In the Mexican Caribbean
Cancun rests on the northeast corner of the Mexican Caribbean and it is home to some of the most stunning turquoise-blue ocean water and spectacular coastlines on planet Earth. There seems to be a mesmeric attraction to the spectacular beaches, Mexican culture, Mayan archeological wonders, lush jungles and the plethora of recreational activities that the Yucatan Peninsula is replete with. People travel from around the world to Cancun every day to experience the tropical wonderland.
On this, our first visit to Cancun, I must say that it exceeded every expectation my family and I had. In no way am I a seasoned traveler, nor do I claim to be a Cancun expert, but there are things we learned on our trip that I wish we knew beforehand and things we will definitely do differently next time. Perhaps these tips may be of use to those who are planning their first trip.
Things to know about:
- As soon as you get off the airplane, you will be bombarded with a mass of people trying to sell you the same excursion packages that they sell everywhere else for the exact same price. Your best bet is to wait until you get to your resort and see what they have to offer. If you seem interested in the very least, the sales people will consume at least half an hour of your time, if not more. To avoid this, politely yet firmly say: “No thank you, I’m not interested.” Then calmly walk away. You’ll have to repeat this several times until you make it out to your shuttle or car rental.
- Timeshare representatives are a dime a dozen and will also attempt to lure you to their presentations or to view their properties by promising free meals or excursions at a reduced rate. The downside is that the presentations could consume an entire day and we heard that it’s really hard to get out of buying one. Again, if you are not interested in a timeshare, politely say, “No thank you, I’m not interested.” Then calmly walk away.
- Cancun boasts a tropical climate and warm sea temperatures year-round. The months of December through April, however, are the best months to visit the Yucatan Peninsula. There is minimal rainfall, so humidity is relatively low and the temperatures rarely rise above 85°. Because of the optimal weather, this is also the most expensive time of the year to travel to Cancun.
- Late June (that’s when we were there) is especially hot and humid. Temperatures can range between 82° - 90°F, with relative humidity between 64% - 90% because of rainfall. The ocean water and pool offered some relief, but be sure to wear sun block and reapply it throughout the day. To protect the wildlife, some parks and recreation sites will not allow you to wear sunscreen that has chemicals in it.
- Hurricane season peaks in the months of August through November. The last time a hurricane actually hit and did damage to Cancun was in 2005. Visiting during this time is risky, but if you get a good travelers insurance you might save some money, since it is considered off-season.
Culture and Customs
- Because Cancun is a popular tourist destination for Americans, most people speak and understand English quite well, so there is no need to bring along a phrase book. Although, it’s never a bad idea to learn a new language.
- If you do speak Spanish, have a conversation with the locals. You’ll find that they are very welcoming and helpful when you show an interest in their culture.
We found that if we built a rapport with the wait staff and tipped them generously before our services, they were extra attentive and accommodating.
- There are beautiful iguanas roaming around everywhere. They will not hurt or even come near you as long as you leave them alone. Do not feed them, they eat the local vegetation.
- To protect yourself, use insect repellant with DEET. There are a lot of mosquitoes and there have been cases of the Zika virus in Mexico.
- Pace yourself. Don’t try to squeeze too many activities into one day. Remember that this is your vacation. Otherwise, you might need a vacation from your vacation; we did. Take time to just enjoy the fact that you are in Cancun.
- PLAN. There are so many things to see and do that if you don't plan out and prioritize your days, things will seem chaotic and your days will slip by you in no time.
- There are so many different options for going on excursions like the jungle tours, Xcaret, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Tulum, among others. As I mentioned earlier, your resort will more than likely have a representative selling these packages. Ask questions.
- There are also affordable, reliable buses that make rounds to and from the parks, sites and different beaches. With this option you would pay any entry fees at the parks and not to a representative.
- Renting a car is also an option. It allows you to come and go as you please and skip out on the crowds of tourists.
- Cancun is one of the most affordable vacation destinations . Our trip averaged around $640 per person for roundtrip airfare, five nights at a modest but beautiful beach front hotel, and an amazing breakfast buffet included every morning. We saved approximately $280 per person by flying out of Ciudad Juarez versus El Paso, TX.
- Although American dollars are accepted in most places, it is a good idea to have pesos on hand. Be mindful of what the U.S. currency exchange rates are, as they constantly fluctuate. There are many currency exchange facilities in Cancun and ATMs will ask if you prefer dollars or pesos.
- Credit cards are also widely accepted, however, you will be charged a currency exchange fee for every transaction.
- If you are an American Citizen traveling into Mexico, you need to go to customs on the Mexican side and get a permit. If you are traveling for less than seven days the permit is free. You will need to show a government issued identification. Once you return, you need to cancel the permit, again at customs.
- You also need an American Passport to get back into the U.S.