Last updated: 04:34 PM ET, Thu January 26 2023
Aerial view of Cancun


Destinations Home | North America | Mexico


JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
PHOTO: JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. (Photo via Marriott International)

As one of the most popular beach destinations in North America, Cancun, Mexico, is famous for its turquoise waters, white-sand shores, luxury hotels and endless nightlife. Cancun is a part of the state of Quintana Roo, or Mexican Caribbean, which attracts over two million visitors to this Mayan beachside city a year.

The Zona Hotelera, or Hotel Zone, is home to a 14-mile stretch of hotels that range from high-end, all-inclusive resorts, to student-friendly budget hotels. Though this area may teem with tourists who only seek constant pampering and sunshine, there is an authentic Mexican city just down the round in downtown Cancun. Unseen by travelers who don’t leave the confines of their resort, downtown Cancun offers a mix of tradition and modernity, and is home to many restaurants, shopping centers and outdoor markets where the locals spend their time. Not far from Cancun, travelers who seek out history and culture can delve deep into the Mayan ruins and archaeological sites at neighboring Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba.

Cancun, Mexico
PHOTO: Cancun, Mexico. (photo via Flickr/Pedro Szekely)

Because Cancun is bordered by the Caribbean Sea on one side, and Nichupte Lagoon on another, there are a myriad of outdoor, water and adventure sports to partake in. Featuring some of the best fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, the Great Mesoamerican Reef is located just off the city’s coast. Most resorts, as well as independent operators, will offer a variety of water sports, such as windsurfing, parasailing, jet-skiing, water skiing and kayaking to those looking for an aquatic thrill. Championship golf courses overlooking the Caribbean and eco-parks with underground rivers and cavern tours are also popular draws for visitors.

Showcasing everything from traditional Mexican cuisine downtown, to chic bistros and upscale international restaurants, the Cancun dining scene has something to suit all tastes. Puerto Madero serves a fusion of Spanish cuisines. Menu highlights are the spicy beef empanadas, lobster tail and grilled ribeye Madero. For a beautiful Mediterranean meal on the water, Terraneo is located on the lagoon side of the Hotel Zone, and offers well-crafted Mediterranean classics. Pik Nik is a wonderful and inexpensive lunch spot serving up homemade localized Mexican dishes such as fish tacos and ceviche.

Located just six miles from the Hotel Zone, Cancun International Airport (CUN) is Mexico’s second-busiest airport, and serves the region’s international and domestic air travel. Many hotels and resorts will provide transportation to and from the airport. If not, rental cars are available, though rules of the road tend to differ here than in most of the United States. The most efficient way to get around is by taxi. They are plentiful and can get expensive, but make sure a price is negotiated before taking off. There are also public buses that have frequent stops throughout the downtown and Hotel Zone areas.

Cancun has a tropical climate and is characterized by warm year-round temperatures and a pronounced rainy season. The average annual temperature stays around 80.8° F (27.1° C) and tends to remain in that vicinity for the entire year. The tropical storm season lasts from May through December, with peak precipitation coming down in September. The best times to visit Cancun are in the late winter and early spring months, when humidity and rainfall is at a minimum.