Living in Cancun, Mexico: Is It Worth It? [Expat Guide 2022]

Wondering what it’s like living in Cancun? If you are thinking about moving to Cancun Mexico and want to know whether it’s financially feasible and safe for expats, this post is for you!

As an expat myself, who has lived in the sunny Caribbean city in Mexico for 7 years, I will help you figure out whether it’s the right place for you to start a new life in Mexico. 

So let’s dig into the day-to-day life of an Expat in Cancun.

We will cover topics such as the cost of living in Cancun pros and cons of living in Cancun, and other interesting matters about life in Cancun. 

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Motor boat zooming past the shoreline of Cancun with sky high hotels and a beautiful blue ocean.
Cancun’s Hotel Zone is a prime spot for watersports and beaches.

About Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is one of the most popular Mexican beach destinations, for its 20km stretch of white sand beach flanked by turquoise crystal clear water and high-rise luxury all-inclusive hotels.

Millions of visitors flock to Cancun to enjoy the spectacular beaches and the many watersport activities, explore the nearby natural wonders and learn about the Mexican culture.

But also, Cancun is the most chosen city in Mexico for many expatriates looking for a new life in a tropical climate and sunny vibes.

If you want to be one of them, this post is definitely for you!

Hotel Zone in Cancun with massive hotels on the peninsula amongst the crystal blue water with sandy beaches showing. The rest of the city is visible in the distance.
The Hotel Zone is one of the best places to live in Cancun, if you can afford it.

Cancun at a Glance

Before diving into the cost of living in Cancun, I would like to give you a brief overview of the city so that you will know what I am talking about in the next sections of the post. 

We say that Cancun consists of three main areas, the hotel zone, downtown Cancun, and the surroundings.

The Hotel Zone

➡️ The hotel zone is the most expensive area of the city, it’s the tourist area where you will find the majority of the luxury beach hotels and the most exclusive ( and expensive) restaurants in Cancun

It’s a stretch of land separated from Cancun downtown by the beautiful Nichupte lagoon (great kayaking in there!).  

The Hotel zone is basically a 22 km road, the Avenida Kukulcan, flanked by giant all-inclusive hotels and luxury residences on the beachside, with restaurants and shops on the lagoon side. 

Downtown Cancun

➡️ Downtown Cancun, is the city center where people live. However, there is not an actual “center”, but confusing roads that are messily organized without a clear layout.

The only way to find your way around downtown is with a good navigator. Just make sure it’s updated because they keep changing the directions of the streets.

Cancun Downtown is anything but pretty, with no beauty or charm and no place where to go for a walk, besides a commercial plaza or the Malecon ( promenade) of the Nichupte’ lagoon, which is where people usually go to exercise or meet up in the early mornings or evenings. 

Cancun Downtown is exactly where you should go shopping to find supermarkets and other convenience stores that don’t have touristy prices. 

Surroundings

➡️ There are new residential areas in the Cancun surroundings that look more like small towns with their own supermarkets, shops and restaurants but they are actually part of Cancun, just far from the beach.

These are great options to live near the city but far from the traffic and chaos. 

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Three hotels in the Cancun's Hotel Zone close up with a small cruise ship and sail boats moored on the sandy beach pier.
Living in the Hotel Zone in Cancun is one of the most expensive places, but you’ll feel like you’re on vacation 24/7

Cost of Living in Cancun, Mexico

Generally speaking, Cancun is renowned as an expensive destination, but I have news for you, it’s not that expensive if you know where to look!

Having traveled around Mexico quite a bit, Cancun is definitely not one of the most costly destinations you can find. 

As a tourist, it can become pricey if you want to splurge on some of those fancy all-inclusive hotels – especially if you are on your yearly vacation, and you want to treat yourself. Why not, right?

However, you can also visit Cancun on a budget if you want to. It’s just a matter of choice.

And that applies to those who want to live there as well.!

According to Numbeo, Cancun is in fact, 51.43% less expensive than Denver for general expenses and,  73.73% lower than Denver when it comes to renting. 

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Meals

A meal in a decent restaurant in town can cost around 180 mxn ($10 USD) (without wine). And even less if you go to local eateries or in Mercado 23, for example. 

Restaurant prices can go up from 500 ($26 USD) to 700 ($37 USD) for an average meal in a good restaurant in town. And up to 1000 ($52 USD) or more in one of the fancy restaurants in the Hotel Zone.

The price can increase significantly if you add wine, of course.

Grocery Stores

In terms of supermarkets, Soriana, Mega, and Chedraui, downtown are the cheapest ones. There you can occasionally find special sales on certain products.

They also offer a fidelity card which can help you save some dollars!

The same supermarkets have their own luxury brands, which are Chedraui Select, City Market, or Walmart Superama where you feel like you are walking into a jewelry shop, even when you pay.

There you can find lots of imported products and healthy and organic food.

Oddly enough if you shop for your veggies at the market (Mercado 23) they can be more expensive than in the supermarket. But you will be supporting local producers instead of big brands, so it can be worth it. 

Beauty Costs

Hairdresser costs can go from 200 to 600 pesos for a cut, depending on where you are going. 

Waxing is around 800 mxn for a full service.  

Thatched umbrellas along a sandy beach in Cancun with palm leaves in the foreground as waves curl into whitecaps in the background.

How much is the rent in Cancun for locals?

That depends. It’s not much about where local lives but how much they can spend. 

Generally speaking, locals and expats live downtown or in the surroundings, some live also on the beach. Again it depends on your budget.  

Let’s say the closer you are to the beach the higher the rent. 

A decent one-bedroom apartment in a central area in downtown Cancun can cost around $500 USD in rent for locals. 

However, in the outskirts of Cancun about 20 to 40-minute drive from the beach you can find cute houses in gated areas with security. 

And if you don’t mind living far away from the beach, you can save quite a bit. 

Puerto Cancun is one of the most luxurious areas where they have built a marina and a mall with luxury shops and fancy restaurants. It’s located between downtown and the so-called Hotel Zone. 

There are many condo apartments in that area with spectacular views, but the cost of renting there can get up to $2,000 USD a month. 

An apartment in a condo in the Hotel zone can go up to $3,000 USD a month! 

Then, like in any city, there are shady areas where rent can go as down as $150 USD a month, but I would recommend avoiding those areas. 

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Crystal blue waters of the ocean in Cancun. A major pro to living in Mexico is getting to experience beaches like this daily.

Pros and Cons of Living in Cancun 

As in any city, the pros and cons of living in Cancun also depend on the individual perspective and priorities.

I am happy to share my points of view. 

Pros of living in Cancun

👍 It’s close to an international airport, so when you have to fly somewhere you don’t have the hassle to have to leave too early for the airport. And when you come back from a long flight you are already at home! 

That also makes transportation from the Airport to Cancun less costly.

👍The beach and the turquoise color of the Caribbean sea are breathtaking

👍 The amazing diving options in Cancun make it a paradise for every diver, but also snorkelers. 

👍 Cancun makes a great base to explore the Yucatan Peninsula.

👍 It’s close to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy and it’s the departing point for the whale sharks tour in the summer

Cons of living in Cancun

❌ In my opinion, there is only one negative aspect of living in Cancun and that is the fact that there is no historical center to have a pleasant stroll around among ancient buildings and cute cafes, something that you will find in many colonial towns in Mexico, instead.

In downtown, the buildings are just either old (and generally ugly) or new.  Everything is spread out and you need a car to move around. 

The reason for that is that Cancun is a relatively new city, built in the 70s for tourism only. 

❌ The area that is now downtown Cancun was built for the hotel workers to live and it gradually expanded to the huge city that is now.

And it is really an ugly one. Sorry! 

❌ Also, the city is far from the beach and you cannot really walk there. 

Drone shot of Cancun from above showng the winding streets and hotels, the sandy beaches, and the extremely blue waters.

What It’s Like Living as an Expat in Cancun

Living as an Expat in Cancun is great but you really need to have a car to move around. Public transportation is unreliable and very inconvenient and it’s too hot to walk around with such huge distances. 

If you have a car, it’s a very liveable city with all the comfort and facilities you may need, places to go out, and great restaurants. Also having such a spectacular beach at easy reach is priceless.  

In Cancun, you can find everything from gyms to yoga centers, and supermarkets with all you can possibly need, including organic and vegan products.

Waves crashing on the beach in Cancun with a seagull flying past.

How is health care?

If you become a permanent resident in Mexico you can benefit from public care but I don’t recommend it, especially in case of an emergency. 

For small medical situations, you can get checked by general doctors available in most Farmacias Similares and YZA. The visit costs only 65 pesos. (4 USD)

For specialists and more important medical issues, you will want to use a private hospital, which is pricey. Therefore having private medical insurance will give you peace of mind, in case anything happened. 

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Thatched umbrellas on the sandy beach of Cancun with people sitting beneath them and relaxing.

Is it safe to live in Cancun?

Although there have been quite a few terrifying episodes of crime and murders in the recent past, which have made news all over the world, I still feel Cancun is a safe place to live if you know your way around and stay aware of your surroundings. 

Those unfortunate episodes were mainly drug and cartel-related and although they have indirectly involved innocent tourists, they are very rare. 

The main problem in Cancun is more comes from petty crimes and robberies, which is related to the growth of income disparity in the region. But we know that it’s something you find in many places in the world. 

Avoiding shady areas and understanding what are the forms of behavior that would put you in danger, will keep you safe, just like anywhere else. 

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Senset in Puerto Juarez in Cancun.  The dark ocean contrasts the orange and purple of the sky, with silhouetted sailboats in the distance.
Puerto Juarez is an affordable place to live in Cancun with beach views

Where should I live in Cancun?

If you have the financial availability I would definitely choose to live on the beach in the Hotel Zone, without a doubt. It would be like being on a permanent vacation!

If you have an average income, like most people, then there are many other options downtown that you can choose from. 

The area behind Avenida Tulum between Avenida Nichupte and Avenida Xcaret, around Parque Kaba, or around Avenida Nader are great areas where you can find cute houses, and apartments.

You will be not far away from the beach but you will pay a reasonable rate for your place. I would say mid-range to high rates, depending on whether the place is new and luxurious or old and average, of course. 

If you are looking for a cheaper option you should move farther away from the center and consider residential areas such as Santa Fe, Jardines del Sur, or along the Avenida Huayacan which is becoming quite popular.

There you can even find brand-new homes at much lower prices than in the above-mentioned areas. 

If you want to look at the sea from your window but you don’t want to spend the Hotel Zone money, I’ve got news for you. Check out Puerto Juarez, the area on the coast north of downtown, on the way to Isla Blanca and Playa Mujeres. 

There the beach is not as good as the Hotel Zone but you have incredible views and you may be able to find great housing options that are more affordable. 

I noticed that in Cancun just like many other places there was a shortage of long-term rentals for a while when Airbnb offered an easy way for homeowners to make more money by renting their place short-term at tourist rates. 

Now the situation is better as many of them realized that it requires a lot of work and risk, compared to having a fixed monthly income from a long-term tenant. Smart! 

So it will be easy now to find a great place for your needs. It just requires a little bit of patience and some research. 

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People walking on the beach between thatched umbrellas with large palm trees in front. The ocean waves roll in the background in Cancun.

How to find a rental home in Cancun

The increase in expats gave impulse to the real estate business and you will find many of those agencies spread throughout the city. 

Some of them are very useful because it spares you the hassle and they help you find the place you are looking for. 

However, be aware of scams. Some real estates agency will ask you for a deposit just for checking a place out. I advise you against it, as  I don’t think you should pay just to see a place that you may not like. It’s not the way it works.  

I have seen so many homes that looked amazing in pictures and they were just not a good fit once I saw them in person. 

I have changed quite a bit of place during my time in Cancun and the way I found them was by walking around the area where I wanted to live and calling the number I found on the rental sign.  

I speak fluent Spanish which helped a lot, of course.  In any case, whether you ask a realtor or you do it yourself, just arm yourself with a lot of patience and good vibes and you will find the right home for you in a heartbeat. 

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Blue ocean alongside Cancun's residential area.

Conclusion: Is living in Cancun worth it?

I hope this post helped you figure out whether living in Cancun is worth it for you or not.

I had a great time living in Cancun and if it was not for my new nomadic lifestyle I would definitely go back and choose it again as my home.

But as everything else, to each one, her own.

If you love being in the sea, live close to an international airport, and have all the necessary infrastructure at hand, then Cancun could be for you.

But the best way to figure it out is to travel to Cancun and stay there for a  while and see how you feel about it!

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Photo of Isabella smiling in front of a beach.

Isabella of Let’s Travel to Cancun

Isabella is a solo traveler, and Mexico-based forever nomad.

When she’s not exploring a new place and taking pictures or flying her drone, you’ll find her sitting in a quirky cafe’ writing on her blogs. 


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