Cancun with its year-round warm weather and sandy beaches.

Looking to relax? Pick a spot to enjoy the endless sunshine that pours over the 25 km stretch of white sands along the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Cancun also offers easy access to urban and tropical adventures. Try snorkelling or scuba diving at the second largest barrier reef in the world. Or, explore Mayan Ruins—a popular and awe-inspiring attraction sure to bring out the archaeologist in anyone.

Next, venture out to the city’s bustling local bars and nightclubs or enjoy the nightlife without ever leaving the comforts of your hotel.

No matter what you’re looking for in a vacation, once thing is certain—you’ll always find plenty to do, somewhere to go and something to see in Cancun.

Cancun is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • nightlife
  • shopping and dining

Destination basics

Cancun’s semi-tropical climate boasts more than 250 days of sun per year and warm temperatures that melt tensions away. Travel between December and April when average daily temperatures hover between 22C and 32C.

Temperatures are hottest from late May to early September, when it can climb to the mid-30s. During July and August, the nearby islands of Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox are great for whale watching.

Cancun’s rainy season runs from September until the end of November.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Cancun

Cancun is known as the gateway to Mayan culture. Although there are several ruins within the city of Cancun, it is definitely worth the half-hour drive south to the Riviera Maya. Here, you’ll discover eco-adventures, theme parks, archaeological ruins, unspoiled beaches and native Mayans in quaint villages.

The Mayans were once among the most densely populated and innovative societies in the world, creating art and architecture that lives on today. If you have time, take a trip to the Mayan Ruins just a few hours away in Chichen Itza and Coba. Or, browse Mayan art in the many art galleries of Plaza Kukulcan.

The ancient practice of sun worship was also a big part of the Mayan people’s lives, both centuries ago and still today. Visit the pre-Columbian archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula to learn about the area’s history and see the Mayans’ fascination with the sun, moon and nature, firsthand.

Partake in a little sun worship of your own on the beaches of Cancun. Join visitors and residents who choose to spend a day soaking up the rays. And feel free to check out any beach you’d like. The beaches in Cancun are all public.

Aside from the Mayan influence, you’ll find Cancun has its own beach vibe with a distinctly urban twist. The city is becoming increasingly sophisticated as it draws more international travellers and residents.

Most local shopping is found in the Ciudad Cancun downtown area, also known as the Centro area. Want to try living like a local for a day? Poke around an outdoor market for inexpensive food—including fresh tortillas and a horchata (a delicious local rice drink).

You’ll also find fresh seafood and char-grilled meats, along with Asian, Argentinean and Italian fare both downtown and in Cancun’s world-renowned Zona Hotelera resort district.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Cancun. Canadian currency, debit cards, and travellers cheques are not widely accepted, so using pesos is usually easiest.

To exchange your Canadian cash or travellers cheques, stop by one of the many banks, exchange kiosks or your hotel front desk. Just don’t forget your passport—it’s required to cash your travellers cheques.

You can also withdraw cash from ATMs found in banks, grocery stores and hotels. Normal banking hours in Cancun are Monday to Friday, typically from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with some branches open Saturday. Most exchange kiosks are open late.

Although American money is widely accepted, regulations are now in place to limit the amount of U.S. cash both residents and visitors can exchange in Mexico. Some financial institutions have imposed limits of US$300 per transaction, however many local businesses will only accept a maximum of US$100 per transaction. Even smaller businesses have chosen to forgo accepting U.S. money altogether, so the recommended way to pay is with Mexican pesos or credit card.

Nestled in the heart of the Mexican Caribbean, this natural paradise is referred to by many as a Garden of Eden. No doubt, the first explorers to arrive found a splendid and beautiful land of promise that included fine powdered sand and sapphire waters and emerald-green vegetation all bathed by a brilliant sun in the celestial sky.

Today's Cancún was born in the 1970s as a popular tourist destination, boosted by massive foreign investment in the hotel industry. The city has continued to grow into a perfect combination of natural beauty and man-made facilities. It is an ideal place for visitors to come, year after year, later returning home with unforgettable memories and experiences. Cancún exists today as a mixture of its a pre-Hispanic past, a vanguard culture, unlimited entertainment, and enclaves of unspoiled nature.

For fun and satisfaction, there is an unlimited variety of bars and restaurants in the city catering to a visitor's every whim. It is impossible to leave here without visiting at least one of the popular spots that the island's nightlife has to offer.

Hotel Zone
Italian cuisine can be enjoyed on the island at Gustino Italian Grill, Casa Rolandi, La Dolce Vita which has been in Cancún for years, and the moderately-priced Fantino among many others.

For children and adolescents, there is nothing more entertaining than theme restaurants like Hard Rock Café Cancún.

Among other popular eateries is the restaurant El Cambalache, which specializes in Argentinean cuisine. Seafood lovers should go to Lorenzillo's, Sushi Itto and the Crab House. For those seeking a cut of prime rib can turn to Ruth's Chris Steak House Cancún and La Capilla Argentina Steakhouse. There are also many restaurants offering a wide range of international dishes such as Señor Frog's, Harry's and Puerto Madero.

When the daytime fun has ended, it is time to venture out into the nightlife, in this city that never sleeps. The "in" crowd gathers at Bulldog and Daddy'O. For a real crazy time, you can go to one of the most popular clubs in South America called Coco Bongo.

Spots that definitely should be included in any after-hour itinerary include, Señor Frog's, where the atmosphere gets hotter as the night transpires, and Carlos & Charlie's, where people party until dawn. Some places have open-air dance floors overlooking the ocean, all of which have a bilingual staff.

Downtown
Outside of the hotel zone there are other establishments that have the same excitement and interest as the hotel zone, although there are less of them. Japanese food can be splendid at Yamamoto. For a little bit of international cuisine, there is Casa Rolandi, which serves up moderately-priced Italian food. Romantic dining can be found at Habichuela, where romance takes center stage upon the cozy, delightful patio. This splendid island city not only preserves its natural beauty, but also offers an array of activities to enhance a visitor's stay. Don't forget to bag up a slice of the Mexican Caribbean to take back home.

The area's tourism industry underwent rapid growth during the 1980s, made possible by enthusiastic foreign investment. Large hotels began to flourish - offering complete services and amenities, abounding in luxury and exclusivity. This also applied to shopping centers, which started incorporating some of the finest boutiques, jewelers and restaurants. These factors boosted the area's status. Already considered a paradise of sun and sea for the color of its waters, the delicate beauty of its powdered sand beaches and the exuberant vegetation of its ecological reserves, Cancún was still improving its reputation.

Cancún can be divided into three main areas: The Hotel District, the Town and the Ecological Reserve, blessed with incredible lakes and mangrove swamps.

Hotel District
The Hotel District is comprised of the so-called gran turismo hotels (four-and five-star luxury hotels). Hotels and shopping centers are distributed along the main Boulevard Kuculkán, which runs the length of the 21-kilometer (13-mile) island. This district undoubtedly generates the greatest revenue and has the greatest economic impact on the nation, as compared to the rest of the state. This area is where the trendiest, most popular discos, the finest international restaurants and the largest entertainment venues are situated.

Town of Cancún
The Town of Cancún changes the scenery, albeit not too drastically. Peaceful provincial life here is more picturesque, folkloric and the simplicity of some of the shops provides a stark contrast to the million-dollar hotel chains. Restaurants in this district serve typical local food and snacks, providing a real opportunity to taste some genuine homemade Mexican dishes. There are also a lot of shopping opportunities in town. For additional entertainment, theaters and cinemas are located on the main streets.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Last, but certainly not least, the third district is in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, where nature still reigns supreme in the history of this area. Occupying hundreds of kilometers, it constitutes Mexico's largest genuine ecosystem, home to a diverse number of plant and animal species. The government and non-profit organizations do their best to preserve this area as a wildlife refuge containing many species in danger of extinction.

Archaeological sites can be found in the vicinity, extending towards the four cardinal points. Structures tell the history of the settlements of the Mayan people on this peninsula, and just about every rock reveals traces of the historical and cultural legacy which these inhabitants left behind.

Cancún combines the elegance and gamut of entertainment choices in its Hotel District, the traditions and serenity of its pueblo, and the natural beauty of its ecological reserve, coral reef and history of its peoples. From a city brimming with all of this, what else could you ask for?

Boredom simply does not exist in this beautiful resort area of the Mexican Caribbean. There are a wide assortment of attractions, which can keep you engaged for even the lengthiest of visits. Whether you want to relax on the beach or explore an ancient ruin, there is something for everyone!

Nightclubs & Nightlife
The city comes alive after dark. When it comes to bars with a lively atmosphere, try Carlos and Charlies and Señor Frog's. If you are creature of the night, enjoy partying, live music and staying up all night having fun, Cancún offers a wide variety of choices as to what you can do until the early hours of the morning. If you're into club atmospheres, the best options in Cancún are Cocobongo, The City and Daddy'O.

If what you are really after is good live music venues, the Hard Rock Café is an obvious option, offering the best rock and roll in town. You are bound to take back memories of Mexico's music, people and relentless mood for partying. Admission prices vary, but most of the discos and clubs include drinks in the price. What to wear? Generally, people dress quite casually in bars, although they do tend to dress up a little more in discos. With all of the color and variety that exists in this paradise, the possibility of a boring night is impossible. Enjoy your stay, and get dancing! ¡Buen provecho!

Historical Sights
Many points of interest are around Cancún for those that want to adventure outside of the main district. Excursions are easy to reach from the majority of hotels. The archaeological ruins of the lost Mayan civilization at Chichen Itzá are located 124 miles away from the island (three hours by bus). The renowned Tulum Archeological Zone is nearby and well worth a visit, as is the Mayan site of Cobá. Isla Mujeres is a natural and exotic sanctuary with great opportunities to snorkel and only five miles from the island. A visit to the ecological and archaeological park of Xcaret is a must, offering underground rivers and caves, a dip with the dolphins or an evening multimedia show recounting Mayan history. A few hours from Cancún by car, you will be at Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras and also Xel-Ha, a natural aquarium where snorkeling and swimming are the main activities. For the intrepid spirit and jungle explorer, excursions are available to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve to discover native wildlife or mangrove swamps in this semi-virgin place.

Arts & Culture
If you are a rodeo enthusiast or would like to battle a bull without the fear of being trampled upon, go on to the Plaza de Toros, where events are offered every Wednesday at 3p from December through April. For the adventurous, travel out to the Centro Ceremonial Kohunlich, an area of immense beauty and a place to see Mayan ruins underground. On the other hand, stay indoors and visit the Interactive Aquarium Cancún, where you can feed some sharks and swim with the dolphins. You can also visit INAH Museum which is a Anthropology and History museum that changes its exhibits often.

Festivals & Celebrations
If you happen to be in Cancún during September, you should definitely not miss the Autumn Equinox at Chichén Itzá, one of the greatest architectural achievements from the Maya and a chance to witness one of their religious and cosmological ideas. The Day of the Dead in the beginning of November is another festival that celebrates the dead, in which they return from the afterlife in order to celebrate and re-join the living. A holiday tradition that has been held for over a thousand years with decorations, parades and mariachis throughout the streets. Another day that honors the origin of the Mexican people is the Día de la Raza, where they celebrate the arrival of Columbus and the recognition of the mestizo, that is, the descendants from mixed European and indigenous indians. There are workshops, folkloric dance, concerts, dining, among many other events, needless to say, September may be the best month to visit Cancún.

Sports & Activities
The whole family can enjoy some great activities and attractions that are perfect for every age. For a real lift, let go and fly a kite from the vantage point of Dolphin Beach Viewpoint. You can also have an emotional and memorable experience by swimming with dolphins at the Xcaret Ecological Park, which will leave any traveler with something to write home about. Also try kayaking, skating or cycling along the Ciclopista in the Plaza Kukulcán. Movie lovers will be pleased to find the latest releases offered at the 10 fully equipped theaters in the plush cinema complex Cinemark, located in La Isla Shopping Center. Aquatic sports for the entire family are offered at Aquaworld.
Another option for adults include the Club de Golf Cancún located on Kukulcán Boulevard.

You can also go horseback riding on the coast for those that love horses, wind sailing, or go snorkeling into the coral reefs (specialized instructors are available for inexperienced divers), go fishing, or ride a jet-ski at high speed, these are just some of the activities that are within reach of those that would like to enhance their stay in Cancun. In Cancun, there are around 200 restaurants and more than 400 stores in exclusive shopping centers nearby the hotel zone.

In the outskirts of Punta Cancún there is the natural aquarium Xel-Ha, where you can snorkel with an amazing variety of species. Towards the south is the Sian Ka´an Biosphere Reserve, where you can explore forests and a mangrove swamp. Pay attention and listen to the sound of the birds and enjoy watching the small mammals coming out to have a good look at what's going on.

Cancún


State: Quintana Roo


Country: Mexico


Cancún by the Numbers

Population: 722,800
Elevation: 10 meters / 30 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 1300 millimeters / 51.2 inches
Average January Temperature: 24.1°C / 75.3°F
Average July Temperature: 30°C / 85.2°F


Quick Facts

Time Zone: Central (GMT -6)

Electricity: 110 volts, the same as in the U.S.

Country Dialing Code: +52

Area Code: 998


Did You Know?

Before the city acquired its current name, Cancún was called Ekab, meaning "Black Earth".

Cancún is the Mayan word for "pot of snakes.”


Orientation

Cancún is located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico. Cancún is about 286 kilometers (178 miles) from Merida.

If you love the beach, you’ll love Cancun. The famed sand dunes that are shaped like a number seven are separated from the mainland by two canals that run into a big lagoon. Mangroves, marshes and jungle stretch along the coast.

Cancun has transformed from the once-deserted island of the ’50s when few people knew about this vacation spot, to what is now the Caribbean’s largest tourism and resort centre. Located in the Quintana Roo region, this 1,034 sq. km piece of land offers white sands and turquoise waters to visitors year-round. With a population of more than 700,000 people, Cancun is also a bustling city with a vibrant urban lifestyle.

Venture south of Cancun to the Riviera Maya, where you can swim in the world’s second largest barrier reef. This area is a playground for scuba diving and snorkelling, and boasts many ecosystems including reef, mangrove, savanna, wetlands and lowland forests.

If you’re a birdwatcher, visit Isla Contoy, just off the shore of Cancun. It provides incredible lookout points to see tropical birds.

The Rivera Maya lies in the Southern part of the Mexican Republic, the Eastern area of the Peninsula of Yucatán, and on the Caribbean shoreline. It is called the Mayan Riviera due to the influence the pre-Hispanic civilization exerted throughout the region, extending from Punta Brava to Punta Allen. The Northern coast boasts an impressive development of its tourist infrastructure, while the Southern shore is dotted with small picturesque villages surrounded by unspoiled beaches. Gran Arrecife Maya, the world's second largest barrier reef is found off these shores and along with the tropical forests of exotic vegetation and mangroves, they constitute a veritable window into the biodiversity of Mexican wildlife species. The South is also well known for its underground rivers, sacred reservoirs, deep-sea caves and caverns.

The Mayans were the original inhabitants of this peninsula. Advanced in the sciences, their civilization is recognized for the intelligence and precision of their calculations as well as the complexity of their religious rites. The peninsula was an important center of commercial and religious activity during the post-classical period, which dates from approximately 1000 CE to 1500 CE. The Tulum Archaelogical Zone was a fortress on the Caribbean shores, Playa del Carmen was then known as Xaman-Ha, and what is now the Xcaret Ecological Park was known as Puerto Pole. Cobá Ruins, with a population of 50,000 inhabitants, was the most important city.

With the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519, the principal Mayan cities, such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal had already been abandoned. The wars and conquests of other peoples, harsh climate and the dangers of the tropical forest, combined with the frequent threat of hurricanes, made it difficult for the civilization to prosper. Xel-Ha went down in history as the first European settlement. Even so, during the colonial period, population growth was hampered due in part to the frequent pirate attacks at sea. These assaults hindered access to firm ground, even when reached, the dense forest provided further troubles, and thus the peninsula remained unexplored for several years.

In 1967 the Mexican Government recognized the importance of the tourist industry as an active ingredient in the country's economy. Given its natural beauty, which would tempt any traveler, this paradise was poised as a strong candidate for foreign investment towards the development of a hotel and entertainment infrastructure. The Palacio Maya and Club Med were the first hotels built in the 1970s, both blessed with exaggerated exclusivity.

Considered a strong tourist attraction during the 1990s, it wasn't until that decade in which Cancún experienced significant growth with the construction of hotels, American-style shopping centers and an array of entertainment facilities.

Cancún is presently divided into three districts: The town of Cancún, with a population of approximately 300,000 and a simple, practical infrastructure; the Ecological Reserve with its incredible lakes, rain-forests and mangroves; and the Hotel Zone, an island of hotels and shopping centers.

There are over 26,800 hotel rooms available, 200 restaurants, and several hundred shops in the city while paved and dirt roads enable access to the tropical forest.

Many facets of Cancun combine to offer the natural attributes of a Caribbean paradise framed within the vestiges of one of the most advanced and intelligent civilizations of the ancient world.

The city centre of Cancun is located just 8 km north of Cancun International Airport. With a wealth of transit options, getting in and around the city and surrounding areas is simple. Taxis, buses and plenty of foot trails provide guests with many options to get from A to B.

The local bus system is reliable and inexpensive. One fare costs only 8 pesos (approximately 80 cents Canadian). Buses run 24 hours a day in Cancun and will get you to and from downtown with ease.

Catching a Taxi in Cancun

Be cautious when taking taxis in Cancun. We recommend you only take hotel taxis or those based at designated taxi stands called sitios. It is also helpful to consult with your hotel concierge before hopping in to determine the best rate. Hotels will often display standard taxi rates in their lobbies, but within the hotel zone, individual fares vary depending on distance travelled. All government-authorized taxis have licence plates beginning with an A or B. You can identify these taxis by their company logo and plate number stamped on the side of the car.

If you’re looking to explore the ruins of Tulum or the many other attractions that Cancun and surrounding areas have to offer, you can call WestJet Vacations to book your excursions in advance. You can also always catch a bus from the bus station in downtown Cancun.

Since attractions can be quite a distance from the hotels, the most economic option is bus travel. But no matter how you choose to get around, you’re sure to enjoy Cancun’s great weather, fun nightlife and breathtaking attractions.

Arrival

During your flight into Cancun International Airport, you’ll receive two forms to fill out. One is your Customs Declaration Form. The other is your Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners (or FMM for short). One Customs Declaration Form needs to be filled out per family, while each guest must complete an FMM.

In Mexico, there is a tourism tax of US$20 per person. For your convenience, when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in the cost of your airfare.

Upon arrival in Cancun, you’ll be guided to the immigration hall where visitors will form a line to meet with a Mexican immigration officer. This officer will ask you for your passport and your FMM. You may also be asked a few questions as to the purpose of your travel, how long you will be staying and if this is your first time in Mexico. The officer will then stamp the FMM and return a portion of it to you.

Important: Keep your FMM with you in a safe place at all times during your trip. Mexican authorities can ask you to present this form at any time and you will need this document when you depart Cancun.

After passing through immigration, you’ll pick up your bags and proceed to customs. You will have to place all your bags through an x-ray machine. A customs agent will ask you for your Customs Declaration Form and ask you to press a button on a traffic light-looking device. A green light means you get to pass through without inspection, while a red light means your baggage will be inspected. In the case of a red light, you’ll need to open your baggage and a Customs Officer will complete a quick inspection.

Once you depart customs, you’ll see representatives from transfer companies, tour operators and timeshare sellers in the corridor soliciting business. If you’ve purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations, please continue through the corridor until you’re outside the airport terminal. There, you will be greeted by a friendly Best Day Travel representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign. Best Day representatives can be identified by their navy blue pants and white shirt with a large navy and red Best Day logo.

Once you’ve found a Best Day Travel rep, identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and voila! Bienvenido a Cancun!

Departure

When departing Cancun, you’ll need to provide officials with your signed FMM card. Lost FMMs can be replaced at the airport or at the immigration office before you check-in for your return flight. However, there is a fee to obtain a replacement card.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that all travellers to Mexico get vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus before leaving Canada.

Mexico uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Whether you’re with your family, on your own, or exploring with friends, Cancun is a great destination for all travellers. While lounging at the beach or pool for a few hours may be a requirement, you can try something new every day.

In Cancun, you can have a quiet vacation by the ocean and listen to the Caribbean lapping at the shores. In fact, you might even be content never leaving the lounge chair of your hotel pool while sipping a Corona and flipping through the pages of your favourite book or magazine.

Perhaps the energy on Boulevard Kukulcan, the main street along the Zona Hotelera—Cancun’s popular Hotel Zone—is more your style. Find plenty of glitz and glamour here, with lively nightclubs and casinos. You might even bump into stars such as Julia Roberts or Javier Bardem who are known to have visited posh all-inclusive resorts like Le Blanc Spa.

In downtown Centro, along the north-south thoroughfare called Avenida Tulum, sit down to a plate of fresh fish ceviche with the locals, or stop by an open-air market and listen to the relaxing sounds of a classical guitar.

During your flight into Cancun International Airport, you’ll receive two forms to fill out.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Cancun.

The city centre of Cancun is located just 8 km north of Cancun International Airport.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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