Many Americans have been in isolation or quarantine for more than six months. Options for visiting exotic beach locations are pretty slim for Americans wanting to relax while sipping a piña colada.
Mexico is one of the few countries that is open for tourism. This makes it’s idyllic beaches an ideal destination for those looking to unwind ocean-side.
Cancun is best known for its Hotel Zone. The Cancun Hotel Zone is a 14 mile long peninsula that extends from the mainland and is bordered on both the east and west by water. To the east is the Caribbean Sea. To the west is the Nichupté Lagoon and downtown Cancun.
Cancun, like many other parts of the world, closed its doors to visitors and tourists in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Cancun, the Mayan Riviera and must of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo has very little other economic activity aside from tourism. Officials quickly realized that safely reopening was essential to the economic survival of the region.
Officials from the area worked closely with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) to establish sanitation, hygiene and social distancing protocols to help guide businesses in reopening. The plan also includes closely monitoring coronavirus activity in the region and restricting activities for both residents and tourists visiting the region.
The Mexican government introduced a traffic-light monitoring system – ranging from red, orange, yellow and green that gives each of the countries 32 states guidance and rules to follow during a phased reopening.
Quintana Roo is the Mexican state that covers the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. The state includes the popular tourist destinations of Cancun, Solidaridad (Playa del Carmen), Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Tulum.
The traffic light system defines what are essential activities and what other activities can be gradually allowed to resume with limitations and controls to resume tourism while reducing the risk of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Cancun Reopening to Tourists from the United States
When the hotels and resorts in Cancun began to reopen in June 2020 they were limited to booking up to 30% capacity.
For a resort such as the JW Marriott Cancun which has 447 rooms, they would only be allowed to book up to 134 rooms. This would leave 70% of the rooms empty.
All hotels and resorts would also be required to take active measures to ensure guests kept a safe distance.
Hotels would need to remove many of the lounge chairs around the pool and from the beaches would allow guests to keep a safe social distance while relaxing poolside.
The number of guests sharing elevators would need to be limited.
Masks would be required to be worn in public common areas of the hotels and resorts.
Hand sanitizing stations would need to be placed conspicuously throughout each hotel property.
Guests and hotel staff would be required to undergo regular body temperature checks.
Restaurants would need to reduce the number of tables. Remaining tables would need to be adequately distanced.
Hotels like the Marriott Cancun Resort are integrating the new regulations into popular activities. Karaoke at their Champions Sports Bar is open again, but singers must wear masks, groups are limited to two people, and the microphone is sanitized between every group.
Enjoying Outdoor Activities in Cancun
According to the Mayo Clinic, being outdoors is one of the safest places to be during the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus is primarily spread through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing.
Being outside, fresh air is constantly moving helping to disperse those droplets. This makes it less likely for someone to breathe in enough of them to become infected.
Cancun is the perfect destination for those looking to spend quality time outdoors. The weather year round stays sunny and warm. The Cancun hotel zone has long stretches of near-empty beaches. Many of the resorts feature open-air restaurants. Many of the outside restaurants in the Hotel Zone facing the Nichupté Lagoon have outside dining on the water.
Outdoor excursions and water activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and jet skiing are readily available anytime. With visitation at historically low levels, it is easy to naturally keep social distance from other travelers.
Some popular tourist sites and destinations have remained closed. Many of the Mayan archaeological sites, such as Chichen Itza will not be reopening until after October 1, 2020. Even then, daily attendance will be limited.
Other popular attractions in the area, such as the Xcaret adventure parks have reopened. Daily attendance is limited, and social distancing and wearing of masks is required.
Local tours and excursions to places like the picturesque Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are operating with reduced capacities.
Flying into Cancun International Airport
For many Americans needing a vacation during this time, the biggest hurdle is traveling through airports and on airplanes.
Even before the pandemic the thought of traveling on a plane can be an anxiety inducing experience to many people.
Over the past few months there have been lots of news stories about crowded airplanes, passengers causing disruptions because of masks and other events.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Cancun is to fly.
Many airlines have resumed daily flights to Cancun from a number of cities throughout the United States.
When you fly into Cancun Airport you will first arrive at immigration. This can go very quickly, or slowly, depending on your arrival time, the number of other planes arriving, and the number of immigration agents working.
Follow the instructions from the agents for getting into the appropriate line. Be sure to have your paperwork and those of all people traveling with you filled out and ready to present.
The paperwork is the immigration form that gets handed out by the flight attendants during the flight. The form contains two parts that are separated by a perforation. The top part gets taken by the immigration agent during arrival. The bottom part of the form you must keep and turn in when leaving Cancun.
Once you reach the immigration agent’s kiosk they will review your passport and paperwork. If everything is in order, they will stamp your passport and paperwork, give you the bottom half of the immigration form and you will be on your way to baggage claim.
After leaving the immigration area you will travel down a hallway towards baggage claim. Partway down this hallway is a body temperature checking station.
The people operating the body temperature scanners are dressed in full hazmat suits. The scanners take the temperature of each passenger that arrives. It may seem somewhat jarring to see someone dressed in a full hazmat suit, but it is for their protection just in case.
When you arrive at baggage claim you will need to find which claim area conveyor belt will have the luggage from your flight.
There are free hand carts available all around this area. If you have a couple of bags it may be easier to grab one than haul your luggage around by hand.
Expect to see customs agents walking around with dogs randomly sniffing bags. This is completely normal.
After retrieving your luggage you will then pass through the customs area. In most cases, the customs agents will just wave you through.
If you do get stopped by a customs agent, they will bring you to a side area for further inspection of your luggage. This seems to be fairly random.
Once past customs you will go through some glass doors towards the airport exit.
When you turn left after going through the glass doors you will walk down a hallway where many of the rental car agencies have desks. If you have booked a rental car for your trip, look for the kiosk of the company you booked through, otherwise just keep walking and ignore the agents.
Passed the car rental desks you will pass by other companies for booking ground transportation or trying to sell you timeshares.
Some agents may look official in their corporate uniforms but if you’ve already arranged ground transportation to your hotel it’s ok to just ignore them and keep walking.
It’s often a good idea to arrange ground transportation to your resort before arriving in Cancun. This is especially true if this is your first time visiting Cancun.
Most of the hotels and resorts will either provide this service directly or give you the contact information for their preferred company. Expect to pay $20 to $25 per person.
Once you exit the airport you will finally be out in the Caribbean sun. As you walk down the sidewalk there will be taxi drivers and other transportation folks asking if you need a ride.
If you’ve already arranged travel then look for someone holding a sign that has your hotel name on it. This is usually included in the instructions when you book the transfer through the hotel.
If you need to take a taxi from the airport the rates will vary depending on which hotel you are staying at as well as the taxi driver.
Always ask the driver ahead of time what the cost will be. Expect to pay between $1,000 MXN pesos to $1,500 MXN pesos, around $40 to $60 USD.