The greatest menace that we faced in Mexico, more than malaria, dengue or "Montezuma's revenge", was... the sun.
It is really strong, and though taking all the recommended precautions, we all got more burnt than desired. Control well your time to swim.
They'll require chemical-free sunscreen at most places, and the best we've found is Mexitan and it is available on their website www.mexitan.com. Their products say "biodegradable" on the label for easy acceptance in eco-resorts. The sun is very intense throughout Mexico, so it's recommended to apply sunscreen frequently when swimming or snorkeling.
I HAVE BEEN A TRAVELER TO MEXICO FOR OVER 50 YEARS. THE AIR IS CLEAR AS ARE THE SEAS. FOOD IS GREAT AND PEOPLE FOR THE MOST ARE WONDERFUL. I LIVED ON ISLA MUJERES, A SMALL ISLAND OFF CANCUN FOR A FEW YEARS AND HAVE SEEN SUNBURNS THAT CAUSED SCARS. MANY FORGET THAT ALTHOUGH THE SHADE UNDER A PALM OR SHELTER ON A WHITE SAND BEACH MAY KEEP YOU OUT OF DIRECT UV RAYS IT DOESN'T STOP ALL SUNBURNS. ESPECIALLY FOR THE VERY PALE. WHITE SAND REFLECTS THE SUN AND CAN STILL BURN YOU. SO EVEN IF YOU HAVE A LARGE HAT OR A SHADY SPOT DON'T FORGET THE HIGH SPF LOTION. IF YOU GET A BURN OR YOU ARE JUST SMART WEAR A WHITE TO LIGHT LONG SLEEVED SHIRT. THE WORST TIME IS OF COURSE 11 AM TO 2 PM. GOOD TIME FOR SOME FOOD AND A REST. DON'T FORGET TO DRINK A LOT OF WATER. JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE WATER ALL DAY DOESN'T MEAN YOU ARE A SPONGE. YOU MUST DRINK IT IN. BY THE TIME YOU FEEL THIRST YOU ARE ALREADY ON THE WAY TO DEHYDRATION. I HAVE BEEN FROM TOWNS OF UNDER 100 TO THE LARGEST OF RESORTS AND HAVE NEVER BEEN SICK FROM FOOD OR DRINK. I WAS ALTHOUGH LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE AVID WORLD TRAVELERS FOR GRANDPARENTS WHO TAUGHT ME WELL. ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD. GOOD LUCK.
Cancun can be overwhelmingly hot. In fact, we went in September, which is considered their 'stormy season,' and the sun was extremely hot in comparison to the heat and exposure I usually get back home in Hawaii. Please use sunscreen SPF35. When swimming in the ocean, at aquatic institutes, or in cenotes, etc..they always ask you to use BIODEGRADABLE sunscreen. This is to help preserve the natural environment. How to tell if your sunscreen is biodegradable? It will clearly state it on the front of the bottle. If you don't see it on the bottle, it isn't. A lot of regular sunscreen contain oils that would contaminate the water there.
I know that a majority of the world is NOT fair skinned; a majority of the world tans at the drop of a hat and well, fine for you.
But for the fair-skinned among us? Bring & buy more of that waterproof SPF50. Use it religiously; carry it everywhere. Have your boyfriend or friends or even the freaking housekeeper put it on your back or those spots you cannot reach. And, REAPPLY after profuse sweating (109 in the shade, mind you) or swimming.
And no matter how drunk you get, and time escapes you and you forget your own name? DO NOT FORGET TO REAPPLY THE SUNBLOCK!
If and when your fair skin does get a nice Mexi-burn: bring aloe-vera gel. Or bring the whole freaking plant. Aloe vera gel is a great soother to a bad burn.
Ladies, protect your face; do you want to look like a saddlebag with eyes when yer 50?
I've seen more vacations ruined because of bad sunburns than because of "Montezuma's Revenge" or stomach sickness. Even people with olive-coloured skin can be badly burned within an hour in Mexico's sun. Places you should be sure to put sunscreen (including over your entire exposed body):
- On your eyelids. (Your eyes will get puffy and swell up.)
- On the bottom of your feet. (You get this burn sitting in deck chairs, it hurts a lot and feels like you're walking on fire.)
- In your hairline--especially for men. (Rub some lotion into your hairline above your forehead.)
I highly recommend going for a few tanning sessions before you travel to Cancun; that way, although you still have to extremely cautious, and wear lots of sunscreen you won’t have to worry quite so much. I also suggest you bring an “ecologically friendly” brand as well, in case you want to visit a nature park. (Most of the parks don’t allow regular sunscreen and charge top dollar for you to buy it from them.)
Beware of the sun lotion you use. This is not the most attravtive pic of me, but this is what happened when I had a allergic reaction to a lotion called "Turtle Sun" I think it was trying to turn me into a turtle - what do you think? I was ok after a few days, a shot in the ass and a lot of money for the resort doctor. Kinda funny looking, but it was an experience!
I don't tend to burn badly from the sun but the day we went out on a catamaran trip, despite wearing plenty of sunsreen, i managed to return tomato coloured red!! I know is common sense to beware of the sun, cover up etc but remember that when the sun reflects off the sea it's even stronger.
My tips for sunburn relief- my rep told me to cover myself in yoghurt to help cool the burning, i could only find stawberry flavoured and i'm not sure this worked very well! but perhaps worth a try in desparate situations. Alternativly my mums always suggested lavender oil, put some in your moisturiser, this should help to cool and heal, also should help you sleep! The more moisturised you can keep it the less likely you are to peel and flake-mmm nice!
I highly recommend to visit Cancun in December/January to enjoy nice temperatures. In July/August the sun is capable of melting kevlar reinforced hats and inflicting severe sunburns in a matter of hours. Over a 10-day stay in July 2002, the temperature never went below 33C during the day and 28C at night. Humidity was always above 65% and as high as 95%. Very little breeze existed at the beach to escape the heat. The heavy atmosphere can ruin your stay if you are not used to these sorts of sub-Saharian temperatures.
SunTan lotion is not allowed while swimming in the ocean, as it is supposed to damage the reef. Wear a T-shirt to protect yourself against sunburn. If you are not ecologically conscious, you can put some waterproof type on while you're still in your hotel. Don't take any on tours, or it might get confiscated.
The weather on the Caribbean coast changes with alarming frequency. One moment, you're basking in the sun; the next, you're fleeing from a freak storm. As you can see, sometimes you're just not prepared for the fury of near-hurricane force winds and rain.
For all the talk about the water, I think the worst hazard of Cancun and the Yucatan is the sun. Without protection, you can burn in a matter of minutes. Since Cancun is closer to the equator than the US and Europe, the rays are more direct and dangerous. Most Americans and Europeans don't respect this extra oomph. So wear sunscreen, and make it waterproof so that it won't wash off when you hit the surf.
And don't drink the water, yadda, yadda, yadda.