Mexico Travel Guide › Cancun When to Go
Updated: July 29, 2021
When is the Best Time to Visit Cancun?
December to April are the best times for visiting Cancun, offering the perfect mix of sunny skies and little rain. April and December offer the best weather, while May is best for wildlife (whale sharks have arrived and sea turtles are nesting), and November is the least crowded and best-priced (though can be rainy some years). Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Holy Week are the busiest time for Mexican family vacations.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Good Weather: Cancun weather can be fantastic almost all year round, though it is particularly excellent from the end of December through April, with January through March being the absolute peak time for fantastic weather. These months have the least amount of rain and humidity, the balmiest temperatures, and the sunniest skies. Expect gorgeous beach conditions nearly every day, and pleasant weather for exploring the ruins and jungles inland. Ocean temperatures are cooler than during the summer months, but still comfortable for swimming. Night and early morning temperatures are mostly warm during this time, but can get a little cool from December through February, so it’s a good idea to pack a light jacket or sweater if traveling during the winter months.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Great Deals: The best time for great deal is during the summer rainy season, from July through October, with especially discounted prices in September, October, and November. This coincides with hurricane season, but hurricanes have only landed here twice in the past thirty years. The vast majority of days during the wet season are hot, dry, and humid, but with little rain in short bursts. For travelers who don’t mind the heat and occasional rain shower, this is the ideal time to travel. Hotel rates are supremely discounted, and deal-hunters will also find cheaper fares on flights and excursions. Travelers during these months can save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars versus any other time of the year.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Families and Kids: April through June and November are the best times in Cancun for families traveling with children. Rates for hotels, flights, and excursions are lower than during the high season, attractions and beaches are less crowded, and the weather is warm and comfortable, great for visiting the Maya ruins and adventure parks in the inland jungles. Water temperatures are warm for swimming and snorkeling during all of these months, with whale sharks and sea turtles both present in May and June. The only exceptions to this are during the week of Thanksgiving when tons of Americans visit, and during Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week leading up to Easter, which is the busiest holiday week for Mexican families.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Avoiding Crowds: The best time for avoiding crowds is during the rainy season, from June through October, especially in September and October. As mentioned before, these months line up with hurricane season, though storms are very rare. Travelers during this time will find beaches blissfully empty and tours to the ruins almost private. Be advised that because there are fewer travelers at this time, many tour operators and restaurants close down for their own breaks, especially during the month of October.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun or Sightseeing (Jungles and Ruins): December and April are the best months for sightseeing at Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and the jungle adventure parks. Weather is suitable from Mid-December all the way through April, with sunny days, very little rain, warm temperatures, and relatively low humidity. However, the peak travel time is January through March, so during that time, attractions will be very crowded. Traveling at the start or end of the best weather, in December and April, gives you ideal conditions for exploring all that the Cancun area has to offer.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Swimming, Snorkeling, and Diving: Oceans, reefs, and cenotes are truly wonderful all year round, though there are some fluctuations in conditions. Water temperatures are at their lowest in February and March and at their highest from July through October. September and October tend to have more rainy days, though, so July and August are the better of these four months for swimming. For diving and snorkeling, Cancun is not the best spot. Though it’s fronted by a huge reef and filled with wildlife, the water is often rough enough to reduce visibility, plus the coral near the main Hotel Zone is mostly dead. Snorkeling and diving tours usually take visitors to nearby Isla Mujeres, MUSA, or Punta Nizuc at the south end of the Hotel Zone, where the water is calmer and clearer with active marine life. Visibility is best in the drier months, from November through May, especially during the months of January through March. For snorkeling, with whale sharks in particular, visit in late May; the water is warm, visibility is good, and the first whale sharks have arrived.
- Best Time for to Visit Cancun Whale Sharks and Sea Turtles: Cancun is one of the most reliable spots for seeing these two endangered animals. Whale sharks begin to arrive in May and are plentiful by June. From June through August, whale shark tours have almost 100% chance of locating these gentle giants, usually several at a time in one location. Whale sharks begin to leave the area in September and are almost all gone by the end of the month. Adult sea turtles begin nesting on the beaches in May, especially toward the end of the month and finish laying in October. The baby sea turtles begin hatching and heading seaward in July, continuing their nightly treks through December. The best time to see all three groups (whale sharks, nesting turtles, and baby turtles) is in July and August when all are fully present and active.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Honeymoon: Cancun is most beautiful from December through May, with ideal beach conditions and clear skies throughout these drier months, the perfect honeymoon mix. Early December, April, and May offer the best mix of good weather, low-ish crowds, and good room rates for honeymooners celebrating on a bit of a budget. January through March has the best weather, with the most number of sunny days, and near perfect beach conditions, but rates are higher and crowds are thicker.
- Best Time to Visit Cancun for Nightlife: Cancun always has great nightlife, with parties going on continually at all of the uptown clubs and bars near Punta Cancun in the Hotel Zone. However, different times of the year attract different party crowds. Cancun is most legendary for its Spring Break, with wild parties all day and night, top international DJs, and bikini contests throughout the whole month of March. June through mid-July also see tons of partying, this time for high-school grads cutting loose before college begins. The legal drinking age is 18 in Mexico, but IDs are rarely checked. For amazing, grown-up nightlife, visit from December through February. Clubs and bars still get crazy, but the crowds’ average age is over 25, and they’re less likely to barf on your shoes.
- Best Time to Book Flights and Hotels for Cancun: Who doesn’t want to nab the cheapest airfare when booking a flight to Cancun? While it’s not down to a science, there are tricks to help you get the best price. Generally, the sooner the better; however, buying too far in advance can sometimes get you a worse deal than if you’d waited a bit. Prices are highest if you wait too long. The sweet spot tends to be around three to four months in advance, with the best airfares typically found for low season trips taken between late spring and early to mid-fall. When it comes to hotels, the earlier you book the better deal you’ll find, as there are only a certain number of rooms available at the lowest rates – when they’re booked, prices increase. Reserve your room as soon as you’ve booked your flight if possible.
- A Note About Spring Break: While Cancun was once infamous for its huge, noisy crowds of spring breakers and a destination to avoid during the month of March, by staying outside of the main drag, not venturing into the clubs late at night and simply avoiding hotels that cater to that group, you’ll enjoy a relatively peaceful environment. Those who want to find a party can easily do so, while those who prefer a more subdued atmosphere can find that as well.
Cancun Travel Seasons
- High Season (Mid-December through March): Winter and early spring are peak travel times in Cancun when rates for hotels and flights are at their priciest and crowds at their heaviest. Christmas, New Year’s, and especially Spring Break are the most popular times for travel here. But by booking a several months in advance, travelers can find better rates and occasional deals. To avoid crowds during high season, book your stay in Riviera Cancun, Playa Mujeres, and Isla Mujeres, which are all less populous than the main drag along the Hotel Zone. Book the Best Cancun Hotels and Best Cancun Family Hotels far in advance for high season holidays.
- Low Season (June through October): Summer is the low season here when deal-hunters can score the best rates on hotel rooms, flights, and excursions. Expect beaches, bars, and attractions to be low-key and much less crowded than usual. These budget-friendly months are not the best weather-wise, with long hot days and frequent showers. Storms are generally heavy but brief, and though this is technically hurricane season, big storms are rare and have only landed twice in the past thirty years. July and the tail end of October tend to have the driest and least cloudy days of the season.
- Shoulder Season (April, May, and November through mid-December): Shoulder season can be an amazing time to visit Cancun, with sunny days, lower chance of rain, and manageable crowds. Though deals aren’t as hot as in the low season, room rates are much lower than in the high season, especially if booking in advance or for stays over five nights. Exceptions to this fall during Thanksgiving Week, a popular travel time for Americans, and during Holy Week, the week before Easter, the busiest time for Mexican family vacations.
Cancun Weather by Month
- Cancun Weather in January: January in Cancun is warm, sunny, and dry, with daily highs around 28°C – dropping down to a cooler, comfortable 20°C at night. Cancun is located on the edge of a tropical jungle, so humidity is always present, but January is the least muggy time of the year, especially toward the end of the month. This is a great month to get out and explore the ruins and jungle inland, as well as visiting Downtown Cancun and the beach. Rain showers come occasionally, but they are typically very light and brief, lasting only an hour or two. Ocean temperatures are cooler than other times of the year but are still comfortable for swimming. Visibility is excellent for snorkeling or diving. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C, Average Rainfall: 46mm, Days with Rain: 7, Ocean Temperature: 27°C.)
- Cancun Weather in February: February continues the trend of gorgeous weather, just a degree or so warmer than January and slightly drier, with fewer and shorter rain showers. Though the cloud coverage is minimal, humidity increases a smidge, making it just a little muggier, though still comfortable enough for exploring inland. Beach conditions are excellent, with good visibility for snorkeling and comfortable water temperatures for swimming. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C, Average Rainfall: 44mm, Days with Rain: 5, Ocean Temperature: 26°C.)
- Cancun Weather in March: Expect gorgeous weather in March, the second driest month in Cancun, with warm days averaging highs of 29°C, and comfortable nights. Rain only comes once a week on average, and even then showers are light and over with quickly, leaving skies clear and bright. Humidity is on the rise, but it is still comfortable for hiking, visiting the ruins or colonial pueblos; beach breezes keep the coastline fresh. Water temperatures and visibility remain constant from February. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C, Average Rainfall: 37mm, Days with Rain: 4, Ocean Temperature: 26°C.)
- Cancun Weather in April: April is the driest month of the year. It only rains about three days in the month, and on those days, showers are usually very short and light. Days and nights are warm, with a few downright hot hours in the afternoons. Humidity runs high, but the temperatures are usually mild enough that exploring the ruins and jungle is still easily doable. Beach weather is just about perfect, with plenty of sunny, breezy days and warming ocean temps, especially later in the month. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C, Average Rainfall: 31mm, Days with Rain: 3, Ocean Temperature: 27°C.)
- Cancun Weather in May: May is the third driest month of the year, with brief storms most likely toward the end of the month. Cloud coverage is generally heavier than in previous months, and humidity is very high. The majority of the days see clear skies, warm mornings and evenings, and hot afternoons. Beach days are breezy, so the humidity may not be noticeable. But if you plan on visiting Chichen Itza or the adventure parks, go in the morning before the day heats up; earlier in the month is better, too. Ocean temperatures are rising, and the first whale sharks and nesting sea turtles are arriving now. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C, Average Rainfall: 52 mm, Days with Rain: 5, Ocean Temperature: 28°C.)
- Cancun Weather in June: Summer is the rainy season here, with June being one of the rainiest months. Most days see a good amount of cloud coverage, but actual storms only hit on a quarter of the days, and even then, it’s unlikely to rain for very long. The first truly hot days of summer arrive later in the month. June marks the beginning of hurricane season, though large storms are rare and tend to happen later in the season. Beaches are the most comfortable places to relax this month, as the steady breeze keeps the perceived heat down. If you decide to venture inland, be sure to pack plenty of water and plan on a cenote swim to cool down. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C, Average Rainfall: 115mm, Days with Rain: 8, Ocean Temperature: 28°C.)
- Cancun Weather in July: Rainy days are less frequent this month, with heavier storms that finish quickly. Days are hotter and muggier than in June. In fact, the last half of July and the first half of August are the hottest weeks in the year. It’s best to spend your time on the beach or cooling off in a cenote; they stay refreshingly brisk all year long. If you venture toward the ruins, be sure to bring plenty of water. Sea temperatures remain steady from June. The first baby turtles start hatching now and head to the ocean every evening. This is an excellent month for marine life, with whale sharks, nesting turtles, and hatching turtles all here at once. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C, Average Rainfall: 103 mm, Days with Rain: 5, Ocean Temperature: 28°C.)
- Cancun Weather in August: August starts off hot and oppressively humid for the first couple of weeks, and begins to cool down as the month goes on. While ambient temperatures decrease, rainy days increase, especially toward the end of the month. The majority of days see sun mixed with periods of overcast skies. Days that do have rain usually only experience showers for an hour or two in total. Stay at the beach or in the cenotes as much as possible. This is the last month of the year that has all three animal groups: whale sharks, nesting sea turtles, and baby turtles. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C, Average Rainfall: 136mm, Days with Rain: 6, Ocean Temperature: 29°C.)
- Cancun Weather in September: The rainiest month of the year, September sees at least a little rain for about one-third of the month and cloudy days most of the time. Though showers are more regular and intense, they generally only last around two or three hours. Hurricanes rarely ever hit Cancun, but when they do, it’s usually in September or October. Days are extremely muggy, though the heat and humidity are less constant in the last week. Water temperatures are slightly warmer compared with August. The beach will likely be the most comfortable spot to relax most days, though it’s a good idea to have a few rainy day activities planned, just in case. Whale sharks begin to leave the area this month, while sea turtles continue to nest and hatch. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C, Average Rainfall: 185mm, Days with Rain: 10, Ocean Temperature: 29°C.)
- Cancun Weather in October: Expect more days of rain but less total rainfall than in September. Most of the rainy, cloudy, and humid days are in the beginning of the month, with the weather getting nicer as the weeks pass. The month ends with clear skies, balmy temperatures, and gorgeous beach weather. Ocean temperatures are slightly lower than in previous months. This is the last true month of hurricane season, though storms are rare in Cancun. The last few nesting turtles will lay their eggs this month, before returning to the sea. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C, Average Rainfall: 157mm, Days with Rain: 11, Ocean Temperature: 28°C.)
- Cancun Weather in November: Temperatures continue to fall, skies become clearer, and rainy days are less frequent in November. Most of the humidity and rain comes at the beginning of the month, with showers rarely lasting more than a couple of hours. Most late November days are perfect for hitting the beach or visiting the adventure parks or ruins. Ocean temperatures hold steady from October, while the last of the nesting sea turtles leave the area. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C, Average Rainfall: 95mm, Days with Rain: 8, Ocean Temperature: 28°C.)
- Cancun Weather in December: December is a phenomenal time to be in Cancun! Days are warm, nights are cool and comfortable, and skies are sunny and clear. Brief patches of rain are fleeting, with mostly bright days. The dry season officially begins in the last two weeks of the month and carries through March. Beaches are beautiful with comfortable temps for swimming and good visibility for snorkeling and diving. The last few baby turtles will hatch and march into the ocean this month. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C, Average Rainfall: 70mm, Days with Rain: 7, Ocean Temperature: 27°C.)
Cancun Events and Festivals
Cancun in January
- New Year’s Day – Año Nuevo, or New Year’s Day, is a national holiday in Mexico. January 1 tends to be very quiet in Cancun and throughout the country, with everyone resting and recovering from festivities the night before. While most businesses are closed, restaurants and other places that cater to tourists are usually open.
- Mayan Village Show – At Xcaret Park, located about an hour from Cancun, recreations of ancient Mayan festivals, including a jungle walk and celebration of the discovery of fire, take place throughout the month of January.
- El Día de los Reyes (Kings’ Day): January 6 is the twelfth day of Christmas, which is the traditional gift-giving day in Mexico. Children receive their presents, and the family eats together, especially a wreath-shaped, sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes. A baby Jesus figure is baked into the bread, and whoever finds it in their slice will host El Día de Candelaria, the upcoming holiday, and make the tamales for the celebration.
Cancun in February
- El Día de Candelaria/Tamale Day: February 2. Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas and is a celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is also the midway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. On this day, people dress up figurines of the baby Jesus and take them to the church to be blessed, along with candles. This is followed by a meal of tamales, hence its other name, with family and friends. Celebrations in Veracruz and huge, with parades and more, but in Cancun, this is a more intimate holiday.
- Carnaval: Exact dates vary, but celebrations take place the whole week before Ash Wednesday, with the biggest parties the night before. Carnaval is celebrated in different parts of the Riviera Maya on different days, with the biggest celebration on Cozumel. Cancun’s Carnaval is surprisingly intimate, taking place in Downtown away from the main tourist zone. Expect parades, live music, wild costumes, lots of food and booze, and dancing in the streets. Street vendors will be selling amazing local specialties, while candies and other goodies will be raining down from the parade floats.
- Island Time Music & Fishing Festival: Six-day festival in Isla Mujeres. Local and world-renowned musical acts play in small venues around the island, while fishermen chase sailfish through the local waters. Proceeds benefit the Little Yellow Schoolhouse, serving special needs children on the island.
Cancun in March
- Inception Music Festival: The largest Spring Break party in the world, lasting 30 straight days and nights and featuring top-name musical acts and DJs. Events take place every night at the clubs in Punta Cancun, including The City, Dady’O, Mandala, and Palazzo. Day parties take place at Mandala Beach, while exclusive day parties also go on at the Oasis Resort.
- Wine and Food Festival, Cancun-Riviera Maya: Five-day celebration of food and wine, with renowned chefs and sommeliers from Mexico and the U.S. Events include winemaker and celebrity chef dinners, taco competitions, beach parties, golfing, and more.
- Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza: Occurring annually on March 20, the first day of spring, when the afternoon light hits the pyramid temple of El Castillo just right, it reveals a representation of Kukulkan. The feathered serpent god seems to appear and climb down the side. This amazing event happens twice yearly at the spring and autumn equinoxes, amazing visitors with the astronomical and mathematical prowess of the ancient Maya peoples. It is usually very crowded on the equinoxes and tons of fun. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, you may still see the effect two days before or after the actual equinox.
- Laser Sailing Show: During the second half of March, this event attracts sailboat enthusiasts and merchants from around the world. The waters around Cancun are filled with sailing vessels of all types, big and small, that roam the coastline for two weeks.
Cancun in April
- Anniversary of the Founding of Cancun: Cancun’s history is relatively new. A master-planned tourism community founded in 1970, the event is put on by families of the city’s founders. This month-long celebration is held at various locations in Downtown and features masses, music, exhibitions, and a parade down Avenue Tulum.
- Holy Week – Holy Week is celebrated nationwide, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, which typically falls in early to mid-April. In Cancun, just about everything stays open during this period to cater to tourists, and it’s usually very busy. If you plan to travel to Cancun during Holy Week, make your reservations as early as you can as flights in and out of Mexico are typically filled months in advance. Easter services are held at churches of various dominations, though mostly Catholic.
- El Día del Niño (Children’s Day): A holiday filled with fun, gifts, and special activities just for kids. Though not an official holiday, many schools don’t hold classes this day. Zoos, amusement parks, and attractions often offer special discounts on April 30. Travelers can also participate by handing out toys or candy to street kids.
Cancun in May
- Cinco de Mayo: May 5th is a national holiday that commemorates the country’s defeat of the French in the Battle of Pueblo in 1862. Unlike in the States, it’s pretty much a regular day in Cancun, with not much in the way of celebrations. There are usually drink specials in the bars, and some of the resorts might do a small party, but it will be all for tourists. The only spot in Mexico that really celebrates Cinco de Mayo is in Puebla, more than a day’s drive away.
- Festival de Cultura del Caribe: Celebration of Maya, Mexican, and Caribbean culture through food, music, dance, literature, film, and more. The eight-day celebration takes place in a variety of venues throughout the city and features a variety of local and international acts.
- Cancun Jumpoff: This is like Spring Break for grown-ups. A four-day music festival, with live acts and DJs spinning the best in hip-hop, r&b, reggae, and soca. One water park day, plus beach parties, lingerie parties, and overnight after-parties keep the action going non-stop.
- Regata del Sol a Sol: A 456-mile yacht race beginning in April in St. Petersburg, Florida and ending in early May in Isla Mujeres. Events include a basketball tournament and the Regata Amigos, post-race sail around the island.
- Sacred Mayan Journey/Travesia Sagrada: Annual recreation of a thousand-year-old pilgrimage from Xcaret to Cozumel in worship of the fertility goddess Ixchel. Roughly 300 men and women row canoes across the ocean beginning at dawn and making their return journey the following dawn. Rituals, music, and dance begin and end the event. A feast awaits the rowers in Cozumel, but the biggest celebration is in Xcaret upon their return.
Cancun in June
- Día de la Marina – Mexico’s Navy Day is celebrated on June 1 in all coastal towns, including Cancun, to acknowledge the country’s maritime service men and women. It’s commemorated with military parades and fireworks.
- ExpHotel – The most recognized event in Mexico for the hospitality industry is an international affair open to the public showing the latest products and services as well as hosting seminars and workshops by leading experts, competitions among prestigious chefs and the Festival of Cheese, Bread and Wine.
- Festival de los Oceanos: From mid-May through mid-June, this event is designed to encourage ocean conservation. Events include concerts, kids’ drawing competitions, beach cleanups, and competitive cooking, along with plenty of fun beach and ocean activities. Most events are free, though some require registration ahead of time.
- Pride Cancun: Pride is a smaller celebration in Cancun, lasting just a weekend. Though there is no parade, there are beach parties, sunset cruises, parties in Downtown, events at the ruins, and special nights at all of the major clubs.
Cancun in July
- El Día Fuera del Tiempo: According to the Maya calendar, July 26 is the first day of the new year. The more important day of celebration comes on the 25th, El Día Fuera del Tiempo, or The Day Out of Time. This is a day for reflecting on the past year and the lessons learned, while also being a day in which anything can happen. Festivities are scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, with the biggest ones held in Tulum, lasting as long as five days, and smaller ones at several Cancun resorts.
- Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Festival: Week-long celebration of the whale shark, including family-friendly activities daily at the main fair, with sand sculpture and piñata contests, a parade, live music, and food competitions with local chefs. Water activities include a fishing tournament, diving and snorkel tours, and swimming with the whale sharks.
- Destination X The Urban Summer Oasis: Wild five-day festival in the heart of Cancun’s nightlife district with DJs spinning hip-hop, r&b, and reggae. Events include bikini contests, late night hookah parties, a booze cruise, beach parties, and plenty of dancing.
Cancun in August
- ZoukMX: Ten-day music and dance festival in Playa del Carmen on the beach and in the jungle. This event begins with several teacher workshops, followed by days and nights on end of dancing to zouk, a fast tempo, Caribbean dance music.
- Assumption of the Virgin Mary – Celebrated nationwide in mid-August, there are special masses held throughout the country, including Cancun. Though some cities will host processions, Cancun typically does not.
Cancun in September
- El Grito and Mexican Independence Day: Celebrations begin in the afternoon on September 15 in Downtown near City Hall with mariachi music, dancing, and amazing food, especially chiles en nogada, pozole, and mole. Tequila and mezcal are the major drinks here. At 11p, the grito, or cry for independence, is called with bells ringing and fireworks. The country’s biggest party begins immediately after and goes well into the night. Downtown has the most authentic celebrations, but the biggest parties for travelers take place at the nightclubs and bars in the Hotel Zone, especially at Carlos’n Charlie’s and Señor Frog. On Independence Day itself, September 16, a grand military parade winds through downtown, attracting thousands of spectators.
- Salsa Casino Mayan Congress: Four-day celebration of salsa dance with live music, parties, and workshops. Classes expand from traditional salsa to include Afro-Cuban dance, Casino Wheel, Rumba, Folklore, and more.
- Autumn Equinox at Chichen Itza: Occurring annually on September 22, the first day of fall, when the late afternoon light hits the pyramid temple of El Castillo just right, it reveals a shadow image of the feathered serpent god Kukulkan, just as it does in spring. However, September is the rainiest month of the year, and sometimes the cloud coverage prevents Kukulkan from making an appearance. Additionally, with daylight savings time, the event occurs after the park is closed for the evening. Some years, the park stays open late to accommodate the event, but other times, they close at the usual schedule. Check the weather and check the park’s officially posted hours before planning a trip out – It’s a long drive!
Cancun in October
- Cancun Travel Mart – In mid-October, the Cancun Travel Agent Association and the Cancun Hotel Association hold this annual convention, part of which is open to the public, showcasing food, hotels and other services offered in the area.
- Cancun Jazz Festival: Four-day music festival featuring some of the top names in contemporary jazz. This all-inclusive festival takes place at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, near Tulum. Pre-festival concerts will take place a few days ahead of the main event.
- Día de la Raza (Columbus Day) – This holiday celebrated nationwide on October 12 commemorates the fusion of the Spanish and Mexican peoples. In Cancun and many other places throughout the country, colorful parades are often held.
- Día de las Brujas (Halloween) – Traditionally on this day, residents bring flowers and candles to the graves of loved ones on the evening of October 31; however, in Cancun and many other popular tourist destinations, it’s celebrated similar to how it is in the U.S., with kids dressing up and trick-or-treating, and costume-wearing adults heading to bars and clubs. Dady’O consistently throws the best Halloween parties in the area. It’s a good idea to bring your own costume, as local shops will have a very limited selection.
Cancun in November
- Day of the Dead: November 1-2. Known as Hanal Pixan in Yucatan Maya. This is actually two holidays rolled into one, Día de Todos Santos (All Saints Day) and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, All Souls Day). On All Saints Day, Mexicans honor deceased children, leaving offerings to them on custom-designed altars in cemeteries or in their homes, with sugar skulls, toys, and treats. Day of the Dead is similar but for the souls of deceased adults. People decorate altars in their homes or in cemeteries, some keeping vigils and others leaving offerings, usually tequila, cigarettes, and the deceased’s favorite foods. Candles and trails of marigold petals are led from the altars to light the way for the spirit’s return. There are usually parties in the nightclub area in the Hotel Zone, but travelers can also head Downtown for a more traditional experience in one of the many parks, including Parque las Palapas, Luum Pakul, or at the Centro Cultural de las Artes. Daily from October 31-November 2 there is a parade from Avenues Chichen Itza and Tulum to Parque las Palapas, plus performances, foods, and elaborate altars. The eco-tour group Alltournative usually offers a special Hanal Pixan event on November 2, an immersive Maya experience with altar decorating, a ceremony performed by a shaman at a cenote, and a traditional Maya dinner.
- Golf Championship at Mayakoba: An official, PGA tour with over 100 pro-golfers competing for a huge prize in four rounds over the course of one week. The event takes place in Mayakoba at the El Camaleón golf course just north of Playa del Carmen. Some of the proceeds benefit local charities.
- International Festival of Caribbean Culture: Six-day festival with events held throughout Quintana Roo and Cancun. The event is most popular for its amazing musical lineup featuring the top Caribbean salsa groups, along with poetry and lots of dancing.
Cancun in December
- Cancun Marathon: aka The Most Beautiful Marathon in the World. The marathon path begins and ends in Downtown, with most of the course following Boulevard Kukulkan for the length of the Hotel Zone, passing the beach and lagoon. A live mariachi band awaits runners at the finish line.
- Sunset Boat Parade: Annual, holiday event at Jardin del Arte, the sculpture park facing the Nichupte Lagoon. A parade of lit-up, decorated boats begins at sunset, with live music, food, and craft vendors. Family-friendly and always free.
- Christmas Week – Christmas Week (December 16-25) is celebrated with processions and mass, and children go door-to-door singing Christmas songs in exchange for donations. The most important day isn’t December 25, however, it’s Holy Night, known as Nochebuena on December 24, a time when families gather to eat a traditional midnight dinner.
- Día de los Santos Inocentes/Day of the Sainted Innocents: December 28. This is basically a Mexican April Fool’s Day. Originally meant to commemorate the deaths of the Holy Innocents, the children slaughtered by King Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, the holiday has evolved into a day of pranks. Once someone is fooled, it is customary to say to them, “Innocent little dove that you let yourself be deceived.” This is also a day where people are known to borrow items and never return them.
- New Year’s Eve – On December 31, Cancun celebrates New Year’s Eve similar to much of the rest of the world, with big parties and fireworks. Playa del Carmen, about an hour south of downtown Cancun, is typically the place to be, where the party starting at dawn and lasts well into the New Year. There are plenty of parties to be found in Cancun as well, and fireworks are shot over the lagoon, visible from all hotels and resorts with rooms that face it, as well as from walkways.