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Quintana Roo Tourism Information (for Cancun)

There's much more than soft sand beaches in Quintana Roo waiting to be discovered!
ℹ️ Introduction 

Quintana Roo is the region, which Mexico is most famous for its beaches, hot temperatures year round and party atmosphere. However there is much more than meets the eye here! Discovering the area is done easy by busses, tours or driving where to marble at pure natural beauty, like the islands of Isla Mujeres or Cozumel. (a short ferry ride away). Most people who come to stay in the region, do so in Cancun. Once a small fishing village, the area has transformed beyond recognition. It is made up of two parts: the glitzy hotel zone dedicated to tourism, and the downtown area inhabited by the permanent residents. A different atmosphere prevails in each, with a dramatic contrast between the air-conditioned shopping malls, chic restaurant dining, spring break foreigners and wealthy pleasure-seeking tourists in one; and bustling market street stalls, noisy vendors, and the daily grind of people at work in the other.

Cancun is also a good base from which to explore some of the nearby attractions, particularly Isla Mujeres and Cozumel IslandPlaya del Carmen or the town of Tulum, with its Mayan ruins. Additionally, many tourists who are visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, also come to Cancun to explore its beaches, as its location makes it ideal for a day trip from Valladolid for example.

⛅️ Climate and Temperature  🌡️

The Yucatan Peninsula, including Quintana Roo, is the hottest and most tropical part of Mexico, especially from June to August when humidity is high and temperatures can reach 40°C. Humidity tends to be high all year, although coastal breezes have a pleasant cooling effect on hot days. The rainy season runs from May to October and is characterised by late afternoon tropical showers, usually lasting for a short time only. Cancun lies within the Atlantic Hurricane Belt and the flat terrain makes the Yucatan Peninsula especially vulnerable to storms, particularly between June and October. In fact, big storms can affect Cancun at any time of year, but although they can be violent they are usually short-lived. On average April is the driest month and October is the wettest.

The peak tourist season in Cancun runs from December to April, when the weather is warm and the sea tends to be calm, making it a good time for watersports and scuba diving.
Out of this peak season, prices at the resorts tend to drop dramatically and the peninsula is less crowded. Although the threat of hurricanes puts some travellers off, between June and October the weather can be great, hot with cooling winds. 

🚇 Transport 

If you are arriving by plane, Cancun airport is a short trip away form the major Hotel zone. Public busses or taxis are widely available, though most tourists will have transfers waiting for them, already organised by the package holiday company. Once in Cancun, most travelers agree that the bus is the best way to get around.

The buses run every five minutes or less from the Hotel Zone or central cancun in either direction, taking bus R1 for 12 Pesos. This bus will also reach Puerto Juarez or Gran Puerto, which is ideal for those wanting to visit Isla Mujeres. 

There are also regional buses that run between Cancun and other popular tourist towns. These buses are operated by ADO and are typically a bit more expensive than the local bus service. You can book tickets for buses that will take you from Cancun to Merida, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Valladolid and Chichén Itzá. Also, many people visiting the area, are coming from the Yucatan Peninsula, as Cancun is located 310 Km from Merida or 165 Km from valladolid. 

If you arrive to Cancun downtown by ADO bus, you can take bus R1 from Avenida Tulum 9-15📍 (5 min walk from the ADO station along the main road). This will take you to Cancun Hotel Zone for 12 Pesos. If you want to go to Isla Mujeres, you need to take the bus R1 or R6 to Gran Puerto or Puerto Juarez for 10 Pesos, crossing the bridge over the main road (Av Tulum) and close to the Mcdonald's you will see the stop (or many people waiting). Another frequent trip, is to travel from Cancun downtown to Playa del Carmen: take the vans called "Playa Express" outside the ADO bus station, for 45 Pesos for a journey of 75 minutes.

Cancun local busses are a little outdated but run fast and frequent.
Lines R1/R2 are the main bus lines from Cancun Downtown to the Hotel Zone
⚠️ Considerations before visiting Cancun

Despite being a very desired destination by many, the area can have several aspects that might make you consider when or how to visit Cancun. 

Below are some guidelines to help you plan and prepare more for you trip and have a holiday without any bad surprises: 

  • First thing to consider, is the COST. The resorts are very expensive to book separately. Most tourists to the area buy packages, which include flights and Hotels. Most hotels offer all-inclusive rates which are generally good value with transfers from the airport and full catering (expect alcoholic drinks). When buying tours and activities on the street, always try to compare and don't let them overcharge you by inflating prices. Ask hotels for a general idea before you buy, and if necessary, you need to haggle a little to bring prices down. If you plan to stay in Cancun spontaneously, in the nicest areas, prices per room can cost around $100 to $300 per night. Hostels and private accommodation not so popular unless you stay in the town of Cancun. 
  • Another thing to avoid is FOOD POISONING, some visitors are affected by cases of diarrhea and fever, known colloquially as 'Moctezuma's revenge', caused by unfamiliar bacteria in water and food. This can be avoided by drinking bottled water, don't over expose to the sun to avoid dehydration and taking care about overindulgence in spicy Mexican foods, margaritas or Mexican beer.
  • Last but not least, Cancun's beaches are extensive and spread out enough to never become too overcrowded even in peak season. However, the resorts are exceptionally busy during America's SPRING BREAK in March, when it is the favoured destination of thousands of college students from North America. The atmosphere is very lively, noisy and in some cases crazy. Those wanting a more relaxing and less frenetic holiday should visit Cancun outside this season.

❗Attention: Cancun is a fantastic vacation destination, year round for many people and no matter when you come, expect a never ending party! The beauty of the area and the upmarket feel is a unique image of the wealthy side of Mexico, that can't be enjoyed by that many, specially the lower classes of the country. Therefore it's no surprise that Cancun is also targeted by many PICKPOCKETS, SCAMS and FAKERS that try to take opportunity of foreign tourists. We advise you, to stay always alert when talking to locals and stick to tours and organised programmes by your Hotels. As well on the beaches, don't leave any belongings on the sand, towels, etc and don't over dress with jewelry and take small cash or a credit card.

❗Attention: Another aspect to consider when coming to Cancun, is the weather. EXTREME CLIMATE conditions can happen, anytime from June to end of November, with heavy winds and rains expected. The worst months are mid August to the end of October, when stronger developings storms, often hurricanes can hit the area. If this was to happen, Hotel resorts and local news will always advise you to stay indoors. If flights are cancelled, contact the airline to enquire when the rebooking will take place. Don't travel to the airport or other places for fear of getting stuck.

✔️Tip: Due to the nature of the destination, anything could happen and staying calm is very important. Therefore, for peace of mind, it's advised to take up a full insurance, if you come to Cancun or the region and plan to engage in any adventurous tourism, for safety concerns and for extreme weather climate.
(hotels and flight expenses may be covered if the weather stops you from coming back home).

🏖️ Places to visit and Highlights 🌴

One of the main reasons for choosing Cancun is to enjoy the gorgeous beaches with their powdery white sand washed by the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean. A wide variety of activities are offered on every beach in the tourist zone: volleyball, parasailing, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins or sharks, jet skiing, kayaking and so on. Alternatively, just relax in a hammock and enjoy some people watching. Diving and snorkelling are the most sought-after water pursuits of the energetic, with some of the world's most famous coral reefs on Cancun's doorstep. 

There are local Mayan ruins and archaeological sites to explore, an alligator farm, botany park, fun fairs and other attractions. The recently opened Museo Maya is a great place to get to grips with the Mayan culture and see some of the most interesting artefacts discovered in the region. There are also two championship 18-hole golf courses and numerous other sports facilities, including well-maintained cycling routes.

Below you will find more details from the sights and beauty spots found in the Quintana Roo region:

  • Cancun Beaches: The northern stretch of Mujeres Bay includes the popular Playa Langostina, Playa Las Perlas and Playa Tortugas, all great for watersports, bars and restaurants. Playa Linda is a launching point for boat and dive tours, while Playa Caracol and Punta Cancun are excellent for family fun. East side beaches are breezier with rouger surf. Chac Mool, Playa MarlinGaviota Azul and Playa Ballenas are ideal for parasailing, windsurfing, while Punta Nizuc and Playa Delfines are beautiful beaches perfect for a day of sand and surf. The best dive sites lie between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, at the colourful reefs of El Tunel, Grampin, Chuchos and Largo. The Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA) is also a fantastic option for divers.
Beaches like "Playa Delfines " are beautiful for soft sands and swimming.
The popular sign of Cancun is located at "Playa Delfines"
Clear crystal waters are more likely from December to March.
  • Isla Mujeres: Located just a short ferry ride from the resorts, Isla Mujeres is a stunning island with quiet villages and beautiful views that make for a great excursion from Cancun. The calm atmosphere is a relaxing break from the bustle of Cancun's busy beaches, and Isla Mujeres offers some excellent restaurants serving freshly-caught seafood. Hidalgo Street in El Centro is the main dining, shopping and entertainment area. Popular activities on Isla Mujeres include lounging on the pretty beaches, swimming with dolphins, snorkelling and scuba diving, exploring the remarkable Underwater Sculpture Museum, swimming with sharks, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. The most popular beaches are on the north and west sides of island. Transport: Regular ferries are available from Gran Puerto on the mainland to the island for 300 Pesos return and they take 20 min, operated by Ultramar ferries

✔️Tip: Take the ferry in the morning, to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beautiful scenery and views more peacefully. Another option to save money is to take the Naveganto Ferry from "Puerto Juarez" which costs 265 Pesos return, but has less frequencies and takes a little longer. 

Gran Puerto is the main ferry terminal for frequent trips to Isla Mujeres
The island has many shops, restaurant and souvenirs gift stores to look around.
Ferries take 20 minutes to cross to the island!
Isla Mujeres is the ideal place for year round idyllic beaches and hot weather!
North Beach is the best beach for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving.
True paradise awaits at Isla Mujeres!
  • Cancun Hotel Zone: Situated on a thin strip of land (Isla Cancun) in the shape of a figure '7', is what people imagine when they talk about Cancun. It is a vision of Caribbean paradise with soft white sand beaches and clear blue waters. There is plenty of high quality holiday accommodation available, a wide choice of restaurants and shops, a notoriously energetic nightlife, and an array of activities, including both land and water sports. To reach this area it's best to organise a packet holidays which can include hotel stay, meals, activities, tours and more. But for those who want to visit the area, it's best to take R1 bus from Cancun downtown. A quick and inexpensive ride will get you to the most popular beach, Playa Delfines in 30 minutes.

    Those who are lucky enough to stay in the area, and want to organise tours. The number one company for quality and service is Xcaret. They provide multiple tours around many parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, including the ruins of Chichen Itza, Cenotes, shows, magical towns amongst many more. 
The Hotel Zone has some of the most established hotel chains worldwide.
There are numerous golf courses ready to hold international championships!
Some hotels, also include attractions like water parks.
It's also possible to rent apartments or Apart-Hotels.
  • Playa del Carmen: It was a small fishing coastal town that has developed into a city with lots of tourist infrastructure but has retained some of the small town feel and is easily walkable. The front beach of the city is a place to swim in the high season when the waters are clear. Other times there is a lot of seaweed, therefore not as pretty as other areas. The center of Playa Del Carmen is where most things are. The one main street is a pedestrian street called 5th Avenue or “Quinta Avenida”. This street is about 20 blocks and keeps growing. It has tons of restaurants, shops and entertainment. This is the area for late bars, clubs and shows. Less expensive than Cancun Hotel Zone but still the affluence of foreigners have made the area grow a lot and become even a little bit seedy. Note that locals on the street may try to sell drugs to visitors.

    Playa Del Carmen is not a huge city and actually the area where most tourist go is relatively small.  However the area of Playacar which is part of Playa Del Carmen, is less commercial but has tons of Hotels, private apartments and more accomodation options. There is only one small shopping area and just a few restaurants in this area. It is mainly an area for private houses and golf courses.

    To get to Playa del Carmen you can travel from several cities across the Yucatan Peninsula by ADO bus. Also from Cancun downtown ADO bus station there is a frequent shuttle (Playa Express) vans which take 75 minutes for 45 Pesos. Also Playa del Carmen is the departure point for those wanting to visit Cozumel island. (see below).
Playa del Carmen is well known for night entertainment and shopping!
Playa del carmen's beach is not as clean as other beaches in low season.
The lighthouse, is in fact private residences to rent!
A vast array of shopping opportunities for all pockets can be found.
  • Cozumel Island: is a mostly undeveloped island in the Caribbean Sea, popular for its scuba diving. At Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, there's diving spots around a section of the Mesoamerican Reef and the Museo Subacuático de Arte to see submerged sculptures. You will find on the island, Chankanaab, is an eco park surrounding a lagoon with underwater caverns, home to dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. Cozumel’s only city, San Miguel, offers restaurants, boutiques and colorful shops lining the boardwalk and selling souvenirs and Mayan handicrafts.

    To get to Cozumel, you need to cross from Playa del Carmen ferry terminal. Trips are 340 or 400 Pesos depending on the ferry company you choose. (Winjet is the cheapest  while Ultramar has the most frequencies).
  • Tulum: It’s known for its beaches and well-preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan port city. The main building is a large stone structure called El Castillo (castle), perched on a rocky cliff above the white sand beach and turquoise sea. Near the ruins is the Parque Nacional Tulum, a coastal area with mangroves and cenotes (natural limestone sinkholes). As well as being the only Mayan city built on a coast, Tulum was one of the few protected by a wall, the 784-metre wall encloses the site on three sides, is seven metres thick, and varies between three and five metres in height.

    After entering the ruins through one of five doorways in the wall, visitors can appreciate the ruins scattered around the ancient city, and visit the cliffs behind the "castle", where it is possible to access the breach via stairs.
    In front of the Castillo is the Temple of the Frescoes, one of the better preserved buildings. Note that visiting here can also be a humid venture. That's why it's a good idea to take something cold to drink, a hat and sun lotion.

    To reach Tulum, you can travel to the town by ADO bus. The town itself hasn't got much to see or do, but it's cheaper for hotels, restaurants and tours than Playa del Carmen or Cancun naturally. For the ruins take a van, which leaves to the right from the ADO bus station, on the opposite side of the road. It costs only 20 Pesos to reach the main road of the ruins. Then you need to walk down for about 10 minutes till you reach the main ticket entrance. (note that there are many stands for ticket sales along the road, these are more expensive and provide additional tours).

✔️Tip: After you visit the ruins (takes around 45 minutes), as you leave the exit turn left (not towards the main entrance) and walk down a pathway that leads down to a sandy beach. A walk along the beach provides ample opportunity for photographs and don't forget to bring your swim wear to cool off from the heat! 

Tulum's biggest Pyramid is El Castillo (The Castle)
The views across the cliffs are superb when the waters are clear though!
Templo Dios del Viento (God of Winds Temple)
The town of Tulum is small, but it's cheap and only a 10 min ride to the ruins
🌃 Nightlife

Nightlife is legendary in the area, specially in Cancun, with its huge choice of nightclubs, discos and bars to suit every mood, from romantic to raunchy, funky to frenetic, rock to reggae and salsa to techno. After dark the city, particularly the Hotel Zone, comes alive, with most clubs opening around 10pm and pumping out the music until sunrise, or later, the next morning. Most clubs and pubs offer a continual variety of promotional or theme evenings, with foam parties, mini-skirt and bikini contests being hot favourites. 

The more popular places can be found at Dady Rock, Bulldog, The City, Dady O and Coco Bongo's nightclubs, all offering massive dance floors and pumping beats. The Party Hopper tour is a popular way to enjoy a number of Cancun's top nightlife venues; visitors pay about US$75 for free drinks and entry into three of Cancun's top clubs and bars.

Alternatively, for those seeking something more relaxed and more of a cultural entertainment, then should see the Ballet Folklorico, which holds performances in various venues around Cancun, featuring lavish costumes and traditional dances.

There is also a lot of nightlife in the main area of Playa del Carmen (along "Quinta avenida" street), not as pricey entrance fees, but still expensive, as mostly all bars and clubs are visited by tourists soley. 

Both Playa del Carmen (pictured) and Cancun have great places to go out, party and watch shows.
An abundance of fancy bars are very popular at Playa del Carmen
🛍️  Shopping

Going on holiday to the Cancun area, is not really a shopping destination. However, the commercial aspect of the areas like the Hotel Zone and Playa del Carmen, is hard to avoid when it's really hot and you want to stay inside cooler malls and shopping centres to chill or look around. Opportunities abound in Cancun, with a vast variety of shops ranging from modern malls and designer stores, to open-air markets and the trays of insistent street vendors. It's a city built on tourism, so Cancun's shops invariably accept credit cards and the opening hours tend to run from about 10am to 7pm during the week, and all morning on weekends. Silver jewellery, traditional wooden statues (Alebrije), pottery, and fleece or cotton blankets are all popular souvenirs from Cancun.
Within the glitzy Hotel Zone, the Plaza la Fiesta is a popular shopping venue, and the El Zocalo bazaar is a great option for locally-produced arts and crafts. The main shopping strip of Paseo Kukulkan is lined with shops and souvenir stalls. Mainland Cancun, commonly just called 'downtown', is less glamorous but much more affordable. Yaxchilan Avenue is a good place to start, and the market on Tulum Avenue is wonderful for those seeking out local crafts, particularly silverware. Travellers can be expected to bargain in the local markets. (often get it 60% cheaper than what they sell it).

Shopping in Cancun Hotel Zone is expensive but with a great variety of products and souvenirs.
Another popular place for shopping is "quinta avenida" in Playa del Carmen
🛌 Accommodation

Cancun's location and weather makes for a very demanded destination, and this translates into very high hotel rates, specially during the high season of December to April. Rooms around this time can cost from $150 to $350 per night, in the hotel zone, which is identified by the strip of land which jets out of the Cancun downtown, forming a "7" shape. If you travel low season, prices are much more affordable, but still close to $100 per night.
There are however cheaper accommodation types, not 4 or 5 star hotels which offer stays of $50-60 per night if you are on a budget. They offer more basic facilities and limited direct beach access. 

For a budget traveller, Cancun is not the ideal destination. But if you want to save money, stay in the downtown of Cancun and travel to the beaches by bus.
You can also find more private accommodation options available like airbnb's. 

Expensive apartments and Hotels are everywhere in Cancun, comparing is essential to get the best deal!
Some hotels, are true majestic palaces which include all possible services for the well deserved tourist, willing to pay the high prices for quality.
⏳ How long to stay?

Because of the nature of the area, holidaying in Cancun, is mostly a relaxing experience. Come to unwind, relax and chill, whilst you eat and drink in the all inclusive hotels. Although the area has a few cultural attractions mentioned above, they are often overlooked by the tourists and instead Cancun, is more a party and night place. During the day, many people sunbathe in the pristine beaches, practice water-sports, shop in the malls or simply sleep!

Nevertheless, Quintana Roo can be enjoyed comfortably for 3 nights. Extending the stay as much as you want to relax and as far as the wallet can go! 

Also visiting the area of Cancun Downtown, the Hotel Zone and Isla Mujeres can be done in a day trip, taking the bus and going around the area by public transport. 

Quintana Roo Region Photo Slide 📷