When we think of Cancun we think of luxury resorts, lavish shopping malls, extravagant attractions, and the world’s top nightclubs. Nevertheless, a vacation on Mexico’s Caribbean coast doesn’t have to break the bank. With clever planning and an open mind, a visit to Cancun on a budget can be just as enjoyable as a jet-set beach escapade.
The first major budget choice is whether to pick an all-inclusive resort or a downtown, European plan hotel. One of the main things to consider is what you plan to do during your time here.
Before Seeing Cancun on a Budget, Try All-Inclusive
If you want a worry-free, relaxing vacation, then all-inclusive is a great choice, especially if you travel with children. There are always good Cancun bargains on offer, and the “economy” all-inclusive hotels in Cancun tend to offer services that would be the envy of higher-rated properties elsewhere.
The all-inclusive resorts take all the hassle out of your vacation. You can eat something when you want, without worrying about the price. Enjoy all the drinks you like as you unwind by the beach or pool, or in a bar after a fun day out. Most also offer fun activities and entertainment for all the family.
The downtown hotels also come in different sizes and price ranges. You’ll find everything from hostels with limited facilities to upmarket business hotels. Food and drink is on you though, so you should check out what’s close to the hotel before you book.
Things to Do in Cancun on a Budget
In terms of activities, you can do a great deal in Cancun on a budget. For sure, top attractions like Xcaret and Xel-Ha are close to the $100 USD range; but others cost a lot less. Great examples are the El Rey Mayan ruins and the Mayan Museum in the Cancun Hotel Zone, which won’t have you breaking the bank.
There is a big difference in terms of price among all the amazing tours and excursions in Cancun. You can also choose between booking a guided tour and going yourself. While it is possible to get to top Mayan ruins using public transportation, you do miss out on a lot of comfort, convenience, and the experience of hearing about the places from an expert guide, of course. However, a trip to Tulum can be done with the local ADO bus routes, while you can also get to Chichen Itza and Coba. The admission to the sites is relatively cheap; the main costs are the transportation and having to find a tour guide.
Another unforgettable experience you can have in Cancun on a budget is a visit to Isla Mujeres. This island paradise can be reached from ports in the Cancun Hotel Zone and Puerto Juarez (the latter is cheaper, but more difficult to get to). 15 minutes away from the mainland, it offers some of the top beaches in Mexico, an underwater sculpture museum, and a joyful, island ambiance.
The trip over to the island is an experience in itself, as you can admire all the different shades of the Caribbean Sea. If you go to the island, don’t pass up the chance to visit breathtaking Playa Norte Beach. A round trip to Isla Mujeres will set you back about $10 USD, while cheap eats on the island are easy to find. Though, for a little more, you can travel to Isla Mujeres in comfort on a catamaran, and enjoy an open bar and lunch, plus snorkeling if weather permits!
Sightseeing around Cancun and Playa del Carmen
Meanwhile, a trip to downtown Cancun can include a visit to Market 28, a flea market in the heart of the city selling different crafts and souvenirs. It’s an ideal place to pick up something for the folks back home. Just be ready to put your negotiating hat on, and don’t get annoyed by sellers constantly offering you their goods! In and around the market you’ll find great dining establishments popular with the locals.
Another place to enjoy a good time without spending a lot is Las Palapas Park in the heart of the city. This space functions as Cancun’s main square and features a wide variety of food stands selling delicious local snacks. It also has places to sit and unwind in the shade of thatched “palapas”, while there are also usually street performers putting on a show.
A final tip is to enjoy the short hour ride to Playa del Carmen on the ADO bus. This coastal town offers impressive eateries, fascinating cenotes (sinkholes) and great shopping on its iconic Fifth Avenue. Speaking of cenotes, Cenote Azul is just 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen and charges less than $10 USD for admission. Thanks to the cheap entrance fee, it’s popular with locals and gets very busy at the weekend. It’s a no-frills place to unwind by a crystalline freshwater sinkhole, admire some fish, and not much else.
Come to Cancun, Regardless of Your Budget!
As you can see, Cancun has lots to do without going overboard with your spending. There are lots of ways you can stretch your funds and still get the most from a budget vacation in Cancun!