Best Time to Go to Cancun: 5 Helpful Tips
The Short and the Sweet
The best time to visit Cancun depends on avoiding the hurricane season and some cooler winter weather that makes the beaches a bit uncomfortable at times.
Multiple visits and plenty of research provide some useful insights on both the best and worth months to go.
- The hottest months -- above 90 degrees -- are May through September.
- The lowest temperatures are December through February.
- The lowest rainfall is February through April.
- March has a spike in visitors because of college spring break.
- The rainiest months are September through November during the hurricane season.
Read on to get the average rainfall and temperatures by month to help plan for the best possible vacation weather.
Best Times to Visit Cancun Video
Cheapest Time to Visit Cancun
The cheapest time to go to Cancun also is the least popular time -- in September and October during the high point of the rainy season.
Hotel prices drop and crowded beaches are non-existent despite the hot temperatures.
Why would anyone go in September and October for low prices if it rains too much? The answer lies in last-minute vacations.
Tip: Check the weather forecast for the next seven to 10 days, especially in the east Atlantic, for approaching storms and hurricanes. If the forecast looks good, go to the search engines and major travel sites for last-minute deals.
Finding the Right Months to Visit
Ah, Cancun. Fun, festive, easy to reach by air from any parts of the U.S. and Mexico. It's a wonderfully convenient vacation destination.
It's also one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean for other good reasons. The hotels are big and beautiful, the nightlife is as good as anywhere and the outdoor restaurants are lively and authentic.
It also has one of the most popular attractions in the Caribbean at the world-famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
Visions of Cancun might automatically bring the impression to many people that it's warm and sunny throughout the year because of its location.
But go at the wrong time of year and run the risk of water too cold for swimming or, even worse, torrential downpours of rain.
When is the best time to go to Cancun? A little information goes a long way in picking the right months to vacation there.
When did you go to Cancun? When would you like to go?See results without voting
Average Cancun temperatures are plenty warm during the summer.
Average high temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit from May through September, as the chart above shows.
But the winter is another story. High temperatures from December through February average in the low 80s.
Those temperatures sound comfortable enough, but another factor comes into play -- cooling trade winds.
Trade winds create a wind chill effect that lowers the temperature in the water and on the beach to the point that they are uncomfortable at times.
Repeat visits to Cancun during the winter show that resort guests often spend more time in heated pools than on the beach or in the seawater.
Important tip: Anyone who plans to go during the winter should ask the resort or hotel if they heat their pool and by how much.
Average low temperatures, which take place mainly at night, also have an impact. They lower the seawater temperatures, which hover about midway between the daily high and daily low.
The best swimming time during the winter is mid to late afternoon -- if it's possible to swim at all. During the hot summer months, just about time will do.
Cancun Hurricane Season
The annual Caribbean hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, but it sounds a lot more scary than reality.
The average season experiences six to eight hurricanes and a small number of tropical storms.
Few Caribbean destinations get directly hit by hurricanes or tropical storms because the region is so large. But quite a few of them -- including Cancun -- experience plenty of rainfall as a result of those storms and hurricanes.
Cancun usually experiences the worst of the hurricane season in September and October.
The above rainfall chart shows two numbers each month -- rain days, which is the average days it rains each month -- and rain inches or total rainfall during the month.
It is normal for most Caribbean destinations to have about eight to 10 rain days each month and see a climb during the fall, which is the peak of the Caribbean hurricane season.
For Cancun, 16+ days of rain in October is one of the highest in the region.
Most destinations also average about three or four inches of total rain each month, although it varies based on whether it is during the dry season or the wet season.
Cancun receives more than eight inches on average in September and October, again among the highest in the region.
But it is not as high as some of the rainforest destinations such as Dominica and Grenada.
One reason to consider going there in September or October is to take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds. If that's tempting, try to make it a last-minute vacation and review the long-range weather forecast before committing money to a trip.
Cancun in Winter
A popular time to visit Cancun is December through February because it is a quick and convenient getaway from the northern winter.
But as someone who visited there in late February, I can say from personal experience that the weather was cool enough to keep most people out of the water or even sunning on the beaches. Strong trade winds made it feel even cooler.
That didn't stop us from finding other things to do. The best part: far fewer crowds than other months of the year.
As a result of the rain in particular, it is no surprise that the least popular time to visit Cancun is during September and October.
The above statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization show the number of visitors to Cancun by month for the most recent available year.
It clearly shows that the three least favorite months are September through November while the most popular months are December, March and July followed by January and February.
Visits spike in March partly because of college spring breaks. Families might find that another month would be a better time to visit because of the party atmosphere.
December through February are popular months throughout the region because people want to escape from the cold winter months in the north. But that time has a downside because temperatures are not ideal.
Visits drop during May even though the odds of rain in June are higher than May.
Another spike takes place in July because children are out of school and families are more likely to visit.
Cancun Weather by Month
The average high temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit or 28 Celsius may sound good to a vacation planner. But the average low of 69 Fahrenheit or 21 Celsius brings the ocean water temperatures down to an uncomfortable level. Rainfall is moderate at nearly four inches.
Cancun temperatures in February increase about 1 degree and leave the ocean still cool for swimming. But the dry season has arrived with average rainfall of less than two inches.
Beach lovers will find better temperatures for sunning and swimming. Rainfall still hovers about two inches. It rains only five days on average. Cancun weather in March is one of the best of the year.
April does even better than March. It is the best month of the year for low rain and warm temperatures. It also has rain only four days on average.
Cancun weather in May is still part of the dry season, but average rainfall increases to nearly four inches. It also is the first month when average high temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 Celsius.
The rainy season arrives in June with an average rainfall above five inches. The number of days with rain increases to 11. Temperatures stay hot.
Cancun weather in July is even hotter with an average high of 92 Fahrenheit or 33 Celsius. Rainfall is usually lighter this month than in June.
The hottest month of the year often has a small increase in rain versus July. It is a good month for people who like their beaches steaming hot.
The worst weather month of the year brings with it as much as 10 inches or more of rain. It also is the last month with temperatures above 90 Fahrenheit. Vacation planners should avoid Cancun in September unless it is a last-minute vacation with a clear weather forecast.
October is only slightly worse than September. Average rainfall still hovers around 10 inches for the month. It has the highest number of days with rain for the year at a total of 16. Like September, vacationers should avoid October unless the short-term forecast looks good.
The rainy season starts to decline in November with average rainfall of more than five inches. Average high temperatures are comfortable at 85 Fahrenheit or 29 Celsius.
Cancun weather in December is cooler with average highs of 83 Fahrenheit or 28 Celsius. Ocean temperatures are uncomfortable at times, especially on days with strong trade winds. Still, people flock to Cancun this month to escape from northern winters.
Why Location Matters
About the Author
Scott Bateman is a professional journalist who has travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean including three visits to Cancun. He publishes a guide to the region at Caribeez.com.
The map above shows that the real tourism area of Cancun is not in the city but along Boulevard Kukulkan on the outer edge of Nichupte Lagoon.
Many hotels and resorts lie along Kukulkan facing the waters that form the boundary between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
That narrow strip of land adds to the uniqueness of the resort area, but it also exposes the area to stronger trade winds and cooling sea temperatures during the winter.
© 2014 Scott Bateman
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