1. To say you’re going to “Cancun” could really refer to one of three areas. The first is the rather uninteresting Mexican city where the nearby workforce lives and tourists have little reason to visit. The Cancun most people think of is also known as the “Hotel Zone,” a narrow strip of sand that juts out into the Caribbean like an elbow. This is a much livelier area with nightclubs, malls and smaller, more densely packed resorts. Oh, and a gorgeous beach of course.
2. Just south of the Hotel Zone and serviced by the Cancun airport is a strip of coast now known as the Riviera Maya. This larger, more recently developed area consists of colossal mega resorts, mostly all-inclusive, that are fairly spread apart. The town of Playa del Carmen, the archaeological site of Tulum and popular tourism parks like Xplor and Xel-ha are located here.
3. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination that’s truly indicative of the people and their culture, Cancun is most definitely NOT it. It is entirely a creation of tourism where it can often be difficult to find Mexican food. We say this not to bash Cancun – we’ve had many wonderful vacations there – but don’t expect to immerse yourself by strolling charming old streets with the locals. This is a place to relax, indulge and be pampered.
4. At the same time, there are 100-percent authentic sites of historical interest within a reasonable drive from Cancun. The great Mayan cities of Chichen Itza and Coba are still relatively intact after hundreds of years in the jungle, while the smaller city of Tulum is both interesting and visually stunning. More tips about them and others in See & Do on Page 4.
5. Cancun gets hit by tropical storms and hurricanes each year, but unless the forecast calls for one of those bad boys, ignore the weather report. Chances are it’s going to say that every day of your vacation is going to be 82 degrees with either rain or thunderstorms. That’s technically true since it’ll probably rain somewhere at some point for some small amount of time each day. Big deal. You’re in the tropics, c’est la vie.
6. Book your transport from the airport in advance. Many resorts offer transportation from the airport, but if they don’t, we recommend CancunShuttle.com. It’s cheaper than the airport cab company, larger vehicles are used and for an extra $5 you get your own vehicle. We recommend booking them for a round trip as well.
7. You can leave that Spanish phrase book at home because just about everyone speaks English in the tourism industry. Still, knowing a few key words and phrases is useful and polite.
8. Everyone takes American money, but you’ll get change back in pesos, and there’s no guarantee the restaurant or store in question will be up-to-date on their exchange rate. We recommend downloading the free XE.com currency exchange app so that you know for sure how much you’re spending.
9. Cancun isn’t as cheap as you expect. Yes, it’s in Mexico, but prices are likely to be the same as they are in American tourist areas, if not more.
10. “One strong piece of advice is to bring your own sunscreen,” said Jessica Jones, who visited Cancun in November 2012. “I cannot emphasize this enough. At the resort it was $45 a bottle for the same $5 bottle you get at CVS. Bring your own or roast or pay the piper.”
11. Buy and drink bottles of water, but don’t fear what comes out of the tap. Guests getting violently ill is generally bad for business, so virtually all hotels have an on-site water filtration system.
12. Cancun and the state of Quintana Roo have largely been spared the violence plaguing other parts of Mexico. We’ve always felt safe, but have also never forgotten that we’re no longer in the United States. Just be smart.