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Cancun Breaks All-Time Visitor Record As The Most Popular Beach Destination In The World

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For decades now, Cancun has been America's go-to sunny getaway, well-known for its luxurious resorts, stunning coastline, and visitor-friendly facilities.

Over the last few years, however, it reached a new popularity peak as it became, at one point, the most tourist-friendly beach destination on earth, welcoming travelers without hassle. Many believed Cancun would fall off the number one spot once the world reopened and normality resumed, and it certainly could have.

After all, competition in the wider Caribbean, not to mention Mediterranean Europe and Southeast Asia, is tight, but contrary to early projections, it held on to the crown, and it continues to be the most popular beach destination not only in its geographical subgroup but in the entire world.

Aerial View Of Cancun, The Largest City On The Mexican Caribbean, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Here's what the figures tell us:

Cancun Is Doing Some Pretty Big Numbers Right Now

While a majority of global destinations continue to post a less-than-impressive recovery, with several in Europe and Asia yet to reach their 2019 highs or only timidly doing so, Cancun has not only fully recovered but far exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Aerial View Of The Resort Zone In Cancun, A City On The Mexican Caribbean, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Analyzing the data available, we have concluded that the Caribbean giant has already grown this year by an unparalleled 21% since 2019 for international arrivals, and we have only just entered the second semester.

In total, Cancun has recorded 18,272,000 international arrivals so far in 2023, comprising the January-August period, against 14,388,000 for the same period in 2019.

Spirit Planes Parked At The Tarmac In Cancun International Airport, Mexico

Its strength as an international destination is truly unmatched, and perhaps for the first time in History, no other destination in its league – namely a tropical hub with a focus on luxurious all-inclusive vacations – can come even remotely close to touching Cancun.

The question is: why is it so extremely successful now when it's been around for years, and nearly every American who has ever traveled abroad is likely to have been to Cancun at least once already?

Some Of The Best And Most Luxurious Resorts In The World

A huge part of Cancun's never-ending appeal – something Americans have known for years now and the international community is only starting to truly acknowledge – is the city's excellence when it comes to hospitality.

Aerial View Of A Resort In Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Though Cancun is an extremely versatile destination, in the sense that it caters both to a high-spending clientele and budget-conscious travelers, with both state-of-the-art resorts and affordable beachfront stays listed, the main drive behind its soaring success is the luxury travel industry.

According to the renowned French publication La Liste, six of Cancun's hotels feature among the world's 1000 best, with the five-star retreat Kempinski Hotel ranking the highest in the city.

Only Cabo San Lucas, part of the dual destination of Los Cabos, charted as many times on the list.

A majority of tourists landing in Cancun are looking for a temporary escape from their mundane worries, burying their feet in the soft, white sand and getting pampered as staff caters to their every need from within their otherworldly hotel complex.

Dolphin Beach In Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It's somewhere you go for lounging by the poolside, gorging on flavorful Mexican food, spending long afternoons basking under the Caribbean sun, and living it up in the city, where some of the world's largest shopping centers, liveliest entertainment venues, and most electric nightlife await you.

Then, there is the city's improved infrastructure.

Huge Post-Crisis Investment In Infrastructure

In order to keep hold of its crown, Cancun needed to keep up the momentum and come up with new, more diverse, and equally exciting tourist offers, as well as redress the grievances of both the local populace and short-term visitors and it's done just that.

No, we're not talking (merely) of more hotel openings. That's already expected.

Tourists Strolling Down A Street Leading Down To The Caribbean Sea In Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Beyond that, authorities have been finally addressing some of the most popular complaints put forth by travelers since the dawn of time, from a lack of pedestrianized zones in a city that clearly favors cars and heavy traffic to the fixing of potholes and reduction of congestion on the road to the airport.

The 13-kilometer-long Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard project will improve access and ease traffic flows into and out of the airport, and being so close to completion, we should start seeing more tangible results real soon.

Additionally, they have announced the re-imagining of the Tajamar Boardwalk, an overlooked area that's now set to become one of Cancun's leading tourist attractions, as it will be re-modeled after other famous malecóns in Mexico, such as the iconic one in Puerto Vallarta.

Tajamar Boardwalk In Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tourists should expect the widening of pedestrian and cycling paths, as well as the introduction of shops and more prominent tourist amenities to the oceanfront promenade, and that is only one of several similar revitalization projects taking place simultaneously across Cancun.

Another main concern for travelers, particularly Americans, traveling South of the border is safety.

Cancun's Hotel Zone Is Extremely Safe

We will keep it real with you:

Cancun is certainly no stranger to shootings and gangs, which happen occasionally – certainly not as often as the U.S. media portrays it – and crime rates are indeed higher than other smaller destinations in Mexico, such as Merida.

Military Presence On Cancun Beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

In other words, it is a big city with inevitable big-city problems. With that being said, crime rarely spills over into tourist zones, being mostly restricted to suburban areas where there are no relevant landmarks or noteworthy tourist facilities.

Cancun's resort zone is as safe as can be, and authorities have ensured it remains an unattractive destination for petty criminals and gang members, either by tightening surveillance through the installation of CCTV in key spots or even going as far as deploying the National Guard to patrol beaches.

The hotel strip is heavily guarded, and on every occasion you will step out of that private stretch of beach to explore life beyond the glitzy resort fences, officers will be everywhere to be seen, and they will make sure you're not messed with.

Police Patrolling Cancun Beach, K9 Unit, Quintana Roo, Mexico

This year, there have been no reports of violent incidents involving tourists in downtown Cancun, and the city itself, alongside the wider state of Quintana Roo, has been awarded Level 2 status by the U.S. State Department.

This means you are not advised to reconsider travel nor avoid it at all costs.

Instead, you should simply exercise increased caution, meaning you should avoid flashing unnecessary signs of wealth when out in public and venturing off-path in non-touristy neighborhoods. You know, general safety advice that applies to most international destinations.

Cancun Has Never Been Easier To Fly To

Happy Young Couple Wearing Summer Clothes Leaving The Airport Following International Travel

Cancun International Airport is also the second largest in Mexico, boasting a whopping 128 connections to other destinations, both domestic and international.

It is by far the busiest airport in the Caribbean region, as well as one of the leading hubs in Latin America as a whole, welcoming millions of travelers every month. In simpler terms, it's never been easier to get to Cancun.

With flights offered from at least 38 different departure points in the United States and other equally important Caribbean and Transatlantic routes in operation, it serves as an entry point into Mexico for travelers from all over the world.

Passengers Waiting In Line At Cancun Airport, Cancun, Mexico

It's truly no surprise Cancun is now at the top of its game. This year, in order to deal with bottlenecks at the border and other processing backlogs – yet another common reason for complaints – the airport even opened e-Gate lanes for U.S. passport holders.

Now, Americans can simply ‘scan' their way into Cancun, as if they are entering their own country, without having to speak to a border agent and undergo the infamous interview on arrival.

This is yet to be replicated by most airports in Mexico, making Cancun International a domestic pioneer in streamlining immigration.

And Then Of Course… Cancun Will Host Mexico's Most Exciting Launch In Years

Maya Train Seats In Train Car, Mexico

Finally, the city has some exciting new developments that tourists should be excited about, most notably the epic Maya Train.

A scenic train that will set on its inaugural journey from Cancun on December 1, it will link the Caribbean metropolis to all of the top tourist attractions in the Mexican Caribbean, easing travel and eliminating the need for tourists to resort to unreliable bus companies, and/or overpriced private transfers.

In essence, travelers are being gifted more autonomy when planning a Mexican Caribbean trip.

Landing in Cancun, you will enjoy easy links to smaller beach towns like Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, as well as historical landmarks, including the legendary, ruined Mayan city of Chichén Itzá and the picturesque Yellow City of Izamal.

Tourist In Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo, Mexico

As this falls under the public transportation category, and safe, accessible public transportation is essential to run tourism services smoothly, we will go further and say the train will help make Cancun the most tourist-friendly destination in all of Latin America.

The naysayers may have thought they had seen the last of Cancun following the reopening of other Caribbean competitors and Europe, but they really didn't see this coming:

The city continues smashing records left, right, and center, even though it's no longer everyone's ‘only available option' in a formerly restrictive world, and it is unlikely to back down anytime soon.

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

John Sarter

Tuesday 12th of September 2023

Of all the places I've been in Mexico, Cancun is the the place I've felt most unsafe! The police there will pull you over for the slightest reason, or even make one up, and shake you down for money!! They'll ask to see your license, then refuse to give it back unless you pay them. I will always avoid Cancun, at all costs!!


Wednesday 13th of September 2023

@John Sarter, I agree 100%. The article should state that if you seclude yourself at your hotel and don't ever leave you're fine because that's where the guard are stationed but as for ensuring the citizens of locals are safe they don't care and it's only a matter of time before that creeps into tourist areas.