Mexico is a big place. It’s a place for backpackers, vacations and pretty much offers everything you can hope for in a travel destination. It has a rich history of Mayan culture, some of the world’s idyllic beaches, tons of dense jungle and the food, well is an international favourite.
Cancun though, provides a bit of a different perspective. Many think it’s an extension of the USA. Expensive, tacky and not ‘real’ Mexico. Sure, it has the huge nightclubs and fancy hotels, but there is a lot more to Cancun than meets the eye. It’s a great place for backpackers on a budget, and for the whole Yucatan area, an ideal place to base yourself.
One thing is for sure, stay in Mezcal Hostel. This place is year on year voted the best hostel in Cancun. You’ll meet great people, play in the pool, have daily activities, free food and just an awesome vibe. Apart from that you’re all set.
Eat Cheap Taco’s
There are some amazing places to eat cheap on the streets of Cancun. Even some of the restaurants are dirt cheap. Fish taco’s are popular, but you can get pretty much anything. If you’re getting them off the street, you’ll pay less than 1USD for some!
Local Bars and Food Stalls
Cancun isn’t only glamour, over-indulgence and US Dollars. You can head to where the locals go, get the Pesos out, and enjoy as if you were Mexican. There are bars you can pay a mere 100 pesos for all you can drink. Check out the Parque La Palapas and Tulipanes st.
Grand Mambocafe Bar
If you book through Mezcal for example, you can get a great deal for 20USD. That deal is all-you-can-drink all night. Tequila? Yes. Beer? Yes. Mojito? Yes. This place is authentic too, with salsa dancing and live bands in true Mexican Latin style.
Playa Delfines for example is just 20 minutes away from Mezcal Hostel, and right near the Hotel Zone of main Cancun. In fact, Defines is the largest beach in Cancun. Other beaches are Lagosta and Tortuga where there is a perfect blend of soft sand and blue ocean.
BRB to Playa Del Carmen
Playa’ as it’s called locally, is only an hour down the road from Cancun, and with regular buses from ADO bus station or ‘collectivos’ driving around like flies you’ll easy have chance to get here for a break. The beach is right on the forefront of Playa, as are the hundreds of shops and never-ending strip. Cool place.
Tulum is known for its more relaxed nature. Coupled with some mesmerizing ruins and a clear ocean back drop, you get the feeling something special went on here in Mayan times. Tulum is one of them places that you may just stay a little longer than you expected, and it still isn’t too far from Cancun.
Boat Over To Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a popular spot and attracts hoards of tourists. However, do not estimate this as just a mainstream location, Isla Mujeres is actually awesome. It has gorgeous shallow transparent waters and white sand beaches. The parties are good, the hostels are cool and there is almost a colonial feel to some of the streets. Any backpacker of traveler will find something to enjoy here.
Marvel at Chichen Itza
One of the Seven World Wonders is only a days round trip and trust me, it’s quite a sight. Definitely worth the travel as these ruins are quite incredible. The towering gesture that Chichen Itza empowers with its presence is still alive today, imagine what it would have been like for the locals years ago?
Party at Coco Bongo’s At Least Once
Okay, so we tried to keep this list from going down the commercial route. But to be honest, you have to visit Coco Bongo’s whilst you’re here. I mean, the place is a real life movie. It’s such an extravagant show you forget its a nightclub. Go once, enjoy it for what it is.
Scuba Dive The Underwater Museum
Clear waters and no more than 15m deep the Underwater Museum is a popular diving spot. In between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, the man-made ‘museum’ includes old cars and stone mannequins. If you’re into scuba diving, this isn’t really strenuous, it’s a fun dive.
See The Whale Sharks
From May to September you have the opportunity to get amongst (respectfully) these fantastic harmless creatures. The Whale Shark is truly beautiful and there only certain places in the world you’ll be able to swim with them. When it is in season, take the opportunity whilst you can.
Dip Into At Least One Nearby Cenote
Cents are naturally formed swimming holes, only like steep volcanic craters. They really are picturesque and you’ll be glad to know Cancun (and Mexico) has lots of them. The water is normally cleaned but makes for a cooling time from the sweltering Mexican heat.
Climb Up The Ruins In Coba
Nowadays everything is being protected and rightly so. But in Coba, full of ancient Mayan ruins, lies a pyramid that you can actually climb up. I’m not sure what local archeologists might have to say about that for its preservation, but if they are allowing it then I guess it’s ok!
Sizzle In The Blissful Holbox
If your version of paradise is the clearest of blue waters and the whitest of sand, then Holbox (pronounced Holboch) will be the place you need to be. 3 hours from Cancun go here and burn, tan, relax, drink and enjoy. Life is easy here.
Go See Turtles At Akumal
Doing it the cheap and backpacker way, take a collectivo to Akumal which will be around 2 hours. Then head into Akumal, which will be plagued with resorts and shops. Rent some snorkelling gear, and go for a swim (initially away from the turtle zone). Make a sneaky swim to your left until you get into the zone (where everyone pays around 50USD for a guide). Then take a plunge down to see the turtles hang out! Easy!