I always imagined what it would be like to lounge in an open-air cabana with a good book in one hand and a never-ending drink in the other. The feeling of having dinner plans set, snacks galore and a pool bar has a stream of mojitos at the ready. Plus, always having friendly, familiar faces to share a smile or a joke with? Bliss. With all those elements, for me, all-inclusive hotels don’t get much better than that!
Although there are definitely more pros than cons when traveling with friends to Cancun, Mexico, here are a few things to keep in mind to have a smooth trip down south including where to stay, budgeting and things to do.
Setting Expectations for Your Cancun Trip with Friends
When my friends and I took our trip to Cancun (there was nine of us!), we knew we all wanted to stay in an all-inclusive resort and visit one of the wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. Otherwise, we were happy to hang out by the pool or go on another day excursions independently. We set those expectations up front so no one felt left out. For meals, we decided on all the restaurants when we arrived at our all-inclusive hotel in Cancun. We made reservations so we didn’t have to worry about making plans each day.
Things go smoothly when everyone in your group is on the same page about the budget, things to see, and activities to do. Not talking about what you want out of your vacation with your group beforehand can dampen the experience when you get there.
The bigger the group, the more interests, and varying opinions. It may be hard to come to a consensus on where to eat or what activities to do. Setting expectations before you arrive in Cancun about what you’ll be doing, where and when you’ll be doing it, and with who is a good way to avoid any disappointment.
Another thing that frustrates groups of friends is when their budgets do not match. Some friends may have more means than another, so knowing the financial range all your friends want to stay in will save you any headache.
My friends and I decided we wanted to stay within $1,000 – $1,500 range for an all-inclusive hotel, flights, and activities for seven days. We didn’t book a group flight and everyone flew whichever airline fit their budget. Once we got to Cancun, we knew the all-inclusive hotel would provide all drinks and meals so we wouldn’t have to worry about picking restaurants that would fit everyone’s budget.
We also knew that visiting Chichen Itza wouldn’t be a cheap activity so all of us agreed we would be willing to spend between $100 – $150 for the tour. We shopped around for different options and settled on a private sunrise tour with Grey Line Tours for $125. Since there were nine of us, it was actually the same price as a group tour except we didn’t have to wait around for people we didn’t know. We were also able to go on a Monday when other tours weren’t running that early. That was a huge pro of traveling with a group and we were all happy with the value we got for our tour!
Where to Stay in Cancun: All-Inclusive Hotels
There are a few options for where to stay in Cancun including renting an Airbnb, staying at a hotel on the mainland or booking an all-inclusive hotel in the Hotel Zone.
The Hotel Zone is a strip of land that is border by water on either side. Although I don’t know how many hotels are on this strip, it must be at least 80! The resorts face the ocean and provide amazing beach access.
Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe
We decided to stay at an all-inclusive hotel called the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe. They have over 300 rooms, four restaurants, a night lounge, snack stands, a pool bar, and beach cabanas.
The rooms were white with accents of red, the beds were comfortable and the towels were fluffy. We could have easily spent the day lounging in the sheets or taking in the view of the ocean from the balcony, but we had too much eating to do!
Sometimes the food is questionable at all-inclusive hotels. It’s mass-cooked so it doesn’t always retain its flavor, but at Park Royal Cancun the food was delicious. The staff was kind, welcoming, and always ready for another margarita order. They accommodated our group of nine effortlessly, which is not an easy feat!
How to Get to Your All-Inclusive Hotel from Cancun International Airport
Most flights land at the Cancun International Airport which is located about 20 minutes by car from the first hotels in the Hotel Zone. The airport is large, but very well signed for tourists when they arrive.
One of the ways to get to your hotel from the airport is to hire a taxi, shuttle or bus when you arrive in Cancun. All-inclusive hotels also have complimentary airport transfers to their property that you can inquire about when you book. The Park Royal Cancun sent two shuttles to pick us up since there was nine of us. When we arrived at the hotel, we had to go to an agent to book our shuttle back to the Cancun airport.
The drive to get to the hotels is very pretty. Not only do you get to see the ocean and beach from the car, but you’ll also get to see all the beautiful architecture of the resorts and hotels.
- Chichen Itza – one of the largest Mayan cities and one of the 7 new wonders of the world. It’s about a two-hour drive from Cancun so you’ll want to book a private or group tour to take you.
- Coco Bongo – a nightclub with live entertainment in the center of the Hotel Zone. Tickets can range anywhere for $20 to $200.
- Coba – most Mayan pyramids are closed to climbing for conservation, but this 138-foot pyramid is the last one you can climb (for now). These ruins are also about a two-hour drive from Cancun.
- Forum by the Sea – a shopping center in the Hotel Zone full of fashion stores, restaurants, and clubs. This is also where Coco Bongo and the Hard Rock Café make their home.
- Ik Kil Cenote – a cenote, or a collapsed sinkhole, full of rain and underground river water. It’s open to the public to swim. This one is near Chichen Itza and may have been used to offer sacrifices to the gods.
- Tulum – a city from the Mayan civilization. The ruins stand right on the edge of the ocean and used to operate as a port.
- Isla Mujeres – an island is known for its white beaches and clear water. The coral reefs near the island make it a great place for scuba diving and snorkeling.
- Downtown Cancun – this area is away from the tourists and can provide an insight into life for the locals. You can also find some great souvenirs here.