– Traveled Summer 2014 –
There is a lot to do in Cancun, from laying on the beach, to attending local shows, to visiting many local attractions. Whatever your plans are, ensure to plan your trip before you leave so you have an itinerary and get the best prices. Many attractions offer discounts when booking from their website.
Cancun is a very touristy destination, so the first thing that you need to do is avoid the tourist traps. The first tourist trap is located as soon as you exit customs and before you exit the airport. At the right of the terminal there are many “tourist ambassadors” that want to help you get around the city and provide you great offers. They may provide you with great offers but most of the times you need to attend a presentation at some hotel in Cancun. They provide you with great options to Xplore, Xcaret, Isla Mujeres, etc.; do your homework before you leave and compare prices when you arrive at Cancun. If is worth your time to listen to a presentation then do it, it can save you money. Your time is ultimately worth money.
In the same area there is a second tourist trap; this is where you arrange transportation from the airport to the city. The airport has contracted with a couple companies to provide transportation to the city so you don’t have the ability to pick up a regular taxi to go to the city; so the prices are exorbitant – about $200 (a van for 8 people) to the hotel and if you book a return trip they will give you a discount so your trip will be and additional $150. If you must, only book one way to the hotel. From the hotel you can book transportation to the airport for less.
If you don’t have transportation, the best way would be to rent a car from the United States before you leave for your trip. If you do it ahead of time, the car rental will cost you about $200 for the week. You will pay half of what it will take to go back to the hotel and have a car for the week. If your tour package provides transportation to the hotel, step out of the terminal and pick up your bus. When we arrived there were a great number of people waiting for this bus. Whatever your choice is, make sure that you do your homework before your travel.
The week that we were there most of the days were over cast and it rained a couple of days. Because of this the water was very choppy and we couldn’t do some of the attractions that Cancun has to offer and boats to isla mujeres were cancelled. By the time the weather got better we had booked other activities. The sun came out the last day but the heat was unbearable. Looking back we prefer the overcast weather over the sun. Following are some activities that you can do in Cancun, Pirate Show, Snorkeling, Isla Mujeres, Caribbean Carnaval, Pirate Assault, Xoximilco, Xcaret!, XelHa, Xplor, Xichen(Chichen Itza), Xenotes, Garafon Reef Park.
A few tips
Many establishments will give you the option to pay in pesos or dollars. In many countries, when using a credit card, it is best to charge it in the local currency since the bank will give you the best rate. I found this not to be the case in Cancun; the local merchants provide the best exchange rate; so it is best to pay in US dollars. Take a rash guard to protect you from the sun and water shoes to make it easy to walk in the sand and water parks. If you feel adventurous take the local bus, there are many that go through the hotel zone.
Transportation and Accommodations
There are many airlines that fly to Cancun; given the many options available it is best to choose the airline that better matches your pocket book or your traveling stile. Visit the Cancun airport website to view a list of airlines that flight into Cancun.
Even though you have the opportunity to rent a car at the airport, don’t do it, the cost is at least 4 times more than what it is if you rent the car before you leave. The best option is to rent a car from the US prior to leaving for your vacation and just picking the car at the airport.
Gas Station Locations
There are many gas stations throughout Cancun and the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone).
There are many, many hotels in Cancun to choose from, from all inclusive, to family oriented hotels. When selecting a hotel find one at the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) since most of them face the beach. The Westin Lagunamar is located in a central place. Right across the street is La Isla Shopping Center, with a variety of stores, movie theater and restaurants.
Where to go
A must go attraction when visiting Cancun. The site is located about two and half hours away from Cancun so plan for a whole day trip. We booked a tip from experiencias xcaret that included visiting the pyramids (Chichen) a cenote (big underwater cave that you can swimming in) and lunch at one of the small towns – Valladolid – close to the pyramids. Visiting this site you will not be disappointed. Although local vendors were all over the place (not walking but in the pathways between ruins) and took away from the wonders of the place, this is a great place to purchase local artifacts – remember not to pay full price but haggle a little bit. Although this is a main touristic attraction the prices are very reasonable compared to what you will pay in Cancun.
Disneyland for adults on steroids! The park has 4 main rides. zip line, Amphibious Vehicles, Underground Rafts and Stalactite Rivers. Although the park only has 4 main attractions, your day is full of adrenaline. The zip line has a total of 14 towers (7 each round) the round will take about 45 minutes each. There are no restrooms available any of the towers, so plan accordingly. As you arrive to the park everyone wants to go the zip lines, so it may be better that you go to the cars (Amphibious Vehicles) first. A driver’s license is required; the staff will ask if the person looks too young to drive). In this ride try to be the first car, that way you have the ability to go as fast at the guide car can be (it can be very fast); the dirt road is narrow, bumpy and muddy – great for an off road experience. If you get stuck behind a slow driver, the experience will not be great. For easy walking around the park, bring water shoes; you will get wet in most of the rides so flip flops or tennis shoes will not be comfortable.
We used this tour agency to go to Xplore and Xichen. Although there are many tour operating agencies, we found Experiencias Xcaret to be a great buy. Although it may be a bit more expensive than other agencies, they use top of the line buses, with comfortable seats and bathrooms that become very handy for long trips. Also, the tour guides are very friendly and knowledgeable. One thing that we didn’t like was that during the drive they try to sell you some of the local products. This is something that we are not used to but the service makes up for it.
If you have a kitchen in your room and plan to prepare your meals, you can go to Costco, Walmart or Sam’s Club (located in the same parking lot as Walmart) or Chedraui one of the major local supermarkets. If you plan to shop at Costco or Sam’s Club, be aware that the portions of their products are smaller than what we are used to in the US. In the hotel zone there is a big variety of restaurants to choose from; also in Las Islas Shopping Center the is a good variety of restaurants one next to each other. If you are craving for some home foods, Chili’s, Johnny Rockets and McDonalds can be found here. The best Mexican restaurant in La Isla is la Parilla; very authentic Mexican food. Try the Pollo Pivil (Chicken), it is so tender that the meat falls from the bone.
The aquarium is located in La Isla Shopping Center which was heavily promoted when we were walking at the mall. While at the shopping center we were caught in the rain so we decided to go to the aquarium to hide from the rain. Although the cost of admission is about $14; I don’t recommend that you attend this attraction. The aquarium is very small with a very small selection of animals. If you skip this attraction, you will not be missing anything. However, if you want to swim with dolphins and don’t have too much time in Cancun, this is a good place to go. At Isla Mujeres there are other options for swim with dolphins.
La Isla Shopping Center
This is an open air mall with many stores to choose from; from the luxurious: LLadro, Coach, Armani, to local stores and restaurants. Also all major car rental companies have offices in this mall.
Super Gourmet Grocery Store
This small grocery store located near the entrance of La Isla Shopping Center offers a variety of products such as paper plates, condiments, local and imported snacks and drinks. This is a great place if you need to make a quick run to the market.
Mercado Coral Negro
If you like to bargain, this is the place to go, all stores offer local products such as sweater, hand carved items, knickknacks, etc. In the hotel zone you can take any local bus (about 8 pesos one way) which will stop right across from this market. Although you can bargain in this place I found the prices to be a bit high.