How to Visit Cancun on a Budget for an Amazing Trip in 2023

Is possible to visit Cancun on a budget? The short answer is yes, but you need a little bit of smart planning. In this post, I will do my best to help you out.

I live in Cancun and I know that Cancun is perceived as one of the most expensive areas in Mexico. And expensive can be if you love luxury hotels and big parties or private tours.

However, with a bit of planning and local knowledge, you can plan a great vacation there without spending too much money.

And that’s what I am here for. Keep reading to discover my tips on how you can plan a tropical getaway without breaking the bank.

Aerial view of Cancun Beach.
Cancun Beach

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Things to Do in Cancun on a Budget

You could spend a fortune on luxury excursions while in Cancun. Thankfully though, there are plenty of fun things to do in Cancun that do not cost much, if anything. 

1. Explore Downtown Cancun

Whether you are staying in the hotel zone or downtown Cancun, it is worth getting out and exploring the area of town where locals live and hang out.

There are plenty of things to do without having to spend much money, such as walking around and admiring street art.

Downtown Cancun’s walls are full of murals from local and international artists and the art ranges from abstract to pieces that feature Mexican, and specifically Mayan, culture.

While out and about, make sure to take a stroll down Avenida Tulum, the main street that runs through Cancun, and Malecon Tajamar- a walkway along the Nichupte Lagoon.

While exploring you will be sure to find some great cheap food, just look anywhere you see locals lining up!

Cancun hotel Zone at sunset
Cancun Drone View of the beach and lagoon

2. Unwind in Isla Mujeres

Take the ferry from Puerto Juarez to Isla Mujeres and spend a relaxing day exploring the island.

Isla Mujeres is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with fine, white sand and clear, calm water.

Once there you can rent a golf cart or bicycle to explore the island, or just walk around.

The famous Playa Norte is only a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal! 

Exploring Isla Mujeres on your own is a great way to spend a beautiful day on a budget and yet having a blast.

3. Relax at one of the stunning beaches

Cancun is known for its amazing beaches, and you do not have to stay at a beachfront all-inclusive resort in order to enjoy them.

Mexican law says that all beaches are public property, and Cancun has several public beach access points.

What this means is that you can sit on the beach in front of a hotel or resort, you just cannot use their facilities, such as chairs and umbrellas.

No matter where you are staying in Cancun, you can hop on the R1 or R2 buses that drive the length of the hotel zone, and hop off at one of the public beaches.

You can pack your own beach supplies and enjoy a relaxing day at the beach. Most of the public beaches even rent chairs and umbrellas for reasonable prices! 

4. Visit Plaza La Isla

Plaza La Isla is one of the most popular shopping centers to visit in Cancun.

There are over 100 different stores there, but you do not have to plan to do a lot of shopping to enjoy hanging out at Plaza La Isla.

The entire shopping center has a beautiful open-air layout complete with water canals to walk around.

There is a lot more to do than just shop there, you can take a gondola ride on the canals or go up in the Ferris wheel to enjoy spectacular views of Cancun.

La Isla has a movie theatre, a wax museum, and a mix of fast food and upscale restaurants. But you don’t have to use all the fancy services to enjoy this place.

Head over at sunset time and watch a spectacular sunset on the lagoon, and it’s free.

Cancun punta Nizuc Bridge
Cancun Punta Nizuc Bridge

5. Stroll along the Palapas Park

If you want to see where local families hang out, head to Parque Las Palapas.

This park is located in downtown Cancun just off of Avenida Tulum and is one of the oldest parks in the city.

The park has tons of different food stands with cheap and delicious local foods for you to try.

Eat an elote or if you want something sweet try a marquesitas– a typical dessert in the Yucatan that is similar to a made-to-order crepe!

There are often music and cultural events in the park, as well as artisans selling handicrafts and people renting small motorized cars for children to drive. 

6. Discover the Mayan ruins in Cancun

There are several Mayan ruins to explore in Cancun.

Without leaving the city, you can take a bus to the hotel zone and visit the San Miguelito ruins. These ruins have several well-preserved structures and it is a great place to learn more about how the ancient Maya lived.

If you want to visit some of the bigger, more famous ruins, save money by taking a public bus to the ruins, instead of a tour.

You can easily take public buses around the area, and then take a taxi or colectivo to the archeological sites. 

7. Shop at Mercado 28

If you want to find some souvenirs or do a little shopping, make sure to visit Mercado 28. It is located in downtown Cancun off of Xel-Ha at Plaza San Miguel.

Mercado 28 is a huge labyrinth of stalls and shops where you can find all sorts of things- souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, colorful pottery, and artisanal products.

You will notice a lot of the shops sell similar products, and it is common practice to negotiate the price.

If you see something you want, try to ask other vendors the price and have an idea of how much you are willing to pay when you start the negotiation.

In addition to the shops, Mercado 28 has several small restaurants. Here you can find great, regional food at cheap prices.

Another thing to shop for at Mercado 28 is tours. Many vendors also sell tours at a lower rate than you can find in other spots, just make sure to check that the vendor is really selling you a tour, not a scam! 

8. Try budget-friendly water sports

Even on a budget, there are several fun water sports you can try while in Cancun.

If you shop around a bit, you will find several good snorkeling tours for affordable prices. These tours will generally include your snorkel gear, a guide, and a boat ride to the snorkel spots.

They will not have a lot of luxury perks, but you will still have a great experience getting into the clear water and seeing the impressive marine life.

You can also shop around for affordable tours to go parasailing or kayaking!

Tip: Try to book your watersports online, check out for great deals.

9. Go on a DIY day trip rather than booking a tour

Day trips from Cancun are fun and a convenient way to see different attractions in the area.

But, you can save some money by using public transportation, or even renting a car for the day if you are traveling with a small group of people, and exploring the area on your own.

Many attractions, such as Mayan ruins, have affordable entry fees. When you plan your own day trip you can make sure to find cheap food options.

Making a DIY day trip requires a bit more planning than booking a tour, but is a great way to save some money. 

Drone view of Cancun beach and lagoon.
Cancun Beach and Nichupte Lagoon

Cheap Cancun Tours

Being on a budget does not mean that you will not be able to take any tours. If you look past the luxury tour options, you will find several affordable tours around the area. Here are some of the best cheap tours:

👍🏼 Chichen Itza, Cenote & Valladolid Tour

4.5 ⭐ 715 Reviews

Visit some of the most famous spots in the Yucatan Peninsula with this all-day tour.

You will be picked up at your hotel and travel in a comfortable air-conditioned bus to Chichen Itza.

There your guide will teach you about Mayan history and show you around the archeological site, including a visit to the famous Kukulcan pyramid.

From there you will head to the beautiful Saamal cenote where you can hop into the water and cool off.

Lastly, you will visit Valladolid, a colonial town. There you will enjoy a buffet lunch and have time to walk around the main plaza before heading back to Cancun. This tour lasts 12 hours. 

Fantastic experience, well organised and punctual. Our guide Tino was great, very knowledgeable and friendly and took care to keep us out of the sun as much as possible. If you’re travelling in this area, then this is a must do tour.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Anne_S, May 2023
View of the Chichen Itza Snake Statue.
Explore Chichen Itza and learn about its history

👍🏼 Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour with Snorkel, Open bar and Transportation from hotel

4.5 ⭐ 762 Reviews

Enjoy a catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres. On your way there you will stop to snorkel on one of the area’s beautiful coral reefs. All gear is included and your guide will get in the water with you to help point out marine life.

Once back on board, you will enjoy an open bar and music to create a fun atmosphere. You will have 3 hours of free time on Isla Mujeres to explore and visit the famous beach- Isla Norte before you return to Cancun.

You can upgrade the tour to include round-trip transportation from your hotel. The tour lasts 6-8 hours. 

The boat crew and our guide Elias were phenomenal. Had so much fun on and off the boat at Isla Mujeres!! Would recommend doing tour with them

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Aileen_A, May 2023
Aerial view of Isla Mujeres Playa Norte.
Set sail to Isla Mujeres!

👍🏼 Tulum and Cenotes Tour 

4.5 ⭐ 2,275 Reviews

Visit two of the top attractions near Tulum– the Mayan ruins and a cenote!

Your day begins with a tour of the Tulum ruins which are located on a bluff facing the Caribbean Sea.

Your guide will explain how this site was an important part of the Mayan trade system. From there you will have the chance to go into the jungle and visit Cenote Chen Ha.

There you can pay an entry fee and be able to swim in the clear, refreshing water.

This tour lasts 9-10 hours and includes all your transportation. 

Really interesting tour, we enjoy the cenotes and the story behind tulum. Alan and Jesus were just amazong guides tour!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Enya_A, Jun 2023
View of the Tulum coast via drone.
Learn about the historical Tulum ruins on this tour.

👍🏼 Captain Hook: Pirate Show and Dinner Cruise in Cancun

4.0 ⭐ 1,356 Reviews

Set sail on a Spanish galleon with this pirate ship dinner cruise.

You will be treated to a night of pirate tales, dancing, and a live pirate battle at sea!

Your admission includes a gourmet dinner, open bar, and you can choose to sit outside on the deck or inside with air conditioning. This tour lasts 3 hours. 

We had so much fun! Great staff. Food. Entertainment and dance. fun Entertainment for all ages. Recommend this as an must do Entertainment for all!! Captain was the best! Thank you. Vidya Seeram USA Greensboro NC.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ vidya_S, May 2023
View of the Cancun coastline.
Set sail and feel the wind on this cruise tour!

👍🏼 Cancun City Tour and Shopping

4.5 ⭐ 257 Reviews

This tour combines sightseeing and shopping. Your guide will point out famous Cancun landmarks in both downtown and the hotel zone.

You will have the chance to see the beautiful Playa Delfines and get your picture taken next to the colorful Cancun sign.

You will have the chance to shop for Mexican handicrafts at Mercado 28, see where locals buy regional fruits and vegetables at Mercado 23, and finish the day with a tequila tasting at La Isla shopping center.

This tour lasts 5-6 hours. 

We really enjoyed this tour. It was a beautiful day and the tour guides did an excellent job. We will take this tour again.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Bennie_P, May 2023
View of the shops at Plaza las Americas Cancun.
Shop at one of the most popular places in Cancun.

Where to Stay in Cancun on a Budget 

With over 100 different hotels to choose from, you can find accommodations on any budget. Here are some of the best affordable hotels in Cancun:

💰 Cheap Hotels in Cancun

🛏 Mayan Monkey Cancun 

View of the Mayan Monkey Cancun hotel room.
Mayan Monkey Cancun – Photo © Expedia

The Mayan Monkey is located near the party center of Cancun at a kilometer of 9.5, just 200 meters from Playa Chac Mool.

This three-star hotel offers double occupancy rooms with a private bathroom, as well as dormitory-style rooms.

The hotel has a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, community kitchen, and table tennis.

All rooms have air conditioning. Guests love that the Mayan Monkey organizes parties and events so guests can get to know each other. 

I stayed a night in the dorm and a night in a private room. Both where clean and comfortable. Also, the vibe is amazing, there’s a huge common room and bar and lots to do.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Marigootje, september 2021

🛏 Mura Hotel Boutique 

View of the Mura Boutique hotel room.
Mura Hotel Boutique – Photo © Expedia

The Mura Hotel is located in downtown Cancun, just 6 kilometers away from the bus station.

This four-star hotel offers private rooms that have their own bathroom and suites that have their own bathroom and kitchen.

The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, a fitness center, and a garden for guests to enjoy.

There is an on-site restaurant that serves Mexican food and has vegan and vegetarian options available.

Guests love the helpful staff and clean rooms and well-maintained property. 

Very nice hotel with very friendly and helpful staff. I got there after a long flight and had a very restful night. There is breakfast in the morning. The hotel is located about 20 minutes from the airport by taxi.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ lisa, may 2023

🛏 Nomads Party Hotel & Hostel

View of the Nomads Party Hotel budget room.
Nomads Party Hotel & Hostel – Photo © Expedia

Located in downtown Cancun, just a few blocks from the ADO bus station and Parque Las Palapas, Nomads Party Hotel, and Hostel offers guests the choice of private rooms or shared dormitories.

All rooms have air conditioning and the property has billiards, table tennis, a shared kitchen and lounge, a sauna, and an outdoor pool.

There is an onsite restaurant and bike rentals available too. Guests love the attentive staff and value for cost at Nomads Party Hotel and Hostel. 

The hostel is at a perfect location in the city center. Just 7 mins away from ADO bus station. It is very close to the night market and Chedraui the supermarket. The roof top lounge is so nice to chill.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ki, june 2023

💰 Best Budget All-Inclusive Resorts Cancun

It is possible to stay at a resort, even if you do not want to spend much. Here are the best budget-friendly all-inclusive resorts in Cancun:

🛏 Oleo Cancun Playa Boutique All-Inclusive Resort

View of the Oleo Cancun Playa luxury room.
Oleo Cancun Playa Boutique All-Inclusive Resort – Photo © Expedia

The Oleo Cancun Playa Boutique is located at kilometer 19.5 in the Cancun hotel zone.

This 4.5-star resort is on a beautiful stretch of sandy beach and offers guests minimalistic rooms with personalized services.

The resort has 2 specialty restaurants, an international buffet, a snack bar, and 2 bars that serve premium drinks. The property also has a swimming pool, fitness center, spa, and live entertainment. 

we really enjoyed spending time at this property, the room was big and comfortable. the staff was always available, especially the guys at the pool bar. special thanks goes to Antonio, Enrique, Fernando and Rodriguez.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mariavittoria, june 2023

🛏 Wyndham Alltra Cancun All-Inclusive Resort

View of the Wyndham Alltra Cancun hotel room.
Wyndham Alltra Cancun All-Inclusive Resort – Photo © Expedia

The Wyndham Alltra Cancun is a family-friendly all-inclusive resort that is located on the beach at a kilometer 11.5 in the hotel zone.

It has several different room options, including rooms to accommodate families with bunk beds, and all rooms have large flat-screen TVs and a fully stocked mini-bar.

The resort has mini golf, 5 different dining options, 2 swimming pools, and entertainment all day long.

Guests love the helpful staff and delicious food options. 

Very nice hotel for a Family vacation; outstanding service, food was GREAT.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Oleg, september 2022

🛏 Hotel NYX Cancun

View of the hotel room of Hotel NYX Cancun.
Hotel NYX Cancun – Photo © Expedia

The Hotel NYX Cancun is located at a kilometer 11.5 in the hotel zone on a long stretch of sandy beach.

The hotel has an infinity pool that looks out at the Caribbean Sea.

You can choose from international or Italian cuisine, or hang out at the poolside or lobby bar.

The hotel has a fitness center, yoga classes, and entertainment staff. 

The hotel setup was amazing. Loved the pool area and beach. Breakfast that was included was delicious.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ sarah, may 2023

How to Get Around Cancun on a Budget 

There is a lot to see in Cancun and the surrounding area. Knowing how to get around will save you time and money, and help you make the most of your vacation. Here are some of the best ways to get around:

👉🏽 Public Transportation 

The cheapest way to get around Cancun and the surrounding areas is to use the public bus system.

The R1 and R2 buses run from downtown through the hotel zone.

For a few pesos, you can hop on and get to public beaches, shopping centers, and many attractions.

If you plan to do a day trip outside of Cancun you can use the ADO public buses to get to surrounding towns such as Valladolid, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum

View of Malecon Tajamar under a cloudy sky.
Malecon Tajamar

👉🏽 Rent a bicycle

Renting a bicycle is an affordable and fun way to move around in Cancun.

Make sure to pay attention to traffic, wear a helmet, and always lock up your bike when you park it somewhere.

Cancun is flat and there are bike paths, which makes it a great way to move around.

👉🏽 Ridesharing (Uber) 

Uber is legal in Cancun, you can use it to get around.

When Uber first started in Cancun, many drivers felt threatened by angry taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers did not agree with the state government’s decision to allow Uber to operate.

As time has gone on, there are more and more Uber drivers available. 

👉🏽 Taxi 

It is not hard to flag down a taxi in Cancun.

Just be aware that the taxis do not have meters. Make sure to agree on a taxi fare with the driver before you get into the taxi.

If you feel they are trying to overcharge you, just wait for the next taxi.

Having an idea of what taxi fare should be will help you ensure that drivers do not try to overcharge you.

View of Playa Delfines.
Playa Delfines

👉🏽 Car rentals 

Renting a car can be an affordable way to move around Cancun- especially if you are traveling with a group.

Make sure to book your car in advance for the best prices.

Renting a car is a good option if you plan to do day trips to areas around Cancun. It gives you the freedom to make your itinerary exactly as you want. 

Where to Eat in Cancun on a Budget 

If you want to know where the cheap food is, just look at where locals are eating.

Cancunenses (people from Cancun) love to eat out, and you can find affordable and delicious food.

The most common local spots will be in downtown Cancun.

Check out markets, and taco stands, and look for restaurants that serve “comida corrida.” Sometimes called “cocinas economicas” these, usually small, restaurants serve a set lunch menu.

For a set price you usually receive juice, soup, and your choice of a few main courses. 

Aerial view of Malecon Tajamar .
Malecon Tajamar

The best time to Visit Cancun on a Budget 

If you want to find the best deals on accommodations and tours, try to book your vacation to Cancun in the shoulder or low season.

Cancun is the busiest with visitors from December to April, with the weeks of Christmas and Easter being the busiest. During this time the prices will be the highest.

The summer months are technically the rainy season and the weather is hot and humid.

These months are a great time to come if you plan to enjoy time at the beach and in the water, and you will have the best luck finding deals on your hotel.

👉 What month is the cheapest to go to Cancun?

September and October are the cheapest months to visit Cancun because they are the slowest season for visitors.

These months are the peak of rain and hurricane season, but if you are willing to risk a few wet days (hurricanes rarely hit the area) you can be rewarded with empty beaches and good deals. 

View of a lighthouse in Cancun.

👉 What time of year is the cheapest to fly to Cancun?

You will find the best deals on flights during the low season from May to October.

Tip: To find the best deal on flights, try to be flexible with your travel dates. Sometimes you can find cheaper tickets if you can book midweek flights. 

How many days in Cancun is enough?

With so many international flights arriving directly to Cancun, many people visit Cancun for short, weekend getaways.

If you can swing it, try to plan at least a week in Cancun. Between the great beaches, water activities, Mayan ruins, and adventure parks, you can easily spend a week here and still not see everything you want to.

Is Cancun safe to travel to? 

Yes, Cancun is safe to travel to.

In recent years there have been a few cartel-related incidents that have received huge media attention.

However, aside from a few unsafe areas in Cancun, the hotel zone and areas where tourists spend time in downtown Cancun are very safe. 

As always when you travel, make sure to be aware of your surroundings, do not carry a lot of cash with you, and do not get too drunk.

Also, do not try to buy or use illegal drugs. Taking simple precautions will help make sure you do not have any safety issues while on vacation. 

Drone view of Malecon Tajamar.
Malecon Tajamar

Tips on How to Save Money in Cancun

Although Cancun is generally considered expensive, it is possible to plan a great vacation to Cancun on any budget. Here are a few things to help you save money:

✔️ Travel during the low season. You will have the best luck finding good deals on flights and hotels when you visit Cancun in the tourism low season. Be flexible with your travel dates- you might find good deals on flights if you fly during the week.

✔️ Use the bus. Starting from your trip from the airport to downtown Cancun, using public buses will save you money. Once you are in Cancun you can easily move around to the beaches on the public buses for just a few pesos.

✔️ Have pesos. Most businesses will accept dollars, but businesses can set their own exchange rate. To get the most out of your money, make sure you use pesos

✔️ Pack smart. Bring your own toiletries, sunscreen, and bug spray from home. These items, especially if you have a specific brand you want, are often more expensive in Cancun. This is especially true if you are shopping in the hotel zone. 

✔️ Eat like a local. Explore food carts, taco stands, and small restaurants. Pay attention to where locals eat, and follow their lead. They will know the cheapest, and usually most delicious, places to go. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Cancun on a Budget

Is Cancun Cheap to visit?

You can plan a vacation to Cancun on any budget. You could spend a small fortune on the highest-end luxury resorts, tours, and luxury services.

However, it is also possible to plan a great vacation in Cancun on a budget. There are accommodations for all budget levels, as well as tours and activities to do that do not cost a lot. 

How much money do you need for a trip to Cancun?

It depends on what is important to you! How much money you need depends on what kind of accommodation you want and what kind of excursions you will do.

If you want to stay in a top-end resort and do all-day luxury excursions, you will need a much bigger budget than if you plan to stay in a simpler hotel and plan your own tours around the area.

The best way to plan your trip is to figure out your budget and find hotels and excursions that fit into it. 

Drone view of Cancun Beach and Lagoon.
Cancun Beach

What is the most expensive month in Cancun?

The most expensive months in Cancun are December to March, with the most expensive week being between Christmas and New Year.

The peak traveler season will have the highest prices.

Should I have Mexican pesos when I go to Cancun? 

Yes! While most businesses will accept dollars, your money will go the furthest with pesos.

Businesses can set their own exchange rate, and it is almost always lower than what the bank gives you. 

View of the sunset in Isla Mujeres and Carribean coast.
Isla Mujeres

How can I enjoy Cancun in a cheap way? 

Plan your trip in advance, shop around for a good deal on airfare and a hotel, and look for affordable tours.

Try to save money on food by eating at smaller restaurants frequented by locals, using public transportation, and taking advantage of the cheap and free activities you can do around Cancun.

Is it worth it to travel to Cancun when you have a tight budget?  

Yes, if you are on a tight budget but craving a tropical getaway, Cancun is a good place to go.

It is free to spend the day at a public beach- all you need to do is pack some drinks and snacks for yourself.

Cancun has all types of accommodations, and you can find something to fit your budget.

View of the rocks at Punta Sur.
Punta Sur

Is Cancun cheaper than Hawaii?

Cancun is one of the most expensive areas in Mexico, but still much cheaper than Hawaii.

Everything from flights to accommodations, food, and tours will be cheaper in Cancun. 

Is Cancun cheaper than Mexico City?

Mexico City is similar to Cancun in that you can visit and spend a fortune, or visit on a budget.

If you want to save money while visiting Mexico City you can find affordable accommodations, use public transportation, and take advantage of the delicious, and cheap food options. 

Aerial view of Isla Mujeres during sunset. - one of the many things to witness during your trip to Cancun on a budget.
Isla Mujeres

Final Thoughts: Cancun on a Budget 

It is possible to have a great vacation in Cancun on a budget.

If you do not want to spend a lot of money, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options to check out.

Being flexible with your travel dates helps a lot too.

Remember, if you have any bucket list activities to do in Cancun, such as scuba diving or visiting ruins, check out tours to do that!

Then, figure out a way to save money on everything else and make a budget that works for you! 

Before you go…

You can compare Cancun to other destinations and decide which one is cheaper and more worth your money.

About the Author

Hey there! This is Isabella, the owner, and writer of this site. I have been living in Cancun for the past 12 years and although I have been roaming around Mexico, Cancun’s spectacular turquoise waters and pristine beach draw me back to this popular Mexican beach destination. That is why I decided to start this blog, to show you all the beauty you can find in Cancun and share helpful travel tips to help you plan a fabulous vacation in Cancun!

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