With spectacular white sandy beaches, ancient Mayan culture, and a place full of adventure, this is Cancun. In our itinerary for Cancun, we cover the essentials for a short memorable trip. From turquoise blue seas to a day trip to Tulum, we have got your 3 amazing days covered!
Our key highlights include:-
- Playa Delfines
- Dos Ojos Cenote
- Tulum Ruins
- Chichen Itza
- El Rey & El Meco Archaeological Ruins
Cancun is in the state of Quintana Roo on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is north of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya. In our post, we answer the following questions which are useful when planning your trip to Cancun. Let’s start!
- Where is Cancun?
- Is it worth going to Cancun for 3 days?
- What is the best month to go to Cancun Mexico?
- What is the best location to stay in Cancun?
- Is Cancun worth visiting?
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Where is Cancún?
The name Cancún is from the Mayan word kàan kun, where kàan means “snake” and kum means “to swell, overfill”. Cancun has two translations: the first is “nest of snakes” and the second one is “place of the golden snake”.
Before we proceed with our itinerary for Cancun, here’s a brief history of Cancun. There are some theories regarding the disappearance of the Mayans that inhabited Cancun. They disappeared because of prolonged drought, internal wars, and the change of trade routes.
They were building tourism zones without permanent residential areas, building residential zones for permanent residents, and building an international airport along the Cancún-Tulum Highway.
Today, Cancún is Mexico’s most dynamic city and with a promising future. This premier Caribbean destination surpasses the Bahamas and Puerto Rico and is the largest tourist resort city in Mexico.
Do I need a passport to go to Cancun?
USA Today mentions that citizens of the United States who are arriving at Cancun would need a valid passport that has at least 6 months of validity. You would need to fill up the Forma Migratoria Multiple. The cost of the form is FREE if you are traveling by flight.
Citizens of the United States who are entering Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas either by land or sea can apply for a passport card. The cost of the card is $65 for first-time applicants who are above 16 years, $50 for applicants under 16 years, and $30 for renewals through the mail.
For tourists, America and others, you would have to submit the Forma Migratioria Multiple which is Mexico’s tourist card. Read Do I Need A Passport To Travel To Mexico? And, Entry Requirements And Customs In Mexico to know more.
5 Fun Facts on Cancun
Fun Facts on Cancun
- 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬. Only 3 residents were living in Cancun when the place was a coconut plantation. Today, Cancun is home to at least 750,000 people.
- 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐛𝐮𝐫𝐧 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐧𝐝. Cancun’s 14 miles of white sandy beaches are made from crushed sea corals and do not heat up when the temperature rises.
- 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐲𝐚𝐧 𝐑𝐞𝐞𝐟. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System or the Maya Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The reef stretches over 700 miles along the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.
- 𝐂𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐮́𝐧 𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐌𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐮𝐦. This museum has 500 sculptures in three different galleries deep underwater at the Cancún National Marine Park. A Glass Bottom Boat in the Gallery of Punta Nizuc costs $𝟒𝟕 𝐌𝐗𝐍 while a Paradise Adventure Snorkel costs $𝟕𝟎 𝐌𝐗𝐍 per person.
- 𝐋𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐂𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐒𝐲𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐦. The Sistema Ox Bel Ha is the longest explored cave system in the world. Its explored length is 168 miles and is home to 140 cenotes within the system.
Is it worth going to Cancun for 3 days?
Cancun is an ideal destination for a quick 3-day trip where you would have enough time to explore Cancun’s beaches, have a day trip to Tulum, and visit the ancient ruins that are scattered along Cancun.
Day 1: Beach & Cenotes Day
The first on Day 1 of our itinerary for Cancun is beach and cenotes day. Cancun is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Our day starts with a visit to the best beach in Cancun, the Playa Delfines and we end the day with a visit to Playa Tortugas.
First in our itinerary for Cancun is Playa Delfines. Playa Delfines is an 11-minute drive from the Hotel Zone. Playa Delfines means Dolphin Beach as dolphins can be seen swimming close to shore.
Its nickname is El Mirador which means “The Lookout” due to its sweeping views of the Caribbean ocean. Other than being the best beach in Cancun, Playa Delfines is famous for its “CANCUN” signage that is a perfect backdrop for your photos.
The waters of this beach are rough and choppy and extreme caution is necessary. Swimming is not recommended.
Do you have to pay to go to Playa Delfines?
No, there is no entrance fee to Playa Delfines. Playa Delfines is one of the rare beaches where free parking is also available.
Dos Ojos Cenote
Second in our itinerary for Cancun is Dos Ojos Cenote. This cenote is 1.5 hours from Playa Delfines. These cenotes are part of the larger Sistema Dos Ojos which is a flooded cave system that is north of Tulum. Dos Ojos in Spanish means “two eyes”.
The exploration of Dos Ojos continues to this day with the recent finding of there being a connection between Sistema Dos Ojos and Sistema Sac Actun. Dos Ojos has a depth of approximately 10 meters (33 ft) and the water is remarkably clear as the water is filtered through the limestone. The activities here are swimming, diving, and snorkeling.
Is Cenote Dos Ojos pricy?
An entrance fee of $200 MXN ($10) while snorkeling equipment can be rented for $100 MXN ($5). The opening hours are from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. There are bathrooms on site. And, bring your food and beverages as there aren’t any restaurants here.
Third in our itinerary for Cancun is Playa Tortugas. This beach is about 2 hours from Cenotes Dos Ojos. The beach is a heavily trafficked public beach in Cancun. It is located close to Cancun’s city center and the coastal Hotel Zone.
Playa Tortugas is an ideal place to watch the sunset. Playa Tortugas means “Turtle Beach” in Spanish. The highlight of this beach is its party vibes. This is the place to be if you want a lively nightlife experience.
Day 2: Day trip to Tulum
On the second day 2 of our itinerary for Cancun, we head to Tulum for a day trip. Tulum is approximately 2 hours drive from Cancun. At the height of the Mayan Empire, between the 13th and 16th centuries, Tulum was one of the last cities to be built and inhabited.
Fourth on our itinerary for Cancun are the Tulum Ruins. These ruins are situated about 12 meters above Playa Ruinas along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. This site was a pre-Columbian Mayan Empire that served as a port for Coba, Mexico.
The three major structures here are the El Castillo, the Temple of Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. El Castillo is the highest structure here and was considered a lighthouse as it has commanding views of the ocean.
To avoid the crowds, it would be best to arrive early, preferably before 8.00 am as a queue forms once the busloads of tourists arrive.
Are there any other temples at the Tulum Ruins?
Temple of Frescoes is known for its famous fresco, that of the Mayan Diving God which is still preserved and can be viewed above the western wall entrance. This temple was used as an observatory to track the movement of the sun.
Temple of Descending God is often associated with the Mayan God of Bees named Ah Mu Zen Caab. According to Mayan religious beliefs, bees were a link to the spirit world and priests harvested their honey which was used in religious ceremonies.
Are the Tulum ruins free?
The entrance fee is $80 MXN ($4) per person. If you bring a camera, the cost is $45 MXN ($2.25) for the photography fee. The opening hours are from 8.00 am till 5.00 pm.
Fifth in our itinerary for Cancun is Chichén Itzá. This is one of the Mayans’ largest cities and is believed to be the site of the mythological city of Tollans that is mentioned in Mesoamerican literature.
Chichén Itzá is a 2-hour drive or 93 miles from the Tulum Ruins. The meaning of Chichén Itzá is “mouth at the well of the Itza”. The meaning of Itza is “enchantment of the water”.
3 Facts About Chichén Itzá
According to The Travel, these are 3 interesting facts about Chichén Itzá:
- Within the larger El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcán lies two smaller pyramids. Check out the Second Pyramid Found Inside Kukulcan to know more.
- This structure may not entirely be Mayan. It was the Toltecs that introduced the feathered serpents to the Chichén Itzá. Read Things You May Not Know About Chichén Itzá to know more.
- Chichén Itzá was on privately owned land until 2010. It was purchased from an American archaeologist. The family later sold the land to the Mexican government.
What is the entrance fee for Chichén Itzá?
The entrance fee for adults is $533 MXN ($26) while for children between ages 3 and 12 are $80 MXN ($4). Mexican citizens pay $237 MXN ($12) while locals pay $80 MXN ($4).
Chichén Itzá is open from Monday to Sunday and its opening hours are from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm with the last entry being 4.00 pm.
Essential Items When Visiting Chichén Itzá
- Bring a small travel umbrella.
- Carry your water bottle and water purification bottle and fill up as you go. Also, carry plenty of snacks and eat as you go.
- Wear your sun hat or sun visor.
- It is advisable to book a Private Tour of Chichén Itzá, Coba, and the Ik Kil Cenote so that you can time travel back in time and learn about the Mayan civilization.
- Avoid visiting on Sundays and Public Holidays as it may not be a peaceful experience. Locals have free access to many sites, including Chichén Itzá.
Sixth in our itinerary for Cancun and last in our day trip to Tulum is Cenote Suytun. This cenote is about an hour’s drive from Chichén Itzá with an approximate distance of 35 miles. This cenote is the most instagrammable and most shallow cenote with depths between 1 to 5 meters (3 – 16 feet). Diving is not allowed here.
What is a cenote?
A cenote is a large natural sinkhole where the limestone bedrock has collapsed which exposes groundwater. The Cenotes of the Yucatán are an underground river system beneath the peninsula. These cenotes were formed during the Ice Age and were considered sacred by the Mayans who used cenotes as sacrificial grounds.
Can you swim in Suytun Cenote?
Yes, you can swim in Suytun Cenote. Lifejackets are mandatory if you want to swim and you can rent them for $30 MXN ($1.50). There are changing rooms available with rental for the lockers and towel rentals are $35 MXN ($1.80) each. A lifeguard is on duty at all times.
Does Suytun Cenote have an entrance fee?
The entrance fee is $120 MXN ($6) per person. Cards are not accepted, so make sure you have sufficient cash.
When is the best time to visit Suytun Cenote?
The best time to visit is between 12 pm to 2 pm when the light beam shines through the peek hole and hits the platform. Do note that the ticket office opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm with the last entry being 4.30 pm.
Day 3: Mayan Ruins Day
Finally, we end day 3 of our itinerary for Cancun, we explore two Mayan Ruins that are within Cancun. These are the El Rey Archaeological Site and the El Meco Ruins.
El Rey Archaeological Site
Seventh in our itinerary for Cancun is El Rey Archaeological Site. This pre-Columbian site is located near the Boulevard Kukulcan Kilometer 17.5 which is near Playa Delfines and the “CANCUN” signage.
This site contains 47 structures with varying functions. Based on the remains found on site, this area could have been a royal retreat. Unlike Chichén Itzá, these ruins are smaller and are easy to see within a short time.
Is there an entrance fee to El Rey?
An entrance fee of $55 MXN ($2.75) per person. Video cameras and professional equipment are $45 MXN ($2.25) per piece of equipment. The ruins are open from 8 am to 5 pm.
The closest hotel to these ruins is Iberostar Selection Cancun.
El Meco Ruins
The eighth and last of our itinerary for Cancun are the El Meco Ruins. This well-preserved site is located north of Cancun en route to Punta Sam and Puerto Juarez. Interestingly, this site bears a resemblance to Chichén Itzá as two serpent heads are placed at the foot of the eastern entrance of El Castillo.
El Meco was once part of a larger network of coastal cities known as Costa Oriental. This city functioned as a port, a lighthouse, and a shrine to Goddess Ixchel of the island of Isla Mujeres.
What is the entrance fee for El Meco?
An entrance fee of $50 MXN ($2.50) is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm.
The closest hotel to these ruins is the All Ritmo Cancun Resort & Water Park.
What is the best month to go to Cancun Mexico?
Cancun is all about the sun, sand, and the sea. When visiting the beaches in Cancun, good weather is essential. Let’s check out the best and worst times to visit Cancun.
Best Times To Visit
The spring months of mid-March to April are especially busy with the spring break in the United States. Room rates are much higher and are best booked at least, three months in advance.
The summer months of May to August bring more rain than other seasons. If you want to dive with the whale sharks, these are the months to do it. You can also find good deals on flight and hotel bookings.
Autumn comes to Cancun during the months of September to November. Some key festivals during these months are Mexican Independence Day in September, the Day of the Dead in October, and the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in November.
The Winter months are from December to April is the best time to visit Cancun. The weather is pleasant, clear, and warm. These months are perfect for visiting archaeological sites. And, Cancun during Christmas and New Year’s is a great place to be!
Worst Times To Visit
There are only two worst times to visit Cancun. This is the Hurricane Season between June and November and the Sargassum Season in the summer months. You can refer to the Sargassum Early Advisory System for the latest information on the location of the Sargassum.
How do you say hello in Mexico?
Hola! That’s the most basic way of saying “hello” in Mexican. A polite greeting would be based on the time of day. In this case, Buenos Dias for “good morning”, Buenos Tardes for “good afternoon”, and Buenos Noches for “good evening”.
How do you say thank you very much in Mexico?
Muchas Gracias is “thank you very much” in Mexican Spanish. A polite way would be muchas gracias, muy amable which translates to “thank you very much, you are kind.”
What are some common greetings in Mexico?
Other than the abovementioned, some common greetings are por favor for “please”, mucho gusto for “pleased to meet you”, hasta luego for “see you later”, and cuenta, por favor for “bill, please?”
Are there any popular Mexican sayings?
Some meaningful Mexican sayings are:
El que con lobos anda, a aullar se enseña is “he who runs with wolves will learn to howl” which means you are influenced by those you spend time with.
Al mal tiempo, buena cara means “to bad times, a good face” is about the power of positive thinking as it reminds us to stay positive, even when times are hard.
Poco a poco se anda lejos translates to “little by little, one goes far” which means that if we are committed to what we are doing, we just have to keep it, and we will go far.
Where are the best areas to stay in in Cancun?
Now it’s time to explore the best locations to stay in in Cancun. Our recommended areas are the Hotel Zone for first-timers and Riviera Cancun for families. The recommended hotels are based on luxury, mid-range, and budget hotels and hostels.
Hotel Zone for First-Timers
Cancun’s Hotel Zone or Zona Hotelera is the prime tourist area in Cancun. The Hotel Zone is a 22-kilometer long stretch is divided into three zones, the North Hotel Zone, the Middle Hotel Zone, and the South Hotel Zone.
This area is full of shopping, dining, nightlife, and a handful of malls to keep you occupied. The quietest zone in the south while calm waves are at the north. The busiest in the middle zone with some nightclubs and the El Rey Ruins.
Riviera Cancún for Families
In our itinerary for Cancun, our second choice of the best area to stay for families is at the Riviera Cancún. This family-friendly destination is great for active families as the Croco Cun Zoo and adventure parks are within the vicinity.
Is Cancun worth visiting?
Yes! Cancun is worth visiting. Not only is Cancun a party destination with vibrant nightlife, but it is also a go-to place for beautiful beaches, and ancient Mayan ruins, there is more to Cancun. Here, you can swim with whale sharks, dive at an underwater museum, and snorkel at the second-largest giant coral reef.