Cancún Travel Guide

10 Things You Definitely Should Not Do in Cancún

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Visiting Cancún soon? Here’s how NOT to get yourself in a sticky situation.

We’ve all made rookie errors when visiting a new place for the first time and while they often make for great anecdotes after the fact, they’re usually not so fun in the moment. So, if you’re planning on visiting Cancún anytime soon, be sure to read through these 10 tips to avoid embarrassment on your trip to one of Mexico’s top beach resort destinations.

Don’t JUST Stay in the Hotel Zone

So, you’ve done some diligent Googling and booked a room at one of Cancún’s many Hotel Zone resorts. Maybe there’s an onsite spa? Maybe there’s an infinity pool? Maybe there’s no concrete reason to leave your resort of choice? Even so, you should. Because Cancún has much more to offer than piña coladas by the pool. Venture into the downtown and explore the markets, go scuba diving at the underwater sculpture park, or take the kids to the planetarium. That infinity pool will still be there when you get back.

Don’t Lose Your Resort Bracelet

Plastic wristbands are typically doled out when checking in to most Cancún hotels and resorts, especially ones with all-inclusive perks. The managers don’t want any old riffraff rocking up to the swim-up bar after all. With that in mind, keep a close eye on your bracelet and be sure you don’t accidentally lose it at a rowdy foam party. If you do, you’ll likely have to pay a hefty fee to replace it at reception on your return.

Don’t Only Stay in Cancún

Cancún might have attractions that span beyond the Hotel Zone, but there are arguably more interesting cities, towns, and islands in the day-trip vicinity. Pay a visit to one of the nearby Caribbean islands—Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are two of the most popular—stop by some of the nearby archaeological ruins or go turtle-spotting in Puerto Morelos and Akumal.

Related: 14 Must-See Mayan Ruins in Mexico 

Don’t Eat at Señor Frog’s

It can be tempting to dip into one of the many Señor Frog’s for a quick bite to eat while in Cancún. After all, they do typically offer air-conditioned respite from the outside humidity. But eating at Señor Frog’s while in Mexico is like going to Japan and only eating in McDonald’s. There’s a novelty factor, sure, but it’s still just McDonald’s isn’t it? So, skip the unimaginative food and drinks at Señor Frog’s and go to one of the many, many, many other excellent restaurants—there’s one for all budgets—that you’ll find in Cancún.

Don’t Go at Spring Break

Unless you’re actively all about that Spring Break life—a.k.a. you want to drink too much cheap beer in the company of teenagers and dance ‘til dawn at foam parties—skip Cancún at Spring Break. Not only is it one of the region’s most popular periods (meaning prices will be hiked across all resorts), the fun of Spring Break is in the participation. Watching from the sidelines is just sad. Sure, you can stay at non-Spring Break hotels and skip their nightclub stomping grounds, but you can also just…visit Cancún during the more affordable down season instead?

Don’t Visit in the Summer

The worst time (if there is truly a “worst” time) to visit Cancún is during the sticky summer months. Sure, flights can be cheaper and resorts empty out but it’s with good reason, as temperatures regularly reach the nineties. While that might not seem so hot, the added humidity can make Cancún during summer incredibly oppressive and what’s the point of going on holiday just to lounge around in your air-conditioned hotel room? Instead, travel during shoulder seasons (right after Easter and right before Christmas).

Don’t Rent a Car

There are few things more stressful than trying to get to grips with driving in another country—especially if that country is Mexico—so don’t put yourself through that when on vacation in Cancún. Instead, skip the cars and make the most of incredibly affordable local buses and convenient inter-city coach routes to places like Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Some resorts even offer free shuttles to popular tourist attractions. Taxis, on the other hand? They’re not metered so the prices quoted are often marked up for tourists. If you need to take one, remember that it’s always best to pay in pesos, not dollars and agree on the price before setting off.

Don’t Skip the Street Food

Cancún may well be home to a glut of national and international dining options, from casual cafes to upscale waterfront restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the street food. Mexico has a reputation for some of the world’s best street foods—think tacos, cream and cheese smothered elotes, and crispy Edam and Nutella filled rolled crepes, aka marquesitas—so be sure to sample some when you can in Cancún.

INSIDER TIPWorried about food poisoning? Look for the stalls with lots of people gathered around and seek out places where the food is prepped on the spot.

Don’t Drink the Water

“Don’t drink the tap water” applies throughout Mexico and Cancún is no exception. While it’s perfectly OK to use when brushing your teeth, be sure to stick with bottled or filtered varieties if you’re thirsty. (Most all-inclusive resorts will keep your room stocked with bottled water anyway.) And what about ice? Ice is almost always made with filtered water, especially in large restaurants and resorts, so there’s no need to drink everything at room temperature.

Related: How to Avoid Getting Parasites When You Travel

Don’t Rely on Dollars

Like most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, you can easily drift through an entire vacation in Cancún without exchanging your dollars for pesos. However, it is worth bringing at least some local currency with you, especially if you want to eat street food, buy souvenirs in the markets, and eat where the locals do. Sure, plenty of places do accept American dollars, but you’ll likely receive your change (at an unfavorable exchange rate) in pesos anyway.

INSIDER TIPDon’t exchange your dollars for pesos at the airport or even your hotel, as you’ll be stitched up on the exchange rate. Instead, go to a local bank or ATM.