Cancun is a popular tourist destination, but you might wonder, is traveling to Cancun worth it? No one will argue that Cancun is beautiful. I have been living there for more than 13 years for a reason. 🙂
It has amazing beaches and turquoise water, right next to a lush jungle. But, some people view Cancun as a crowded, overly touristy destination, and that’s kind of true as well.
Cancun was built for tourism, and it has great amenities and activities, but for some people, it lacks an authentic Mexican feeling. And this is undeniable too, but still, there are many other reasons why Cancun is worth visiting.
So in this post, I want to share a list of pros and cons to help you decide whether traveling to Cancun is worth it. Let’s start!
Is traveling to Cancun worth it? Pros
A lot of people think so! The government reports that Cancun had over 9 million international visitors last year! For many people, Cancun is the ultimate vacation destination and they keep returning to the area year after year. Below are the top reasons to visit Cancun:
1. Top Notch hotels and accommodations
There are almost 100 hotels just in the Cancun hotel zone, so you can find your dream accommodation. Cancun has everything from family-friendly, affordable all-inclusive to luxury resorts.
Depending on your budget and desires you can get butler services, private pools, and so much more.
The accommodations in Cancun are modern and have everything you need to have a great vacation. Some tropical destinations will lack services such as hot water and high-speed internet- but not Cancun.
With so many choices for travelers to pick from, hotels and resorts in Cancun are constantly adding more features and services for you to enjoy.
2. Beautiful beaches
Whether you love Cancun or not, no one can deny that it has amazing beaches. The long stretches of the beach have white sand next to crystal-clear water. Depending on the day and sunlight, the water takes on amazing blue and turquoise colors.
It is easy to access the beach in Cancun. There are lots of ocean-front hotels to stay at in Cancun, or if you are staying downtown, you can easily get to the public beaches.
The beaches along the northern part of the hotel zone are protected and have calm water that is perfect for families and swimming.
The water along the southern part of the hotel zone can be rough, and the lifeguards will let you know where to avoid getting in the water.
You will find a variety of beach clubs, restaurants, and bars along the beach in Cancun. Or, if you prefer, you can pack a cooler and find a spot to relax on the beach.
You could also rent beach chairs and umbrellas at most of the popular public beaches, so you can get everything you need for the day.
3. Great Weather
It is the tropics, so there is always a chance of passing rain showers, but the weather is generally sunny with highs in the 80s. The daily highs will still reach the 80s, with cooler, but comfortable evenings.
The water temperature hardly ever drops below 78 degrees, so you can enjoy the ocean all year round.
There is a greater chance of rain, in fact, short, but strong afternoon rain is very common. Despite this, the rain usually passes quickly and the sun comes out.
All in all, it is always a good time to visit Cancun.
4. Unlimited options for activities
There is a lot more to do in Cancun than just relax on the beach! You can spend your vacation lounging on the beach if you want, but if you need more action in your vacation, do not worry, Cancun has tons of great activities to choose from.
If you love spending time in the water, you do not want to miss visiting MUSA, the Museo de Arte Subacuático de Cancún.
This man-made, artificial reef is made up of hundreds of different sculptures that were sunk in a shallow, sandy area off the coast of Cancun. The structures were made out of materials that attract coral growth, and you can now see corals, sponges, and lots of marine life there.
You can enjoy MUSA while snorkeling on the surface, or take a beginner’s scuba diving class and see it up close!
Another great water activity to do is visit a cenote! Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes or pools that connect to underground river systems.
Cenotes are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula and can be found all over the jungle outside of Cancun.
They have stalagmites and stalactites that have formed over centuries. You can enjoy these rock formations when you swim in the clear, refreshing water.
You can find all sorts of tours that will take you into the jungle so you can visit a cenote, or you can rent a car and set out on your own!
If you want a dose of adrenaline on your vacation, Cancun has plenty of adventure parks to satisfy you. These parks will take you into the jungle and get your heart pumping with ziplining and hanging bridges.
You will also have the opportunity to drive ATVs through jungle paths, with ascents and descents and rocks to maneuver around.
The turquoise water of Cancun is not just beautiful to look at- it is fun to play in too! There are countless activities just off the coast of Cancun, including snorkeling and scuba diving.
A section of the second-largest barrier reef in the world runs along the coast of Cancun, making it a great place to snorkel and scuba.
The clear water makes it easy to see all the colorful corals and marine life. If you want to stay above the water, you can go parasailing, jet skiing, drive a two-person speed boat, or go on a luxury catamaran.
5. Vibrant party & nightlife
Cancun has a reputation for being a great party spot. In recent years it has worked to build a more family-friendly image, but this has not taken away from the party atmosphere you can find.
Cancun has lively bars and nightclubs to visit where you can party all day and night long if you want. It has all-live music, DJs, and dancing.
6. The food is great
Cancun has great food, and a bigger variety than you might expect. Cancun Restaurants offer all sorts of cuisine, from traditional Mexican flavors all over, but Cancun also has countless international cuisine options too.
Here you can find everything from upscale steak restaurants to Italian food, Asian cuisine, as well as tacos and ceviche.
You do not have to worry about getting tired of Mexican food during your visit, there are countless options.
Most big resorts have several different restaurants, serving all different types of food. If you want to find authentic Yucatecan food, you can venture downtown into the markets and find cheap tacos and “antojitos’ ‘ which is the local term for “cravable” foods!
7. Flights are convenient
Cancun is a great tropical getaway because it is easy, and often cheap, to fly to. There are over 130 airports that have direct flights into Cancun, so there is a good chance you can easily fly there.
Many different airlines fly in and out of Cancun, including several budget airlines. Saving on airfares makes your entire trip way more affordable.
Once you arrive in Cancun, there are lots of transportation options to get you to your hotel and on the beach as fast as possible. You can pre-book private or shared shuttles, or save money and use public transportation.
The government has worked to make traveling to and from Cancun easy and affordable.
Cancun Airport is also the best hub to get to many different destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula. Find your options here below.
8. Easy access to popular sights
If you want to learn about the ancient Mayan civilization there are several archeological sites you can visit.
Chichen Itza, where you will see the famous Kulkulkan pyramid, is only a few hours’ drive from Cancun. You can book a tour that makes your day trip there easy and often include a visit to Valladolid, a nearby colonial city, and a cenote!
To the south of Cancun is Tulum where you will find the only Mayan ruins that were built directly on the beach. These ruins served as a crossroads for the ancient Maya and have stunning views of the ocean in the background.
Coba is another nearby site of Mayan ruins. The Coba ruins include what archeologists believe were a series of settlements that all lead to the Yucatan’s tallest pyramid!
These ruins are only partially excavated and are in the middle of the dense jungle!
In addition to Mayan ruins, there are several famous islands around Cancun. You can easily take a day trip to Isla Mujeres to visit its world-famous beaches.
Or, if you want to experience one of the most protected and pristine beaches in the area, you can go to Isla Contoy. You can easily explore the areas surrounding Cancun.
The Cons of Traveling to Cancun
No place is perfect, Cancun included. While there are a lot of great reasons to travel to Cancun, there are a few things that turn people off from traveling there. Here is a list of the common complaints people have about Cancun
1. Too crowded
If your idea of a dream vacation is sitting on an empty tropical beach, Cancun is probably not the spot for you. It is the most visited city in Latin America, which means there are always people there.
The peak seasons are during Christmas and Easter holidays when most hotels will be full.
If you travel during this time you will need to book your hotel and activities in advance because things fill up fast.
2. Highly commercialized
Cancun was designed by the Mexican government to be a major tourist destination. Before the 1970s it was a small fishing village, and the government wanted to take advantage of its amazing beaches to bring it tourist revenue.
So, yes, it is very commercialized. By definition, Cancun was designed to make money off of tourists.
Cancun has built up to a place where you can have a great time, there are countless activities to do, and everything is designed for tourists’ convenience, but it will all come at a price.
You will constantly find people trying to sell you goods and tours, which can be annoying.
3. Lots of trash and seaweed on the coastline
You have seen pictures of beautiful white sandy beaches in Cancun, unfortunately, sometimes those pictures do not tell the real story of the seaweed and trash that can wash ashore. Since 2011, large quantities of sargassum, a brown algae, have washed onto the beaches from Brazil all the way to Florida- including Cancun and Quintana Roo.
This seaweed dries on the beach, leaving a path of brown seaweed to the water’s edge. The seaweed often is accompanied by pieces of plastic trash that were floating in the ocean.
Today hotels and beach clubs work hard to remove sargassum from the beach. The summer is the worst season for seaweed and sometimes workers cannot remove it as fast as it arrives.
This can be a huge disappointment for people looking to spend their vacation lounging on the beach.
In addition to the seaweed, people leave a lot of trash on the beach. The government cannot seem to keep up with the amount of litter on the beach.
Private hotels and restaurants will clean in front of their business, but the rest of the beach can be littered with trash.
4. Overpriced & Expensive (But not as expensive as Cabo)
If you think you will have a cheap vacation in Cancun because “everything is cheap in Mexico” think again.
Prices in Cancun seem to be determined by what tourists will pay, not what service or goods would cost in the rest of the country.
This means that you will see prices that are very similar to what you would spend in the United States or Canada.
Compared to most of Mexico, meals and activities are more expensive in Cancun. The one exception to this is Los Cabos, where everything is even more expensive!
5. Mexican culture is not authentic
Mexico has a rich history and culture. Each area of the country has its own traditions, including local food and drinks. Cancun as we know it has been built over the last 50 years and brought tourists from all over the world.
It also attracted Mexicans from all over the country to move there for jobs in tourism. This has created a young, and often not as authentic, city and culture compared to the rest of the country.
Many people complain that Cancun sells what they think tourists want, not an authentic Mexican experience.
However, if you want to experience the Mexican way there are places in Cancun downtown that are closer to that.
6. The vendors can be “aggressive”
Most visitors to Cancun are not accustomed to salespeople shouting at them, trying to get them to come into their store, and other aggressive sales techniques.
Whether these vendors really believe this will increase sales, or their bosses tell them to aggressively try to sell, it can be a bit much for some visitors.
The aggressive sales techniques are especially bad in tourist zones and with timeshare sellers. Just remember to politely say no, and then continue walking to get away from overly aggressive vendors.
7. Scams and Gringos
Tourists are notorious for having ‘vacation brain’ and not paying attention to currency rates, being too trusting, and just not paying attention to all the details when out and about.
Scammers see this as the perfect opportunity to take advantage of tourists, by overcharging them, making up extra “fees,” and generally taking advantage of them.
Vendors sell poor-quality merchandise, or offer tours at elevated rates. As a tourist, you need to be alert, know the general prices of products, and be careful who you do business with.
This is a thing in every touristy place in Mexico, not only in Cancun, though. So make sure you stay on the alert for that.
8. The beaches can be dangerous
Pictures of Cancun often show flat, calm water. This is the norm for parts of Cancun, but other parts can have strong currents and big waves.
Public beaches have a color-coded system to warn visitors about the water system, with the green flag being a day that is safe to get in the water, and a red a day to avoid getting in.
Public beaches have lifeguards, but they cannot guarantee the safety of all visitors. Make sure to use caution when getting in the water.
Many of Cancun’s beachgoers spend the day relaxing and drinking some beers in the sun. It is not common, but this can lead to heckling or fights on the beach.
There is a strong police presence in Cancun, but they cannot stop all problems before they start.
Is it safe to travel to Cancun?
Yes, it is generally safe to travel to Cancun. Quintana Roo is not exempt from cartel-related crimes. Typically these crimes do not affect tourists, but the media often sensationalizes the stories, causing people to panic.
The Mexican government wants to keep the area safe for tourists. In March 2023 they announced increased surveillance and security operations in tourist zones. They are also restricting vacation rentals in areas they deem unsafe.
As a visitor, there are several things you can do to keep yourself, including staying alert to your surroundings. Also, do not flaunt cash or expensive jewelry, and do not buy illegal drugs.
Common scams to avoid in Cancun
Nothing can ruin your mood faster than realizing you’ve been scammed. Worldwide, tourist destinations attract scammers who prey on tourists. Here are a few common scams to be aware of when you are in Cancun.
🚩 Overcharging Taxis
Taxis in Cancun do not have meters. The city is divided into zones and there are set rates for traveling between areas.
Taxi drivers assume that tourists do not know this, and will quote you a much higher price.
This scam is easy to avoid by establishing a price with the taxi driver BEFORE you get into the taxi. If they are quoting you an excessive price, just wait for the next taxi.
🚩 Picture Scam
This scam involves someone asking you to take their picture for them. Then, as you hand them back their phone, they will drop it, making a scene and claiming you broke it.
They will then demand that you give them money for it. Avoid this scam by declining to take pictures of people you do not know.
🚩 Friendly ATM Helper
You should be suspicious of anyone who tries to get close to you or help you at an ATM. Scammers will say they can help you avoid foreign transaction fees or local bank fees.
Their goal is to see you type in your pin number and often have a card skimmer in your pocket.
Do not let anyone get close to you while using the ATM, and if someone is close, do not put in your pin and find a different ATM to use.
🚩 “Friendly” bar friends
This scam happens when you are out at a bar. You will meet a few people who suggest you go to a different bar.
The scammers are connected to the new location, where you will be charged way more money for your drinks. Avoid this scam by always asking to see a menu with prices before you order.
🚩 Bird poop scam
In this scam, someone bumps into you or somehow notices a white paste on your shirt. You think it is bird poop, and a “kind” person offers to help clean you up.
While you are distracted, they will try to steal your wallet or credit cards. Avoid this scam by declining help from strangers if you have bird poop, real or not, on you.
Also, always keep cell phones, money, and wallets in secured pockets.
I am embarrassed to say that it happened to me on the Riviera Nayarit, in Mexico. It was a sauce, which looked like poop instead and unfortunately, they got me!
After so many years in Mexico I should have known better, but since it has never happened to me before, I let my guard down. Never do that!
🚩 Guessing game scam
This is a common scam worldwide. A street performer distracts you, in this case by holding several boxes and having the audience guess which one has a ball hidden in it.
The street performer will get a large crowd gathered, while their accomplices try to pickpocket from onlookers. Avoid this scam by keeping your valuables secured, staying alert, and avoiding crowds.
Practical tips for traveling in Cancun
💡 Avoid tourist traps
Tourist traps can be services, entertainment, food, or souvenirs that are way overpriced for what they are. You can spot them because they often have long lines and are crowded.
Avoid them by doing your homework and booking tours in advance and trying not to purchase items in gift shops.
When in doubt about something, try to ask locals for their advice. Make sure to always pay in pesos and try to venture out of the major touristy zones.
☀️ Bring sunscreen and wear light clothing
No matter what season you visit Cancun, the sun will be strong and the days hot. Do yourself a big favor and protect your skin. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster than burning the first day. Use eco-friendly sunscreen and wear lightweight clothing to stay comfortable.
🏨 Book accommodations in advance
It can be fun to ‘wing it’ on vacation and not plan too much, but you really should book your accommodations in advance. You will be able to find the best prices and make sure you book a hotel that has all the amenities and fits your budget when you book in advance.
💧 Do not drink from tap water
Not even locals drink the tap water in Cancun. Locals and many businesses will purchase refillable 20-liter jugs of water.
If your hotel has these, you can use them to refill your water bottle before going out, otherwise stick to bottled water.
All ice that restaurants and hotels serve you will be made with filtered water, so you do not have to worry about that.
Click on one of the below water bottles to purchase your favorite one ⤵️
👜 Secure your bag and belongings
Like many other cities, Cancun has a problem with petty theft. Make sure to secure your belongings at all times. Thieves are always looking for bags left unattended and car windows left down to grab a bag. Keep your belongings safe by always having them on you, or locked up.
❗️ Avoid walking alone at night
It is not a good idea to walk alone at night. When in doubt, grab a taxi, even if you are only going a short distance. It is also not a good idea to go out and get drunk by yourself.
🚐 Include day trips in your itinerary
Resist the urge to spend your entire vacation lounging at your hotel. There are lots of great day trips that let you explore the natural beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula. Make sure to book them in advance.
How many days in Cancun is enough?
It depends on what you want to see. Cancun is such a convenient location to get to, so many people travel there for a long weekend. If possible, try to schedule at least 4 or 5 days in Cancun.
This gives you time to relax and enjoy your hotel, and get out and explore the area. With so many different tours and activities to do, your days will go by quickly.
When is the best time to visit Cancun?
Thankfully, there is really no bad time to visit Cancun. The best time depends on whether you prioritize dryer and milder weather, or fewer crowds.
Best time for good weather in Cancun
The dry season months of November to April have the best weather. The days are hot, but not so humid, and it cools off in the evening.
In the winter months, the daytime temperatures reach the 80s and cool off to the 70s at night. The water temperature hardly ever drops below 78 degrees, so it is plenty warm to enjoy the beach and ocean.
Best time for fewer crowds in Cancun
Fewer crowds visit Cancun in the rainy season months of May to October. These months are hot and humid, with frequent rain showers. Even though it is the wet season, you can still have plenty of sunshine to enjoy the beach and activities.
September and October have the smallest crowds because they are hurricane season. It is rare that hurricanes hit Cancun, but if you plan to come to enjoy the low season, make sure you buy trip insurance.
What’s the cheapest month to visit Cancun?
The cheapest months to visit Cancun are September and October. These are the peak months for hurricane activity, so many tourists avoid coming then. If you come then you will be able to find good deals on hotels.
Sometimes also May can be a good month to find the best deals and there is usually great weather.
Is Cancun worth it FAQs
Is it a good idea to go to Cancun?
Yes, despite being touristy, there are many reasons why people love Cancun. It’s convenient, beautiful, and has fun activities to do. It is fast and easy to get to, so you can make the most of your vacation time.
Are there any travel warnings for Cancun Mexico?
The United States government encourages citizens to exercise increased caution when traveling to Quintana Roo.
The Canadian government advises citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling throughout Mexico.
Neither government has a travel warning for Cancun but recommends travelers have a high level of situational awareness and avoid areas where illicit activities occur.
What is so great about Cancun Mexico?
Cancun is beautiful. There are white sandy beaches and turquoise water near the dense jungle. You can enjoy water activities, visit cenotes, and learn about the ancient Maya.
Cancun has activities for everyone to enjoy and it is easy and convenient to travel there.
How do you spend a day in Cancun?
You can enjoy a relaxing day at your hotel, or you can book a day trip. There are day trips that take you to nearby Mayan ruins, islands in the Mexican Caribbean, or into the jungle for thrilling adventures.
Is it worth going to Cancun for 3 days?
Yes, many people go to Cancun for short vacations. Make the most of your time by pre-booking airport shuttles, and planning your activities. Book your tours ahead of time so you can do all the activities you want in 3 days.
Is traveling to Cancun worth it? Final Thoughts
For some people, Cancun has a bad reputation. It is too crowded and not as authentic as other Mexican towns; however, after reading this post I am sure you realized how many beautiful things there are to enjoy about Cancun.
And that is why it continues to be one of the Premium tourist destinations in Mexico. It is easy, and relatively cheap, to travel to Cancun, and once you arrive the area is designed for tourists’ comfort.
There are countless activities to help you have a good time, plus, you cannot beat the amazing views of the white sandy beach and turquoise water.