The best time to visit Cancun really depends on what you're looking for but is there ever a bad time to visit paradise?

Is Cancún Worth Visiting? Everything You Need To Know

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Ashlea J. Russell

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Cancún is the great divider when it comes to the love and hate of a travel destination. I’m breaking down what Cancún is great for and what it’s terrible for to help you decide if Cancún is worth visiting for you.

The thing is, Cancún is directed toward a specific type of traveller and they do what they do so well.

If you’re the kind of person that Cancún caters to then you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere that suits you better than here. On the other hand, if you’re not that person, there’s a good chance you’ll hate it.

Is Cancún Worth Visiting?

Depending on who you ask, Cancún is either the best or the worst place to visit for a vacation. In fact, I found the opinions I heard from friends, family and fellow travellers so polarizing I thought the only way to see what Cancún is all about is to go.

There are a few indisputable facts about Cancún that people feel strongly about and they are important to consider when deciding if Cancún is worth visiting for you.

  • Cancún is beautiful
  • Cancún is touristy
  • Cancún is expensive (compared to the rest of Mexico)

If these things sound appealing or at least don’t put you off, let’s dig a little deeper into all the reasons why Cancún is and isn’t worth visiting.

Why Cancún Is Worth Visiting

As I mentioned before, Cancún is amazing at what they do. If you’re buying what they’re selling, you’re likely to have the vacation of a lifetime.

There are many pros and cons to Cancún but here are the main reasons that make Cancún worth visiting.

Picture perfect beaches make Cancun worth visiting.

Picture Perfect Paradise

Without a doubt, the number one reason why people are drawn to Cancún is because it’s stunningly gorgeous.

The Riviera Maya is known for long stretches of white sandy beaches, crystalline blue waters and sunny skies. If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, Cancún is worth visiting

Because of the excellent weather, a lot of people choose to spend the holidays in Cancún or escape the winter blues.

Convenience Is Key

A major reason why people love Cancún is because it takes all the work out of travelling. If you want convenience, Cancún isn’t just worth visiting, it’s a no-brainer.

Cancún is a planned city. In the early 1970’s the government set out to build a tourist destination to draw international visitors. As such, this city was specifically designed to cater to tourists and boy did they hit that nail on the head.

As of 2022, 26 countries offer direct flights to Cancún plus direct flights are available from 38 different cities in the US alone.

Once you reach Cancún, the airport is a well oiled machine, processing around 25 million travellers a year. A variety of arrival transportation is offered by the airport as well as transportation offered by some of the resorts themselves. And this is all before you check into your hotel!

The resorts are like self-sustaining mini towns, ready to cater to your every whim. Food, drinks, activities, entertainment, sports, kids clubs, romance, nightlife, everything you could want has been conveniently thought of and planned for.

To top it all off, every staff member in a client facing position speaks excellent English so you don’t have to worry about translator apps or brushing up on your español to communicate.

Top Notch Accommodation

Mexico is still a developing country which means the spectrum of first-world comforts varies from location to location. Some places offer five star accommodation with all the bells and whistles, and others don’t have running hot water or internet. This however, is not an issue in Cancún.

The resorts in Cancún offer all the comforts of home and then some. Depending on budget you can enjoy butler service, satellite TV, air-conditioning, beach service, water sports, ocean views, private plunge pools and more.

If you can dream it (and pay for it), then they can make it happen. If you want to be pampered and waited on every minute of your vacation then Cancún is absolutely worth visiting for you.

Cancun is worth visiting if you want a beautiful place to relax where everything is taken care of.

More Activities Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Cancún offers more activities and excursions than anywhere else in Mexico. It’s worth visiting Cancún just for the water activities!

Snorkeling, scuba diving, cenotes, parasailing, jet skiing, glass bottom boats, catamarans, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, the list goes on!

And the fun doesn’t stop at the water. There are also adventure parks, ziplining, cycling and ATVs, plus a variety of day trips like excursions to Chichén Itzá, Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres and others.

Whatever your interest, Cancún probably has an excursion to suit.

Great For Groups And Families

Cancún is definitely worth visiting if you’re looking for a destination that is group and family friendly.

Because Cancún was built to handle volume, it is the perfect place to accommodate larger travel parties like family vacations, bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthdays, weddings and so on.

The vast majority of hotels in Cancún are large and offer hundreds, sometimes thousands of rooms which makes it easy to find multiple rooms in the same place. Some hotels even offer “villa” style rooms with multiple bedrooms and living space in the same suite.

Cancún also does a fantastic job of easily accommodating families and groups at restaurants, in transportation and on tours.

Some groups can actually see savings by taking private tours and transport instead of paying individual rates to join groups.

Cancun is worth visiting for groups and families who are looking to relax and enjoy some activities.

Why Cancún Is Not Worth Visiting

So we’ve covered reasons why Cancún is worth visiting for some travellers, now it’s time to cover why it’s absolutely not the right fit for others.

Tailormade Tourist Honeypot

Cancún isn’t just touristy, it was specifically designed to be that way.

In the late 1960’s the Mexican government was looking for a location to become the next Acapulco. A beautiful, tropical, beachfront resort that would draw in visitors (and their wallets) from all over the world.

After scouting several spots around the country, the government settled on Isla Cancún which is now known as the Hotel Zone.

In 1970 this was a strip of jungle with only three residents, caretakers for a coconut plantation. The Mexican government purchased the island and funded the first nine hotels, a drop in the pan compared to the now more than 30,000 rooms the island plays host to.

Cancun is a purpose-built tourist resort and is not worth visiting if you are looking for Mexican authenticity.

Fast forward to today and Cancún is one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations and makes up 1/3 of all the tourism revenue of Mexico.

Along with this popularity inevitably comes crowds and crowds of tourists. If you’re not into being shuttled on and off buses, sitting through timeshare presentations and waiting in line at the breakfast buffet, Cancún is probably not worth visiting for you.

“Cancún Is Not Mexico”

It’s no secret that Cancún is touristy but what surprised me is just how inauthentic it really is. Saying you’ve been to Mexico because you’ve been to Cancún is bound to illicit some major eye rolls from die hard travellers and Mexico lovers.

Cancún is highly Americanized and really lacks the essence of what makes Mexico so amazing. And it’s not just the huge resorts that are to blame!

One of my favourite things about Mexico is the food. Mole that takes 3 or 4 days to stew, a 90 year old family churro recipe, mouth-watering elotes (street corn) from a vendor on the street corner, flavour bomb after flavour bomb.

While Cancún offers some excellent dining options for international cuisine, the Mexican flavours are completely diluted to suit a foreign palate.

While food is a big part of Mexican culture, it’s just a tip of the inauthentic iceberg that is Cancún.

I’ve spent a lot of time travelling across Mexico and exploring different parts of the country. The one constant I’ve always found is that the people are genuinely lovely.

I have always felt safe in Mexico, even as a solo female and I’ve always felt welcome. The people I encounter on my travels are proud of their country and proud to be Mexican. They are excited to share their culture and history.

I have also found Mexicans to be helpful, kind and honest. I’ve had hotel staff walk me to my hotel because I showed up at the wrong place, a street vendor give me back my money when I accidentally paid double, people stop to offer help with directions and translations when I look confused. These are just a few examples of the ongoing kindness I’ve experienced as a visitor to Mexico.

Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t the standard in Cancún although it is still considered to be a safe destination.

Scams, Gringos & Opportunists

Cancún draws workers from far and wide seeking to benefit from the waves of tourists arriving everyday. What this translates to for visitors is price gouging, poor value and a terrible experience that isn’t indicative of the rest of Mexico.

A good example of this would be shopping in the mercado, the market. In other parts of Mexico, the mercado is where you find the best quality, handmade goods for reasonable prices.

I love shopping at the mercado because I know I’m getting truly Mexican products. When I chat to the vendors they can tell me exactly where the products come from, who made them and who is benefiting from the sale.

I bought a beautiful scarf in San Cristóbal de las Casas which was handmade by the vendor, a woman from a local Indigenous village. I bought a handbag in Mexico City which was made by a women’s community project in Oaxaca. I bought nothing in Cancún.

Cancun is not worth visiting if you want to purchase authentic Mexican goods at reasonable prices.

The mercado in Cancún is a stressful place. The vendors are highly pushy and aggressive. Once you enter you’re instantly bombarded with people yelling at you about different products.

The worst part is the products aren’t even Mexican! Almost everything you find at the mercado in Cancún that isn’t edible is from China.

In Cancún tourists are often treated more like targets than customers. It’s common to be overcharged (also known as Gringo-pricing) or charged made up fees, asked for significant tips by taxi drivers and restaurants staff, and sold poor quality merchandise.

For What It’s Worth… It’s Expensive

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love how far my money goes in Mexico.

Mexico is an inexpensive place to travel and live compared to places like Canada, the US and Western Europe. That’s why so many of us choose Mexico, because it’s affordable!

If this is important to you then Cancún is not worth visiting.

Prices in Cancún are comparable to prices you’d see in Canada and the US, sometimes higher. You can expect to pay about $380MXN [$25CAD/$20USD] for a main course at a mid-range restaurant. And this can go all the way up to hundreds of dollars a head at the highest end spots.

It is possible to eat on the cheap by choosing street vendors and fast food or opting for an all-inclusive resort but if you’re anything like me, you like options.

A lot of people choose Cancún because it’s great for activities but after one or two of these you could blow your budget.

Cancun offers many amazing activities and day trips.

For example, a major tourist attraction when visiting Cancún is the pyramid of Chichén Itzá. While this is a beautiful pyramid it is also one of the most visited, most touristy and most expensive archeological sites in all of Mexico.

For comparison, another significant and in my opinion more impressive site, Monte Alban in Oaxaca costs $70MXN [$4.25USD/$5.50CAD] to enter. Chichén Itzá charges $614MXN [$37USD/$50CAD] for entry. That’s almost 9x more!

Add on round-trip transportation and the tour guide, you’re looking at over $100USD [$130CAD] for a full day trip with 48 of your closest strangers on a coach.

If you’re hoping to maximize on how affordable Mexico your money will go a lot further in places other than Cancún.

When To Visit Cancún

If you’ve decided Cancún is worth visiting then you’ll need to consider a few thing before deciding when to go.

Different times of the year offer different experiences which can have a big impact on the type of vacation you’re trying to have.

High Season: December – April

The weather in Cancún during High Season is usually pleasant and clear. It’s warm enough for swimming in the sea without being unbearably hot or humid. High Season is also the dry season so you’re unlikely to see much rain this time of year.

The downside to the great weather is higher prices and more crowds. Prices during High Season are high, especially the period just before Christmas to the first week of January. It’s also when you’ll see the most crowds and families.

If beautiful weather is your goal and you don’t mind the crowds then it’s worth considering visiting Cancún during this period.

Low Season: June – October

Low Season is Cancún’s summertime. If you don’t mind a little variety in your weather in exchange for better prices and fewer crowds, it’s worth considering visiting Cancún during Low Season.

This time of year the weather can be unpredictable. Temperature and humidity are high so it can be hot and sticky, and rain and storms are more common.

If you want to save money, it’s worth considering visiting Cancún in Low Season because it’s possible to save a lot on hotel and flight prices at this time.

Shoulder Season: April – May, October – November

In Cancún during shoulder season there are three main issues to consider: Rain, Seaweed and Spring Breakers.

October sees the most rain in Cancún with rainfall on an average of 10 days of the month.

You may not be aware but sargassum seaweed has become a major problem in the Caribbean and Mexico in recent years. This seaweed washes up on the beach and in the hot sun can create a stinky and unsightly mess. Sargassum seaweed can wash up any time of year but it is most common during May and June.

Spring Breakers descend upon Cancún around March and April every year. If college parties aren’t your scene then avoid this time of year.

Considering activities when thinking of what to pack for Cancun.

Cancún FAQS

How Can I Get From Cancún Airport To My Accommodation?

If you plan to take a taxi from the airport to your accommodation it is always advisable to pre-book through the Cancún airport website.

Ubers and regular taxis can’t operate from the airport. For a reliable service and reasonable prices travellers can book in advance directly through the airport.

If you would like to take the bus, shuttle or rent a car you can find all transportation information and rates directly on the Cancún airport website.

Should I Buy Travel Insurance For Cancún?

Yes, everyone traveling internationally should purchase travel insurance.

Travel can be unpredictable so it’s best to purchase a comprehensive plan which covers emergency medical, emergency transportation and trip cancellation and interruption, at a minimum.

How Much Cash Should I Bring To Cancún?

Deciding how much cash to bring to Cancún is tricky because everyone is different!

Credit cards are widely accepted in Cancún especially for larger purchases like hotels, excursions and restaurants.

However, Cash is King in Mexico! Pesos will be needed for markets and street vendors, small purchases such as water and coffee, tipping, and taxis.

ATMs are easy to find and offer better exchange rates than exchange bureaus. Always withdraw cash from ATMs inside banks. Avoid cash withdrawals at the airport and outside stores.

Can I Use US Dollars In Cancún?

It is a common misconception that you should bring US Dollars to Cancún. While you can use US Dollars in some areas of Cancún, such as the hotel zone, it’s never a good idea.

US Dollars are subject to harsh exchange rates and price gouging. It is always best to use the local currency.

Do I Need To Tip In Cancún?

Tips are expected in Cancún, particularly in tourist hotspots. A standard tip of 10-15% is adequate although locals will often just round up to the nearest ten.

Some places in Cancún will automatically add tips to your bill, especially if you are in a large group. Check your bill before paying. IVA on a bill is the standard government tax, but anything that reads propina is a tip.

It is good practice to tip anyone who carries your bags for you and also housekeepers. 20-50 pesos per day is adequate. You do not need to tip taxi drivers but if they help with your bags you may want to.

Do They Speak English In Cancún?

As a rule, no. In popular tourist destinations you will encounter more people who speak English, especially in customer service positions at hotel and popular restaurants. If you find yourself in more local establishments and traveling away from the hotel strips you are sure to encounter a language barrier.

It is helpful to download Spanish Offline using the Google Translate app to have access to translations without internet. You can also download my Useful Mexican Words and Phrases Cheatsheet at the bottom of this page.

Can I Drink The Tap Water In Cancún?

No, Mexico does not have a universal clean water program across the country. Drinking from the water supply can cause what Mexicans call “Montezuma’s Revenge” which consists of severe diarrhoea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms.

Because the weather is hot, staying hydrated in Cancún is extremely important. Bottled water is available in the vast majority of restaurants, hotels, bars, shops, supermarkets and is also often available for purchase from street vendors.

There are products like water purification powders and straws that can purify tap water in Cancún but finding bottled water is easy to do.

Can I Brush Your Teeth With The Tap Water In Cancún?

The rule for testing brushing your teeth in Cancún is the same rule you should use for testing street food: Try once and see how it goes.

How your body reacts to the bacteria in Mexico is unpredictable. It is best practice to brush with bottled water however I have spent months in Mexico using tap water to brush my teeth and didn’t experience any adverse affects.

Can I Bring Prescription Drugs To Cancún?

Many medications are permitted entry into Mexico when accompanied by a prescription and all medications should be in their original bottles. Only pack a “personal use amount”, enough for your trip to Cancún and some extra.

Some medications such as Class 1 narcotics are considered to be controlled substances and the importation of these may result in arrest or monetary penalty.

Do I Clear Customs In Cancún?

Yes, when you land in Cancún you will be required to clear customs and passport control, and you will be required to complete a landing card.

Upon arrival in Cancún you will be issued with a Tourist Card, the cost is included in the price of your airline ticket. You MUST keep this card and give it to passport control when you leave the country. If you do not have this card you will have to purchase a new one and may incur additional penalties.

Summary: Is Cancún Worth Visiting?

Whether Cancún is or isn’t worth visiting is a personal opinion. There are a lot of arguments that can be made for either side of the question.

If I had to boil it down, my answer would be this:

If you are looking for a beautiful, tropical destination with swim up bars and lots of activities, Cancún is worth visiting for you.

If you’re looking to experience authentic Mexican culture, cuisine and the magic of Mexico, Cancún is not worth visiting for you.