Your Cancun vacation
It's true that tourists fill Cancun and its happening Hotel Zone, but for good reason. Flights are cheap, the beaches are the best this close to U.S. soil and there is plenty of outdoor action. While partying is synonymous with this spring break hot-spot, plenty of quiet, couples-only resorts claim a strip of sand. Families take to the Mayan ruins, water parks and dolphin swims.
With the comforts and commercial temptations of home, Cancun is a good place to get your international feet wet, and between sunning all day and dancing all night, you can sleep on the plane back home.
Orbitz reveals the best of Cancun travel with the best time to go, top 10 attractions and insider gems.
Best time to take a vacation to Cancun
If you find a great deal and can snag a few days off, pack a carry-on and boogie down to Cancun any time. Weather-wise, Cancun has a monopoly on warm sunshine year round. June through November is hurricane season, which peaks in September and October.
You'll find flocks of sun-worshippers at Christmas and Easter, and spring break crowds each March. It's wet and hot from May to November, but prices dip and crowds are few. Cancun regulars swear by January and February for ideal weather.
Insider tips for Cancun travel
Mayan ruins in the city
Kids love to climb the remains of a small Mayan settlement at the El Rey ruins, oblivious to its age, dating back to 10th century A.D. Bring fruit and feed the hundreds of sunning iguanas. El Meco is quiet, naturally shaded and tranquil enough for a picnic among the 14 structures or at nearby Isla Blanca, a local beach. Both are a reasonable drive from the Hotel Zone.
Local journalists relax over breakfast or lunch on the simple terrace at this hideout behind city hall. The coffee is good and strong and the dinner menu is authentic.
Practice your Spanish … and your haggling skills. Pottery, blankets, hats, jewelry, clothing and local crafts mix with fresh meat, fish shops and fruit stands at this very local market. Bring cash, preferably pesos.
Grab a taxi for a taste of Paris in residential Cancun. The small, family-owned restaurant in a converted house oozes romance over an array of French classics. A tri-lingual staff provides formal service. Dress to the nines and reserve a seat on the terrace.
Neighborhood watering holes with live music
Slip into Roots Jazz Club for late-night beats or El Capucino for live local reggae on Margaritas near Azucenas. Despite its location in Hotel Plaza Kokai, Bar Bohemio El Camarote is a cozy haunt that feels lesser-known with its small stage and decent bands.
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Swim or interact with some of the most brilliant mammals on the planet that happen to look like big, friendly fish. Kids of all ages love dolphin kisses, hugs and handshakes. Dolphinaris and Dolphin Discovery are among the top-ranked venues.
Take a day trip to see a few pages out of the history books. Drive 80 miles south to Tulum where cliff-top ruins overlook the blue sea. Head inland to scale Mayan pyramids in the middle of the jungle at Coba. At Chichen Itza, get lost in a mix of pre-Columbian architecture, from temples to the Great Ball Court.
Keep your wallet north of the border. All-inclusive resorts serve up a hassle-free Cancun vacation and most include food, snacks, drinks and non-motorized water sports. Check out the nightlife scene and choose one that will satisfy after the sun goes down. Resorts range from family-friendly to couples-only to dens for the single-and-looking.
It's Vegas gone wild at Coco Bongo, where throngs of nightlife thrill-seekers pile in for club music, aerial shows and confetti showers. A younger crowd goes dancing and drinking at Senor Frog's. For dinner with your dance moves, try Carlos and Charlie's.
Mexican cooking classes
One day with Chef Claudia of Can Cook in Cancun and you'll be dangerous with the habaneros for life. Part hands-on cooking class, part history and gastronomy lesson, plus sangria-infused lunch with new friends, the class sends participants off with recipes, an apron and serious know-how for whipping up home-style Mexican cuisine.
Xel-ha, Xplor and Xcaret
Not to worry: This triplet of X-named theme parks are completely family-friendly. An hour south of Cancun, fill up on adventure from snorkeling to zip lines between three outdoor ecological parks. Or, keep it local on the water slides at Wet'N Wild.
Playa del Carmen
Sample a fresh scene an hour south of town. No longer a sleepy little fishing village, PDC (or "Playa") rivals Cancun with shopping, dining and nightlife on a smaller scale with more local flavor, all set along car-free 5th Avenue.
La Habichuela restaurant
Since 1977, this family-owned restaurant with a Mayan theme has charmed guests with a romantic walled garden and Caribbean-style seafood.
Set on a lagoon, La Isla Shopping Mall combines a trendy, chain mall with local establishments and an aquarium. Canals and small bridges top off the Venetian-inspired setting. Downtown flea market Mercado 28 brims with silver jewelry, Mexican handcrafts and souvenirs on the cheap.