Cancun Time Zone (EST or CST) – It’s Changed!

Navigating different time zones can be one of the trickiest aspects of traveling. In some popular travel locations, it’s just a matter of setting your watch forward or back, but in others, like Cancun, it can be a little more difficult.

Cancun, Mexico, originally ran in Central Standard Time (CST), but in 2015 they changed to Eastern Standard Time (EST). However, Cancun does not observe Daylight Savings Time, which means that for part of the year, they still appear to run on CST.

This article looks at everything you need to know about navigating Cancun Time while on vacation.

Cancun Time Zone - EST or CST?

CST versus EST: What’s the Difference?

Eastern Standard Time (EST) runs an hour ahead of Central Standard Time (CST). So if it’s 4 pm in CST, it’s 5 pm in EST.

Both Time Zones are part of the North American continent, which means both are affected by Daylight Savings Time. So the time zones don’t change in relation to each other.

How Are the Time Zones Calculated?

Time zones are generally calculated in relation to Greenwich Mean Time, the central line that runs through Greenwich, England.

Zones to the West are GMT – zones. Zones to the East are GMT + zones.

The globe is divided into 24 zones, each about 15 degrees wide.

Where is the Dividing Line Between CST and EST?

The literal dividing line – the meridian – cuts across the middle of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Mississippi.

The official dividing line, as recognized in the States, forms the eastern border of Alabama, cuts through the center of Tennessee and Kentucky, clips the edge of Indiana, and separates Wisconsin from Michigan.

Did you know this: Can You Drive to Cancún From the United States?

What Time Zone is Cancun?

Regarding physical location, Cancun is in the time zone designated as Central Standard Time (CST).

However, in 2015 merchants and members of the tourist industry – particularly hotel owners – lobbied for Cancun to switch to Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Since then, Cancun has officially been considered to be on Eastern Standard Time.

Why Did Cancun Change the Time Zone it Follows?

Hotel owners and tourism promoters felt it would give visitors more time to enjoy Cancun’s scenery and attractions and more daylight hours.

In essence, it was changed following the same principles that originally began the idea and usage of Daylight Savings Time.

How Did Changing Time Zones Affect Cancun’s Tourist Industry?

The change was also made to make Cancun more competitive in the Caribbean tourist industry specifically. Until 2015, Cancun was the only major tourist destination in or in the Caribbean that did not run on Eastern Standard Time (EST).

The decision to change allowed Cancun tourist attractions to be at the same time as those in the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica, which can help arrange things like Caribbean cruises, which may incorporate multiple destinations.

Is Cancun on CST or EST?

Officially, Cancun runs on EST. However, in terms of practical application, it’s a different story.

Cancun, like the rest of Mexico, doesn’t practice Daylight Savings Time. This means that, in terms of setting the clock, the time zone Cancun matches depends on what time of year it is.

From the second Sunday in March to the First Sunday in November, Cancun time actually matches Central Standard Time.

From the First Sunday in November to the Second Sunday in March, Cancun time actually matches Eastern Standard Time.

Time Difference in Cancun Versus the United States:

The United States recognizes 6 different time zones – 4 in the contiguous United States and separate time zones for Alaska and Hawaii.

Time Difference During Daylight Savings Time:

CancunEastern (EST)Central (CST)Mountain (MST)Pacific (PST)Alaskan (AKST)Hawaiian (HST)
4:30 pm5:30 pm4:30 pm3:30 pm2:30 pm1:30 pm11:30 pm

Time Difference Outside Daylight Savings Time:

CancunEastern (EST)Central (CST)Mountain (MST)Pacific (PST)Alaskan (AKST)Hawaiian (HST)
4:30 pm4:30 pm3:30 pm2:30 pm1:30 pm12:30 pm10:30 am

Why Doesn’t Cancun Observe Daylight Savings Time to Stay Within EST?

It’s a matter of preference and may be related to the fact that Mexico as a whole does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

For example, both Cuba and the Bahamas do observe Daylight Savings Time. On the other hand, Jamaica does not.

No specific criteria determine which countries or territories use Daylight Savings Time other than governmental preference.

Why Is It Important to Know What Time Zone Cancun is In?

There are several reasons why knowing Cancun’s time zone is important, whether you’re on vacation or planning one.

  • Knowing When to Call for Reservations: Knowing when the offices will be open can be critical for making reservations. If you’re not in the same time zone, you’ll need to adjust your planning so you can call at the proper time.
  • Planning to Adjust Your Internal Clock: Different time zones mean adjustments to your personal schedule and your internal clock. Knowing the time zone lets, you know how much you need to adjust.
  • Knowing When Different Events Happen: Spectacular vacation photos sometimes require very specific timing. If you’re looking for things like awesome sunset pictures or other time-specific events, planning around Cancun’s clock is important.
  • Calling Home: When you’re on vacation, you might have times you want to call family and friends back at home. Knowing about any time differences will let you coordinate calls with loved ones while you’re out of town.

Related article: Will my Phone work in Mexico? – Things to Know!

Why is Knowing About the Use of Daylight Savings Time Important?

Knowing who utilizes Daylight Savings Time and who doesn’t help you adjust if you’re planning on traveling to several locations in the Caribbean.

For example, many Caribbean cruises make multiple stops during the trip. Knowing if you need to adjust your clock at different ports can be important, especially for events at specific times.

Even if your main destination is Cancun, knowing about time differences can help you plan any side trips you might want to take.

Even though Cancun technically follows Eastern Standard Time (EST), between March and November, you’ll need to set your clocks and make your plans as though it’s Central Standard Time (CST)

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