The Fodor's Five

The five things you need to know before traveling to Cancún

# 1

Cancún International Airport may overwhelm you.

Cancún International Airport (CUN) is Mexico’s second busiest airport by passenger traffic after Mexico City International (MEX). It has four sprawling terminals and one lesser-known terminal (FBO) for private aviation and Tropic Air commercial planes. From the minute you exit customs, you’re exposed to a chorus of sales pitches, pushy taxi offers, and charlatans pretending to work with the shuttle bus company while loud music blasts from the arrivals bar. It's easiest if you pre-book an airport collection, and perhaps walk through the exit with sunglasses on and earphones in to drown out the noise.

# 2

It’s not all about partying.

Cancún’s party palaces like Coco Bongo and Señor Frogs need no introduction. In this Mexican Caribbean destination there are certainly opportunities for boozy hijinks and wild tequila-fuelled antics, but wholesome fun is never too far away. From spas and circus nights to water parks, shopping, and hopping between underwater and topside museums, Cancún is not solely the preserve of hedonists.

# 3

There is life beyond the hotel zone.

Cancún’s Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) is the slender peninsula that you’ve probably seen in magazines and brochures of the city. This is where most travelers stay when visiting Cancún. While it has beaches of gobsmacking grandeur and a scintillating selection of restaurants and accommodations, don’t forget to head further afield to Downtown Cancún for rich cultural experiences and for your tourism dollars to also end up in local pockets.

# 4

Sargassum might thwart your beach plans.

From April to October, a pungent seaweed known as sargassum blankets many of the beaches in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancún included. It might be prudent to avoid these seven months or book your trip for Cancún’s shoulder seasons, which are October through November (crowds are thinner and hotel rates are lower) and April through May (when the sargassum hasn’t yet arrived in earnest). Also, choose a hotel that regularly clears sargassum from the beach and keep tabs on the state of Quintana Roo’s sargassum map.

# 5

Cancún has all types of hotels and not just all-inclusive resorts.

All-inclusive resorts reign supreme in Cancún but there are hotels and also hostels to suit every traveler. Whether you want to check into somewhere that’s family-friendly, luxurious, on the south of the “number 7” sandbar, or on the north closer to the nightlife action, with some research, you can find the right place for you.

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