While Cancun has never appealed to us (mainly due to the fact that to get the best out of it, you would need to go to an expensive all-inclusive resort), we were catching our flight to Cuba from here. We also decided to spend our full day here inspecting the runner-up of our island dilemma – Isla Mujeres.
The only affordable backpacker spots are in Cancun’s city itself, which is large, busy, and just not that appealing. However, it is very easy to colectivo to the nice spots in the area such as the Zona Hotelera (this is what you are thinking of when you think Cancun). We stayed at a relatively new place, La Morena, and it was really good value. The beds were comfy enough, air con, and a real decent breakfast at a very cheap price.
As I said, our day here was actually spent out at Isla Mujeres. Top travel tip: pretty much everyone will tell you you need to catch a return ferry from one of the city-based ports for about $300 pesos per person. However, if you catch a colectivo out to Punta Sam (a small port about 20 minutes north of the city, $10 pesos/pp), you can catch the car ferry as a passenger for a mere $45 pesos each way. While this ferry isn’t as regular, you can easily time yourself to hit one of the 5-6 journeys it makes a day!
Isla Mujeres is a beautiful spot. The beaches are white sand, crystal blue waters, with gentle breaks on the north and Western side. It also has the luxury of all modern conveniences, with many shops, restaurants, cafes and activities such as fishing charters, jet-skiing etc.
We even found a restaurant called Rooster, which specialised in various twists on eggs Benedict. After a few weeks of local food, this was pure heaven. If you need an example, Jonny got a Caribbean Benedict which had pineapple, shrimps and a curried hollandaise sauce. It was really good!
We spent our day enjoying the beach and the water, and moseyed around the relatively small settlement that occupies the northern end of the island.
The down-side? It lived up to it’s reputation as being over-run by tourists. We don’t blame people for coming here (hell, we were some of them), but we just couldn’t see ourselves really enjoying ourselves here as long as we did at Holbox.
If you do come to Cancun or Isla Mujeres, be prepared to spend money in order to really get the full experience of this beautiful place, as it just is not easily done on a budget for more than a day or two!