So, Cancun is calling and you are off on vacation. Yay! Now all you need to do is get packing and get on that plane. But what should you bring to the Mexican resort city? Do you need to check-in luggage or can you fit it all into your carry on? You want to look good but be comfortable too and you need to dress appropriately for all the cool activities. The good news is that it’s quite easy to pack for a holiday on the Yucatán Peninsula, especially if you follow our handy guide on what to pack for Cancun: the essential list.
What to Pack for Cancun: The Essential List
Cancun has a tropical climate and the weather is mostly warm and sunny. The average high in the winter is 82°F (28°C) and in the summer the average high is 93°F (34°C). However, Cancun has a wet season, which runs from May to October. So depending on when you go, you might need to pack some rain gear.
What toiletries to pack for Cancun
Reef safe suncream
Cancun is located in the tropics and has a high UV index at all times of the year. The UV Index scale is measured from 0 to 11. In Cancun, from March through September the UV Index is 11. Therefore, you need to pack sun protection with a high SPF. However, the only type of sunscreen that you can use in Cancun is biodegradable sunscreen. This rule is in place to help protect the coral reefs. So make sure you pack reef safe suncream that doesn’t contain oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate or octinoxate.
There are plenty of mosquitos in Cancun, especially during the rainy season. If you get bitten, you’ll need to pack some sort of mozzie repellant, especially if you plan on hiking in vegetated areas. Mosquito repellent with 20-30% of the active ingredient DEET (diethyltoluamide), should be enough to keep the mozzies away.
Waterproof phone case
You’ll no doubt spend a lot of time on the beach, in boats and swimming in the sea and cenotes. If you plan on bringing your phone with you, it is highly recommended to pick up a waterproof case to protect it from water damage and to stop the lens from getting scratched by the sand.
To reduce single-use plastics, there is a statewide ban in Quintana Roo on plastic bags. If you intend to do some grocery shopping in Cancun, make sure you are prepared by bringing your own fabric bags. Cloth bags also make great beach bags.
A small, comfortable backpack is a must, especially for day trips to the ruins and when hiking. Backpacks keep your essentials and camera safe and if you have a waterproof backpack, all the better. A backpack evenly distributes the weight which keeps you more stable and hands-free which is needed when hiking to the cenotes. Usually, there are usually many steps that are slippy and you need your hands free to hold on and for balance.
Plug adaptors and power converters
In Cancun, the voltage is 127 at 60 Hertz (127V at 60Hz). There are two types of plugs in Cancun. Type A has two flat prongs, while Type B has two flat prongs and a rounded ground pin. Type A and B plugs are mostly used in the US, Canada, Central America, China and Japan. Depending on where your appliances are from, you may need travel plug adaptors. If your electrical items are not dual voltage, you’ll also need a travel power converter.
What shoes to pack for Cancun
Flip-flops are fine for the beach and poolside.
For jungle exploration, pack sturdy water-resistant walking shoes or hiking boots. For trail walking and visiting the ruins, pack a pair of comfortable sneakers.
If you plan on heading to an upmarket restaurant or resort you’ll need a pair of dressy sandals and men should pack a pair of loafers or boat shoes.
When it comes to high heels, you can pack a pair if you really want to, but your feet will swell in the heat and they may not be the most comfortable shoe to wear. You will get much more wear out of flat shoes than heels in Cancun. Even in nightclubs, most people wear flats and blinged-out sandals, not heels.
What clothing to pack for Cancun
When it comes to beachwear in Cancun, anything goes, just wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Bikinis, one-pieces, speedos, thongs, board shorts, you’ll see it all. Pack a cover-up or sarong too for when you go from the beach to the bar.
If your holiday plans involve lots of water activities and hours of snorkelling, pack a UV rash guard. This will protect your skin from sun exposure and will reduce and chafing caused by surfboards and bodyboards.
The dress code in Cancun spans the range from laidback and casual to super glam. However, the best way to pack is to think about the season and the humidity. Pack breathable, light clothing like shorts and cotton t-shirts, loose sundresses and loose-fitting trousers made from thin material. In the rainy season, pack a very light, breathable rain jacket or an umbrella. Between November and April, it can get a little bit chilly and windy at night time, so pack a light sweater, jacket or shawl.
Nighttime dress code
If you are going to a fancy resort for dinner or drinks, men should pack a pair of slacks and a shirt with a collar. For women, anything along the lines of smart-casual will do with a pair of sandals (not flip-flops) or pumps. If you plan on sampling Cancun’s famous nightlife scene, most places have a casual dress code, but people like to get dressed up. However, some places say no beachwear, sleeveless shirts and water shoes. You should also wear shoes you can dance in and avoid open-toed shoes unless you like your toes getting squished when stood on.
Yucatán reading material
Get to know the history and culture of the Yucatán Peninsula with a good book that you can devour whilst you sunbathe. For non-fiction fans, pack both volumes of Incidents of Travel in the Yucatán by John L. Stephens. Fiction lovers should pick up a copy of The Polo Affair by Sean Hennessy, who is the owner of Merida’s most successful Irish pub, Hennessy’s on Paseo de Montejo.