Make no mistake. No matter when you go to Cancun, you will say it’s hot. The temperature doesn’t vary greatly, reaching lows of 26C and highs of 30C. These temperatures however, are moderate compared to inland Yucatan. The coastal city stays refreshed by ocean breezes, while the mainland can have highs of over 40C.
The Yucatan Peninsula is uniformly flat, with some tropical jungles, lowlands pockmarked with hundreds of sinkholes, called cenotes, and long stretches of desert. When the sun begins baking the desert, the only relief is along the coast.
Cancun is located at the edge of what appears, on a map, to be Mexico’s fish tail. It’s surrounded on two sides by miles of beach, with the heat of the mainland nuzzling at its back. Deep green vegetation crowds close to the warm Carribean waters, nurtured by the cenotes’ underground rivers and by the seasonal monsoons.
In the open area of the beach and the city of Cancun, the air will generally feel dry in the winter and somewhat humid in the summer, but the jungle steams. The air in the heavily vegetated areas feels very sticky and humid. For snorkelers and cave explorers, however, this isn’t a problem. Their mission is to explore the deep cenotes’ that can appear as nothing more than a hole in the ground, a wide pool or a lagoon. The more than 30,000 cenotes are connected to a system of caves, tunnels and underground caverns. The cenotes attract visitors throughout the year, who dive into underground pools and bask beside miniature waterfalls.
Cancun has a rain season that lasts from May to October, a time of year when the city is also experiencing some of its hottest temperatures. The humidity can feel oppressive just before or during a rain. However, Cancun rains do not often last long. After a brief downpour, they move on, rolling across a landscape that has no obstructions for trapping the heavy clouds.
Hurricanes can occur anytime during the rain season, but are the most prevalent in September and October. The last major hurricane to hit Cancun was in 2005, but it was a monster. It hit Cancun as a category 5 storm and caused over three billion dollars in damages. The chances of being caught in a hurricane, however, are relatively low. Cancun experiences a hurricane on the average of once every twelve years, and most of them were no more than a couple days of hard rain, blustery winds and flooding.
June through July are usually the hottest months, although August can give competition. The heat can be very difficult for some people during those months. The rain doesn’t cool down the air, only adds to the humidity. The ocean water is bath tub temperature. Even the evenings are muggy, making outdoor activities difficult to enjoy. Dehydration can come easily during these sizzling months, so it’s necessary to drink plenty of water.
Cancun’s dry season doesn’t arrive leaving you gasping for breath. It’s actually cooler during those days of perfect egg-shell skies that last between November to April. The north trade winds are strongest during these months, bringing cool refreshing breezes to the Yucatan Peninsula. The coolest months of the year are January and February. With an average temperature of 23C, it’s the perfect time to slip away from winter’s icy grip and enjoy a sun-soaked holiday in Cancun.
If you intend to do a lot of sight-seeing, the dry season is really the best time to visit Cancun. Visits to archeological digs, such as Chichén Itzá or Tulum, are far more comfortable during the winter. The ruins are vast, and exploration involves a lot of walking. For the ambitious, the vigorous and the curious, there is a great deal of climbing involved as well.
Sunbathers prefer the slightly more intense months of March and April or November. The cozy, 30C weather is just right for deepening that already golden tan, and the ocean murmurs invitingly for a refreshing dip.
The ocean temperature never varies more than a few degrees from the temperature on land. It is always warm, with no sudden chilly underwater currents. Any time you visit Cancun, it’s pleasant swimming weather.
Your beach holiday in Cancun is merely a decision of how warm you like your bath and how much sunlight you crave. Some prefer the torrid month of July as that’s when the water is warmest, and even in the rainiest month, there will be long stretches of clear skies. Actual sun bathing time will often be shorter as it doesn’t take long to start sizzling, but that just leaves time for more activities.
Although an escape to an air-conditioned unit is effective in helping to cool off, the thatched roof shelters along the beach are wonderfully efficient in allowing you to remain outdoors and savour the attractiveness of Cancun’s coastline. You’ll find thatched roof, open air establishments catering to dining, cold refreshments and musical entertainment conveniently located along the beach.
Nothing is easier than imagining a balmy, tropical holiday, but if you have never been exposed to a hot climate, you need to turn up the temperature valve in your imagination. Close to the equator, the Yucatan peninsula seems to radiate with its own internal combustion engine. Your ventures out into the sun should be accompanied by long cooling off periods with plenty of liquids and shade. Take a tip from the Mexicans, and take a siesta during the hot hours of the afternoon, between 14:00 and 16:00. Buy or rent a hammock and linger in the shade, allowing the soft ocean breezes to circulate around you. In no time, you’ll realize your imagined holiday has just come true.