Cancun Travel Guide
Overview Once a small, unremarkable fishing village, these days Cancun
the reason most people visit Mexico. It is made up of two parts:
the glitzy hotel zone dedicated to tourism, and the downtown area
inhabited by the permanent residents. A different atmosphere
prevails in each, with a dramatic contrast between the
air-conditioned shopping malls, chic restaurant dining, spring
break vacationers and wealthy pleasure-seeking tourists in one; and
bustling market street stalls, noisy vendors, and the daily grind
of people at work in the other.
The hotel zone, situated on a thin strip of land (Isla Cancun)
in the shape of a figure '7', is what people imagine when they talk
about Cancun. It is a vision of Caribbean paradise with soft white
sand beaches and clear blue-green waters. There is plenty of high
quality holiday accommodation available, a wide choice of
restaurants and shops, a notoriously energetic nightlife, and an
array of activities, including both land and water sports. Cancun
is also a good base from which to explore some of the nearby
attractions, particularly the ancient Mayan site of Chichén
Itzá on the mainland, which is the best restored and most
famous of the archaeological sites on the Yucatán
Cancun © safainla
Shopping Shoppers can rejoice in Cancun, with a choice of seemingly
endless shopping facilities, from ultra-modern malls with chic
boutiques to street vendors, open-air markets and department
stores. The Plaza la Fiesta is a favourite shopping venue in the
Hotel Zone, and there is also a popular handicraft bazaar, El
Zocalo, opposite the Convention Centre. Numerous malls line the
main drag of Paseo Kukulkan that runs down the eight-mile (13km)
hotel strip. Prices, however, are better in Cancun City itself,
also known as Centro, on the mainland. There are some good shops
along Yaxchilan Avenue, and the market on Tulum Avenue is
recommended for buying silverware and Mexican handcrafts.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Cancun. If you
use cash you may have the 15 percent sales tax deducted if the
shopkeeper is willing. Expect to bargain in the markets. If offered
black coral, refuse, because it is an endangered species and you
could run into problems taking it back home. Shops in Cancun are
generally open between 10am and 2pm, and 4pm and 7pm on week days.
Many stores choose to stay open during the 'siesta' hours from 2pm
to 4pm, but some may close. On Saturdays most shops only open for
the morning. A few open on Sunday until 1pm. Shops in malls tend to
open weekdays only from 10am to 8pm.
Restaurants Cancun's wide variety restaurants will be able satisfy every
palate, with high-class eateries and familiar franchises, to taco
stands and fast-food joints. Those who wish to eat like the locals
can be assured that Yucatan cuisine is regarded as the finest in
all Mexico, combining Mayan and Spanish influences. Local dishes
worth sampling include cochinita pibil (suckling pig baked
in banana leaves with annatto sauce) and panuchos
(tortillas with fried black beans, chicken and pickled onions).
Seafood is also plentiful. A popular romantic option is to book for
one of the numerous dinner cruises offered.
For a true taste of Mexico visitors can pay a visit to one of
the many cantinas, traditional bar-restaurants, which are situated
mainly around the downtown bullring. The atmosphere at the cantinas
is particularly lively on Wednesday afternoons after the weekly
bullfights, but the food and drink is good quality and good value
for money every day of the week.
Nightlife Cancun's nightlife is legendary, with its huge choice of
nightclubs, discos and bars to suit every mood, from romantic to
raunchy, funky to frenetic, rock to reggae and salsa to techno.
After dark the city, particularly the Hotel Zone, comes alive, with
most clubs opening around 10pm and pumping out the music until
sunrise, or later, the next morning.
Most clubs and pubs offer a continual variety of promotional or
theme evenings, with foam parties, mini-skirt and bikini contests
being hot favourites. Most offer ladies nights with free drinks for
women. Hip and happening parties can be found at Dady Rock,
Bulldog, The City, Dady O and Coco Bongo's nightclubs, all offering
massive dance floors and pumping beats. The Party Hopper tour is a
popular way to enjoy a number of Cancun's top nightlife venues;
visitors pay about US$75 for free drinks and entry into three of
Cancun's top clubs and bars.
Those seeking some more cultural entertainment should not miss
the internationally renowned Ballet Folklorico, which holds
performances in various venues around Cancun, featuring lavish
costumes and traditional dances.
Activities One of the main reasons for choosing Cancun as a holiday
destination is to enjoy the gorgeous beaches with their powdery
white sand washed by the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean. A
wide variety of activities are offered on every beach in the
tourist zone: volleyball, parasailing, snorkelling, scuba diving,
swimming with dolphins or sharks, jet skiing, kayaking and so on.
Alternatively, just relax in a hammock and enjoy some people
Diving and snorkelling are the most sought-after water pursuits
of the energetic, with some of the world's most famous coral reefs
on Cancun's doorstep. All equipment can be rented and dive
operators are in evidence everywhere. Cancun also offers some
excellent deep-sea fishing; charters can be arranged at hotels or
one of the many marinas. Thrills and spills can be had at the water
park near Punta Nizuc.
There are local Mayan ruins and archaeological sites to explore,
an alligator farm, botany park, fun fairs and other attractions.
The recently opened Museo Maya is a great place to get to grips
with the Mayan culture and see some of the most interesting
artefacts discovered in the region. There are also two championship
18-hole golf courses and numerous other sports facilities,
including well-maintained cycling routes.
Negatives Cancun is a fantastic vacation destination, even during peak
season, and perhaps it has been justifiably called 'vacation
utopia'. The resort is expensive, but most hotels offer
all-inclusive rates which are generally good value. Petty crime is
common, but sensible precautions should ensure there are no
problems. Some visitors are afflicted by cases of diarrhea and
fever, known colloquially as 'Montezuma's revenge', caused by
unfamiliar bacteria in water and food. This can be avoided by
drinking bottled water and taking care about over-indulgence in
spicy Mexican foods, margaritas or Mexican beer.
Cancun's beaches are extensive and spread out enough to never
become too overcrowded even in peak season. The resort is
exceptionally busy during America's Spring Break in March, when it
is the favoured destination of thousands of college students from
North America; those wanting a more relaxing and less frenetic
holiday should visit Cancun outside this season.
When it comes to watersports, people watching,
sun-lounging, clear blue water, beach bars and restaurants, and
great tourist facilities, Cancun is unbeatable. Beach resorts and
powdery white sand are the order of the day. The northern stretch
of Mujeres Bay includes the popular... see full details
Chichen Itza, with its famous pyramids and temples,
is the Yucatan's most visited ancient Mayan site, set in the jungle
and said to have been inhabited for more than 2,000 years. The main
attraction at Chichen Itza is the Pyramid of Kukulkan... see full details
Located just a short ferry ride from the resort, Isla
Mujeres is a stunning island with quiet villages and beautiful
views that make for a great excursion from Cancun. The calm
atmosphere is a relaxing break from the bustle of Cancun's busy
beaches,... see full details
Wet n Wild Cancun
The Wet'n Wild Waterpark in Cancun claims to be the
best waterpark in Latin America. The park works in conjunction with
a splendid dolphinarium which is a very popular attraction in
Cancun. Many resorts offer joint packages to the waterpark and
dolphinarium. Attractions... see full details