Before travelling to Mexico, Cancun was one of the few places in the country that I felt I knew something about. Luxury hotels, pristine white beaches and blue waters were all things that I knew to expect in Cancun and it was somewhere that I thought I would definitely be visiting.

Therefore, it came as a surprise to me when I started speaking to other travellers in Mexico and they all told me that Cancun was a spot to be avoided. This wasn’t just one or two travellers who had had a bad experience, but an almost universal condemnation of the city. Despite warnings to spend as little time as possible in Cancun, or miss it out entirely, the inquisitive traveller that I am, I decided to fly there from Mexico City and book a hostel for 3 nights.

The first important factor to bear in mind is that Cancun is split into 2 different places. The first is the hotel zone which is where all of the luxury hotels and white sand beaches can be found. The other is the downtown. This is the proper city of Cancun and is about 15 minutes’ drive away from the hotel zone. Staying in the downtown, as I did, is cheaper than the hotel zone, but it also means that you are a distance away from the main tourist areas.

From my experience there are only 2 main types of backpackers in Cancun. Those who are staying for as short of a time as possible, they usually stay in the downtown, or those who are there to experience the world famous nightlife, who generally stay in the hotel zone.

If you are the latter type of backpacker, someone who enjoys the parties, then Cancun is somewhere that you should visit on your trip. There is a plethora of brilliant nightlife options, including the infamous Coco Bongo, and the hostel for you is certainly the Mayan Monkey in the hotel zone. The hostel is known for its parties year round, as well as a very well-priced happy hour.

However, if you are not someone who wants to pay large sums to party, cover for Coco Bongo is a minimum of $90 USD and more on weekends, then Cancun is probably not somewhere to spend a long time. Of course, the beaches are beautiful. However, there are plenty of other beaches around the Yucatan peninsula which are just as beautiful and are found in locations much better than Cancun. For example, just a short ferry ride away from Cancun is Isla Mujeres, a place with beaches just as beautiful as those found in Cancun, but with a far better setting for the majority of backpackers.

So, is this me telling you definitely not to go to Cancun? No, it isn’t. What it is though is a warning that before you go and book multiple nights in Cancun, you need to make sure you know what your priorities are going to be. If you want the parties then it is the place for you. However, if that is not your scene then maybe you should give it a miss.