Cancun on a budget

Cancun on a budget

Finally, I got to write this one. It’s been a few good months since my holiday and I kept postponing it. Someone told me now that I have a blog, I will need to travel each month, to keep it going. I was worried about that as well, until I realised how much material I have already as a backlog and it keeps getting bigger.

Back to Cancun. Riviera Maya. My friends and I booked an Airbnb in the “bohemian” part of Cancun. I don’t have a picture to capture our faces when we got there: Wait, this is… Cancun?

Downtown Cancun
Cancun Souvenir Market

Where to stay

Many of us think of Cancun as a place full of resorts and luxury. That’s one side of it, which is highly advertised. But there is so much more of it. There are very affordable places, like hostels, Airbnb, B&B and so on, in the city. And there is a very good bus service that goes along the shore and stops to all major public beaches and tourist areas.

Jokes aside, the bohemian part of Cancun (Downtown) is quite nice. Just very contrasting to the touristy resort-like images of Cancun. There are lots of beautiful graffiti, a big souvenir market and many restaurants. Definitely cheaper than the touristy area. And it’s within walking distance from the central station, with good connections everywhere in the peninsula.

Matching my dress with the grafitti
Matching my dress with the graffiti

Going to the beach

Either it’s a resort or a public beach, nature doesn’t know the difference. If you can afford and want to stay at a resort, that’s nice, but if you don’t, you can still enjoy the same natural beauty.

So this how a public beach (free) in Cancun looks like:

Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines

What I would mention here is that there are not many food options around. There are a few expensive restaurants and the mini markets, no in between. Don’t forget your bottles of water!

Where to eat

Except for the touristy area, where everything is more expensive and commercial, but in the city itself you get all types of restaurants, more or less local. I mean, if you want to try really authentic Mexican food, Cancun is not the best place. You go to Cancun for the beach, mainly.

There is also a very big supermarket, Walmart I think. We found it by mistake, as we were searching for raincoats. In the rainy season, when it rains almost daily, it was impossible to buy a raincoat anywhere. Local were even surprised we were asking about it.

We tried a few restaurants in Downtown Cancun:

Small local restaurant
Small local restaurant
Marguerita and Mexican music
Marguerita and Mexican music
Sounds about right
Sounds about right
Pretty restaurant
Pretty restaurant


Now, that’s an adventure. The cheaper it is, the more adventurous it is. The R1 and R2 busses that go to the tourist area and the ADO busses between cities are the most reliable ones. They are frequent and reliable.

There are also the mini busses in Cancun. We arrived at this big station made of many stops. We realised we were sitting in the wrong stop after we saw our minibus going past us. Even locals don’t know what to advise. If you don’t speak Spanish, no worries, we were, and it still didn’t help.

But we got assured there will be another one, but nobody knows when. Sometime. There were other people by the stop, so I guess that was a good sign. In the end, we got a minibus driver to confirm he was going to the direction we wanted. Just 10 min later, to leave us at the wrong place, surrounded by taxi drivers. But we got it right with the second minibus and we made it just in time for the ferry ride.

The ferries, there’s two types. One for the locals and cars and one for tourists. There is a huge difference in price. We used the ferry to go to Isla Mujeres, which I wrote about further down.

View from the ferry
View from the ferry

We tried to avoid taxis but being 4 people, when divided, it still seemed quite cheap. I tried Uber a few times, unsuccessfully. It seems it had trouble to load the app. At the airport, I waited 10+ min for each ride, just to disappear all of a sudden (didn’t appear in my cancelled trips). After a few attempts I gave up.

Renting a car is a cheap option if you are a group and you want to explore the peninsula. If it’s only 1-2 people, probably ADO buses are the easiest option. We rented a car and a driver to go to Las Coloradas, which was a hussle. The driver asked for more money for gasoline (than it was agreed) than the rental owner asked us for more money because we were a few minutes late (because of the driver). It’s the little things that add up to annoy one.

Trips from Cancun

We had a short time in Cancun, before heading to San Cristobal de las Casas. There are many beautiful places in the Mayan Peninsula and I’m happy to have checked a few.

There are direct buses with ADO to Chichen Itza, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Isla Mujeres is just a short ferry ride away, but Las Coloradas is more difficult to reach.

Chichen Itza

It needs no introduction and no wonder why. The huge pyramid makes you feel so little and insignificant. It also made me think about how would have looked like during its time. Because now it’s only a monument to look at, very big and impressive, yet too fragile to climb.

Chichen Itza pyramid proportion
The proportions

Once you’ve past the pyramid, there is little as impressive to the eye. That’s why I suggest to take a tour guide, it makes it much more interesting.

Chichen Itza columns
Mayan columns


Tulum is far more relaxed than Cancun. If I were to stay longer in the area, I’d go for Tulum. Unfortunately, we went only for a day trip. We went to see more Mayan ruins, this time on the beach!

Tulum Maya ruins
Tulum Mayan ruins

Well, it’s more on the hills, but after visiting the national park and admiring the views, we went to the beach, which is a few minutes away.

Tulum beach
Tulum beach

Playa del Carmen (Carmen’s Beach)

On our way back from Tulum, we stopped in Playa del Carmen. Haven’t fully explored it, but it seemed nice and lively in the evening. We had dinner in cave, and it was a great experience.

Restaurant in a cave
Restaurant in a cave

Isla Mujeres (Women island)

Isla Mujeres is very small and contrary to the name, populated by men, women and children. When you look at the map, you think you could probably walk it. Yes, but the hot weather makes it more difficult. Once you get off the ferry, you can walk to the beach. The other options are motorcycles and golf carts. The rentals all have the same prices.

Driving on Isla Mujeres roads
Gulf cart, on Isla Mujeres roads

The beach is very beautiful and there are places for snorkelling as well.

Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres beach

Las Coloradas (The Coloured ones)

We wanted to see the pink lake. Renting a car with a driver, on short notice, from a small local company, was a bit challenging, but we got there. We were all tired and without many expectations, sitting in a car for 5h. But when we got there, it’s amazing! The lake is really pink and there is also an orange lake and a green one. We admired the flamingos.

Pink lake. No filters, phone camera
Pink lake. No filters, phone camera

I would say that from Cancun, it’s best to do a 2 day trip to Las Coloradas. 1 day is too rushed, but we were out of time. It’s a paradise for the birds, the views are different but very beautiful and you can swim in the colourful lakes.

Green lake. Las coloradas
Green lake in Las Coloradas

PS: All my photos are taken during full rainy season.

Happy travels!

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