Once you see the beaches of Cancun and Riviera Maya you’ll not be dazzled by any other beaches in the world.
The first time I saw the turquoise blue water of Cancun, I was fascinated. Before, I had only seen the European beaches and surprisingly, Cancun is way better. Cancun beaches are the true paradise, almost similar to Thailand beaches, but with its own unique charm.
For travelers, the Riviera Maya may seem like an expensive destination especially if you’ve seen it on magazines where famous celebrities stay at luxurious resorts.
But the reality is it’s actually for everyone and here we’ll give you the best tips for traveling to the Riviera Maya on a budget.
When is the Best Time to Travel to Cancun and Riviera Maya?
To find cheap prices you have to travel during off-season. Plane tickets, hotel rates and tours will be cheaper and you`ll also avoid large concentrations of tourists. The best months to find cheap rates in Cancun and the Riviera Maya are the following:
Late January to February
During May to Mid-June
From September to early December
The hottest period is from July to September; June is the rainiest month; and during the months of November to February it is usually mild and very windy. But in general, Cancun and Riviera Maya have an excellent climate to enjoy the beaches all throughout the year.
Buy your plane ticket in advance or if you see any online promotion. The latter is very important, since sometimes buying the flight in advance does not guarantee the best prices. Always look for seasonal offers from airlines.
How to Get Around in Cancun and Riviera Maya
There’s a lot to do and see in Riviera Maya. Transportation isn’t gonna be a problem if you want to travel around Riviera Maya since there’s public transportation like taxis, buses and vans. Some transpo will drop you off right where you have to go, and others would drop you off to a nearby drop-off point. Just pick whatever’s convenient to you.
From the Airport
When you arrive at the airport in Cancun you’ll find several ways to get to your hotel. The most expensive would be to take a local taxi. Depending on your arrival time at Cancun International Airport (CUN) you can choose one of the following options:
This is a local bus line. It takes you from the airport to the ADO terminal in Cancun (70 pesos), located in the center of the city or at the terminal in Playa Del Carmen. The service is normally available from 8am to 12pm.
If you arrive after 12:00 pm and before 8:00 am, then you should consider bus service. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll be dropped off to your hotel for only 8USD. Some airlines offer this type of transport when you buy your plane ticket at a slightly lower price rather than taking the bus directly from the terminal.
Public transportation in Cancun offers a 24-hour service from the city to the hotel zone and vice versa. In the city center, buses stop operating around 11pm. The average cost is about a dollar. Although it’s the cheapest option, for safety reasons, we don’t recommended it for first-timers.
This is one of the most practical and economical ways of transportation in Riviera Maya. This transportation company from Cancun airport is available anytime of the day for about 10USD per head. It’s usually use by locals and tourists.
You’ll find them everywhere and they’re useful if you want to go from point A to point B. For example, you can take a Van from Playa Del Carmen to go to Tulum, or you can take one from Playa Del Carmen and get off in Akumal, Cenote Cristalino, Xel-Ha Park, etc.
Unlike the buses, they don’t make stops to pick up and drop off passengers. The service is convenient, comfortable, and even cheaper when you travel with family or friends. We highly recommend booking online, to get cheaper rates and have everything ready for your trip.
Rent a car:
The most comfortable and practical way to tour the Riviera Maya is through a car rental agency in Cancun. A great advantage is that you can rent it in Cancun and return it in another city. Besides, this zone of the country has good and safer roads compared to other parts of Mexico.
If you go with a few friends and share the cost of the rent and gasoline, this option would be ideal for you. If you book online you’ll find better prices, you can find cars for as low as 25USD per day.
Cheap places to stay in Cancun and Riviera Maya
Always look for hotels near the city center or in a strategic point. This will make your pick up and drop off easier for you and the driver. In Cancun, hotels located in the center of the city and at the beginning of the hotel zone (before km 6) are usually the cheapest.
In Playa del Carmen, the most expensive hotels are the ones next to the beach, you can find lower prices as you move away from 5th Avenue.
You’ll find a reasonable price for a hotel if you travel during off-peak season. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels at really affordable prices ($40 a night), and the trick is to book in advance.
Hotel websites usually offer better prices, so take your time and compare accommodation rates. Look for hotels with free nights or breakfast. And before you choose, check out other travelers’ online reviews.
Purchase hotel nights based on your itinerary and avoid ads saying, “all-inclusive.” If you really want to see the beauty of Riviera Maya you don’t wanna go back to your hotel for lunch and dinner. Consider trying different restaurants to get out of your comfort zone.
On the other hand, the “all-Inclusive” has greatly affected the tourism industry in Quintana Roo, since some visitors opt to spend their short vacation locked up in their hotels. Picking a hotel stay with breakfast package is a better option and could save you a few pesos and help the local economy’s growth.
Best Places to Eat in Riviera Maya
Cancun and Riviera Maya are more expensive than the rest of Mexico. When I visit other destinations in Mexico, I was surprised at how much food I can buy with 10USD. But in the Caribbean, the taco stand on the street corner is more expensive than the rest of Mexico. But this ain’t so bad because there’s always options that fit any budget.
The most exclusive (and expensive) restaurants are in the Cancun hotel zone, but if you go a couple blocks away from the hotel zone you’ll to find some delicious and cheaper restaurants.
On 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen, you’ll find all sorts of food like pizza places, tacos, and quesadillas.
If you walk down on 10th Avenue, you’ll find more options like “taquerías” and “fondas”. If you’re looking for more variety with cheaper rates you can go to “El Ejido” area across the federal highway.
Pizza and Pasta
Mama Mia – 2nd street between Av 10 and Av 15
Pizza Renzo – Av.4 Between 8th and 6th Street
Mr. Lasaña (Luciérnaga Mza10 L1, SM503)
Mr. Sirloin – has several branches: Constituents and 25th Avenue and 10th Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets
El Fogón – Constituents and 30th Avenue
Lajam bait – they have several branches too. 32nd Street corner of 10th Avenue
Tacos de Barba-Birria – 30th Avenue, corner of 38th Street
Three Kings. – they serve tacos, salbutes, panuchos of piglet, piglet and black stuffing. (López Portillo Avenue and Andrés Quintana Roo Avenue)
Tacos de Cerdo or better known as “Los tacos de la Yaxchilán” – it’s where the locals go for late snacks after a party. (Yaxchilan Avenue with Punta Nicchehabi)
Divers. Calle 26. Between 30th Avenue and 25th Avenue
The Pirate. 40th Street, between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue
Other restos to try
The Quekas. – 30th Avenue and 14th Street.
Papa Charly. – they have a lunchtime special that’s located in 30th Avenue between 30th and 25th
Doña Paula’s kitchen – 6th Street between 10th and 15th Avenue. It’s a blue house with no signs, they have home-cooked meals.
Many of the hotels in the Riviera Maya have small kitchens, so if you really wanna be smart with your finances, a good option is to buy groceries at the supermarkets and prepare your own food.
You can’t miss a traditional and inexpensive dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, which is the cochinita pibil. It’s very common to see cochinita tortas and tacos stalls, both in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. A “torta” of this typical delicacy costs around 30 pesos.
In Cancun, near the ADO bus terminal there is a market known as Mercado 23, they have a wide selection of regional food products at very affordable price.
Traveling to Riviera Maya on a budget is possible. You just need to follow the steps mentioned above and your money can go along way. I hope you find this post helpful, if you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to leave your comments down below. Cheers!