One of the biggest challenges about becoming a local in Cancún, Mexico is constantly being trapped in the touristy locations.
I understand your problems with the touristy areas. Some agree and some don’t, but I would rather become a local than be surrounded by other tourists. The problem is that nobody really tells you where the locals are known to spend their free time. The tour guides are discreditable because they are only concerned whether or not you buy from them. If you don’t, you are a waste of time. What the hell!!!
Fortunately, through the help of my friends, I have constructed an itinerary for you! This is your online tour! These top 10 places will surely help you connect with the locals. You will witness local life and truly capture the hidden beauty behind Cancún’s local hotspots.
1. Parque Kabah
Address: Av Nichupte, Benito Juárez, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
This is a blend of all types of Cancún culture ranging from local life to local wildlife. Full of different animal species, Parque Kabah is a natural oasis in the middle of Cancún Centro. It’s favored by many families because they go there to catch up on their daily exercise routines or to simply enjoy nature. You are able to be a local here by exercising at the outdoor gym, trekking through the vast untouched jungle on dirt trails, and visiting one of Cancún’s oldest buildings, Casa Maya. Through these activities, you can personally experience local pastimes as well as be obtaining an opening to communicating with the locals.
2. Parque Las Palapas
Address: 5 Alcatraces, Sm 22, Benito Juárez, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Parque Las Palapas offers rich local culture. This is a place where locals come to socialize while grabbing a bite at the many restaurants and food vendors around. While enjoying a taco pastor and smelling the freshly cooked food, you are offered a large selection of many great foods, which is one of Cancún’s true Mexican culture. Being a popular local family hotspot, there is a kids play area and there are weekly cultural events. Some of the local exposure you will encounter are little kids driving around in their toy cars, entertainment such as carnival games, people dancing, and music filling your ears. Everyone has a smile. The Parque Las Palapas comes alive in the evening! While trekking through, I felt my heart racing with excitement as a feeling of “home” came over me. You truly feel like a local here, and you get numerous opportunities to get around and meet new people!
3. Avenida Yaxchilan
Address: Av Yaxchilán, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Avenida Yaxchilan is one of the downtown’s most famous streets. Known for its nightclubs and restaurants, many locals come here to eat and party. Nonetheless, many families trek through Avenida Yaxchilan as a local activity. This is a great way to walk around and party, but not too hard, while making new friends!
4. Malecon Americas Shopping Center
Address: Av. Bonampak Mz 1 lote 1, SM 6, 77500 Cancún, QROO, Mexico
The Malecon Americas Shopping Center is a local favorite! It’s typically packed with locals on weekends, especially on Sundays. Despite the fact that it’s modernized and full of international brands, it still belongs on this list because it’s a popular mall filled with locals. Everyone loves shopping, and for that, it’s super easy to talk to them and ask for advice on which stores they recommend. Once you initiate the conversation, they will most likely become your shopping buddy and show you around their favorite mall! If I could do it, you can too!
5. Bonampak Ruins
Address: Chiapas, Mexico
So, the Bonampak Ruins are typically empty and full of tourists so there really isn’t any locals that visit. Although, you can stay in a local village off the side of St. Javier Road for the price of 30 Pesos ($1.50 – $2). This is an exciting experience because you can meet the very few locals that come from Mayan descent! During my time there, a local who spoke Maya escorted us to the ruins. I totally recommend this, for it’s such a unique and one-of-a-kind experience that involves making a special Mayan friend rather than the typical local people you meet every day! I couldn’t get enough of his stories and his self, for it filled me with complete awe. After all, it’s uncommon meeting someone from Mayan descent, so I strongly suggest you take the opportunity like I did. The Bonampak Ruins contain magnificent buildings covered in overgrown vines and hold 3 well-preserved authentic Mayan murals. Taking about 50 steps to the top where the murals are, they are a true sight to see.
6. Playa Tortugas
Address: Playa Tortugas, Quintana Roo, Mexico
The Playa Tortugas is widely known as the locals beach spot. It’s known for its warm, calm beaches and its clean sand, for the beach shows the wonderful contrast of the clear blue water washing over the clear white sand. On one of the weekends I visited, I was surprised to see a lot of local families there! Although it’s small, make sure to get there early and reserve yourself a nice beach chair for about 150 pesos ($7 – $8). Though many people dislike how crowded the Playa Tortugas can get, it’s actually a good thing when trying to connect with the locals. You can get closer to them, thus giving you an opportunity to talk to them. But, don’t get too close or else you will freak them out!
7. Chichen Itza
Address: Yucatan, Mexico
OK, so this is not really a place to come and visit locals since it’s typically full of tourists. Although, the secret to becoming a local anywhere is to learn their culture and history. Just an hour and a half away from Merida, the capital of Yucatan, it’s the most famous archeological site that shows the history behind the Mayan culture. Chichen Itza was the center of Mayan pilgrimage that was constructed with the blend of styles from the Maya and Toltec people. What was once the most powerful city in the Yucatan, it still embraces the Maya Culture heritage. The old and large buildings are magnificent, for they fill your eyes with grandeur monuments, and fill your heart with excitement and the eagerness to learn more about this ancient wonder of the world. So, just like the Bonampak Ruins, you can visit the many surrounding Mayan local communities to learn more about their culture, cooking styles, and religion. Once again, this is the secret to learning authentic Mayan culture. At the same time, it is the best way to meet and truly connect with locals that come from Mayan descent!
8. La Isla de Mujeres / Cozumel
Address: Isla Mujeres / Isla Cozumel
The Isla de Mujeres is one of those laid-back and relaxing islands in Cancún. Behind the beach lay outdoor restaurants, and past those are the streets of the local Isla de Mujeres. I experienced something unique during my trek through the streets of this island which were the friendly locals that had a great sense of humor! Unfortunately, this island is as hot as an oven. It’s so freaking hot! We were eating at a local restaurant near the beach, and I had to keep running back to the water to cool off. The water is shallow, clear and crystal blue! Check this post out on how I made a friend at this beach!
Cozumel is one of the most famous islands visited by tourists. But, just like La Isla de Mujeres, behind the beach are the streets of the true Cozumel. Showing its genuine authenticity, the inner city is a great experience to hang out with the locals spending their afternoon. I actually met a local teenager my age that shared some stories about his life in Cozumel. It was a great feeling because I had finally made a true friend who I still keep in contact with! He showed me around his town and we exchanged many laughs. It suddenly felt like Cozumel was my home town and I had forgotten the tourist-filled beaches. Go rent a car or bike, and head on over to the town square and meet new people!
9. Isla Holbox
Address: Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is quite far from the main tourist beaches of Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya, but that’s what makes this island a hidden gem to the very few that come visit. Being a fishing village, you commonly come across locals carrying their nets or holding their newly caught fish. This island appeals to those who truly love fishing and seafood! An easy way of doing this is by heading over to the docks that the many fishermen flock to. I personally don’t care about seafood, but connecting with the fishermen are definitely a must. The vibe of Isla Holbox is friendly and welcoming with its tropical colored houses and sandy covered streets!
10. Coco Bongo
Address: Forum By The Sea, Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 9.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. Yes, this is a nightclub that many tourists go to, but it’s also a place that many locals go to party. The vibe here is like no other, especially if you are looking to have fun. On my way to the beach, we passed by this main street which is full of many popular nightclubs and restaurants. I must admit, I kind of wanted to party myself! All you hear is music playing that makes you just want to get up and dance. It made my heart race and fill with excitement to join the locals to party, but I’m not old enough. For now… Anyways, this is a hotspot for locals to get drunk and dance the night away. Nonetheless, it’s also a really easy way to make friends because everyone is already having a good time! Just make sure to have fun, and don’t shy away.
Overall, this list takes you around the Yucatan Peninsula to visit the many places that hold authentic local culture. Whether it’s from daily routines to nightly wild times, you now have the top 10 places to visit to truly connect with the people who make Cancún. I’m glad I am able to share with you the 10 places to become a local in Cancún, for they worked perfectly for me!