Cancun Mexico is a popular destination for anyone looking for a tropical getaway. There are so many beautiful beachfront resorts, mysterious ancient ruins, and incredibly blue water against white sand to enjoy. With such a short flight from many big cities in the United States, this is the perfect Caribbean destination. But what is the Best Time to go to Cancun, Mexico? When will you find the best weather, the smallest crowds, and the cheapest flights? Here’s everything you need to know!
Best Time to go to Cancun
Really, Cancun Mexico is a desirable destination year-round. You can’t go wrong booking flights to this tropical paradise because it’s always beautiful. BUT, if you’re looking for the prime date range to get the best deals on flights and beat the crowds, you need to go to Cancun between late September to late February. Every time we’ve visited it has been during this date range and we’ve had great experiences with each trip. Here are a few major reasons you’ll want to shoot for that time of year:
Slow Season in Cancun
If you book your trip for the end of September, October, or even November to early December, you are going to miss the touristy crowds. Families are back to school by then and don’t have long enough breaks to take a vacation down to Cancun. (With the exception of maybe a week or 2 in October for school districts that give a fall break). There will be a bigger crowd of tourists during winter break season, meaning mid-December to early January. So mid-January to the end of February are, again, sweet spots for visiting Cancun if your schedule permits.
Not only is going in the slower season beneficial because the best attractions won’t be overrun with people, but this also means vendors will be more willing to barter with you. When business is slow for them, anything is better than nothing in many cases.
The busiest time of year to go to Cancun will be the summer months, as many places are. People think this is the best time because of the weather and because school is out for families with kids… but there are actually several reasons why summer isn’t the best time to visit Cancun.
For our first anniversary, we flew to Cancun from Phoenix for about $200 round trip per person. Talk about a steal! But actually, this isn’t that unheard of. If you are going to Cancun during the off-season, you should not be paying more than $250 round trip for your flights! And that goes for flights out of many major airports in the USA.
You can even fly on Southwest for these affordable fares and save money on baggage since you always get 2 bags included. Get the southwest credit card CLICK HERE (https://www.referyourchasecard.com/226o/F992KK71GV) and get your flights completely paid for in points! Because southwest has direct flights to Cancun, this was a major reason we decided to get the rewards credit card. We absolutely LOVE Canun, Mexico. We are looking forward to free flights for our whole family the next time we go down there!
People who visit Cancun in the summer will experience the intense heat of humid summers in the Mayan Riviera. Highs get in the 90’s with over 50% humidity, and it doesn’t cool off that much at night. Doesn’t sound very enticing for vacation, does it? And actually, when I visited in early September one year, it was still that warm, making it pretty hard to enjoy unless my attire was only a bathing suit and I was in water. (And I’m from Arizona!)
The wonderful thing about visiting Cancun between late September and late February is that you catch the best weather while leaving the cold weather at home. Although it’s technically winter, the temperatures in Cancun rarely drop below 70 degrees at night but still get to mid 80s during the day. If you’re looking for a vacation with ideal weather, go to Cancun in the winter.
I get cold easily, so I always bring a light jacket and a pair of pants in case I’m cold in the evenings, but most of the time it is so refreshing being in warm weather, away from the chilly winter at home, that I don’t mind. For my full 7 Day Cancun Packing List, check it out here!
Things to do While in Cancun, Mexico
Since the weather is nice year round, you can enjoy pretty much all the same activities in the winter through summer. This area of Mexico is rich with ancient ruins and historic sites to discover. There are many sites that have not yet been excavated too!
Because the ruins are a popular attraction in the Mayan Riviera, as well as the ancient culture of the Mayan people, there are several natural amusement parks that feature these unique sites. We have visited them on different occasions and although they are touristy, I think they are worth going to at least once. Below I go into detail about each one and the differences between them.
There are plenty of other excursions to do while you are in Cancun, Mexico if ruins or natural amusement parks don’t sound fun. There is something for everyone in Cancun! Or if you’re wanting a really chill vacation at your resort, this is always a great option. Many resorts have an amazing staff that keep the good vibes rolling all day long. There is frequently a weekly schedule of activities that you can participate in at the resorts with other guests.
Chichen Itza, one of the Wonders of the World, should absolutely be on your list of things to do while visiting Cancun, Mexico. The first time I went, I was completely in awe and I loved taking my husband there for his first time.
I would suggest booking a day excursion to Chichen Itza through a reliable website such as TripAdvisor. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g150808-d153407-Reviews-Chichen_Itza-Chichen_Itza_Yucatan_Peninsula.html
The benefit of booking through TripAdvisor is they make a stress-free experience. You will get an email within 24 hours of the excursion with details on what time they will pick you up from your resort, what meals are included, and about how long to expect for the duration. Many of the excursions available are packages that include a small bagged breakfast (meaning a piece of fruit and maybe a granola bar), a buffet lunch, and admission to Chichen Itza. You can also pair Chichen Itza with one of the other nearby ruins or cenotes.
How to Visit Chichen Itza
If you don’t book the excursion through TripAdvisor, you can instead take a taxi or rent a car and drive yourself. From Cancun proper, it is about a 3 hour drive to Chichen Itza. This is going to be a fairly expensive taxi ride, so I wouldn’t suggest that. It is just under $30 for entrance into Chichen Itza, so if the price of gas & the idea of having more independence is favorable for you, that can be a good option. But honestly, I feel like it’s worth it to go with a group. You can use the 3-hour drive each way to catch up on sleep, your favorite podcast, or brush up on your Spanish!
Once you are there, you can stick with your group & tour guide, or you can break away and do some exploring on your own. Just be sure to know when and where to meet your group afterward. There is so much to see at Chichen Itza, though the enormous pyramid is the most impressive site of them all. There are TONS of vendors lined up along every walkway in the park. You can find the perfect souvenir during your time there. Most are handmade and super unique pieces!
Coba needs to be on your list because the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula is located there! Plus you can actually climb to the very top. These ancient ruins used to be a bustling center of commerce for the ancient Mayan people.
The first time I visited Coba it was a very different experience than 5 years later. More sites had been excavated and more vendors were nearby as the attraction has grown in popularity over the years. If you don’t want to walk between excavated sites, bring some extra cash with you to pay for a ride from one of the “bicitaxis”.
Although Chichen Itza and Coba are very impressive, I think Ek Balam trumps them all. This is by far my favorite ruin in the Yucatan Peninsula! It is the most recently excavated site, and there is a lot more to uncover. You can climb to the top of this impressive pyramid, get a view of the surrounding jungle, and then check out the intricate carvings in the rooms as you go back down.
Tulum is probably the most popular and well-known ruin near Cancun. About 2 hours from Cancun proper, Tulum is a beautiful seaside historic site. Iguanas claim it as their home now that it is not inhabited by the Mayan people, so have your camera out to capture them posing on the different formations. Once you’ve explored the expansive ruins, you can go down to the beach and enjoy the incredible Caribbean water and white sand. In the winter, the ocean water is still in the high 70’s to low 80’s. Since there are a lot of daily visitors to Tulum, and there are even resorts nearby, there will more than likely be a lot of people on the beach with you.
This is again, an excursion you can book through TripAdvisor or take on by yourself. There is an entrance fee if you don’t go through TripAdvisor just like Chichen Itza. There are food vendors and gift shops all around as you head out too if you want to bring something memorable home from Tulum.
There are TONS of Cenotes in this part of Mexico. Cenotes are large sinkholes full of fresh underground water! They are extremely mysterious because many of them are several hundred feet deep. It may be a shock how cool the water is when you get in, especially if you are visiting during one of the cooler months of the year, but you will want to get in so you can say you did it! As you float in the water, you might notice little freshwater fish swimming along next to you. From my experience, they didn’t want anything to do with me but it was a little weird to have them all around!
Usually, if you book an excursion through TripAdvisor to one of the ruins sites, a Cenote will also be part of your stops for the day. I think it is worth it, even if you decide not to get in. The underground cave is beautiful and unique to this area of the world.
Natural Amusement Parks
If you don’t make it to a cenote, or you want a more in-depth experience of the underground caves and freshwater tunnels in the area, book your ticket to Xplor. Here you can spelunk through the underground caves, get an up-close view of the stalagmites and stalactites, and zipline down some of the biggest ziplines in the Cancun area! You can also jump on an ATV and romp around the Riviera Maya jungle. This is a super fun, high-adventure park, I would recommend it for ages 10+.
If you are busy during the day doing other activities, you can book to visit the park at night for Xplor Fuego. Basically, all the same activities are included as the daytime pass, it is just a shorter admission session. When we did Xplor Fuego in October of 2021, it was actually pretty chilly. The freshwater in the underground caves is very cold, so I was shivering in the water! It was still really fun, but I would have preferred going during the day to at least have the warmth of the sun outside. (but I am also a wimp for cold water!)
Xelha is a great option for families because there is SO much to do here for all ages. If you are wanting to experience one of these unparalleled natural water parks in the Cancun area, I think this is the best option. Snorkel, cliff jump, tube, zipline, trail walk, and more! There’s even a kid-friendly water park area with a wading pool and small water slides. Get your tickets to Xelha for a day of fun in the sun with your family!
When you visit Xcaret, you will be immersed in the wonderful Yucatan Mexico culture. Visit several cultural sites such as a Catholic chapel, a Mexican wine cellar, and a Mayan Village. Sail on a raft through the underground rivers or take a dip and explore them even more closely. This is another great option for the whole family as there is a kid-friendly waterpark section of Xcaret.
Cozumel is a small island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula with of its own attractions! If you are looking to see something different, you can take a ferry over to Cozumel for a day. This is a common stop for cruise ships, which is when we’ve visited a few years ago on our honeymoon!
Snorkel/Scuba Dive Cozumel
One of the most unique places I have ever snorkeled in the world is El Cielo, near Cozumel, Mexico. There are several impressive reefs surrounding the area that attract people from near and far to visit. We took this excursion during our time on Cozumel and were not disappointed! El Cielo is an amazing space in the sea where crystal-clear water pours sunlight down onto giant starfish resting on the ocean floor.
Palancar is a more traditional snorkeling experience with a large reef and a large variety of fish. The water here is very deep, so this is a popular spot for people to scuba dive. Even if you aren’t scuba certified in the USA, there are tours for beginners where they will teach you the basics of scuba diving at the beginning and then take you out to the reef. My in-laws did this and had an amazing experience!
Self-Guided Tours of the Island
Ferry to Cozmel from Playa del Carmen for a small fee, and then find local vendors in the shopping area with mopeds for rent! Take a self guided tour of the island at your own pace. This is always a super fun way to explore a new place. And since the island isnt that big, you will have a hard time getting too lost. Just make sure you make it back in time to catch the ferry back to Playa del Carmen.
If you arent so confident in your skills on a moped, you can also book an E-bike tour on TripAdvisor. E-bikes take a lot of the work out of bicycling around the island, while still letting you enjoy the warm sun on your skin and the fresh ocean breeze. Learn about the history of the island with your tour guide and taste some of the best tacos on the island while you’re at it! https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g150809-d14174164-Cozumel_City_Tour_by_E_bike-Cozumel_Yucatan_Peninsula.html
Amazing Cozumel Race
If you’re a huge Amazing Race fan like my husband and I, then you will be so excited to learn about this Amazing Cozumel Race! If you are traveling with a small group of friends or family, you can all sign up for this informational but competitive day excursion around Cozumel! This is one thing I can’t wait to go back and do on our next visit.
Isla Mujeres Catamaran
You haven’t seen blue water until you’ve taken a catamaran out to Isla Mujeres from Cancun. Isla Mujeres is an even smaller island off the coast that tourists love to visit. The catamaran tour is so much fun because there are unlimited drinks, music, and gorgeous views. Once you arrive at the port and disembark, you have some time to shop, eat, and relax on the beach. This was one of our favorite tours by far. On our way back from the island, they also let anyone who wanted to, parasail off the back of the boat! https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g150807-d24087596-Deluxe_Catamaran_tour_to_ISLA_MUJERES_Open_Bar_Lunch_and_Snorkeling_included-Cancu.html
Bacalar Lagoon is sometimes referred to as the Maldives of Mexico because of it’s stunning blue water. It is said to have seven colors of water and soft, white sand. There are many day trip excursions you can book to see the water for yourself. These tours allow you to relax on the shore of this amazing lagoon or hop on a kayak or paddleboard to see all the colors it offers. Eat at the lakeside restaurants and capture breathtaking photos your friend’s wont believe are real. Get an in depth review of the Top 5 Things to do in Bacalar by reading our friend’s TogetherToWherever’s post all about it. They are experts on things to do in the Yucatan.