A Beginner's Guide to Cancun

4.67min read

Published 2 October 2013


Cancun offers the perfect mix of sun, beach food, and ancient history. Our Travel Consultants share their tips on where to stay, what to eat, see and experience in and around Cancun, Mexico:

Cancun Airport

Cancun Airport is a modern Airport and relatively quick to get through.  Although if a few flights arrive at the same time, the lines can get quite large.  Once you clear customs and get your bags, you need to put them through an X-ray, hand your arrival card to security, and then push a button.  Green means clear, red means you need to go across to another guard to get your bags checked.  When you leave the terminal it's a bit of a gauntlet with many tour operators, taxi drivers etc waiting outside to get a fare.

"I recommend pre-booking transport to your resort with Olympus Tours who are GOGO Vacation's preferred supplier for transport in Cancun.  The drivers are easy to spot as they all wear bright orange polo shirts" - David, GOGO Vacations

Where to Stay

Group of friends drinking margaritas in an open bar with a thatched roof
Group of friends drinking margaritas in an open bar with a thatched roof
Group of friends drinking margaritas in an open bar with a thatched roof

Gran Carbie Real Cancun

Gran Caribe is part of Real Resorts and is perfect for the family, but also couples and singles.  This popular beachfront resort offers a variety of accommodations for everyone including spacious Junior Suites, Family Junior Suites, Master Suites and Presidential Suites with private terraces.  With 2 swimming pools; one of which is for families with a pirate ship and castle with two hydro slides, as well as Kids club with Mini Golf.

Hard Rock Cancun

Hotel room with two single beds, a jacuzzi, and a clear ocean view
Hotel room with two single beds, a jacuzzi, and a clear ocean view
Hotel room with two single beds, a jacuzzi, and a clear ocean view

This hotel is a 12-storey marvel, sparkling against the brilliance of a white sandy beach and the Caribbean Sea. Complete with 601 guestrooms built to accommodate rock stars, they have everything you need to fulfill your rock n'roll dreams including acclaimed restaurants, bars and lounges, expansive poolscape and a spa with outdoor massage area. "The staff are all friendly and upbeat and all seem to have a real passion for music. All around a great hotel and I can't wait to go back" -Tammy Newman, Flight Centre Holt Renfrew Centre

The Royal Cancun

The 4.5 star adults only Royal Cancun is right next door to the Gran Caribe with 288 spacious suites that all have ocean view and also available the ultra romantic Royal Master Swim Up Ocean Suite which all have a semi private swimming pool that leads into the main pool.   This resort is catered for everyone and the all inclusive makes it easier to manage your money for spending.

Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience

Each of the 214 elegant rooms and luxurious suites lends dazzling views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea and the calming Nichupté Lagoon. "From the detail in the decor to the amazing service you receive from the staff this place is special. Everything is very modern, chic & clean & kept impeccably well." -Julie Lutchman, Flight Centre Kensington

What to See




Located about an hour and a half from Cancun is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city known as Tulum. Ask one of our Travel Consultants about the various tour options available where a guide will take you through the ruins and speak about it's history. While many people come to Tulum solely to visit the ruins, Tulum Pueblo/Town, located only 5 minutes from the ruins, is also worth the visit.  Well-designed open-air restaurants line the main street along with craft vendors, cute shops and food stalls is what you’ll find in Tulum Pueblo. The city which is relatively small compared to other Mayan site is right on the Caribbean Sea.


Xel Ha


After Tulum head to  XEL-HA, (pronounced 'Shell-Ha') known as the world's largest natural aquarium which is home to many varieties of colourful tropical fish. You can tube down a lazy river, jump into natural wells fed by subterranean rivers, swim in lagoons, or snorkel in springs. You can also get the chance to swim with turtles and dolphins.  XEL HA also has some fabulous food options and drinks available in a hand full of different eating areas.  After a day or swimming and eating you can relax in the in hammocks among the palm trees.



Xcaret (pronounced Esh Car Ray) is a unique place that offers three rivers (one underground to float in), a clear water inlet for snorkeling, botanical gardens, a breeding place for turtles and crocodiles, a jaguar and a monkey island, a butterfly pavilion and an aviary among other similar attractions. The park has a labyrinth layout amongst lush tropical plant life. At night enjoy one of the most spectacular night shows. Mexico and the Maya folklore represented through music, dances , and color.  For the night show there is also an option available that includes a dinner during the show.


Isla Mujeres


Merely a 30 minute ride from El Embarcadero ferry terminal, you will find yourself on the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres which means 'Island of Women' in Spanish.  The town is a picturesque fishing village, and many of the locals are fishermen who have lived here with their families for generations. Stretching 7km long and surrounded by turquoise water, this island is the escape you had in mind. To the east of the island is the Caribbean Sea, on the north end is El Centro (downtown) and Hidalgo Street is the main dining and entertainment area. A popular and fun way to get around the island is by golf cart, scooter or bicycle. If you’re looking for a great place for snorkeling, dining, shopping and partying, Isla Mujeres has it all. Located on the north end of the island is a famous beach called Playa Norte. To the west you can see the skyline of Cancun and you will get to see the most incredible sunsets. The sun is amazing as it sets over Cancun, trust us!

"I spent my last moments in the cabana.  Listening to the sound of the waves crashing against the beach, taking in the view of turquoise waters and the city in the distance.  This is a place I will be coming back to one day." -Jaime Howard, Flight Centre Courtenay




Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya (also known as the Mayan Riviera) parallels the Caribbean coastline. Originally called the Cancun - Tulum corridor, in 1999 it was renamed as the Riviera Maya. With the second largest barrier reef system in the world, a major attraction throughout the Riviera Maya are coastal and reef aquatic activities dependent on the coastal water and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (also known as the Belize Barrier Reef) which begins near Cancun and continues along the whole length of the Riviera Maya continuing southward to Guatemala.

It's also known for it's shop and restaurants along Highway 307. "One of my favourite places is a little shop called "ah Cacao" where you can get some amazing Mexican chocolate made from only the best cocoa beans. It's something I never miss when I go to the Mayan Riviera." -Emily Oliver, Flight Centre Metro Hall


Playa del Carmen


A two-hour road trip from Cancun is the very happening Playa del Carmen.  There are a lot of great places to spend the evening including dance clubs, beach fire shows and rooftop bars. "If it's sun, gorgeous white sand beaches and an amazing variety of resorts you're looking for, check out the Palace resorts. The Playacar Palace resort is one of the most stunning 'zen' resort on the Playacar strip.

"The beach was just phenomenal and the service couldn't be topped! I was lucky enough to get to see six of the other Palace resorts too! Being in the Cancun and Playa Del Carmen areas were amazing as the food was wonderful, the activities are endless and the nightlife can't be beat" -Emily Oliver, Flight Centre Metro Hall


Overall your first trip to Cancun is sure not to disappoint if you follow some of our tips.  The weather is great, the people are friendly, and the all-inclusive options makes it that much more enjoyable.  The waters of the Caribbean are simply stunning with white sand and crystal clear blue water.


Need help planning the perfect vacation in Mexico? Contact one of our Travel Consultants at 1-877-967-5302 or find your closest store. Whether you are travelling with family, or looking for a romantic getaway, we can help you find the best option that suits your budget.

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