Break free from the resort diorama and experience all that Cancun has to offer…and save some cash while you’re at it.
As a Los Angeles native, Mexico has always been my neighbor that never kept up with the Jones’, but was always having the most fun. As you get further from the U.S. border and closer to Central America, the culture transforms into a very different version of Latin America. Cancun, similar to Nashville, is filled with residents from all over. Very few of the people I met were actually native to the Mayan Riviera. This makes Cancun a vibrant destination complete with all the tacos, beaches, jungles, shopping, clubs, and beautiful people that you could ever want from a vacation; staying at a resort will just give you a diluted version.
First and foremost, lets talk about the food. In Mexico, the taco is king. Fresh handmade tortillas are a dime a dozen and the spectrum of salsas will keep your palate on edge. Tacos and ceviche should keep you fueled most of this trip as you make your way from pool side to the club. A perfect pit stop is Tacos Caminero in the hub of the hotel zone. Their al pastor, which is basically a heaping pile of the marinated pork sprinkled with pineapples fajitas, will keep your whole party in taco heaven for about 10 bucks. The tables are nestled in a popular path to the most popular clubs and great for watching tourists in all states of intoxication as you, yourself, climb to the same heights.
Finding amazing, authentic Mexican food won’t be difficult on the streets of Cancun, however if you’re stuck at one of the countless resorts, you may be left with combing through an “international buffet” to try to take advantage of the money you already dropped on an all inclusive wristband. Your kids may be drooling over the chocolate fountain or soft serve table, but that’s not why you came to Cancun, is it? If you can settle for the imitation buffet in hopes of a grand poolside experience, let me give you another pro tip so you can ditch that shiny wristband – Mandala Beach Club.
At Mandala Beach Club, you will find everything you need for a proper Cancun pool day. Entry is easy, rent a few beach chairs for just 500 pesos (about $25), which goes towards your food and drinks for the day and, I’ll tell you, we comfortably drank and ate big lunches all the way till 5 pm without going over. If you do want more, of course you are just billed for what you ordered. So pretty much you get the beach, pools, people, and entertainment for free. Also, we were easily able to talk the wait staff into hooking us up with a cabana with a bed for the same deposit. The mixed seafood tacos are to die for here, as well as the steak quesadilla and coconut shrimp (though with the coconut shrimp, I suggest replacing the mashed potatoes with something more appropriate). The coconut shrimp dish is packed with nine massive shrimp, more than I’ve ever seen on a similar dish!
For other day time activities, it’s absolutely essential to book through some of the third party groups hanging around the city as opposed to going through a resort. On all occasions, I overheard guests paying double or more what we paid for the same exact excursion. Playa Tortuga is a perfect spot to book one one of these. It’s filled with locals and the staff are super nice compared to the hustle and bustle of the downtown hotel zone. A definite #LordCarnitasApproved (check it out on Instagram :p) activity is the Xplor or Xplor Fuego. Both are the same place, just the Fuego is at night and has 100% more fire. This place is nuts though, you get to smash down hundreds of feet of zip line, race an ATV through the jungle, caves, and even through water, as well as swim through underwater caves. It’s seriously the perfect adventure! Oh, and don’t get me started on the buffet. This buffet murdered any other resort buffet to shreds. I ate bone marrow, mole, steak, and soft serve until I was blue in the face. Everything the park offers is included in your ticket, even the transportation which blows my mind that they arrange a free bus pick me up and drive me an hour out of town to some jungle to screw around then hop on board when you’re all done. Plus you get to mingle with some of the other patrons and party on the way. I really can’t speak more highly of this experience, so just go.
As far as nightlife goes, crazy-fun Mexican style nightclubs are everywhere. I would ask around to see what events are going on there on any given day so that you make the most of your time and money. Mandala night club does a really cool night swim bikini contest and Coco Bongo is a must-see any night of the week. Most of the clubs will have promoters that will try to sell you unlimited bar wristbands for upwards of $75, but if you have a couple females with you, then you can definitely just talk them into letting you in for free and buying drinks at the bar. Most likely, there will be people pouring liquor down your throat anyways during any given hype train.
In terms of staying at a resort, there is so much going on in the city that your going to want to do anyways, so it behooves you to pay a bunch of money for that all inclusive wristband. Beautiful AirBnB’s on the beach are everywhere from $40-$100 a night. We stayed in a three bedroom villa able to fit 11 people with a private beach for only $100 and there was only three of us!
So the point here is, spend a tiny bit more effort, think out side the box a little and you can ball out on a budget in Cancun. Plus, travelling is all about integrating and really learning about the culture; it’s really hard to do that when everything around you is groomed and watered-down. Mexican culture can be a bit overwhelming for the inexperienced, but stick to my guide and you will quickly see how beautiful and fun-loving Mexico really is. Feel free to DM us on your favorite social media platform, and we will be happy to point you in the right direction. Lord Carnitas is all about having the best experience possible, appreciating cultures, and keeping that stomach of yours happy on all levels!
Leave a comment below if you have any Cancun travel tips you want to share, or for more Lord Carnitas approved locales, check out: LordCarnTravel