8 Ways to Spend a Solo Trip to Cancun
Updated: May 29, 2020
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Prior to conquering Cancún with my toddler-aged son, I had been on a mad search for a short “momcation” destination. Tight on budget and time, I had originally planned on somewhere “quick”, familiar and within the U.S. such as Florida or my most frequently visited destination of Puerto Rico. However, after stumbling upon a cheap $200 round trip plane ticket to Cancún and an Airbnb for a mere $75 for three nights, I knew that it was meant to be-- I would be headed to Mexico...and doing it solo.
I didn’t know much about Cancún other than the fact that it was a sought-after beach paradise for families, spring breakers, and travelers in general hoping to get a taste of Mexico’s pristine beaches in the Riviera Maya. After doing some research on where to stay and what to do, I was on my way.
Here are several ways I safely and affordably enjoyed my solo trip to Cancún:
1. Learning the public transportation system
As a budget traveler, I decided to make my trip more adventurous by doing as the locals do and taking public buses to get around. From the moment I arrived at the airport, I spent $5 to take the ADO bus to the downtown Cancún station, and just a few more dollars to get to my downtown Airbnb.
The buses, whose main route to the hotel zone was walking distance from my Airbnb, at the time only cost the equivalent of $0.50 USD per ride. I quickly learned how easy it was to take the public buses-- the R1 and R2 buses would get me from the top of the hotel zone (Ave. Kukulan) to the main public entrance to the beach (which the locals refer to as “Coco Bongo”, named after the popular nightclub in that area) within 15 minutes.
2. Exploring the hotel zone and beaches
Cancún has an 8-mile long stretch of beach, which spans the entire length of the hotel zone. At the top of stretch is Playa Delfines, where most tourists stop to take a photo in front of the colorful “Cancún” sign. Although this beach is less populated, the water is much rougher.
Further north is the populated Forum Beach, where I spent a good amount of time relaxing in a beach chair, chatting with locals, and meeting other tourists at the beach bar, equipped with bar swings and great views of the ocean.
3. Exploring the nightlife
If there’s one thing that Cancún has no shortage of, it’s nightlife. Prior to my trip, I thought that I had absolutely no interest in clubbing or partying; however, after walking by the open air clubs with the music blasting into the night, it was almost impossible not to feel the beat and dance along. And, who can resist a $10 open bar?
As a solo traveler, I never once felt out of place as the atmosphere of the bars and clubs are very inviting and encourages everyone to get involved, whether in contests or congo lines marked by balloons and confetti. In fact, it didn’t take me long to make friends with other women in the club who I ended up hanging out with for the rest of the night.
4. Touring the Ancient Ruins
A trip to Cancún isn’t complete without exploring some of the historic sites in the nearby cities and states. On the second day of my trip, I woke up before sunrise to take an early-access day trip to Chichen Itza, now recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world. Located in the Yucatán state, Chichen Itza is roughly a two-hour drive from Cancún.
Although getting up at such an early hour was difficult after a long night in the hotel zone, I was able to sit back and take a nap on an air conditioned coach bus. The tour was led by an archaeologist who was very knowledgeable about the Mayan history behind the ruins, making for a culturally enriching experience.
I was later thankful to have taken the early tour, as it was totally worth it to beat the worst of the crowds and the worst of the heat in the Yucatán (and trust me, it gets hot).
5. Taking a Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
Just 8 miles off of mainland Cancún sits Isla Mujeres, a must-see island for anyone visiting Cancún. During one of my days there, I took the bus to central downtown and then hopped in a colectivo toward Puerto Juarez, where I took the Ultramar ferry to Isla Mujeres. The total round-trip damage was about $13, a few dollars savings over what I would have paid if I had left from Playa Tortugas in the Hotel Zone.
After a comfortable 15-minute, comfortable ferry ride complete with a band who played and sang tropical music from start to end, I arrived at the port lined with vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs and clothing items. During the few hours that I was there, two or so were spent renting a golf cart and driving around the entire two-mile long island. I stopped to take photos along the way, making special stops at Tortugranja (Turtle Farm) and at Punta Sur. I later stopped at one of the oceanfront restaurants on Playa Norte where I treated myself to a late lunch and spent some time relaxing in the clear, blue waters.
6. Eating Tacos
I thought I had loved tacos before, but it is safe to say that my addiction to tacos occurred after my trip to Cancún. Outside of the hotel zone I found several mouthwatering street taco stands and restaurants that left me wondering what in the world I was eating at the “Mexican” restaurants back at home. Not to mention, I was able to fill up for just a few dollars-- most tacos were only $1.00 or less! After washing them down with a cold horchata, I had one happy tummy and taste buds that craved them endlessly afterwards.
7. Shopping in Downtown Cancún
When it was time to do some shopping, I found that the best place to start was in downtown Cancún. There, I was able to visit Plaza Las Americas, Mercado 28, as well as many other small shops and vendors that cost a fraction of what I would have spent in the hotel zone. Cancún is certainly the place to be for authentic, handmade souvenirs and clothing.
8. Taking a Day Trip to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel
Excited to see more of the Riviera Maya, I made my way to the Cancún bus station and spent $8 on a round trip ADO bus ticket to Playa del Carmen, just a little under an hour and a half away.
After spending a good amount of time exploring the different shops, stands, and relaxing on the beach, I then spent about $16 or so on a round trip 45-minute ferry ticket to Cozumel, where I relaxed and enjoyed a delicious oceanfront dinner and cocktails at Mezcalito’s Last Frontier, on the opposite side of the island away from the tourist area. After returning to the mainland of Playa del Carmen, I enjoyed the nightly performances on the plaza before boarding my bus back to Cancún.
Cancún certainly has no shortage of things to do for every age and group dynamic, and a solo traveling woman is no exception. I entered Cancún not knowing what to expect, and left pleasantly surprised at how safe and walkable it was, not to mention affordable for even the most budget-strapped traveler. I look forward to returning in the near future to soak up more sand and sun, and to uncover more of Cancún’s history and hidden jewels!
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