I met Jay Kali of Kali Coaching through a Facebook group and this guy is awesome. He’s an American ex-pat that lives and breathes Cancun, Mexico. Jay’s tips for the best things to do in Cancun will have you searching for your passport and booking your flight right away. I love the food and culture of Mexico… and it helps that the US dollar is so strong making a Mexican getaway so affordable.
Cancun is a popular destination for tourists because of the beautiful white sandy beaches, warm weather, and endless margaritas. The weather is amazing all year (usually 68 to 85 degrees), but I would avoid traveling during hurricane season (late August through October) if possible.
Whenever we’ve visited Mexico, the locals have been very friendly. But come prepared to make a deal. When buying souvenirs, the price is you see is rarely the price you’ll end up paying if you’re a savvy negotiator. Be respectful with your bids, and everyone wins.
The elephant in the room is the negative news publicity that happens with Mexico. Yes, there are drug cartels and other bad things, but they typically stay away from popular tourist destinations like Cabo and Cancun. Over 40 million tourists visit Mexico each year. That is a tremendous amount of tourism dollars that nobody wants to lose. Just as you would be careful while traveling in the US, use that same caution and common sense while traveling in Mexico (or any other country) and you’ll be fine. Click here if you’d like to review travel insurance policy options from Allianz.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Visit Cancun, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.
Best things to do in Cancun
Here are some of the best things to do in Cancun according to our local expert, Jay Kali. And I’ve added some additional options based on my research and suggestions from Visit Cancun.
- Akumal – an under-the-radar destination recommended by Jay.
- Cancun International Airport (reviews) – the local airport that has many non-stop flights from hubs across the United States.
- Cenotes – this isn’t a specific place, but there are many cenotes scattered throughout the Cancun peninsula. They are clearwater fresh pools that are so pure so you can see to the bottom of them. The brave (and crazy) dive into the cenotes from the edges. The Mayans believed the water had cleansing powers.
- Chichén Itzá (reviews) – famous ruins to explore, but you can no longer climb on them.
- Coba Pyramid (reviews) – Jay says that you can still climb these “hidden” Mayan ruins.
- Cozumel – an island off of Playa del Carmen. Another popular tourist destination south of Cancun.
- Dolphin Discovery Isla Mujeres (reviews) – watch the dolphins perform and even swim with them if you’re brave enough.
- Isla Blanca – not really an island, it is actually a peninsula. Jay says that many of the beaches in Cancun are can be overcrowded. Come to beaches like Isla Blanca for a great place to escape or learn to kitesurf.
- Isla Mujeres (reviews) – an island off the coast of Cancun. Perfect for a day trip via ferry. They have golf carts that you can rent and drive around the island. Anna and I did this with the kids and Timmy almost fell out of the cart in this video.
- Playa del Carmen – a popular destination south of Cancun. Laws say that buildings can only be built one level above the trees.
- Tulum – This is the new “it” spot to get away from it all for the rich and famous. In 2012, the electricity was run off of generators, now it is very popular with celebrities.
If you can schedule your visit to Cancun in late April or May, you may be able to witness the sea turtles coming ashore to bury their eggs in the sand. Do not disturb them or shine lights at them because it can disorient them and kill them. These sea turtles are protected.
In the fall, the Cancun Jazz Festival is really popular. Excellent music, great food, and amazing weather, what more can you ask for?
Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Cancun.
Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.
Best places to eat in Cancun
When you’re in Cancun, be ready for food that will make your heart swoon. When you go to the right places, the local flavors will be like nothing you’ve had before. Coming home to “Mexican” food in the United States just won’t be the same. Jay has some excellent recommendations for the best places to eat in Cancun.
- Cheester (CHSTR) Zona Hotelera (reviews)- an assortment of pizza and pasta loaded with cheese to make your mouth water with anticipation.
- El Fish Fritanga (reviews) – Jay says you need to try their world-famous pescadilla or tikinchik. They also offer specialties such as pan de cazón, Gran Marnier shrimp, and fillet stuffed with seafood, all cooked with exquisite Mexican flavors.
- El Socio Naiz Taquería (reviews) – tasty tacos that you need to experience for yourself.
- El Tigre y El Toro (reviews) – they serve artisan stone oven-baked flatbread pizza with many flavors, including vegan options.
- Harry’s Steakhouse & Raw Bar | Cancun (reviews) – one of Jay’s favorite places in the hotel zone for a delicious steak dinner.
- La Fonda de las Piñatas (reviews) – their specialty is Quesadillas and Huaraches Gandallas with handmade tortillas. They serve a variety of stews with flavors that are uniquely Mexican.
- mora mora (reviews) – one of Jay’s favorite places to eat. You won’t know where this restaurant is unless someone tells you about it. Jay says that it is fun, different, and special.
- Padrino’s Pizza Express (reviews) – if you’re looking for pizza in the Cancun Hotel Zone, it’s hard to beat Padrino’s. If you want to stay at your hotel, they deliver fast.
- Porfirio’s (reviews) – they balance homemade recipes with accents taken from every corner of Mexico to offer bold flavors you won’t find anywhere else.
- Rolandi’s (reviews) – an exquisite blend of flavors born of a culinary heritage from Switzerland and Italy.
- The Surfin Burrito (reviews) – the burritos here are amazing! Jay says that the chef brought the California-style huge burritos to Cancun and they are really popular.
Best places to stay in Cancun
When you visit Mexico for come to visit the white sand beaches and soak up the sun, here are the best places to stay in Cancun.
- Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas (reviews) – all-inclusive IHG Rewards category 7 resort that is 40,000 points per night.
- Hyatt Zilara Cancun (reviews) – Hyatt’s all-inclusive hotel is adults-only.
- Hyatt Ziva Cancun (reviews) – Hyatt’s sister property to the Zilara. This all-inclusive hotel is geared towards families.
- InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort (reviews) – high-end IHG Rewards category 7 resort that is 40,000 points per night.
- JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa (reviews) – this Marriott Rewards category 6 resort is 40,000 to 60,000 points per night.
- Solymar Cancun Beach Resort (reviews) – a great beach location for this all-inclusive hotel. Jay’s friend runs this hotel that is only 10 minutes from the airport. Starting in late April, sea turtles come onto their beach to lay eggs.
- The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa (reviews) – Anna and I are staying at this hotel as part of a Westin timeshare promotion of 5 days, 4 nights for $319. Look for an upcoming review at BaldThoughts.com after our December weekend getaway. This Marriott Rewards category 6 resort is 40,000 to 60,000 points per night.
- Viva Wyndham Azteca – An All-Inclusive Resort (reviews) – all Wyndham Rewards resorts are just 15,000 points per night, which a total steal for all-inclusive properties like this one.
AirBnB is also a great option. Use our referral link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay.
If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.
Getting around Cancun
The local airport is Cancún International Airport, which is very close to the Hotel Zone where many tourist hotels are.
Mexico has its own version of Global Entry, which I’ve found to be very useful to skip the massive lines that can form at the popular tourist destinations in Mexico (Cabo, Cancun, and Mexico City). Click here to find out more information about Viajero Confiable.
Jay says that the roads can be dangerous if you’re not used to driving in Mexico. He says that you’re better off taking taxis, shuttles, and tours to get around. Uber and Lyft are available, but they cannot pick up at the airport.
If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.
The Final Countdown
1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Cancun – A secret place called more mora (which means “berry berry”). The chef has traveled the world and brings all of those flavors and inspirations back to Mexico.
2) Favorite memory of Cancun – When he first moved to Cancun in 2012, he was amazed at how friendly the people were. It’s hard to explain, but he immediately fell in love and felt at home. The energy was intense and he hasn’t left since.
3) Happiest Happy Hour in Cancun – Jay recommends The Surfin’ Burrito because they are open 24 hours a day and sell drinks by the liter! Beers, margaritas, and daiquiris are on endless supply.
4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Cancun – Padrino’s Pizza Express has great ingredients and they deliver all over Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jay Kali about Cancun, Mexico. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Cancun
- Green dots = best things to do in Cancun
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Cancun
Who is Jay Kali?
Jay Kali is an ex-pat from the United States that moved down to Cancun, Mexico when his father retired. He quickly fell in love with Cancun and hasn’t left since.
He is known as “the strength architect,” and he runs an online fitness coaching website that caters to women. Kali Coaching personalizes workout routines for women to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle.
As a gift to my followers, Jay is providing a free book that helps women get stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally for lifelong results. You can download it immediately or order the paperback (just pay $7 for shipping).
Big thanks to our affiliate partner – Nectar Sleep
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Stay tuned for our next episode
Join us in the next episode when Pete McPherson of Do You Even Blog shares where to find the only full-motion flight simulator that’s open to the public in Atlanta, Georgia. We hope to see you when We Travel There.
What’s your favorite part of Cancun? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!
To learn more about Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, listen to our other episodes:
- Swimming in Cenotes, Coba Ruins & Tacos Stands in Tulum, Mexico
- Gran Cenote, Xel Ha & Papaya Playa Beach Club in Tulum, Mexico
- Bacalar Lagoon, Pirates Channel & Cenote Negro in Bacalar, Mexico