For many travelers, Cancun is the dream destination. It's always gorgeous weather, has soft sandy beaches, and is constantly a good party. Travelers flock to Cancun for spring break, for honeymoons, and even for the occasional mid-winter vacation. There's a huge amount of hotels, both on the beach and in the city, that offer all sorts of different packages. With so many options, there's basically something for everyone.
With a large amount of controversy surrounding Mexico, some travelers have become wary of traveling to Cancun and the surrounding areas. For many reasons, Cancun has gotten a bad rap with a lot of people and has very mixed reviews online. If you're considering visiting Cancun, you may be unsure of exactly what to expect, especially if you've never been before. Cancun appeals to a wide variety of people, such as spring breakers, couples, singles, and older adults, and even families. Scuba divers, snorkelers, adventure extremists, and surfers all come to Cancun for a host of reasons. Because of this variety, it can be tough to know if Cancun is right for you and to accurately weight pros and cons.
Here are the reasons Cancun is the most overrated (regardless of what category you fit into) and reasons why you might really enjoy a visit to Cancun.
20 20. It’s So Expensive (Overrated!): Be Cautious of Booking Many Activities
Although Cancun can seem pretty cheap to visit upon first look, all of the little expenses really add up, especially if you do a lot of excursions. Most people travel to Cancun for water sports but they're not cheap. It can cost over $300 to go scuba diving, for example, and that's only at routine sites.
Other water activities are even more expensive. If you charter a fishing boat, you can spend up to $600 just for a half a day! While hotels aren't always crazy expensive, if you're going to Cancun for the sole purpose of doing water sports or addition excursions then the costs will definitely add up.
19 19. The Vendors Are Aggressive (Overrated): Be Prepared to Walk Away
In any foreign country it's possible to come across a hoard of aggressive vendors, but this is particularly true for cities in Mexico, especially Cancun. If you're staying in a hotel right on the beach, it might be tough to walk on the land without being heckled by vendors trying to sell you a variety of items.
Some hotels have reserved areas where vendors can't go, but if you want to do any adventuring you're likely to come across some difficulties. Heading away from the beach, you'll also find a good amount of vendors. Even stepping out of the airport can put you in the middle of mobs of vendors, so you have to know where to go and how to act when you do come across them.
18 18. There’s a Lot of Trash (Overrated): The Beach Isn't Always Like the Photos
You probably don't think of trash when you picture the beaches of Cancun, but many tourists end up being super disappointed when they look outside their hotel and see literal piles of trash. The hotels will clean up within their grounds, but anything else is left to the public and the government does very little to clean up the beaches in Cancun.
If you head to the more urban parts of the city, you'll encounter a similar problem. New York City is known for smelling excessively bad, but many travelers think that it doesn't hold a candle to Cancun.
17 17. The Beaches are Dangerous (Overrated!): Safety First Applies
You might know that Mexico isn't necessarily the safest place to travel, but you probably don't realize that the beaches of Cancun themselves can be pretty dangerous. Just last year, a man was attacked in front of a major hotel on the sand. The entire beach became a crime scene.
On a smaller scale, fights break out often, hecklers are untamed, and you have absolutely no idea who will walk down the beach next. Although some of the police try to control the mobs laying out in the sun, the government isn't very effective and it really is every man for himself.
16 16. The Culture Isn’t Very Authentic (Overrated!): More of a Party Scene
You might think that you can head to Cancun to practice your Spanish and experience some true Mexican culture. Sure, there are a few historic sights you can see (if you want to take an overcrowded tour for a hefty price), but culture definitely isn't the main focus in Cancun.
Instead, you'll find a culture similar to any other large (foreign) city. You may get to practice your Spanish a bit, but don't expect the locals to be hanging around to chat with you. The city is fast-paced and focused on partying and tourism. If you're in the mood for a true Mexican experience, there are tons of other cities you'd be better off traveling to.
15 15. It’s a Spring Break Haven (Overrated!): Beware of March and April
Are you a college student? If not, you're likely to be pretty disappointed when you find that your hotel is completely overrun by inebriated, loud college-aged young adults. Spring break starts in early March and will go through April for some schools, and Cancun turns into a legitimate madhouse during this time.
As one of the biggest spring break destinations in the world, Cancun really does cater to college students. Not only do students come here by themselves, but many "party services" will bring in hundreds of people at a time with spring break specials. If you happen to be staying at that hotel, you definitely won't get the relaxing vacation you pictured.
14 14. There’s a Lot of Dodgy Stuff (Overrated!): Don't Get Mixed Up
Unfortunately, the crime isn't just bad on the beach. The cartels are huge in this city, and the local police can do little to stop them. The majority of crimes never have a resolution.
If you're coming from a very different country, you might be surprised to hear how dangerous Cancun really is. No area is safe: even a well-lit public street can be treacherous. Unfortunately, many of the local authorities are even in cahoots with the cartels or gangs, so if something does happen, you may not have anyone to turn to.
13 13. The Customer Service is Known to Be Bad (Overrated): Don't Expect 5 Stars
While Cancun is well-known for large all-inclusive hotels that offer a ton of amenities, great customer service isn't one of those. Many of the all-inclusive hotels are more like factories and will be overbooked with tourists during any time of the year.
If you have an issue, you may have a tough time getting a resolution, and generally, it is said that hotel staff in Cancun can even be rude and condescending. You're better off not paying a ton of money in expectations that the customer service will be amazing. Instead, a middle-tier hotel will offer the same amenities for a much smaller price.
12 12. You Can't Count On It Being Family Friendly (Overrated!): Few Things Are Geared Towards Kids
There are many hotels in Cancun that boast about being family friendly, but the reality is that even these hotels have a more adult atmosphere. There are multiple bars at almost every single one, and the general feel of the city is more like Las Vegas than Disney World.
There are too many adult-only hotels to count, many of which are often right next to "family friendly" hotels, making the beach scene less suited to children. Additionally, unless your kids really love swimming in the pool, there might not be a lot for kids to do unless you're willing to shell out money for exciting, child-friendly excursions.
11 11. Everything Near the Hotels Are Chains (Overrated!): Want a McChicken?
There are some great food spots in downtown Cancun but unless you're willing to only eat at your hotel for your entire trip, you're basically limited to fast food. Coming off of the hotel strip, you'll see hundreds of different fast food joints such as McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Burger King.
Unfortunately, near the hotels, authentic local food is pretty scarce. You might be surprised to see such familiar USA foods so readily available, but the reality is that you actually have to hunt to find food authentic to Cancun. If you're fine with staying at your hotel then this won't be a problem, but true foodies may be disappointed.
10 10. The Food Scene is Booming (Worth It!): Eat Your Way Through Cancun
Do you want authentic Mexican food with an urban twist? Surprisingly, Cancun is a great destination for foodies, if you can get downtown. There are literally tons of different restaurants throughout the city offering all sort of different local cuisines. The food is known for being really fresh, especially the fish and meat. Even the all-inclusive hotels supposedly have amazing food that you don't pay any extra for.
Whether you're exploring the inner city or eating solely at your hotel, you're sure to enjoy food in Cancun. If food bloggers have any clout, then this is definitely one of the best places to be for good eats!
9 9. The All-Inclusive Hotels are Usually Affordable (Worth It!): Stay Within the Hotel
If you're planning to stay at the hotel and don't need any of the extras, then an all-inclusive hotel is the way to go for saving money. You'll get one mass price that includes virtually everything you'd need, and often you can combine the hotel fee with an airplane ticket to save even more.
If you like to eat and drink a lot on vacation, then you'll save quite a bit of money. It's the excursions and activities outside of your hotel that will cost the most, but if you can get a good lower to mid-range hotel that has some great all-inclusive restaurants, clean rooms, pools, and beach amenities, then you can save huge on a tropical vacation.
8 8. The Beaches are a Typical Tropical Paradise (Worth It!): Clean Hotel, Clean Beach
To have the perfect beach vacation, the trick is to stay at a great part of the beach. Ideally, your resort will have a sectioned-off area that you can tan on and will also supply lifeguards and clean up the trash.
If you can find a good area of the beach, you'll be stepping on gorgeous, powdery sand and swimming in crystal clear, bright blue, super warm water. The beaches in Cancun are known for being some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. For a decent price, you can literally have a tropical paradise right outside your door.
7 7. New Hotels are Constantly Opening (Worth It!): Get Your Pick of the Best
Cancun is super trendy to visit and hotel chains have caught on. Every year, at least a few new hotels pop up, both on the beach and in the city. All-inclusive hotels are all the rage, so most new hotels will strive to be all-inclusive yet affordable.
Because there are so many choices for accommodations, you're likely to have your pick and be offered a spectacular deal. Almost any time of year, you can choose from hundreds of hotels (not even including timeshares or Airbnbs) and can often negotiate extra deals. Compared to other Caribbean locations, Cancun offers spectacular accommodations for a much smaller price-point.
6 6. The Peso is Weak Against the Dollar (Worth It!): Save Your Money
Although the cost of something will always fluctuate, generally you'll get more for less in Mexico, meaning you can spend less money than you would in the U.S. (e.g. $2 instead of $4) but get double the amount of whatever you're buying. In some other destinations (such as Iceland) the reverse is true, so traveler's enjoy going to Mexico and saving not only on hotel costs but on things you'd buy in the city, such as clothing, food, drinks, and even taxis.
If you're looking to save money and don't mind trading in your dollars for Pesos, then Cancun is a great place to go that will still feel very modern.
5 5. There are Underwater Museums (Worth It!): A New Type of Tour
Did you know that Mexico actually has an underwater museum for snorkelers and scuba divers? There are over 470 statues in the museum but only began being created in 2009. There's actually a life-sized Beetle car statue underwater! Not only can travelers in Cancun dive to see the underwater museum, but they can witness tons of different fish species.
If you're an experienced diver then you'll be okay to go by yourself, but most divers will want to be taken on a "tour" of the museum, where experienced guides will bring you right to the exact spot. These tours are usually pretty inexpensive, much more so than other excursions in Cancun.
4 4. It’s Easy to Fly To (Worth It!): Fly From Almost Anywhere
Another great reason why Cancun is a prime destination to visit is the flight patterns. Cancun is relatively easy to get to from almost any spot in the U.S., and a lot of major airlines fly into the city. Additionally, flights are pretty inexpensive and will usually cost well under $1000 for a round-trip flight.
Even first class is usually somewhat cheap compared to other destinations. If you want to fly to a tropical destination, Cancun will usually be not only the cheapest but the most convenient to fly into, since the airport is close to almost everything in the city.
3 3. It’s a Great Party Spot (Worth It!): Let You Hair Down
Sure, you might not want to head to Cancun during spring break if you're not a college student, but if you do like to party at all then Cancun will be a better choice for you than other, quieter destinations. There's always stuff going on (any day of the week) and there's literally an unlimited number of bars in the downtown area.
Even just in the hotels, most bars stay open past 2am. Any hotel that's family friendly also has a party side to it, simply because it's in Cancun. One great thing about a party atmosphere is that there's little judgment, and even if you're not huge into the party lifestyle, you'll enjoy letting your hair down and not having to worry about what others are thinking.
2 2. There’s Tons of Stuff to Do (Worth It!): You'll Never Be Bored
Do you hate being bored while on vacation? You'd be better off staying away from remote tropical islands where the main purpose of the trip is relaxation, but Cancun may actually be a good choice for you. Just within your hotel alone you'll find tons of activities.
You can hang out at the pools, try the many different all-inclusive restaurants, go to the different types of bars (trivia, bingo bars, and piano bars are all pretty common!), explore the beach, swim in the water, snorkle, scuba, and sometimes even swim with dolphins. There's also an entire city to explore, and if you're feeling really adventurous, you can rent scuba gear and charter a boat to head out into the ocean.
1 1. It Can Be Very Romantic (Worth It!): A Special Vacation Away
Despite Cancun's party reputation, it is also a hotspot for honeymoon and romantic vacations in general. Most hotels offer generous packages consisting of special accommodations, dinners, and even activities just for couples, like a couples cruise and yoga.
Couples love visiting Cancun because it is filled with activities, lively, urban, and absolutely stunning, all while costing less than other traditionally romantic vacations such as Fiji or Dubai. If you're looking for a week-long getaway with your significant other, Cancun may be a wise choice, especially if you're a couple who like to be busy and enjoy the tropical weather!