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Cancun, Quintana Roo Travel Guide

Cancun Summary


  • Cancun is one of the world’s top beach destinations, with beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise waters
  • It's the gateway to world-famous Chichen Itza and Tulum Mayan ruins
  • Bustling nightlife, great shopping and excellent dining
  • All beaches are public
  • Great snorkeling in the area’s shallow reefs
  • Hotel options for every budget
  • Well-paved roads
  • Local culture is still present in the original downtown
  • Parking is free at most hotels and restaurants
  • English is spoken almost everywhere you go
  • Family-friendly activities abound
  • Generally safe


  • Crowds everywhere -- Cancun caters to mass tourism
  • Traffic, especially in the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone)
  • Strong undertow off the Caribbean beaches
  • Expensive taxis -- foreign tourists are charged double, and guests of expensive hotels pay more
  • Hurricane season (from August through November)

What It's Like

Cancun brings to mind passed-out American spring breakers, margaritas in hand, on a postcard beach. But really, that’s only one side of it.

There are two Cancuns: The Zona Hotelera in Isla Cancun, which is the mega-resort, mega-mall area that caters to mass tourism, and Ciudad Cancun, which is the original downtown area and where locals actually live and have their businesses.

Thousands of spring breakers, honeymooners, old couples, families and young groups of friends flow into Cancun every year, making it one of the world’s top beach destinations. Its turquoise waters, beautiful stretches of sand, and night-long parties are a main draw here, but there’s a lot to do besides going to the beach. Cancun is the gateway to the breathtaking Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum (Coba is also nearby, but is less well-preserved). Even for those planning to spend most of their time in lounge chair, these centuries-old archaeological sites are well worth a visit.

Where to Stay

If all you need is a beautiful beach and a self-contained megaresort close to the party area, you’ll probably have a great time in the Hotel Zone. But if you'd prefer a more authentic experience and don't mind being a 10-minute cab ride from the beach, consider Ciudad Cancun. Here, you’ll find cheaper, smaller hotels, and a wide array of traditional and international restaurants and shops. Either way, you’ll have easy access to the stunning Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum.