Mexico Travels: Cancun

Hiyaaa, I’m back! My life got a bit too hectic and my priorities made me have to take a few blogging weeks off. Hope you didn’t miss me too much 😉 Anyway, can’t wait to hear what you think of my new article!

While I’m not a travel blogger, I still wanted to write down some of my experiences in Mexico. (That’s what happens when something interesting finally happens in your life.)

“You Should Avoid Cancun”

Sebastian and I spend a solid 2.5 weeks vacationing in Mexico. During that time, the city of Cancun was our designated home base. Indeed, on first glance it is not a spectacular place to stay for the type of tourist that I am.. (You’ve probably seen one or two Hollywood movies about the infamous spring breaks.)

Yes, Cancun is the city of the legendary North American spring breaks. And for a reason. Because of the reputation of this infamous city, it is often avoided at all costs by Europeans who travel in the area. Thus when I told people we’d go here, the surprised looks were quickly followed by the advice “You should avoid Cancun”.

So why did we stay here then? Because Sebastian’s childhood home is in Cancun. This gave me the opportunity to be shown around a city by a local who adores his city. And I gained a unique perspective.

A Tale of Two Cities

Cancun, it’s economy depending almost a 100% on tourism, is actually more of a two-cities-in-one package. One the one hand you have the local city of Cancun, a small town disguising itself as a metropolitan. Infinite number of children fill each corner, and along its squares and streets a pinch of satisfying chaos hangs in the air.

Here you can find the oldest and best taco place in the city, visit hippy markets in the evening and practice your rumba on top of open air stages in front of busy squares.

Cancun travels: People dancing

I definitely did not mind this side of Cancun. But as much of the sightseeing can be done outside the city, I do get why tourists don’t feel the need to explore this place for very long.

A Taste of Paradise(?)

What about the two-in-one package? Well, once at the coastline, you will find a whole different city of Cancun. Massive gated towers rise up at both sides of the perfectly paved highway, each one trying to catch a better view of the ocean than its neighbor. Palm trees line up perfectly in the middle of the street, offering empty shades to the few hotel workers who need a rest. Tourists can almost only be found in the taxis zooming by. Straight from the airport to the all-inclusive hotel and back to the airport they go.

Cancun travels: coastline

Everything you desire can be found in this city: shopping malls, private cinemas, dance clubs, expensive taco restaurants with beautiful views, pirate ships, museums, spas, drugs, medical care, even an orchestrated market for tourists to have a ‘genuine experience’. All topped with a complete sense of safety and comfort.

Additionally, all hotels are built so close to the ocean that they actually replaced the natural dunes. Guests now have to walk only 10 meters to reach the water. This construction is extremely unsustainable and leads to massive problems. But that is ignored of course. Instead, the sand beaches that have long been washed away into the ocean, are simply loaded up with fake sand and hotels are rebuild after every tropical storm.

I Drank the Kool Aid

Maybe a less fancier lemonade, but still.

I actually completely understand why tourists would want to go here. I went to the beaches, the museums, even the mall, and enjoyed all of the comforts. And a few days in an all-inclusive luxury resort, who wouldn’t want that?

But the place also bothers me somewhat..

I guess the focus point in my travels has always been to emerge myself at least partially in the new culture I’m experiencing. While on holiday, I want to enjoy and learn from unique experiences I wouldn’t be able to find at home. Staying in an all-inclusive hotel zone where the entire environment is transformed into something that caters perfectly to the needs and familiarities of the tourist is of course the complete opposite to that.

I also wonder if tourists understand what this type of vacation means to their environment. This in terms of environmental impact, perpetuation of cultural stereotypes (“don’t go outside the hotel zone because it’s way too dangerous”), inaccessibility to locals (hotels cut off access to the beach for non-guests), direction of money flow and contribution to the drug war.

This style of holiday remains appealing to many and will always exist. But would it not be great if tourists could enjoy a beach-filled stress-free week without negatively affecting their surroundings?

So Is Cancun a Great Holiday Destination?

Depends what type of tourist you are I guess.

Got any opinions you would like to share? Comment down below!

Photo credits in order of appearance: David Emrich, Ardian Lumi on Unsplash


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  3. Great post! I love the perspective from a non-American visitor that isn’t on spring break (I get enough of that from my social media feeds from peers my age). It’s amazing that you were able to experience the area with a local’s vantage point, and truly experience all sides. It sounds much more balanced and respectful of the local culture. Thank you so much for sharing!

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