Cancun is one of the reasons why millions of people travel to Mexico each year. With its tropical-like weather, majestic beaches, and luxury resorts, Cancun is one of the most popular international destination resorts.
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Cancun, made up of two distinct areas, is located on Mexico’s Eastern Coast. Mainland Cancun, also known as Cancun City and El Centro, is the commercial center of Cancun. This area houses the colorful markets, quaint shops, malls, restaurants, a few lower budget hotels, and the residential area of Cancun.
The Zona Hotelera, a peninsula shaped like a number 7, is 22km (14 mi. ) long. The Caribbean Sea and Laguna Nichupte encompass this beautiful dazzling island that is composed of Cancun’s most spectacular hotels and resorts. Cancun is actually closer to Miami than it is to Mexico City.
History of Cancun
Cancun, meaning “Golden Snake” in the Mayan Language, was inhabited by the Mayans around AD 200.
- Here they remained until the 14th or 15th century.
- Behind them, they left Mayan ruins that were discovered in the mid-19th century, but not studied until the late 1950s.
- Cancun was, until the 1960s, a small fishing village of around 120 people.
- In 1967 the Mexican government began a study to find the perfect location for an international Caribbean resort.
- The computer chose the small village of Cancun.
- When construction started in the 1970s, it seemed the only inhabitants of Cancun’s miles of beaches were birds and iguanas.
- Now, luxury resorts and miles of tourists are Cancun’s principal inhabitants.
Weather in Cancun
From May to September, the tourist season, temperatures average in the 90’s with low’s around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Winter months in Cancun are a little cooler, but it’s still warm with temperatures in the low 80’s.
- Cancun sees an average of 340 days of sunshine with rain coming in short, sharp bursts.
- June to October is the hurricane season, but those are mainly just blustery winds.
Accommodations in Cancun
Cancun has over 25,000+ hotel rooms. Although there are not very many budget-priced hotels, the few remaining are located downtown Cancun away from the water, but close to the markets and shops.
- The Zona Hotelera boasts modern mega-resorts, at mega prices.
- Be prepared to shell out the dough to stay in one of the glittery, showy resorts located here.
- Rates for hotel rooms in the downtown area range from $38 – $140 US dollars.
- In the Zona, Hotelera rates range from $100 – $1, 300 US dollars.
Restaurants in Cancun
Cancun is dominated by U. S.based restaurant franchises such as the Hard Rock Cafe Planet Hollywood, Tony Roma’s, and more. Besides, Cancun offers one-of-a-kind restaurants, 5-star gourmet restaurants, and cafes. For a budget meal, grab a bite at one of the markets.
Nightlife in Cancun
Cancun offers a lavish array of entertainment.
- From romantic piano bars, sports and gambling bars, to just good old fashion drinking bars.
- Nightclubs in Cancun are expensive but worth the expense at least once.
- Many discos and nightclubs don’t close until the sun rises.
- If the disco and club scenes are not your style, there are ballets, festivals, and folklore dance shows to watch.
Shopping in Cancun
With all its shops, markets, malls, and stores, shopping in Cancun is becoming a popular activity.
- Handcrafted articles are more expensive and not as widely available in Cancun simply because they are not produced here.
- Check the open-air markets for handcrafted articles, and try your hand at bargaining prices.
- The Plaza Kukulkan, a mall with over 300 stores, offers everything from jewelry, designer clothes, beautiful crystal, music stores, to restaurants, a theater, bowling alley, and an arcade.
- You could spend the entire day in this large mall and still not see it all.
- Most stores now remain open during the siesta hours, 1 – 4 o’clock.
Local Cancun Cuisine
With over 1, 200 restaurants, finding a place to eat that appeals to you may be the most challenging task you’ll undertake in Cancun.
- Though seafood dishes are the most popular, you can also sample Arabic, Yucatecan, Chinese, Cajun, Polynesian, Italian and French fare.
- All hotels in the Zona area have at least one formal restaurant.
Services in Cancun
Banks: Cancun banks are generally open 9 ?5, Monday to Friday, and many now have ATM machines. Money exchange desks are open 9 ?1:30.Most hotels and establishments accept credit cards and U. S dollars.
Internet Service: [email protected] is located in a booth on the second floor of Plaza Kukulkan. In downtown Cancun, Sybcom offers internet access, located in the Plaza Alconde.
Transportation: Most car rental agencies have an outlet at the airport, as well as offices along the Zona Hotelera. It’s cheaper to arrange a rental car before your vacation to avoid transportation fees. Taxis are available to drive you to and from the airport. Rates differ from zone to zone, so it’s best to keep track of where you are and where you are headed. Buses are a cheap and reliable way to travel Cancun. Buses from the Zona Hotelera do not travel downtown, so you will need to catch a connecting bus at Avendia Tulum.
Surrounding Areas of Cancun
Isla Mujeres: Only six miles from Cancun, a twenty-minute ferry ride away, this island has three beautiful beaches, an underwater park for snorkeling, and reefs for experienced scuba divers.
Xel-Ha: Located about 70 miles south of Cancun, Xel-Ha is the world’s largest natural aquarium composed of lagoons, inlets, caves, and sinkholes.
Tulum: A city the Mayans built between 1200 and 1500 AD. What makes it makes it most impressive is that it was the only site created by the ocean.
Tres Rios: An Eco/adventure park located just 25 minutes south of Cancun. This nature park offers tourists 150 acres of lush, natural beauty. The entrance fee includes a canoe trip, bike usage, and the use of snorkeling and kayaking equipment.
Where To Go in Cancun?
Avenida Tulum: This leading street houses many restaurants and shops, it also boasts a large seashell sculpture, a sight to see when lit up at night-time.
The Ruinas del Rey: (Ruins of the King). These small ruins have been made part of the Caesar Park Beach & Golf Resort. Skeletons found there indicate this may be a royal burial site.
National Institute of Anthropology and History: This museum houses a collection of Mayan artifacts depicting the history and culture of the Mayan people
Yamil Lu’um: Meaning “Hilly Land” is one of Cancun’s smallest ruins, made up of two structures. One probably being a lighthouse, the other a temple. A small sign at the Hotel Sheraton will direct you to this site.
Plaza Caracol: One of the largest and most modern shopping areas in Cancun. This mega mall is home to 200 shops and stores.
Where To Eat in Cancun?
The expensive Club Grill is said to be Cancun’s most delicious and elegant restaurant.
- Exquisite place settings, comfortable padded chairs, candlelit tables, romantic music, and a selection of fine wines and tequilas make this restaurant a place to remember.
- Dress code is in effect, and there are a smoking and non-smoking section.
- One restaurant noted for its incredible Italian food is La Dolce Vita.
- Located on the lagoon, the house specialty is homemade pasta and sauces mixed with different kinds of seafood.
- Patrons have a choice of dining in the air-conditioned dining room or on the open-air terrace.
- Live jazz music is played from 7pm until 11:30pm.
- A tequila bar with 50 different types of tequila, a Mexican kitchen, the Salon Michoacan, which serves the state’s cuisine, and the Patio Oaxaca, which features Oaxacan cuisine, as well as marimba, jarocho music and mariachis combine all things Mexican in the Restaurant Maria Bonita.
- Seafood is abundant in Cancun, and at Lorenzillo’s diners choose their lobster from a tank which can be grilled, steamed, and stuffed.
- Other popular choices are stuffed shrimp, squid, and several types of fish.
- For a change of pace, try one of the several dinner cruise boats, which will tour the bay while you dine on sumptuous meals.
- Cancun has its share of American based franchises, which include the Hard Rock Caf? Tony Roma’s, Planet Hollywood and TGI Fridays as well as many fast food places.
- Most restaurants serve different Yucatecan dishes, which is the local dish of the Yucatan Peninsula.
What To Do in Cancun?
There are so many activities to participate in that you will find you need extra vacation days to try them all.
- You can swim in the bath-like temperature water, or swim in one of the many pools at the hotels.
- Water sports abound.
- From windsurfing, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, boating, and fishing.
- Festivals, ballets, and nightclubs will keep you entertained in the evenings.
- Shopping in one of Cancun’s mega-malls is becoming a popular activity.
Beaches: The tourists are free to go anywhere, but non-guests may be made to feel unwelcome at the beaches surrounding the hotels. There are about a dozen public beaches, free to use, but a small charge may be required to use the showers. In some undeveloped areas, you may find empty sand and the occasional group of nude sunbathers. The powdery white sand never seems to heat up even on the hottest days.
Sport Fishing: There are some great areas for deep-sea and sportfishing. Sailfish, marlin, dorado, wahoo, grouper, and bluefish tuna are the most abundant. The many lagoons, inlets, and flats offer tarpon, snook, permit, and hard fighting bonefish. Charters can be arranged through most hotels or at the majority of marinas along Laguna Nichupte. Boats are available for rental, from two-seater skiffs to glass-bottomed boats, to luxury yachts.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling: Cancun is one of the best places in the world for scuba diving. Punta Nizuc, on the northern tip of the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, is alive with many types of sea life, not to mention the sunken ships that lend an air of mystery. El Garrafon National Underwater Park is an excellent spot for snorkeling
Water Activities: Many tour facilities offer jet skiing or wave runner tours through Cancun’s lagoons, shallow reefs, and the Caribbean Sea. Sailboarding and kayaking are also popular activities. Most hotels offer rental equipment for these sports.
Golf: Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed one of Cancun’s premier 18-hole golf clubs, the Pok-Ta-Pok. With a view of the ocean and lagoons, this course is a pleasure to play upon. A championship 18-hole golf course is located at the Caesar Park beach & Golf Resort. Guests of this hotel receive a reduction in green fees. An executive 9-hole golf course, located at the Hotel Melia Cancun, offers a cheaper green fee and a spectacular view of the ocean. An 18-hole championship golf course, designed around the “Ruinas Del Rey“, is located at the Hilton Golf & Beach Resort.
Other Activities: Horseback riding to Cancun’s caves, lagoons, and Mayan ruins are a pleasant change from the water activities. ATV tours and in-line skating are also popular.
Where To Shop in Cancun?
Shopping is an activity all on its own in Cancun. The most popular items are resort wear and local handicrafts.
- Most shops have fixed prices, but bargaining is still expected in the markets.
- Stores generally close for the siesta hours, 1pm-4pm.
- The downtown area is composed mainly of shops and markets as well as a large department store.
- At the Mercado Vienteocho, you will find many of the same gifts and souvenirs items sold in the Hotel Zone at half the price.
- The newest mall, Plaza las Americas, is home to 50 shops, eight movie theaters, and three large department stores.
- The majority of the “mega malls are located in the Hotel Zone.
- At the Plaza Kukulkan, you will find over 200 shops, a bowling alley, a 3-screen cinema, several restaurants, a bank, and even a laser tag area.
- Located In the Flamingo Plaza are a designer and specialty shops, boutiques, and sportswear stores.
- Boutiques such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Benetton, Guess, and Bally, as well as Cartier jewelry, are located in the Plaza Caracol.
- Prices for clothing is generally lower than in the same stores located in the US.
- The “ultra-trendy and ultra-expensive” La Isla Shopping Village is said to be the most intriguing in Cancun.
- A series of canals, walkways, and bridges connect the shops, aquarium, marina, movie theaters, disco, and restaurants.
- Some of the shops found here are Swatch, Guess, Bennetton, H.Stern, and Zara clothing, as well as the first Warner Brothers Studio in Mexico.
- There are also several duty-free shops, the largest being UltraFemme.