Is Cancun Expensive? Our Money Guide To The Caribbean Town

Is Cancun expensive
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Is Cancun expensive? You could only be asking that if you’re planning to jet over to the white-sand beaches of this party-mad Mexicana resort on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. We can’t blame ya’. It’s a doozy of a destination for everything from R&R to no-holes-barred spring break blowouts. You’re not going to regret booking!

But what about the budget side of things? Cue this guide. It’s a run-through of all the outgoings you can expect in this sun-kissed corner of the Caribbean, with info on everything from the price of hotels to the cost of eating out. It even offers an average roundup of what most vacationers can expect to spend in Cancun.

Finally, our guide to the cost of a trip to Cancun will offer some handy tips on how you can keep the prices on the down low in this part of Mexico. They’re gold dust for any money-conscious globetrotters who want to keep a close eye on the pesos, and should mean you can explore the jungles and the beaches for a little less this season. Let’s begin…

How much does a holiday to Cancun cost?

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A good ballpark figure for the price of holidays in Cancun is around the 12,350-20,500 MXN ($600-1,000) per person, per week mark. That estimation includes everything from the cost of hotels to the cost of food, but doesn’t include the price of flights to Cancun, as they can vary considerably depending on where you’re coming in from.

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The priciest trips of all to Cancun could be stacks more than that, though. Some of the finest hotels in this city charge a whopping 20,800 MXN ($1,010) per night. Adding that in, plus extra for meals in upscale restaurants and private tours of places like Chichen Itza and the Isla Mujeres, would bring a top estimation for a week-long luxury Cancun vacation to around the 270,000 MXN ($13,100) mark.

At the other end of the scale, it’s possible to get a trip to Cancun for about 600 MXN ($30) per day; 4,200 MXN ($200) for a week. To do that, you will need to pay close attention to our money-saving tips, stay in hostels in the downtown area of Cancun, eat only local street food, and make the most of all the free activities (clue: beaches are your friend!).

How much is food in Cancun?

Food in Cancun
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Food actually comes pretty cheap in Cancun. We’d estimate that you need an average of between 310 MXN ($15) and 410 MXN ($20) per day to get by. That includes lunch and dinner, but not breakfast, which is typically a part of a hotel package. It’s also based on midrange restaurants serving local Mexican food in the Hotel Zone.

Of course, you can fork out a whole load more than that for your chow in this Caribbean resort. In fact, there are some fine-dining establishments in the Hotel Zone that are downright pricy. They typically serve international food, like the exquisite French bistro of La Bastille or the elegant seafood option of Lorenzillo’s. You’re looking at over $150 per head in those!

At the other end of the spectrum is Cancun’s street food. That’s fantastic if you’re keeping a tight fist on the pesos. The best – and cheapest – options are located in downtown Cancun. One gathering point is Parque de las Palapas, which hosts everything from taco stalls to churros stands in the evening hour. There, you can pay between 20-60 MXN ($1-3) for a whole meal, and it’s also real,local cooking.

The cost of partying in Cancun

Club in Cancun
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Beers on the beach and in the casual sand-side bars of Cancun cost between 50-80 MXN ($2.40-3.90) a pop. The best prices, though, are in the local bars of downtown Cancun, where you can sometimes grab a beer for under $2. Also, keep an eye out for the nightly happy hour deals, which are often very generous when it comes to the price of beer and cocktails, and often last a whole load longer than an hour!

If you’re keen to sample the legendary late-night scene of Cancun, then you’ll want to set aside a little more of the budget for that. The clubs here don’t charge entry fees per se, but they do usually come with cover charges. That varies from place to place, but popular Dady’O will be up to $35 a head, while Señor Frogs ranges from $0-35, depending on the night you visit. Legendary Coco Bongo tends to be the most of all, with cover charges that can swell to over $70 with the biggest events in the middle of spring break.

The price of hotels in Cancun

Cancun beaches
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Look, hotels in Cancun aren’t going to be the cheap and cheerful homestays you find elsewhere in Mexico, from Morelia to the Riviera Nayarit. Instead, this town is dominated by large-scale resort hotels that bear the names of international chains like Hilton and JW Marriott. Those are what hit the headlines, as they’re the stays that string the whole length of the so-called Hotel Zone, a Z-shaped region of picture-perfect beaches where most tourists look to bed down.

However, they aren’t the only option in Cancun. There are also some more affordable options if you know where to look. You can even get them in the Hotel Zone area, so long as you steer clear of the more-upscale southern part of the district and go for midrange condo hotels over lux palaces. Then you’ve got the Centro area of the city. That’s the bustling, hustling, lived-in part of Cancun where the locals reside. It offers great-value hostels, along with a taste of more authentic Mexico.

Here’s a look at some hotels at both ends (and the middle) of the price spectrum in Cancun:

  • Nizuc Resort & Spa ($$$) – One for the jet setters and celebs, the Nizuc Resort & Spa has its own tennis club, wellness facility, and lagoon-side beach.
  • Cancún Suites Apartments – Hotel Zone ($$) – These spacious rooms and self-catering rental units offer a great balance between price and location, as they’re right on the main Boulevard Kukulcan in the Hotel Zone.
  • Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Cancun ($) – A much-loved backpacker joint with a rooftop pool overlooking the heart of downtown Cancun.

The cost of things to do in Cancun

Ruins in Cancun
Photo by Michelle_Raponi/Pixabay

Of course, no trip to Cancun could possibly be complete without enjoying all this amazing town and the surrounding region have to offer. That runs the gamut from coral reef-ringed islets for the scuba divers to mystical temples left by the Maya in the jungles. Sadly, most of the trips to those places will cost money, which means you’ll need to set aside a chunk of the budget for things to do in Cancun.

Here’s a look at the average cost of some of the top activities in and around town:

  • A day trip to Chichen Itza (1355 MXN/$66) – This is one of the bucket-list draws of the Yucatan, as you’ll get to see incredible Mayan ruins in the jungles.
  • A day trip to the cenotes (980 MXN/$48) – Swim in wild cenotes in the jungle and make a pitstop at the charming city of Valladolid.
  • Roundtrip ferry tickets to the Isla Mujeres from Cancun (350 MXN/$17) – Take the boat to this paradise island for scuba diving and snorkeling.
  • A reef diving scuba trip (3,000 MXN/$150) – Cancun is a mecca for diving, especially outside of the seaweed season in fall and winter. Scuba trips tend to start at around $150 per person.

Our money-saving tips for Cancun

beach in Cancun
Photo by KinEnriquez/Pixabay

There are loads of ways that you can save cash on your trip to Cancun. Just check out our top tips below:

  • Visit in the off season – This is one of the best ways to save money on everything from hotel stays to flights into Cancun. Generally speaking, the low season runs from April to November. It sees more rainfall and seaweed washing up on the beaches of the Riviera Maya. On the flip side, attractions like Chichen Itza will be way less busy!
  • Stay in a hostel – There are some cracking hostels in Cancun. Tailor-made for the spring breakers and budget backpackers, they offer things like games rooms and rooftop pools.
  • Stay in downtown Cancun – You don’t have to stay in the iconic Hotel Zone to make the most of the buzz of Cancun. Bed down in the downtown area and you’ll have access to cheaper eats and more affordable accommodation.
  • Book your flights as early as possible – Stats show that flights booked long in advance of travel often end up way cheaper – like 60-70% cheaper – than those booked at the last minute. Don’t leave it too late to plan that trip to the sunny Caribbean, folks!
  • Do free things – In Cancun, there’s one thing that’s always free of charge: The beach. There are miles and miles of soft white sand to laze on and turquoise seas to swim in, so be sure to make the most of all that!

Is Cancun expensive? A conclusion

Is Cancun expensive? Our verdict: Not really. It’s pricier than a lot of destinations in Mexico, especially if you want to plump for a luxury hotel with infinity pools and in-house spa facilities. However, you’re still looking at a place that’s way below the average cost of a trip to New York or LA, for example. On average, we’d estimate that you need about $600-1,000 per person, per week for a midrange holiday here, although you could spend a lot more than that or keep a tighter budget and spend a lot less.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.