Updated on March 17, 2019 by Asher Fergusson
What should I pack for my Cancun vacation?
With so many things to do, you’ll really need to be careful about how you pack. I’ve put together some tips for what to wear in Cancun, plus must-have items to pack, what NOT to bring, and some FAQs for your convenience.
Most importantly, be prepared for fun in the sun and sand, and bring a smile and a sense of adventure!
6) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A Virtual Private Network is an excellent way to achieve two crucial goals.
First, it will allow you to use available internet without any country-specific censorship or blocks.
Second (and probably the most important), it will allow you to use wifi without fear of being hacked. It does this by adding an extra layer of encryption to your data to prevent cyber-thieves from stealing your personal data. Trust me, you don’t want to learn the hard way what it feels like to have your credit card information stolen by someone in a foreign country! NordVPN is what I highly recommended and it’s popular amongst many other experienced travelers as well.
Other items you shouldn’t forget for a Cancun trip:
Travel Toiletry Bottles
Contact Lens Case & Solution
Travel First Aid Kit
Spare SD Cards
Steripod Toothbrush Cover
Travel Friendly Multi-Tool
Hiking Shoes (Mens & Womens)
Travel Laundry Kit
Travel Makeup Bag
Electronics Carry Case
Hangable Travel Toiletry Bag
Motion Sickness Tablets
What to Wear in Cancun
Needless to say, you’ll probably want to pack more than just swimwear for your trip. Of course, casual dress is suitable almost anywhere in Cancun, but you’ll also want to pack some slightly dressier pieces. The weather is reliably warm year-round, but the temperature can sometimes dip down a little in the winter, so it’s worth bringing a light jacket just in case of emergency.
When visiting Cancun, women will feel most comfortable in clothing made from lightweight, breathable fabrics. Mexican women typically wear linen or cotton dresses or pants. High heels and makeup are commonly worn by local women day to day. Additionally, local Mexicans tend to dress on the conservative side, if only to protect their skin from the sun. However, visitors shouldn’t feel out of place in shorts and tank tops. Classic resort wear like maxi dresses with sandals or espadrilles are perfect for a “dressed up” look, but visitors will feel right at home in shorts and flip-flops as well! Sandals are essential for any trip to Cancun, but be sure to pack sneakers for active days.
Mexican men tend to dress in clean-cut, casual clothing that errs on the dressy side. Like the women of Cancun, they too favor lightweight, breathable fabrics, such as linen and cotton. The most common ensemble of a man in Cancun would be jeans or khakis, paired with a guayabera shirt (a linen button shirt featuring rows of pleats sewn on either side of the buttons), along with leather shoes, sneakers, or sandals. Swim trunks and a tee shirt are acceptable attire, but the day to day look in Cancun tends to be a little bit more elevated than some of the more casual seaside towns (like Playa del Carmen or Tulum) on the Yucatán peninsula. Visiting men will feel most comfortable in chino shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt. Casual, yet well-composed outfits are ideal for Cancun.
Seasons in Cancun are fairly mild, though as mentioned above, winter can bring a little bit of a chill. Prep for heavy sun exposure and plenty of activity!
WET SEASON – May, June, July, August, September, and October:
The wet season in Cancun is basically summer and fall combined, since temperatures don’t dip down much at all in what we normally think of as the fall months.
Temperatures are high, rain is frequent (between 10 and 15 rainy days per month), and the air tends to be a bit humid.
Rains don’t tend to last long when they do come – it may rain for a couple of hours and then clear up for the rest of your day.
This is the wet season, so of course you’ll need a rain jacket, and it should absolutely be the kind that allows vapor to escape from inside the jacket to prevent you from steaming inside it (like the one we’ve linked). There’s nothing worse than having to wear a jacket when it’s hot out and feeling like you’re wrapped in plastic wrap. You should also bring a travel umbrella to carry with you just in case. Shorts, tank tops, sundresses, and good sandals are perfect for this season. Water-resistant active shoes are a good idea if you’ll be doing anything active at all. Don’t forget a swimsuit cover-up and a fun sunhat and shades! Temperatures average between 85°F to 95°F (29°C to 35°C).
DRY SEASON – November, December, January, February, March, April:
The dry season in Cancun is essentially a combination of winter and spring. Dry, windy, but plenty warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities.
Rain still happens this time of year, but it’s much less frequent. Still, a rain jacket is a good idea.
Tourist high-season is from January through April, so expect higher prices and more crowds during this time.
We recommend bringing a pair of pants in case of a chill, but there’s really no need to bring more than that. Even the evenings don’t cool off too much. Active shoes, walking sandals, sundresses, and shorts are still a great idea. Don’t forget to bring a stylish swimsuit cover-up for days on the beach or poolside! A sunhat, cute shades, and quality sunscreen are a must. Temperatures average between 80°F to 88°F (27°C to 31°C) but can occasionally dip to as low as 65°F (18°C).
Aquatic Activities – The options for aquatic activities in Cancun are practically endless. You can do anything from snorkeling, jet skiing, scuba diving, parasailing, swimming in cenotes, and more! For days like this, where you’re bound to be in and out of the water regularly, you’ll be most comfortable wearing quick-dry clothing over your swimsuit. Bring a backpack to easily carry any extra items you may need – snacks, sunscreen, a mask and snorkel, and even a change of clothes, will likely come in handy. Sandals are the best footwear for days on the water because you won’t care if they get wet. Remember, the glare of the sun is amplified on the water; you won’t regret splurging for polarized sunnies.
Exploring the hotel zone – Cancun’s hotel zone is Mexico’s answer to the Las Vegas strip. You could spend hours wandering in and out of shops, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. If you plan to tackle the entire 15-mile stretch in one go, comfortable walking shoes are essential. If you’re just going for a quick stroll, sandals are just fine as the whole area is flat. Wear a comfortable sundress, or stylish shorts and a top for exploring to avoid feeling underdressed in the event you decide to pop into Cartier or another high-end boutique to browse!
Archaeological Sites – Chichén Itzá is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico and lies just a couple of hours from Cancun. If you plan to explore this ancient Mayan site, you’re best to go prepared. There is no shade to be found at Chichén Itzá, so it is crucial to prepare for sun exposure. Wear lightweight clothing that covers your shoulders to avoid burning. Bringing a sunhat, sunglasses, and a water bottle will help you stay protected and hydrated as well. Comfortable (and lightweight) running shoes will keep your feet cool and supported as you explore the site. Because you’ll be doing a lot of walking, avoid carrying a heavy purse or backpack; a crossbody bag with room for a water bottle and a small camera is a sensible option.
Nightlife – Cancun’s nightlife is composed of everything from beach bars to nightclubs, such as the infamous Coco Bongo. If you’re headed to an actual nightclub formal attire is preferred, though the rules tend to be somewhat forgiving for women. A dress and heels are ideal for women, while men should plan to wear a collared shirt, slacks, and dress shoes.
What NOT to take to Cancun
Because Cancun offers such a wide range of visitor experiences, it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to clothing. However, because locals tend to be a little on the dressy-side, you will fit in best when your outfits look composed, rather than thrown together. Cancun’s weather is consistently hot and humid, so it’s best to avoid heavy clothing and synthetic fabrics which will only make you sweat more. If your footwear requires socks, make sure they are breathable, cotton, or athletic socks that wick sweat and don’t trap odor; your friends and neighbors will thank you. Mexican women are notorious for wearing high heels at all times, but for the sake of your feet, save them just for nights out.
FAQs about traveling to Cancun
1) Do many people speak English in Cancun?
It’s still very likely that you’ll run into people who do not speak English, so be prepared to use a Spanish/English dictionary and your patience. People are friendly and willing to help.
Also, many taxi drivers will only know basic English so knowing a little Spanish may help.
2) Can I spend US Dollars in Cancun?
Many hotels or businesses will accept USD in Cancun, although it is not recommended to spend in USD. You will almost always get an unfavorable rate or simply be ripped off. Try to always deal in the local currency if you can help it, and familiarize yourself with the appropriate prices before making big purchases.
3) Do I need to tip in Cancun?
Many places add on the tip automatically so it’s best to check your bill – the Spanish word for tip is “propina.” If a tip has already been added, it is certainly not necessary to add more.
Baggers in supermarkets expect a small change tip, and musicians in bars usually walk around with a jar expecting a few pesos.
4) Can I drink the Cancun water?
Most visitors to Cancun cannot handle the local water very well. It’s advised that you drink only bottled or filtered water. Bottled water can be purchased inexpensively, or you can bring your own filtered water bottle that can remove microbes and bacteria so you always have a safe supply of water on-hand. (Many filtered bottles do not remove certain contaminants – this one is a good option for Cancun)
5) Is it safe to leave the resort/tourist area?
Cancun outside the tourist area is also relatively safe, though there’s not too much to see for tourists in the immediate vicinity – you have a to travel a little to get to the attractions. If you are the more independent traveler type, you can save money on tours by going to places like Chichen Itza yourself from the bus station.
6) How do I know if it’s safe to travel to Cancun?
You can easily verify current travel warnings for your trip by visiting the US Department of State website (if you’re based in the US).
7) Do I need vaccinations to visit Cancun?
No specific vaccinations are typically required for Cancun, but check the CDC website to be sure. It is always a good idea to be up to date with all the standard travel vaccinations anyway. (MMR, Typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A)
8) Do I need a plug adapter for Cancun?
You won’t need an adapter for US two-pronged cords, but any electronics which have a grounding wire (US three-pronged cords) may need an adapter. Many outlets in Mexico are two-prong only, and an adapter is the only way to plug in, say, your laptop if you’re bringing it.
9) What is the best time of year to visit Cancun?
Weather affects this drastically. May through November tends to be the off-season when prices are lowest, but that’s because it’s the rainiest time of year. Shoulder-seasons – the times when prices and weather balance out a bit – are early December and April.
10) What about the recent safety concerns in Cancun (2018)?
There have been some recent crimes in Cancun which have sparked media coverage. These issues are nerve-wracking for any traveler. The best way to make an informed decision when traveling is to read up on government travel warnings for any destination you travel to. Otherwise, if you follow basic safety precautions and are cautious with your after-dark whereabouts, you’ll likely never run into any trouble.
11) Do I need a Passport to travel to Cancun?
However, if you’re arriving from the US by boat or driving you can use a PASS passport card, which is a sophisticated wallet card that’s the size of your Driver’s License or ID.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months – the period that a US citizen can stay without a Visa.