How to Experience the REAL Cancun

When it comes to Cancun, Mexico the first impression one first gets is: spring break and parties up and down the hotel strip. While the spring break season is true for a portion of the year, Cancun has been showing the world that it is more than just that.

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There is a whole other side to Cancun that many people miss out on. Spring break and drinking at the hotel can be a choice, but choose to do more. I visited Cancun for the first time earlier this month. Mainly, I had held off visiting because of Cancuns’ reputation and went to Puerto Vallarta first in 2012.

Well, I thought it was about time I made my way down to Cancun. I had started seeing more “experiences” offered after more travelers have gone and shared their stories in island hopping, cenote swimming, and walking around the downtown area.

With that said, there are ways to see what else Cancun can offer and more importantly, how to experience the Real Cancun:

Stay Northern Strip
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The hotel strip, known as “Zona Hotelera”, is where most tourists stay. Most hotels are brands that we know and love – such as Secrets, Riu, and Oasis.

If you want to stay in the busy section, head straight to the middle of the zone. For a more authentic feel of Cancun, stay in the northern tip above the Riu Palace. There, you will find smaller condominium-like hotels for a smaller price and more of a family feel. Beaches will be on the cozier side and you will actually find a few tiki bars and restaurants out on the water! Most of the hotels come with rooms that ALL are equipped with balconies, so choosing an ocean view room is easier. Also, prices of food and drinks remain lower. I was able to get surf and turf for 1/4 of the price that it was offered several hotels down.

There are less crowds, more locals, and a great mix of travelers who are in search for the same thing. You will also be much closer to downtown Cancun. Stay tuned to hear more on my authentic stay at Imperial Las Perlas.

Rent a Car 

If you cannot or do not want to rent a car for your entire stay, I recommend you do so for at least one day. Having a car will allow you to drive around and pull over whenever you like on the strip, downtown Cancun, and further away. You will not only save a lot of $$ on taxis, but you will be able to see more of Cancun! Get off the Hotel Strip and start exploring, get lost, but do keep that road map handy. You will get one for free from any car rental place.

Dowtown Cancun
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See the downtown area – it’s big! There is more to do there than in the Hotel Zone. Downtown Cancun is lined with strips of restaurants and bars. Almost every spot has an outdoor patio in the front, and some also in the back.

Driving, you still can’t see it all. Check out the local businesses, walk around, and shop. Don’t skip out on breakfast too. The cafes are delish!

Isla Mujeres

Why not add in some island hopping to your Cancun stay? If you love your beach and do not want to leave, then take the ferry over to Isla Mujeres. It is only a 15 minutes or less ferry ride to this slice of paradise. You can decide to go there for the day or swap hotels and stay overnight. Sign up for some water activities or go snorkeling on your own. Spend time talking to the locals. Even a getaway for a few hours will make you feel like you traveled further away.

Visit the Mayan Riviera

If you are looking for adventure off the beach, travel further south to the Riviera Maya area. This is outside of Cancun, but usually is combined into a Cancun adventure since it is not that far! You can drive yourself or book tours to cenotes, Mayan ruins, and more historical sites.

What else would you add for an authentic Mexican experience?

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  1. […] this month I wrote about how to explore the real Cancun. That means branching out from the typical tourist like spots and not spending all your time on the […]

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