Why we wouldn’t recommend Cancún in Mexico

Cancun, the capital of Yucatan, is a popular tourist destination. Many travelers love its beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue waters. But is Cancun the best choice for adventurous travelers seeking an authentic Mexican experience? The title of this blog post already reveals our opinion: no, we don’t consider Cancun highly recommended. Read this blog to find out why and discover the alternatives we suggest!

Cancun Mexico

The positive sides of Cancun

Let’s start by exploring the numerous charms of Cancun. It’s no wonder that so many tourists are drawn to this destination year after year. The city boasts some of the largest and most exquisite all-inclusive hotels in the country. These resorts function like self-contained mini-villages, ready to fulfill all your desires. Fantasizing about butler service, satellite TV, air conditioning, and private pools? In Cancun, all of this becomes a reality.

Furthermore, Cancun is a paradise for enthusiasts of various activities. The city offers a diverse range of water activities, including snorkeling, diving in cenotes, parasailing, and much more. And the fun doesn’t end at the water’s edge. You can also indulge in adventure parks, ziplining, mountain biking, water parks, and beyond. And have you considered day trips to all the renowned attractions of Mexico?

Another significant advantage of Cancun – and a reason why a visit to Cancun is nearly inevitable when traveling to Mexico – is its international airport. Direct flights to Cancun are available from 26 countries, including 38 cities in the United States alone. Even from the Netherlands, you can fly directly to Cancun. Once in Cancun, you’ll also have a variety of transportation options at your disposal. This makes it easy to travel from your hotel to the many attractions Cancun has to offer and vice versa.

Cancun Mexico

The negative sides of Cancun

While undoubtedly a picture-perfect paradise with its dazzling white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, there is a growing sense among travelers that Cancun might be a bit overrated. Increasingly, you come across advice to travel directly from the international airport in Cancun upon arrival. We echo this advice and have excluded Cancun from our ideal travel itinerary for Mexico.

Cancun isn’t just a tourist destination; it was purpose-built for tourists.

Until 1950, Cancun was merely a modest village on an island in the Caribbean Sea, close to the coast. It had some fishing and a few Maya ruins. However, in the 1950s, the Mexican government and foreign investors decided to transform Cancun into a tourist hotspot.

The aim was to make it Mexico’s premier beach resort and tourist magnet. A dam was constructed to connect it to the mainland, and an international airport was established. The plan succeeded, as Cancun is now one of the world’s most popular destinations. While this achievement is certainly noteworthy, it also translates to hordes of tourists, breakfast buffet queues, and a somewhat inauthentic experience.

This area is even known as the Cancun Hotel Zone, and that name might tell you enough. It’s generally bustling, noisy, and quite Americanized. While some travelers might revel in this environment, it might not be the ideal destination for those seeking adventure.

Cancun is often hailed as the place to experience Mexican life, but in reality, it’s far from the authentic Mexican culture. Claiming to have seen Mexico after visiting Cancun would raise eyebrows among die-hard travelers and Mexico enthusiasts. Cancun only offers a watered-down version of the rich Mexican culture.

One of the advantages of traveling to Mexico is how affordable it can be compared to Western countries. However, this advantage diminishes once you set foot in Cancun. The high prices here are comparable to those in, for example, the United States. For budget travelers or those looking for value for their money, Cancun might not be the right choice.

Cancun Mexico

Conclusion: is Cancun worth visiting?

For sunseekers in search of luxury and convenience, Cancun emerges as an ideal destination. However, if you’re aiming for an authentic Mexican experience and value for your money, there are more appealing places to explore within Mexico. Cancun can often feel like an extensive resort packed with Americans, a world apart from the genuine Mexican essence. For those with a more adventurous spirit, our recommendation is to bypass Cancun.

The 5 best alternatives for Cancun

Thankfully, Cancún isn’t the sole beach paradise in this region, and there are numerous captivating alternatives. If you’re yearning for a more affordable and authentic travel escapade, we advise reconsidering Cancún and instead opting for one of these options!

#1 Tulum

Tulum holds its place as an attractive and tourist-friendly destination, making it a top contender as the finest substitute for Cancún. This alluring spot combines historical Maya ruins, pristine sandy beaches, and a lively urban scene. While Tulum may not epitomize Mexico’s authenticity, it unquestionably exudes more genuine vibes than Cancun. The Beach Zone might be the tourist hotspot, featuring stunning shores, upscale resorts, and lavish dining options. However, Downtown Tulum offers a cozier, vibrant atmosphere with budget-friendly accommodations and amenities. A trip to Mexico would be incomplete without experiencing the charm of Tulum.

#2 Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox caters to wanderers seeking serenity and island life. While not entirely undiscovered, the island remains free from overwhelming mass tourism. Known for its pink flamingos, turtles, and swaying palm trees, this sanctuary in Mexico presents an idyllic escape. Unpaved roads accommodate only golf carts, while bikes offer a splendid way to explore the island’s nooks. With serene beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant natural beauty, Isla Holbox is perfect for relaxation and underwater exploration. One of the most sought-after activities? Spotting whale sharks between May and September!

#3 Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres seamlessly blends culture, beaches, and nature. Despite its proximity to Cancun, a mere 20-minute ferry ride away, the island offers a far quieter and more authentic encounter. Many tourists visit for day trips, causing daytime congestion, but you can still relish tranquility and island vibes. While Isla Holbox has troubles with seaweed woes on its beaches, Isla Mujeres boasts beautiful stretches of sand. Both excursions and accommodations are usually cheaper in Isla Mujeres than Isla Holbox as well.

#4 Cozumel

Looking for another beach option in Mexico? Choose Isla Cozumel off the coast of Playa del Carmen! It’s one of the largest islands on the Yucatán Peninsula and offers remarkable diversity due to its size. From rugged coasts to white beaches, from untamed nature to a charming town, Cozumel impresses. A major advantage is that you can bring your rental car to the island and drive to all the attractions. Cozumel, too, might feel touristy and crowded from time to time, especially on the west side or during cruise ship arrivals. However, the island’s expanse allows for the discovery of tranquil beaches and hidden gems.

#5 Belize

Just south of Mexico lies Belize, a small but breathtaking destination often overlooked by all travelers. Belize is a cultural melting pot, featuring a distinctive blend of Maya, Creole, Mestizo, and Garifuna influences. Here, you can immerse yourself in jungle exploration, uncover ancient Maya ruins, or dive into the famous Blue Hole. With its diverse landscapes and rich culture, Belize stands as a fantastic alternative to the standard Mexican hotspots. Make the perfect Belize travel itinerary, exploring the Maya temples and jungles of San Ignacio, the stunning beaches of Hopkins, the island life of Caye Caulker, and much more. It’s worth noting, however, that the touristy and Americanized Ambergris in Belize might not align with this authentic experience.