Topic Wiki

Trip Reports:
Mikeoracle, Dan, JayR, lunatic, mgoldhammer18, Markus, mtag17, sam28
stooges44 (mini)

General information:
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To get a grasp of where you are, Cancun is located on the edge of Mexico that wraps around the Gulf of Mexico and separates it from the Caribbean Sea. As you can see here, Cancun is fairly close to Cuba and really not that far from Florida.


                    The greater Cancun area includes the Zona Hotelera (translation not needed) in the north, which is a strip of land separated from the mainland by a lagoon and packed with hotel after hotel in a similar fashion to Miami Beach. In this thread, when people refer to Cancun, they are usually referring to this area. A ferry ride away is the island of Isla Mujeres. Below Cancun on the map, you'll see the airport in red. The area south of Cancun is known as Riviera Maya which contains many resort areas including Playa del Carmen, and within Playa is Mayakoba. A ferry ride away is the island of Cozumel.


Cancun hotels and Kosher restaurants map.

Getting there:
From NYC, award tickets have about $30 in taxes/fees on the outbound and $50 on the return. You can fly nonstop with: (cheapest way to book)
AA (10K BA)
UA (17.5K UA/SQ - oneway; 30K NH - roundtrip)
AM (12.5K AF)
B6
InterJet

Airport Lounges
Mera Lounge - Accessible with Priority Pass except between 12:30 and 16:30 (not nice lounge).
Aeromexico Lounge

Airport security / food restrictions covered in the Kosher Food section below. Wifi at Cancun Airport Business Center - Network: businesst3 Password: businesst3.


Getting around:
Some people rent cars, others seem strongly averse to car rental due to many reports of being pulled over for speeding. Those reports often conclude with being able to give the cop ~$20 to avoid the ticket.

If you plan on only staying in Zona Hotelera, you don't need to rent a car. You can stay at the top of the strip (Hyatt Ziva, IC, Aloft) and be within walking distance to Chabad and the restaurants, or you can stay further down the strip and take the convenient bus up and down for MEX12 (currently about $0.65USD); drivers happily make change, at least from small peso bills. Reports that they will also take a $1 bill but won't give change. Taxis outside the strip to Walmart or Costco shouldn't be too expensive either. To get to/from the airport, you can book a private shuttle (see below). If you plan on going outside the Zone to activities with a tour, you can usually pay extra for transportation, but if you plan on going out on your own schedule, you'll want to rent a car.

If you plan on staying in Playa del Carmen, you'll likely want to rent a car, although it's possible to avoid it by taking an airport shuttle (see below) there and staying at the Grand Hyatt which is within walking distance of Chabad and the restaurants or at the Fairmont/Andaz and having Chabad deliver food to you. Same advice for activities above applies here - go with a tour and pay for transportation or go out on your own and just rent a car.

There are several companies that offer private shuttles to/from the airport and your hotel that have positive DDF reviews. Best to book in advance so you can pay with a credit card. The airport arrivals area is known to be packed with pushy taxi drivers dressed very formally to trick you into using them, but stay strong and go past them to find your ride at the pickup spot. (Prices to Zona Hotelera):
Canada Transfers: $55 RT (if you choose to pay in CAD, currently you'll only pay about $50).
USA Transfers: $55 RT for 3 people; $65 RT for 7 people.
Happy Shuttle: $53 RT. No DDF reviews, but Google reviews are positive.

Car rentals can be relatively cheap, and many hotels have free parking, but liability insurance is mandatory (you should be able to use for CC for collision insurance), and they won't allow you to use your car insurance from back home, so that can jack up the price. Make sure to have your reservation quote with you as some reported that the rental agents tried raising the price in person. And remember, keep to the speed limit.


Where to stay:
Cancun
Westin Lagunamar - 20K/25K SPG (low season/high season) for a studio room. Studios can be booked with points online but one-bedroom suites require PUTPAC. Seems you can get 1BR suite for 1.5K more SPG per night. Some have been able to get complimentary upgrade from studio to 1BR without difficulty, but YMMV. There is no recorded history of anyone getting upgrade from 1BR to 2BR villa, as a 2BR is really a 1BR connected to a studio (essentially 2 paying rooms, so hotel won't do that). The 1BR suite is ~1,000 SF, so almost twice the size of the studio, and has expanded kitchen, with  full-size fridge, full-size cook-top, microwave and dishwasher (but no oven). The 1BR suites have W/D (not sure about the studios). shiframeir - Best value, huge resort with lots of heated pools during winter and big slide, lots to do and good kids club.
Hyatt Zilara - 25K Hyatt (all inclusive, adults only). Lots of rave reviews in the thread.
Hyatt Ziva - 25K Hyatt (all inclusive, family friendly, 1 tower is adults only). Beautiful resort hotel+spa, excellent service, great for adults and kids, right next to Red Heifer restaurant and
5 minute walk to Chabad and Dag Dag restaurant, separate water playground by kids club zone, next to ferry to Isla Mujeres, has water sports and dolphins on premises.
Ritz Carlton - Tier 3, can use free night certs.
JW Marriott - 45K Marriott. Great service, beautiful hotel, pool and beach.
Marriott - 35K Marriott.
Intercontinental Presidente - 30K IHG. Derived from shiframeir - Great location for Shabbos, close to Chabad, nice big lobby to chill in the afternoon, lots of first floor rooms (no steps needed), decent pools (one adults only, one family, felt a little cool might not be heated), really great service.
Aloft - 4K SPG. shiframeir - pretty lousy though very cheap and close to Chabad and Dag Dag, pool on roof is small and not heated, rooms are interesting but a bit dingy, bathroom uses glass sliding door without much sound protection :) zow - I'm not as negative about it as shiframeir. It is very cheap, but a great location. Not a luxurious place to hangout, but if you're going to be out and about, it's good value.[/i] Cheapest option for 1 night.
Westin - 7K SPG. Mixed reviews, general opinion is not as nice as Lagunamar, but not a bad option. (Old will rumor to be torn down soon...)

Playa del Carmen
Grand Hyatt - 20K Hyatt.

Mayakoba
Fairmont - Covered in Dan's TR (top of wiki).
Andaz - 20K Hyatt.
Rosewood - Non-points hotel considered to be the most luxurious in the area.

Cozumel
InterContinental Presidente - 40K IHG.


Kosher Food/Restaurants:
WARNING: Lots of food gets confiscated at airport security. Meat, random cheeses (some make it through, some don't) and un-packaged foods are not allowed. Snacks are okay. You will be asked to push a button, if the light turns red, they will go through all your bags for food; if it turns green, you can officially go free, but there are enough reports of being pulled to the side anyway and searched for food - hypothesized due to "looking Jewish", but plenty who look Jewish have reported getting green and going free as well.

Cancun
Chabad Kosher Cancun - fleishig takeout food with a very timely delivery option run by the Rabbi Mendel Druk and family. They also offer Shabbos meals on premises for $25 a meal ($15 kids) or delivered to your hotel. There is supposedly a sit-down restaurant coming soon. Reports are that the food is really good and restaurant quality and comes with very timely delivery. Detailed review here. There is an additional menu for Yeshiva week here.
Falafel stand - located right outside Chabad and under their supervision. 
Kosher Luxus/Red Heifer - fleishig, Israeli-style restaurant under the supervision of Rav Yosef Maleh and the only real eat-in restaurant with delivery also available and a nice outdoor eating area overlooking the lagoon. People seem to either love or hate this place, very mixed reviews. You can eat Shabbos meals here or get delivery to your hotel with a hot plate. Some reviews and pics on GKRF, suggest getting apps/drinks/desserts over steaks and to always call before going to see whats available/what they ran out of. Be sure to confirm that the meat is from Mexico City and not a local supplier. (Source that this is an issue?) As of Aug 2018 they don't take AMEX
Garden Beach - milchig, breakfast section of Red Heifer open 8am-2pm.
Dag Dag - homey, milchig and fish restaurant, covered in Dan's TR, zow - fish and chips were very good, as was the pizza, but also has mixed reviews in taste, long wait times and randomly being closed. The owner is a little eccentric, but nice, and if you order in advance, it's not too bad. Was/Is (?) under supervision of Rabbi Mendel Druk of Chabad of Cancun.

There are several box stores / groceries with Kosher items:
Costco - cheese (large cream cheese box "Raskas Queso Crema" is Cholov Stam, Natural and Kosher is Cholov Yisroe), hummus, salmon spread, lox, PB and J, bread (Star K), milk (both shelf stable "La La" brand, as well as Kirkland brand - not sure which Hechscher) and mantequilla/butter (OU).
Sam's Club - breads ("New York Deli and Bagel") and other essentials.
Walmart - cereal, milk, eggs, avocados, drinks and many other things you need like pans and spatulas.
Chedraui Selecto - near Chabad, has frozen bagels, cereals, tuna, one Kosher meat product and many other products.
Minimart in Westin Lagunamar - bunch of imported Kosher items (La LA milk is under KA Kosher), but sometimes runs out. They have beer at about $1/bottle.
Erupea - has 1 or 2 Kosher wines.
Soriana - many Kosher items.
Random stores - many have OU snacks from America.

Playa
Chabad of Playa del Carmen - fleishig food delivery run by Rabbi Mendel Goldberg, a DDF member, that's really good, restaurant quality. Contact them for an updated menu with more choices than listed on website. They also host Shabbos meals for free, but ask for donations (they say it costs them $40/$20 adult/kid per meal).
Alternate Chabad of Playa - (AKA bootleg, yellow flag version...) is run by Rabbi Chaim Brod and has an in-house restaurant located at Avenida 20, entre Calle 6B y Calle 8. They have a Hebrew website.
Hotel 770 - fleishig restaurant, grocery and hotel under Rabbi Chaim Brod's supervision. Calle 10 Norte Bis.
Menfis - Israeli restaurant, review, under Rabbi Chaim Brod's supervision. Calle 14 Norte, Entre 5a y 10.
Mas Pan - dairy restaurant serving pizza, sandwiches and paninis, under ??? supervision.
Yummy Kosher

Cozumel
Jerusalem - Nice fleshig place with good food and quick service, under Chabad of Cozumel - R. David Caplin and R. Shalom Peleg (yellow flag). Calle 10 North and Av. and General Rafeal, second floor.
Cafe Rimon - milchig restaurant also under Chabad of Cozumel (yellow flag). Calle 4 North and Av. and General Rafeal.
Chocolatte - milchig cafe under ???.
Falafel Sombrero - falafel place under Chabad of Cozumel (yellow flag).

Isla Mujeres
Cafe Maya - [Currently closed for renovations] milchig restaurant, under some Chabad (R Druk of Cancun vouches apparently), cash only, but bring pesos as it's much cheaper here than USD. Food is excellent and prices here are very reasonable, so long as you pay in pesos. Family of 5 can feast on paninis, pasta and pizza, with soft drinks/coffees, easily under $50USD. Pictures of store and food (scroll down). Directions: two blocks straight ahead (5 min walk) when you exit the ferry terminal (Calle Bravo?), then make a left when you hit the end (on Av Guerrero) go another block, and it's a few stores down the next block on the left side. Reviews on yelp, TripAdvisor.
Chabad downstairs - falafel
Chabad downstairs - meat restaurant

Hechsherim: (Beneath each logo is the site that recommends them.)
   
CRC                    CRC & KosherQuest
   
KosherQuest & Chabad of Cancun          KosherQuest

Chabad of Cancun             

KosherQuest & Chabad of Cancun

Via email to @Yehuda, Rabbi Eidlitz from KosherQuest recommended Rabbi Mendel Druk of Chabad of Cancun.

Shabbos and Minyanim:
Chabad - has Minyanim during busy seasons, but check with them to confirm (they are really great, give a nice donation!). They also offer meals, see Kosher section.
Kosher Luxus / Red Heifer - offers meals, see Kosher section, and may have Minyanim, check with them.
Westin Lagunamar - check with the Chabad Rabbi whether there has been a Minyan recently, but enough Jews have timeshares at Lagunamar and come for winter break that they seem to have a Minyan during winter break outside by the BBQs (Fuego) all the way on the south of the hotel (by the last pool to the right coming out of lobby towards fountains).


Activities:
Ferry to Isla Mujeres - small island off the coast near Cancun, rent a golf cart to go around the island - can get carts by walking left or right for a few minutes after you exit the port and get a decent rate; shiframeir got 2 fast carts for afternoon for $70 total going left (right has mixed reviews on speed), get some Kosher food, visit Garaffon Reef Park, Turtle Farm, Playa Norte, Dolphin Discovery.
Xplor - 4 activity course / theme park of swimming and kayaking in a cave, jeeping in the jungle and ziplining into water; highly recommend, night version is cheaper and offers ziplining through ring of fire.
Xel Ha - theme park (for older kids and adults)
Xcaret - theme park, one reviewer spoke to people that went who said it was waste of time & very costly.
Boka del Puma - theme park, cheaper option to Xplor.
Selvatica - ziplining and biking, Alma's LDS tour includes this and Mayan ruins.
Emotions Jungle Night - another theme park.
Jungle Tour - motor boat tour through lagoon to an area where you snorkel, recommended.
Mayan Ruins - Chichen Itza - most famous, Tulum, Coba - only one you can still climb.
Cenotes - natural pools/caves to go swimming in; Ik Kil - near Chichen Itza, Sistema dos Ojos.
BOB - Breathing Observation Bubble, underwater scuba-like contraption, highly recommended.
Ferry to Cozumel - larger island off the coast of Playa del Carmen, with an Intercontinental and Kosher food.
La Isla Mall - has an aquarium, dolphin show and Haagen Dazs.
Mayakoba Lagoon - boat tour and biking, hotels in Mayakoba provide this.
Swim with Whale Sharks - June, July and August, one company with high review is Whale Shark Daddy.
Cancun Underwater Museum
Zoo Crococun
5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen - shopping street.
Wet and Wild
Scuba Diving - one company with a high review is Squalodivers.
Hummer Tours - fun way to see more of Mexico.
Isla Contoy - small island north of Isla Mujeres.
Secret Beach/Pool - found by Suave, location here.


Random:
Electricity - US plugs and voltage

Author Topic: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread  (Read 345764 times)

Offline soursticks

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2190 on: January 17, 2019, 12:00:34 PM »
Credit cards typically give you a good rate, but many places there don't accept credit cards. In the end the small difference in exchange rate even using legit place on the street doesn't make a big difference unless you are spending a lot on money.


Offline Dan

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2191 on: January 17, 2019, 12:50:22 PM »
Bring your regular bankís ATM card and withdraw from an ATM that seems reputable.   I always used the one in the Westin Lagunamar, because thatís where we were staying. 
Could also get pesos in advance from your own bank stateside.  We did that ó exchange rate competitive. (Citizens)
I withdrew from a reputable looking ATM in Playa, but my card got skimmed :(
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline Moshke

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2192 on: January 17, 2019, 01:00:36 PM »
I withdrew from a reputable looking ATM in Playa, but my card got skimmed :(
What about exchanging at the Hyatt Ziva are they trustful?

Offline Dan

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2193 on: January 17, 2019, 01:02:28 PM »
What about exchanging at the Hyatt Ziva are they trustful?
Hotels usually rip you off.
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline BarryLincoln

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2194 on: January 17, 2019, 01:03:00 PM »
I withdrew from a reputable looking ATM in Playa, but my card got skimmed :(

Bring USD - there are several money changer booths in PdC that worked for us, rates were very reasonable.  I also withdrew cash from several Scotiabank ATMs without incident.

Offline lbvtch

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2195 on: January 17, 2019, 03:35:30 PM »
Has anyone stayed at the ritz in cancun? how is it?
are any of the category 6 Marriott hotels better value?

Offline Newcc

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2196 on: January 17, 2019, 08:16:06 PM »
What about exchanging at the Hyatt Ziva are they trustful?
I didn't end up changing any, everyone takes CC or USD that I encountered. but if it helps I noticed they have ATM machines on the walk from Ziva to Red Heifer.

Also I would mention, if your staying at the turquoise at the Ziva you get your own butler, make good use of them. ours was very knowledgeable and always and the best tips of how to do thing locally.

Offline zow

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2197 on: January 17, 2019, 08:23:54 PM »
I didn't end up changing any, everyone takes CC or USD that I encountered. but if it helps I noticed they have ATM machines on the walk from Ziva to Red Heifer.

Also I would mention, if your staying at the turquoise at the Ziva you get your own butler, make good use of them. ours was very knowledgeable and always and the best tips of how to do thing locally.

One place that one needs pesos is Isla Mujeres at the Cafe Maya.  They take USD with very unfavorable exchange rate.   Also, one needs pesos to ride the bus.

Offline Moshke

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2198 on: January 17, 2019, 08:32:38 PM »
I didn't end up changing any, everyone takes CC or USD that I encountered. but if it helps I noticed they have ATM machines on the walk from Ziva to Red Heifer.

Also I would mention, if your staying at the turquoise at the Ziva you get your own butler, make good use of them. ours was very knowledgeable and always and the best tips of how to do thing locally.
Thanks.
Yes will have private butler heard a good point that tipping in the beginning gives them a feeling that a bigger tip is coming at the end

Offline Cw3323

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2199 on: January 17, 2019, 09:18:36 PM »
One place that one needs pesos is Isla Mujeres at the Cafe Maya.  They take USD with very unfavorable exchange rate.   Also, one needs pesos to ride the bus.
They are closed currently and as per Chabad they are not opening back so fast

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2200 on: January 17, 2019, 09:45:57 PM »
Does Costco take an American Costco cash card?

Offline Moshke

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2201 on: January 17, 2019, 10:19:27 PM »
How far is from airport to hotel zone?

Offline Cw3323

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2202 on: January 17, 2019, 11:46:04 PM »
How far is from airport to hotel zone?
20-25 minutes depends where your hotel is located.

Offline Adlebo

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2203 on: January 18, 2019, 01:00:03 AM »
I remember reading somewhere a while ago, that there's a Santandair Bank ATM in the airport. Does anyone who was there recently know if it's still there? I have a Santandair account and that would be the easiest to just withdraw Pesos

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Re: Cancun, Mexico Master Thread
« Reply #2204 on: January 19, 2019, 08:49:36 PM »
Shabbos @ Chabad