Explore Cancun on a Budget
Take a vacation to Cancun without spending a fortune. There’s a lot to see and do in Cancun, and not everything requires a large budget. Get the most out of your Cancun experience without breaking the bank by visiting ruins near by, soaking in the sun at public beaches, and eating like the locals, among others. It might require that you research and plan activities a little bit more thoroughly, but it’s well worth the time. So skip the tours, avoid fancy attractions, and escape the Hotel Zone--go on, Cancun is waiting.
Visit the Ruins
Skip Chichen Itza and Tulum and head for the understated, yet equally magnificent, ruins of El Rey and El Meco. For about three dollars, you’ll get to experience a piece of Mayan history right outside your hotel door.
El Rey, an ancient Mayan city, is conveniently located right in the center of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, making it easily accessible for most people visiting the area. This archeological site features 47 buildings with numerous burial grounds strewn along the grounds.The large colonies of iguanas that now call this place home have become one of the main attractions on this site.
El Meco is an ancient Maya city north of Cancun. Archeologists date the city around the year 300 AD when it was primarily inhabited by fisherman. Today, the ancient ruins consist of fourteen structured with a Mayan pyramid, El Castillo (the castle), at the center. Climb to the top of this impressive building for stunning views of the landscape. The archeological site also features two well preserved snake heads that resemble ones found in Chichen Itza.
Hit the Beach
Cancun is home to some of the most beautiful beaches around the world. The crystal clear turquoise water, calm waves, warm temperature, and scenic surroundings make it an absolute beach paradise. So, if you only do one thing on your vacation--make sure it involves the beach. There’s a wide variety of public beaches to choose from including Playa Juventud, Playa Ballenas, and Playa Marlin to name a few, so you can bask in the sun without spending a dime.
Check Out the Museum
Take a break from the sun and head over to the Maya Museum (Museo Maya de Cancun) for an enthralling history lesson. The museum has two main exhibits and one that rotates: the first is dedicated to the Mayan culture and history, and the second is specifically focused on the State of Quintana Roo. The ten thousand year old skeletal remains of La Mujer de las Palmas (The Woman of the Palms) is one of the rarest pieces in the museum’s collection. Throughout this impressive complex there are roughly four hundred Mayan artifacts including sculptures, jewelry, architecture, and tools on display.
Stop by the Local Market
There’s no better way to experience the heartbeat of Cancun than getting to know its people. Marcado (market) 28, is a massive flea market where you can find just about anything from handcrafted souvenirs and pottery to traditional Mexican clothing. And when you’re done shopping, stop by the restaurants stationed throughout the market for a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine at the fraction of what you’ll pay at the Hotel Zone.
Eat with the Locals
Pass on the five-star dining experience and eat with the locals. Some of the best places for authentic Mexican cuisine are unassuming little restaurants hidden in plain sight. Get your taco fix at Blue Gecko Cantina, which serves everything from traditional beef, chicken, and pork tacos to fiery fish, hurricane fish tacos, and many other combinations--so there’s something for everyone’s taste buds.
For a fresh seafood experience, skip the dress code and walk right into El Fish Fritanga--a favorite among locals. Relax outside by the lagoon with your toes in the sand while your kids have fun at the restaurant’s play area. Order the mouth-watering Pescadillas right from the menu, or have your own catch from fishing prepared just the way you like.
Head to the Aquarium
Cancun’s Interactive Aquarium is brimming with sea creatures and reptiles from all across the Caribbean including Queen Angelfish, Spotted Moray, Parrotfish, Stingrays, turtles, crocodiles, and more. For fifteen dollars, you can watch documentary videos about the Caribbean’s rich marine ecosystem and interact with stingrays, starfish, and sea urchins. You can also treat yourself to a foot massage from the Garra Rufa fish that will gently exfoliate your skin and improve blood circulation.
Before You Go
See all the wonderful things that Cancun has to offer without breaking the bank. Visit ruins right in the Hotel Zone, shop with the locals, and relax at the public beach. Another great way to save money is by opting for the bus rather than a taxi. The bus in Cancun is readily available at almost every street corner and will take you just about anywhere.
Tulum & Xel-Ha All Inclusive Tour$154
Dolphinaris Fintastic Experience Tour$139
Friendly Encounter Experience$88
Ocean Secrets Experience Tour$108
Horseback Riding Tour
Dolphin Swim Adventure Tour Isla Mujeres$91
Dolphin Encounter Tour Isla Mujeres Dolp$81
Dolphin Royal Swim Tour Isla Mujeres Dol$117
Garrafon Adventure Tour
Dolphin 4 private Platform Tour$168