How much does it cost to spend a month in Cancun during peak season?

Personal finance is a constant game of trade-offs. This takes many forms, including budgeting for travel and one’s spending habits. In this post, I’ll take you through a detailed breakdown of my expenses from a transformative month spent in Cancun, illustrating not just the cost of living the dream, but how it’s possible to align our spending with our deepest desires.

My journey into van-life began in 2019, driven by a longing to escape the winter chill and chase the warmth, initially dreaming of snowbirding in Florida. Cancun was my latest escape—a choice inspired by three clear goals:

  1. To enjoy warm weather (and the warm Caribbean waters).
  2. To spend lots of time outside.
  3. To confront and reset my habits, especially my newly acquired bad habit of picking up fast food on my morning walk. (I’m a sucker for breakfast sandwiches and tacos.)

This adventure was not just about seeking the sun or indulging in the vibrant life of Cancun; it was a deliberate step towards reevaluating and reshaping my daily habits and preferences. Join me as I navigate the costs, joys, and challenges of living a month in Cancun during its peak season, offering insights that might just inspire your next journey or lifestyle pivot.


Playa Delfines in Cancun

Setting the Stage: Background and Context


First, some context.

I’m a huge fan of “try before you buy” and experimenting out in bite-sized chunks when possible and iterating on that. So of course I did that for Mexico.

I had never been to Mexico until 2022. At that point, my partner and I decided to take a little journey into Mexico for a few nights. We crossed the border in Tijuana and spent 4 nights in Rosarito, exploring the local countryside and the nearby port town of Ensenada. It wasn’t exactly what most would think of when they hear “vacation”, but we had a lot of fun exploring the region. One thing I took away from the trip was how much I valued hot showers and that it’s not necessarily a given in Mexico…

In 2023, my partner and I returned to Mexico for 11 nights, this time opting to explore Cancun and the Quintana Roo region. This trip was definitely closer to a stereotypical tropical vacation getaway—and my first such one! It was my partner’s 40th birthday, and she was about to begin a full-time job after a break, so we chose to optimize for our limited time and definitely splurged in a way that we haven’t before or since. What behavior is “splurgey” vs. typical will of course vary from household to household, as we definitely could have spent more. But we did not hold back on:

  • A day trip to the Xel-Há adventure park (if you can, go as soon as it opens and head all the way to the start of the lazy river—we saw a lot more fish than were active later and were greeted by several macaws as they flew overhead) and associated photo pass.
  • Parasailing (seeing the turtles swimming in the clear water was something else!)
  • Trips to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres.

We did have pretty sweet deals on our lodging in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but we decided to spend a little more generously on the above experiences that will yield dividends of delight in recollection for the rest of our lives. During this trip, we realized how awesome the beaches are in Quintana Roo and we got to learn the basics of navigating transit options in the region.

Choosing Cancun


For this most recent trip (January/February 2024), my partner and I again found ourselves in a position of “geographical flexibility”. In looking at monthly Airbnbs around the major metropolitan areas of the Southwest USA, it became clear that monthly rentals in Mexico were a far better value for our purposes than remaining in the states for this period of time.

Given how great of a time we had in Cancun last year, how comfortable we were with the basics of navigating logistics such as transit there, and that prices were cheaper than comparable units in the areas we’d be looking into stateside I started looking into monthly rentals in the Cancun area.

As I primarily intended to live “normal life” but in a warmer climate and to spend more of my free time on the beach, Cancun seemed sufficient for the purpose.

Preparation and Logistics


When I started looking into monthly Airbnbs in Cancun, I sought the following attributes:

  • Full unit.
  • Close to the main transit line through the hotel zone.
  • A full kitchen.
  • WiFi and mentions of the quality in the reviews.
  • No reviews mentioning the lack of hot water.

We could have spent much less for a place in downtown Cancun or further out, but I ended finding an “affordable enough” cute apartment in the Pok-ta-Pok neighborhood, which as you can see below is close to the beaches, but a bit tucked away and secluded from downtown and the tourist hub of the hotel zone.


Satellite view of Cancun and the Pok-to-Pok neighborhood


As always, this decision involved various trade-offs. From the last trip, I knew I loved eating at the nearby hotel zone supermarket (Chedraui), which features a gorgeous view of the local Nichupté lagoon (see below). I also liked that having access to a Starbucks in the same area could provide a little extra insurance in case the WiFi performance proved not to be up to snuff (can’t be too careful!) These were a 30-minute walk/10-minute walk + ~$.70 bus trip/~$5-$6 uber away. On the other hand, access to a gym was a bit more tenuous in this area vs. downtown, which required a bus trip or a slightly more expensive uber trip (~$8-$12).

Our grand total for 30 nights in a desirable tourist destination during peak season with a full kitchen and a patio with a great (non-ocean) view was $1,692.84 including taxes and fees.


View of the Nichupte Lagoon from Chedraui in the hotel zone

Monthly Expenses Breakdown


Admittedly, I do not typically diligently track my cash purchases, which are far less in the USA, but I wanted to do so for this trip in order to create an accurate account of my spending. The totals aggregated below include all joint expenses (87.35% of total tracked) and my personal expenses on credit cards and in cash. (The majority of our respective individual spending would likely be mine anyways, as I’d frequently go to coffee shops or Chedraui to work while my partner was recovering from foot surgery.)

I would also like to add that we used ~$700 worth of credit card reward points for our flights and that besides the stay in Cancun, we decided to take a “vacation within the vacation” to Merida during the final week of our stay, which added at least $771.32 of additional expenses ($336.57 in auto spending, $282.74 in surplus lodging costs, and $152.01 in additional transportation costs.) Merida is even more affordable than Cancun, and I wanted to tentatively explore the possibility of returning for a month or longer stay in the future.

We could have spent more. We could have spent less. We ate out a lot but drank almost no alcohol. Excepting the Merida excursion and day trips where we spotted wild flamingos and swam in cenotes in the jungle, we didn’t do a lot of exotic tours or activities. Though I did spend a decent amount on surfing lessons—my first time!— and a kayak tour of the local lagoon.

As my partner was recovering from foot surgery, we also took a lot more uber rides vs. taking the local bus for ~$.70.

Without further ado, here are the monthly totals:


Lodging: $1,975.58
Transportation (ex-auto): $397.96
Auto: $336.57
Groceries: $257.16
Dining: $254.29
Activities: $220.35
Personal Care/Laundry: $78.11
Mobile Phone: $61.12
Water: $25.67
Clothing: $18.29
Coffee: $17.02
Total: $3,642.12

Discretionary Spending Analysis


Breaking the discretionary spending down into chronological buckets can illustrate some of the potential variability in one’s spending depending on how one chooses to spend one’s time.

From 1/9 to 1/19, I was in Cancun by myself. My partner was recovering from foot surgery and had another doctor appointment before flying over. I ate out a bit more the first few days, took a trip to Playa del Carmen, and also bought some groceries that would last us for the duration of our stay.


1/9 – 1/19 — solo

 Groceries: $78.20
Dining: $76.45
Transportation: $34.05
Personal/Laundry: $34.58
Water: $12.00
Coffee: $5.61
Total: $240.89
Daily Average: $24.09


From 1/19 to 1/31 my partner and I lived a more low-cost lifestyle, though we did take a lot more uber rides to the beach than I did while solo because she was still recovering from foot surgery.


1/19 – 1/31 — w/ partner, lower spending

Groceries: $135.06
Dining: $92.24
Transportation: $44.22
Personal/Laundry: $43.53
Activities: $26.29
Water: $10.79
Coffee: $5.57
Total: $357.69
Daily Average: $29.81


From 1/31 to 2/7, we enjoyed a more typical “vacation experience”. I went kayaking in the Nichupté lagoon and learned to surf before my partner and I took a trip to Merida. From there, we rented a car, explored local ruins and cenotes, and went for a drive along the northern Gulf shore, spotting wild flamingoes and taking a trip to an ecological reserve.


1/31 – 2/7 — w/ partner, higher spending

Auto: $336.57
Lodging: $282.74
Transportation (ex-auto): $233.68
Activities: $194.06
Dining: $91.48
Groceries: $42.48
Clothing: $18.29
Coffee: $5.84
Water: $4.29
Total: $1209.44
Daily Average: $151.18



Sunrise view from Playa Delfines


As you can see from the above discretionary spending breakdown, there is a great range of what you can spend on a discretionary basis in your time in Cancun! This is true nearly anywhere you travel in an area with a lot of tourism. Living more like a local will always be cheaper than living more like a tourist. The more you can speak the local language and immerse yourself in the local culture, the cheaper and cheaper it can become.

Everything in personal finance is a trade-off! My partner and I could have stayed in a far cheaper location. (Total including tax was $1,692.84.)  However, we were personally satisfied with the location and access it afforded us and the relative peace of quiet of the local neighborhood.

Obviously, other fixed costs like transport to and from your destination and to/from the airport can be amortized over a longer period of time the longer you stay in a single spot.

As I write this, I’m back for another month in Puerto Vallarta where we will likely spend even less having everything we need on a daily basis within a shorter walking distance. I am eager to return for a longer-than-one-month stretch in a subsequent winter, likely even more affordably!



In conclusion, my month-long adventure in Cancun serves as an illustration of how intentional living and financial mindfulness can harmoniously blend with the pursuit of warmth, relaxation, and personal growth. Through a detailed breakdown of expenses, I’ve demonstrated that with careful planning and a willingness to adapt, living the dream in a tropical paradise is not only achievable but can also be aligned with one’s financial goals and lifestyle aspirations.

This experience reinforced the importance of setting clear intentions—whether for budgeting, lifestyle choices, or personal development. By prioritizing our spending on a comfortable home base and experiences that enrich our lives and foster memorable moments, my partner and I were able to make the most of our time in Cancun, all the while managing our expenses in a way that felt both luxurious and prudent.

In the spirit of continuous learning and exploration, I look forward to applying the insights learned from this trip to future adventures and to sharing them with others. Whether you’re planning your own escape to the sun or seeking to align your spending with your deepest desires, remember that with the right approach, the world is yours to explore—responsibly, joyfully, and within your means.

2 replies
  1. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Super enjoyed reading this break down, as having it modeled helps me see how me and my husband’s own “expensive” fantasies could be made possible.

    Also, now I want tacos.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *