This past weekend, we went to Cancun on a budget and managed to spend only $242 which included a splurge day on Isla Mujeres!
I have been traveling to Cancun over the past 13 years, since my first trip on my 18th birthday. I have stayed in all kinds of accommodations – from crashing with friends to $17 Airbnbs to $450 per night all-inclusive hotels – and every time has been amazing. I even lived there for a short period. But now that I have a 1-year-old, a vacation in Cancun looks a little different. I wanted to bring my daughter to Cancun for her birthday but we were on a tight budget. I decided to try and do a “family” style trip to Cancun and see how much it would cost.
Those of you who know me personally know that I am a single mom, but I had two willing participants who played the part of “daddy” for our family style trip. A close friend and my manny were happy to step in for the experiment (and free food and drinks) in exchange for helping me out with my daughter.
And yes, I know that it can be done cheaper, but with a toddler, my hostel days are over for a few years. There were also cheaper hotel options but we opted for one with a nice pool and location close to the local park and bus station. We also could have cut down on our spending, but we also wanted to enjoy the trip and splurge a little bit. So, we tried to balance our splurge day on Isla Mujeres with cheaper days in downtown Cancun.
Accommodations: $30 per night at Xbalamque Hotel and Spa in downtown Cancun – $60 USD
Friday (Arrive in Cancun at 3 P.M.)
• Lunch – 2 orders of tacos al pastor, 2 drinks $5 USD/$94 MXP
• Dinner – 3 slices of pepperoni pizza $2 USD/$36 MXP
• Life-sized remote control car for 10 minutes $1 USD/$20 MXP
• Drinks – 2 x 1 Margaritas $6.50/$120 MXP (tip $1.50)
I arrived with my daughter by bus around 3 P.M. My friend was waiting for us at the bus station and helped me bring her and our bags to the hotel. We had lunch at the nearby Parque de las Palapas, which has a huge playground for kids, a food court, a stage, live music and even more at night. Afterwards, we spent some time at the pool at the hotel before going back to the park to see the nightly entertainment.
Saturday (Trip to Isla Mujeres)
• 2 adult round trip tickets on the Ultramar Ferry $32 USD/$600 MXP
• 1 infant round trip ticket FREE
• Golf Cart Rental from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. $38 USD/$700 MXP
• Breakfast at the Mercado Municipal on Isla Mujeres – 1 torta de cochinita pibil, 3 pork tacos, 1 chicken taco, 2 drinks $8.50 USD/$155 MXP
• Lunch at a restaurant on Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres – 1 order of breaded chicken, 1 order of ceviche, 1 agua de melón, 4 alcoholic drinks $40 USD/$720 MXP (tip $8 USD)
• Dinner in Cancun at Parque de las Palapas – 1 order of tacos al pastor, 1 order of tacos de chorizo, 1 drink $6 USD/$104 MXP
We were able to catch the 8:30 A.M. ferry to Isla Mujeres and immediately rented a golf cart. We had breakfast at the local market, which was delicious and cheap. We then did a self-guided tour of the island, going all the way to the south point before returning back to north beach. We arrived at north beach around noon and had lunch and drinks. We returned the golf cart just before 5 P.M. and took the ferry back to downtown Cancun.
In the evening, we went back to the local park for dinner. There was a famous mime performing that evening but we didn’t get to see it. Unfortunately, my daughter was worn out from the day and went to bed around 9 P.M. so I decided to stay in the hotel with her. Otherwise, on the weekends the park has live music and performances for free.
Sunday (Morning at Mercado 28)
• Breakfast at a restaurant in the market – 1 order of consume de borrego, 1 order of tacos de borrego, 1 drink $7 USD/$134 MXP (tip $1.50 USD)
• Lunch at Church’s Chicken $9 USD/$170 MXP
• Miscellaneous purchases over the weekend (bottled water, juice, pre-packaged snacks, etc.) $16 USD/$300 MXP
The next morning, my daughter and I went to explore Mercado 28. We met up with my friend for breakfast and toured the different stalls in the market. Then, we went back to the hotel to spend the rest of the morning by the pool, before checking out.
Total: $242 USD
And there you have it, a fun, family-style weekend in Cancun for less than the price of 1 night in most all-inclusive hotels in the hotel zone.
*I purposely did not include transportation in the estimate since it will vary too much for each reader. I live in Progreso, Yucatan so we arrived by bus for about $20 USD per adult each way. The exchange rate used to calculate US dollars was 18.5 and I rounded to the nearest .50 cents in dollars.