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Top 10 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Cancun and Riviera Maya

Travel Tips — By Susan Vincil on October 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm
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Photo by Mel Rowling

MYTH #1:  Cancun is one big, non-stop party. This is definitely NOT true.  At one time, Cancun was a Spring Break mecca, but those days have passed.  Spring Break groups still visit Cancun and, during a couple of weeks in March, the nightclubs are packed full of young, scantily-clad college students.  But, since most hotels do not allow Spring Breakers, you aren’t likely to be bothered by the party people, unless you visit the nightclubs.  Keep in mind, your average college student can’t afford to stay in really nice hotels.  If you stay in one of the nicer hotels, you probably won’t even encounter a Spring Breaker, except in the nightclubs, or on the city buses.

MYTH #2:  Cancun is not a good place to go for a family vacation. Cancun has many hotels that cater to families.  Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa, Great Parnassus, Club Med Cancun, and Sea Adventure Resort & Water Park (formerly Blue Bay Club) are the ones that quickly come to mind.  They all have special activities for children throughout the day and Dreams even has a sleepover at their kid’s club, once a week.  Sea Adventure has a water park, as their name implies, and Great Parnassus has a super cool pirate ship in their kid’s club.  Club Med has lots of family-friendly activities, as well.

MYTH #3:  If you go to Cancun, you’ll be abducted or killed by drug cartels. You are not likely to get shot or kidnapped by drug cartels.  Most of the drug-related violence is actually taking place along the US-Mexico border, which is over 1,500 miles from Cancun.  While Cancun has had some horrible crimes committed by members of the drug cartels, no tourists have been harmed and, in fact, none of the violence has even taken place in the hotel zone.  Statistics show that visitors to Cancun do not die from violent acts.  Instead, they normally die from heart attacks, car accidents, falling from balconies, or drowning.  Often, people drink too much and do stupid things, like swim while they are intoxicated, and die.  It’s NOT from an act of violence.

MYTH #4  You can’t drink the water. If you are staying in Cancun’s hotel zone, you CAN drink the water.  You see, the hotel zone has a water filtration system, which makes tap water safe to drink.  That being said, most people stick with bottled water, just to be safe.  If you prefer to drink bottled water, that’s ok, but know that you CAN use tap water to brush your teeth and, of course, to bathe.  And, remember, you can get Montezuma’s Revenge by traveling anywhere…not just to Mexico.  Many people overindulge in both food and drink, while on vacation, as well as getting too much sun.  All of those things can cause your stomach to revolt.  If you take it easy on the alcohol, while laying in the sun, and don’t over-eat, you’ll probably be fine.

MYTH #5:  All Mexican food is just like the food served at Taco Bell. This could not be further from the truth. Mexican food is varies by region and a particular dish may be prepared differently from one region to another.  Some regions have very spicy food, while others do not.  Just last week, UNESCO gave Mexican cuisine the highest honor when they gave it the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity distinction. This honor has never been given to another country for it’s food.  France has tried to get this distinction twice and was rejected both times.  So, that’s saying something about Mexican cuisine.  It’s wonderful!  If you would like to try different types of Mexican food, check out the Taste of Playa food & wine festival next month, in Playa del Carmen.

MYTH #6:  Everyone speaks perfect English. While many people in Cancun’s hotel zone speak English very well, not everyone does.  Some hotel workers only know enough English to do their jobs well, but not enough to carry on a conversation with guests.  If someone speaks to you in English, speak slowly when you reply.  That will make it easier for them to understand you.  Also, try to speak at least basic Spanish, as this shows respect for the country and the culture.

MYTH #7: Cancun residents spend each and every day on the beach. Oh how us Cancunenses wish this were true.  Sadly, it is not.  Cancun residents, like the rest of you out there, have to work.  Some of us are lucky enough to work from home and set our own hours, however most people work outside the home and for very long hours.  Typically, employees work 6 days a week and anywhere from 8-12 hours a day.  With that sort of work schedule, there is not much time left for lounging on the beach.  Beaches, malls, and buses are very crowded on Sundays because that is the one day a week that many people have off from work.

MYTH #8: The area where most of the big nightclubs are located is called “downtown Cancun”. The area where the nightclubs are located is actually called Party Center. Downtown Cancun is known as “El Centro” and it’s not in Cancun’s hotel zone.  It’s located on the mainland (the hotel zone is actually an island) and Mercado 28 & Walmart, among other places, can be found in El Centro.

MYTH #9: Only 20-somethings travel to Cancun.  I’ll feel out of place, as a 40-something, in Cancun. People of all ages visit Cancun and, in the nightclubs, you’ll see people ranging in age from late-teens (the drinking age is only 18, in Mexico) to people in their 50s or 60s.  And sometimes you’ll run across a fellow partier that is even older than that!  At the hotels and on the beaches, there are also people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  Don’t feel self-conscious about wearing a bathing suit in public.  You are on vacation and will probably not ever see any of the other hotel guests again in your life, so let your hair down and relax.

MYTH #10:  If you travel to Cancun during hurricane season, the weather will be horrible and you will probably be caught in a hurricane. Hurricane season runs from June 1st until November 30th, but Cancun rarely has hurricanes head her way until September or October.  And, even if a storm is headed towards Cancun, it doesn’t mean it will turn into a hurricane, or even make it to Cancun.  Just last week, hurricane Paula was headed directly for Cancun.  The storm ended up turning to the east and Cancun only got some rain.  There was no wind.  After 1½ days of  clouds and rain, the sun came back out.  The weather is currently as close to perfect as one could ask for….sunny, blue skies, a light breeze, low humidity, and temperatures in the low 80s.  If you would like to visit Cancun in the Summer, don’t let hurricane season distract you.  For the most part, the weather is great (albeit a bit hot and humid in July & August), during the Summer.  The weather reports often say it will rain, but it’s usually only a brief shower and not an actual “rainy day”.  Full days of rain are a rarity in Cancun.  One good thing about cloudy days is that they keep you cooler when visiting Chichen Itza, or other ruins in the jungle, where it can be miserably hot at certain times of year.

Tags: cancun, common myths about cancun

    10 Comments

  • Yes, please DO check out all the different kinds of food available…and not just Mexican food! So many talented Chefs have come to this region from all over the world. So many cuisines are well represented on the Riviera Maya!

  • Cancun has something for everyone from honeymooners to families, and hotels for every budget.
    it’s the perfect vacation destination!

  • Dorothy says:

    Crown Paradise is also a great family resort. My family has gone there the last 2 years & just love it. Taking the bus made getting around so easy & there fun to ride even just to sight see.

  • Ellen says:

    Great info, too many people have been scared off because of things they have read . It’s great to get truthful info out there so people won’t be afraid of CANCUN.

  • Bob Schilling says:

    My wife and I have been to Cancun several times and like it well enough to have purchased a wonderful time share there. The people are delightful, the beaches sandy and comfortable and there are excellent restaurants. I drink tap water every day with no ill effects. You can take a bus to anywhere in the area for about 60 cents and a 26 mile sidewalk goes all the way from downtown Cancun to the end of the hotel district. And I’ve never been kidnapped or shot at. Sad to say, the American press thrives on distorting reality to sell scary stories (and perhaps keep tourism dollars at home???).

  • Zukogirl says:

    I sooo love your article @Susan! so true! I personally love AMResorts properties! they offer gateways for everybody!

  • Susan Vincil says:

    I’m a big fan of AMResorts too, Zukogirl. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • RumShopRyan says:

    I have yet to travel to Cancun or the Riviera Maya. I do know that the people there are super nice as I talk to them all the time on Twitter and Facebook. My brother also spent his honeymoon in Carmen del Playa and said it was amazing.

    I will get there soon, I promise.

    Cheers!

  • Bench Saw says:

    there are many good family resorts that you can find both online and offline, some are very cheap too “”

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