Carnaval, February or March
Turtle Nesting Season, May
Swimming with Whale Sharks, July
Día de la Independencia, September
Day of the Dead, November
Expect to pay peak-season hotel rates into the first few weeks of January followed by shoulder-season prices for the second half of the month. It's one of the coolest and driest months of the year.
Día de los Reyes Magos
Three Kings’ Day (Epiphany) – rather than Christmas – is the day when Mexican children traditionally receive gifts, commemorating the Three Kings' gifts for the baby Jesus. You'll find rosca de reyes (large oval sweetbreads topped with candied fruit) in bakeries.
Fairly cool weather prevails and it generally remains dry throughout the month. This is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the winter holiday or spring break crowds in December, January and March.
Carnaval de Cancún
Carnaval festivities usually take place in late February or early March (it's the week leading up to Ash Wednesday). Cancún's Carnaval pales in comparison to Isla Cozumel's and Chetumal's, but you can always catch decent concerts and festive dancing at various downtown venues.
March brings spring-break madness and with it pricier hotel rooms through mid-April as hordes of college students descend on the resort city. You get mostly balmy and dry weather during most of the month.
College kids go wild in Cancún's nightclubs and bars, so you can either join the parties or head for the hills! The bulk of US university students visit during March, but some groups arrive in early April.
Spring breakers continue to flow in, though to a lesser extent than in March. Hotel rates increase dramatically during Semana Santa (the Easter holiday period) and start to drop in late April. Temperatures begin to rise.
Often confused with US spring break, this is the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. On good Friday you may see processions in downtown neighborhoods. This is generally one of Cancún's busiest holiday seasons so book ahead for hotel and restaurant reservations.
Temperatures continue to increase, but it stays mostly dry. It's low season for tourism, meaning you'll find great hotel deals this time of year.
Turtle Nesting Season
Sea turtles begin to arrive on the shores of Parque Nacional Isla Contoy for nesting season. You can visit the uninhabited island and get in some turtle-watching and snorkeling on boat tours departing from Cancún.
Normally a hot month and June marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, so keep a watchful eye on weather alerts from now to November, when the season ends. Tourist numbers and hotel prices remain low.
One of the hottest months of the year. Usually around mid-July Mexican vacation season begins, bringing busy times and higher hotel prices through late-August.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
July and August are the best months of the year to snorkel with enormous whale sharks off the coast of Isla Contoy. Dive shops in Cancún run whale shark expeditions from June through September.
The Mexican vacation period continues through late August. Expect an increase in rainfall this time of year and you'll definitely be feeling the heat and summer humidity when doing outdoor activities.
It's the height of the hurricane season and the rainiest month of the year but you can get reasonably priced accommodations. Expect some overcast and muggy days but pleasantly warm ocean water temperatures.
Día de la Independencia
Mexico's Independence Day is celebrated on the evening of September 15 with the 'cry of independence' heard from the town hall on Avenida Tulum, while across the avenue there are music and dance festivities at Parque de las Palapas; September 16 is a national holiday.
Heavy rains continue through October. If you visit during the last days of October and the first days of November you can compare Halloween with Day of the Dead celebrations.
Given the high number of US visitors, bars and nightclubs in the Zona Hotelera celebrate Halloween with costume parties and alcohol-fueled activities.
The thermometer starts to drops and northerly winds known as nortes begin to move in, bringing light showers with them. November marks the end of the Atlantic hurricane season. Very affordable hotel rates.
Day of the Dead
Colorful Day of the Dead altars pop up in downtown squares and cemeteries on November 1 and 2 to honor locals' departed loved ones. In the Zona Hotelera many of the hotels and restaurants put up altars as well.
The first few weeks of December, when hotels are still cheap, are a great time to visit. Through the second half of the month and the first week of January you'll be paying exorbitant high-season rates.
Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Honors the Virgin of Guadalupe and her 'legendary' appearance before indigenous Mexican Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. The Virgin has since become Mexico's religious patron. Several days of festivities lead up to the feast day of the Virgin.
Day of the Dead Versus Halloween
As October ends, Mexico turns its thoughts to the dead. Even in gringo-friendly Cancún, the Day of the Dead, rooted in Catholicism and local indigenous culture, is taken seriously. It's a time to remember friends and relatives who have passed on, but also a time to mock death itself. To Mexicans it's just another part of life.
But this much-loved tradition is under threat from a precocious American cousin, Halloween, and nowhere more so than in Cancún. Though they're celebrated around the same time, the two are very different – some locals see Halloween as more about making a buck than paying respects.