Drinking Age in Cancun: Everything You Need to Know in 2023

Are you wondering what the legal drinking age in Cancun is? You’re in the right place.

Cancun has long been known as party central, attracting spring breakers. And, we have all heard stories of people partying too hard there.

Despite that, drinking in Cancun is not a complete free-for-all.

Whether you are planning on traveling to Cancun with a young adult or just want to know the laws about drinking- keep reading to have all your questions answered. 

A woman at a bar drinking Mexican Tequila shots.

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What is the Legal Drinking Age in Cancun?

The legal drinking age in Cancun and all across Mexico is 18.

Places can ask to see identification before selling you alcohol, although that is rare.

There are many places across the country that do not strictly enforce the legal drinking age – in fact, if you have any Mexican friends they might be able to tell you stories of going to the corner store as children to buy beers for their family parties!

But, just because it is not always enforced does not change the fact that the law prohibits people under 18 from drinking, and people who break this law can face consequences.

✔️ Legal Drinking Age in Cancun Resorts

The legal drinking age at Cancun resorts is 18.

Most resorts will ask to see identification when you check-in.

They will typically have different color wristbands for people over and under 18 so that the bartenders and servers know who can have alcoholic drinks.

Some resorts even have a policy that if they catch underage people drinking they may be asked to leave the property. 

A couple of people on the shore of Isla Blanca.
Isla Blanca

✔️ Exceptions to the Legal Drinking Age in Cancun

There are no exceptions to the legal drinking age in Mexico. Many people may wonder if as parents they can let their children have a drink if they supervise them. The law says no.

However, as mentioned before, the law is not always strictly enforced.

If you are renting a condo or apartment and choose to let your child have a few sips of your drink, you will probably not have any problems, but it is still technically against the law. 

✔️ Penalties and Consequences For Underage Drinking in Cancun

The Cancun government knows about its reputation as a party place and local law enforcement is out and about keeping an eye on things.

Loud, disruptive, drunken behavior will quickly catch their attention, and underage drinkers can face harsh consequences such as:

👎🏼 Fine: If police catch you drinking underage you may be given a substantial fine to pay. 

👎🏼 Arrests: In some instances, underage drinkers can be arrested. This can lead to expensive legal trouble and the arrest going on their record.

👎🏼 Detention: In extreme cases, you can be arrested and detained for underage drinking. Jail is definitely not on anyone’s must-see list while on vacation. 

Is it Legal to Drink in Public in Cancun?

It is illegal to have open alcohol containers in public in Cancun.

That does not mean you do not see it in the hotel zone and other major tourist areas in Riviera Maya, such as 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

Police officers seem to often turn a blind eye to people casually having a drink in public; however, they will be quick to respond to public drunkenness and disorderly behavior. 

Beach club in Holbox.

🍸 Can you Drink at the Beach in Cancun?

You can legally drink on the beach in Cancun if you purchased the alcohol from a concession there such as a beach club or beachfront restaurant.

It is against the law to drink in public spaces in Quintana Roo, which includes the beach.

While this is the law, on any given day if you go to the beach in Cancun you will see people- locals and tourists, relaxing with coolers of beer.

In general, the police do not enforce the no drinking on the beach rule as long as people are not acting drunk in public or disturbing others.

It is important to know though, that it is not technically allowed to bring your own alcoholic beverages.

How to Legally Buy Alcohol in Cancun

If you are over 18, there is no shortage of places to buy alcohol in Cancun.

You will not go far without seeing large signs advertising beer and stores that sell everything from sunscreen to tequila. Here is what you need to know about buying alcohol in Cancun:

🍹 Do I Need My ID When Buying Alcohol in Cancun?

You may be asked to show ID when purchasing alcohol in Cancun.

Many places do not strictly follow this rule, and if you look over 18, chances are you will not need to show ID.

If you are worried you may be asked to show ID it is a good idea to carry your driver’s license with you instead of your passport in case it gets lost. 

Aerial view of Isla Mujeres Playa Norte.
Isla Mujeres

🍹 Where to Purchase Alcohol in Cancun?

There is no shortage of places to buy alcohol in Cancun. Grocery stores sell beer, wine, and hard alcohol.

Oxxo’s is a common convenience store that is all over the Cancun area.

They sell cold beer and often have a limited alcohol selection behind the cash register.

There are small stores all over the Cancun area that sell a variety of snacks and you can often find beer at these stores too. 

🍹 What Time Can You Buy Alcohol in Cancun?

The law in Quintana Roo limits what time of the day stores can sell alcohol.

Grocery stores, convenience stores, and liquor stores are limited to selling alcohol from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Monday to Saturday.

On Sundays, the sales are limited from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This law does not apply to restaurants or bars, only stores that sell alcohol to-go in closed containers.

There are special circumstances that further limit the sale of alcohol.

During hurricanes and other extreme weather events, the governor can suspend all sales of alcohol across the state.

Also, Mexican law prohibits the sale of alcohol during elections.

During election weekends grocery stores and convenience stores will not be allowed to sell any alcohol.

Restaurants and bars that cater to tourists can open and sell alcohol to non-Mexican guests. 

Playa Langosta front view by drone
Playa Langosta

Drinking and Driving in Cancun Laws

Many people go on vacation to let loose and have a good time.

Cancun is a great place to burn off some steam, and for many people, the best way to do that is with a margarita in their hand.

Mexico is very relaxed about many things, and there are plenty of places you can legally have a drink or two.

Unfortunately, many people push the limits a bit too much.

In recent years Mexico has begun cracking down on public drunkenness and drinking and driving. 

The municipal government explains that this tightening of rules is for tourists’ safety.

They ask that tourists consume alcohol in moderation and avoid swimming or doing water activities after drinking to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents. 

🚫 Drinking is Prohibited for Underage Individuals 

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18. Most resorts will check guests’ identification to confirm their age and give them colored wristbands to identify those who are under 18.

It does not matter what the legal drinking age is in your home country, when you are in Mexico you can legally buy and consume alcohol when you are 18 years old. 

🚫 Drinking in Public Streets and Areas is Illegal

The Quintana Roo law (the state where Cancun is) prohibits drinking in public areas such as on the streets, public parks, and the beach.

If you have been to Cancun before, this might surprise you because it is not uncommon to see visitors drinking in public.

This law is not always enforced in tourist zones, but just because police are not stopping people does not mean it is legal to drink in public. 

A group of friends holding Mexican tequila shots - a post about drinking age in Cancun.

🚫 Drunk Driving is Strictly Prohibited

It is against Mexican Law to drink and drive in Cancun.

In recent years police officers have worked to crack down on drinking and driving in Cancun and the entire state of Quintana Roo.

It is not uncommon to come across checkpoints, especially at night, where police are giving breathalyzer tests.

If you are caught drinking and driving you can be arrested, detained, and have your car impounded.

It is also important to know that it is illegal to have open alcohol containers in the car.

Alcohol should be stored in the trunk of a car in closed containers. 

📝 Alcohol Limit

The legal limit for driving a car in Quintana Roo is 0.08%.

If you are caught driving with a blood alcohol content higher than this, you will face serious consequences. 

📝 Drunk Driving Penalties

If you are caught drinking and driving in Mexico you can be arrested and detained.

Spending a night in a Mexican jail is definitely not an experience you want to have while on vacation. 

Aerial view of Punta Cancun.
Punta Cancun

📝 Impounding of Vehicles

In addition to being arrested and detained, the police can impound your car if you are caught drinking and driving.

It is an expensive and time-consuming process to get your car back. 

Thankfully, there is no reason to drink and drive in Cancun. You can easily move around the hotel zone on public buses, and taxis are readily available at all hours of the day.

If you are renting a car in Cancun, use it for trips to ruins, beaches, and cenotes, and leave it safely parked at your hotel if you plan to go out drinking. 

Best Spots to Go for a Drink in Cancun

Just like most places, Cancun has rules about where and when you can buy and drink alcohol.

These rules are meant to keep people safe, and the police want to stop people from being overly drunk and disruptive in public places.

Despite the rules, there is no shortage of great places where you can relax and enjoy a drink or two.

Cancun has beachfront bars, restaurants with amazing mixology, and all-inclusive resorts that keep the drinks flowing. Here are the best spots to have a drink in Cancun:

Exterior view of Coco Bongo in Cancun at night.
Coco Bongo

🍻 The ‘Party Zone’

Known as the Party Zone or Punta Cancun, kilometer 9.5 of the hotel zone is full of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.

This area of town comes alive after dark and is where you can party all night long.

This is the area where you will find the famous Coco Bongo Club, as well as Mandala, City, and many other clubs that have live music and shows. 

🍻 Adults-Only Hotels and Resorts

Cancun has hotels and resorts for all types of travelers.

If you are looking for a place where you can relax and enjoy drinks, check out the adults-only hotels.

These hotels put their energy into adult-appreciated entertainment and often have live music, cocktail hours, and bars and lounges. 

Safety Tips for Drinking in Cancun

The sun is hot in Cancun, and the refreshing drinks are always flowing.

It is easy to accidentally have one (or two) too many drinks. Follow these safety tips to make sure you have a good, and safe, time while enjoying a few drinks on vacation:

View of Playa Delfines.
Playa Delfines

📌 Choose Where to Drink Carefully

Drink in licensed establishments. These places are more likely to follow safety regulations.

If you ever have doubts about the safety of your drink, stick to beer that you can watch your server or bartender open in front of you. 

📌 Keep an Eye on your Drink

Unfortunately, anywhere in the world where you have an active party scene, there are reports of people having their drinks spiked with something and Cancun is no exception to this.

Protect yourself against this by never accepting drinks from strangers. 

Always keep a close eye on your drink, and never leave it unattended on the bar or at a table. 

📌 Beware of Scams

Unfortunately, people try to take advantage of tourists who have had a few too many drinks.

A common scam in Cancun is that you go into a bar and are quickly befriended by a few people.

They then suggest that you move to a different bar where you continue having a few drinks.

When the bill arrives the drinks are way more expensive than you expected.

If pressed on the issue, the bar will produce a menu that shows the high prices and says it is your fault for not checking the price before ordering.

While this scam will not cause you bodily harm, it is frustrating and can leave a very bad taste in your mouth.

Always stay vigilant and know scammers will pry on people who have had a few drinks already. 

Isla Blanca on a sunset.
Isla Blanca

📌 Learn Basic Spanish

It is always a good idea to try to learn a bit of the language where you will travel. Knowing some Spanish can help you confidently communicate in Cancun. 

📌 Stay with Friends

If you are going out for a few drinks, stay with your friends.

Make sure to keep an eye on each other, especially if someone has had a few too many drinks.

It’s a good idea to make sure everyone gets back to the hotel or resort together.

📌 Watch Out for your Belongings

Just like scammers, thieves will try to take advantage of people who have had a few drinks and let their guard down with their possessions.

Try not to carry too much cash or any unnecessary valuables with you when you go out partying, and keep your belongings on you at all times. 

📌 Drink Responsibly

It is fun to unwind with a few drinks, and the margaritas in Mexico taste so good, but remember to drink responsibly. Know your limits, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. 

Presidente Intercontinental Beach in Cancun.
Presidente Intercontinental Beach in Cancun

📌 Use Trusted Transportation

If you are planning on having a few drinks, it is a good idea to set up trusted transportation at the beginning of the night.

You can leave your car at the hotel, or have a trusted designated driver, but the best option is to use a trusted taxi service to get around. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Legal Drinking Age Enforced in Cancun?

Many places enforce the legal drinking age in Cancun.

Resorts will ask to see identification at check-in and will give underage guests a wristband that lets servers and bartenders know that they cannot drink alcohol.

Most large nightclubs will also ask to see identification before allowing people in and do not let underage people in.

That said, there are also many small convenience stores that sell beer that do not always check ID.

Underage people who look close enough to 18 could possibly get away with buying alcohol there- even though it is not legal to do so.

Can an 18-year-old Drink in Cancun?

Yes. The legal age to buy and consume alcohol in Mexico is 18, regardless of what the legal drinking age is where someone lives.

View of Punta Cancun under a clear sky.
Punta Cancun

Can you Drink at 16 in Cancun?

No, you cannot legally drink at 16 in Mexico.

Can Foreigners Drink in Cancun?

Yes, foreigners can drink in Cancun. They must abide by the Mexican drinking laws that allow people to buy and consume alcohol at 18 years old.

Isla Mujeres on a sunset.
Isla Mujeres

Are There Any Penalties for Underage Drinking in Cancun?

Yes, if you are caught drinking underage in Cancun you can be fined, arrested, or detained. 

How Strict are Drinking Laws in Mexico?

Mexican drinking laws are clear. The legal drinking age is 18.

People are prohibited from drinking in public, having open alcohol containers in the car, acting drunk and disorderly, and drinking and driving.

In many tourist zones, police do not strictly enforce laws that prevent drinking in public, and tourists are often allowed to walk down the street with an open container (as long as they are not acting outwardly drunk). 

Multiple Mexican tequila shots.
Mexican Tequila Shot

Final Thoughts: Drinking Age in Cancun

Cancun is known as a place where you can let your guard down and party harder than you can at home.

While that is true, it is also important to remember that Cancun still has laws about sales and consumption of alcohol.

The drinking age is 18, and while many people probably break that law without consequence, they are taking the risk of running into legal trouble.

Do not ruin your vacation by overindulging, acting overly drunk in public, and catching police officers’ attention.

Plan to have fun, but drink responsibly. Have a transportation plan so no one gets behind the wheel after drinking, and remember to stay hydrated! 

Adrienne diving

About the Author

Adrienne Banka is a Michigander and fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom.  When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog and her little girl. 

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