Heading south-of-the-border is a popular option for budget-friendly getaways, especially to Mexico’s Cancún and Riviera Maya. However, some think the region only caters to the college crowd. Not so. A sophisticated, low-key time can be had for those who are savvy. Below, four myth-busters to prepare you for the sun-and-sea-filled escape you've been dreaming about...
1. Avoiding the Spring Break Crowd Is Possible
Sure, Cancún receives a ton of tequila-seeking types taking advantage of Mexico’s 18-and over drinking laws. But while those kids make their way to the nightclub-packed Hotel Zone, the mature, been-there-done that traveler goes the opposite direction, either to the less expensive hotels on the quieter end on Boulevard Kukulcan (around Kilometer 20), south to even more reasonable Playa del Carmen, or the more remote jungle-filled Mayakoba region, an easy 45-60 minute ride from the airport.
2. Every Hotel Isn’t an All-Inclusive
One-price-pays-all hotels can stretch a vacation budget, and Cancún has plenty to choose from. However, getting out and experiencing local culture is better at the adults-only Casa Hotel Ticul in Playa, where rates begin at $126 a night. Breakfast and WiFi are included, as well as free towels, umbrellas and sunbeds at the Mamitas Beach Club across the road. Couples and families will appreciate the space and value at the new all-suite Grand Residences Riviera Cancún Resort in Puerto Morelos. Junior suites, which start at $315 per night, have Jacuzzis and multi-bedroom units include Murphy beds – what a throwback. All rooms and suites come with kitchens (saving money on meals) and some have laundry rooms, so pack light, rewash, and arrive home with clean clothes ready to put away.
3. The Best Restaurants Aren’t Chains
Don’t be that gringo and dine at Domino’s because you're fearful of Montezuma’s Revenge. Cancún’s haute cuisine scene is inexpensive and authentic, if you know where to go. Celebrated Chef Cristian Morale’s has turned his home into a restaurant in a tony residential section of the Avenida Xpuhil. For only 800 pesos ($60 per person), you’ll savor a seven-course meal with dishes like 14-hour cooked beef rib with chili sauce and huitlacoche stuffed ravioli. You’ll spend double that in downtown Cancún, at an easily-forgotten restaurant.
4. There’s More to Visit than Eco-parks
Chances are, if you’ve visited Cancún before, you’ve seen the area’s claims to fame – the eco-parks Xcaret and Xel-Ha. They’re fine to visit once, for sure. But the company behind the parks has new day trips for you to enjoy. Xoximilco Cancún, located just five minutes from the airport, lets you traverse through 4.6 miles of Venice-like channels via colorful trajineras (gondolas), all while enjoying live mariachi music and Mexican food. Then there’s the Xenotes Oasis Maya Tour which lets guests experience four different cenotes in one day. Visitors can rappel, zipline, snorkel, and kayak in and around these beautiful sunken lagoons. Buying the tours online in advance (or several adventures) can save you at least 10%.
Tip: Remember, Cancún is easily accessible from a host of U.S. cities, often with relatively short flights. Deals can be found with low-cost carriers like Air Tran, Spirit, and JetBlue. Check out our weekly deals here.