I’ve been going every year to Cancun with my sweet parents since I was one year old. And I can tell you from first hand experience that each year it just keeps getting busier and busier. Which is why when I was a teenager my family started gravitating toward Playa del Carmen (which is where we usually set up our “home base”) and Tulum.
However, Cancun still holds so many wonderful memories that I wanted to take Steve when we had a break during our school semesters. We got there and yes, there were plenty of tourists even during the winter. So here is some tips on how you can ditch the tourists in Cancun, Mexico and make this very touristy town feel more like you’ve actually left the U.S.
I’ll also share some touristy activities that you may want to consider fighting the crowds for because, shoot, our name is Part Time Tourists isn’t it? 😉
The first way to ditch the tourists in Cancun is to not spend all your time on the hotel strip (they call it zona hotelera). Instead go into downtown Cancun and explore the city! We went there for dinner each night we were in Cancun and the food did not disappoint (and our wallets thanked us). Our favorite restaurant that we found is called Pik Nik. And if my recommendation isn’t enough. Check out the pictures below!
My next tip is to follow the locals during dinner time. We did just that and found the parque de las palapas! It is downtown Cancun and worth the mile walk to get there. Surrounding the whole park are vendors and small family run food carts that have bomb street tacos and churros. Oh the many choices!
Steve knew exactly which one to choose though… the one with the oldest abuelita cooking the food! Because abuelitas know their stuff. The park has many colorful picnic tables to choose from. While you’re eating they have a stage in the middle of the park that you can enjoy free performances. That night there was a group of Latina mamas dancing their hearts out to modern music!
Another great tip is to take public transportation like the locals do! Sure you could take a boring taxi and pay a lot of amount of money… OR you could jump on a ridiculously fast and crazy bus that could get pulled over by the cops for speed and some other sketchy stuff (may be based on a true story 😉 )
But really, besides that one bus trip every other time was smooth and we had no problem. The two main buses that we used were the R-1 bus (runs all along the hotel strip into downtown Cancun) and the ADO bus (good for long-haul trips to different towns or to go to the airport). My tip is to make friends on the bus!
Steve was sitting alone on his own seat and Miguel came and sat right next to him and starting chatting it up! Even with limited Spanish Steve was able to make a friend! (Also, be a gentleman and always stand up for the locals when the bus gets a little crowded).
Tourists Spots That Are Worth Going To:
Hit the beaches! There are about 7 different beaches in the hotel zone each with different characteristics. We really enjoyed Playa Caracol. One of the days we were there a storm was brewing in the distance which created AWESOME waves for us. The lifeguard even came up to me while I was wading near the shore and asked me if that was mine (referring to Steve) to tell him to come to the shore a little more because the waves were becoming a bit too treacherous.
If you need to either get out of the sun for a while or it starts to rain then hit up Isla Dorada shopping mall! Most of it is covered and its a fun place to walk around and window shop and get a bite to eat! There is also an aquarium that we really enjoyed. They have neat fish, stingrays, and starfish that you can touch! There is also a seal and dolphin show.
I hope these tips help you ditch the tourists and crowds in Cancun, Mexico!
Looking for a nearby spot where you can most certainly ditch the crowds, check out our post about a day trip to Isla Mujeres, an island sanctuary only 30 minutes away from Cancun!
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