Cancun offers the ultimate Mexican beach resort, with its beautiful white sandy beaches, gorgeous Caribbean sea and luxurious hotels. It offers everything you desire on tap, from fabulous cocktails and dramatic sunsets to excellent shopping malls and stunning dive sites.
Located on the Yucatan peninsula, the resort is popular with American holidaymakers to the extent you may feel you’re in Florida rather than Mexico. But it makes a lively, affordable long haul beach holiday for families as well as couples.
Getting there/getting around Cancun
Many tour operators offer direct charter flights to Cancun airport from the UK. Another option is to take a scheduled flight to Cancun via a US hub. Getting from the airport into Cancun itself is not too difficult. The taxi option is the simplest, but the most expensive. There are also vans and minibuses that offer a cheaper service to key points in Cancun.
Many tourists use the city buses, which are cheap and usually frequent, to get around. The other option is taxis – fares are set by the taxi unions, ask for the set price at your hotel. For a day trip you could always rent a car to give yourselves some independence.
Beaches in Cancun
Stunning is the word for Cancun’s white, sandy beaches. There are many and almost all are beautiful with pretty names such as Turtle Beach and Beach of the Pearls. Watch out for the sea’s strong undertow in some places though.
Sightseeing in Cancun
Sights can basically fit into three categories: Mayan; eco and underwater. Among the Mayan ruins, one of the most popular is Chichen Itza, a sprawling site which can quite tiring to visit in the midday sun. It makes sense, if you can, to stay overnight nearby and visit at sunset or sunrise, when there are few tourists around. The site includes sacrificial pits where the Mayans threw victims to their death.
Eco parks have become very popular in Mexico and they are many in the Cancun region. Many include an activity, such as canoeing, in the entry price.
There are tons of water-related activities here including scuba diving, snorkelling, visits to aquariums and boat trips to places nearby such as the Isla Contony. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen on daytime trips.
Family attractions in Cancun
Cancun is perfect for kids with its beautiful warm water and loads of swimming and beach activities. But when you fancy something different from just another day on a gorgeous beach, there are plenty of options.
Perhaps the most famous is the themed eco park of Xcaret, a cross between a Disney experience and a tropical forest. Xcaret was damaged by the recent hurricane, so check on this before heading off. It’s not cheap, so definitely plan to spend a whole day there. Most hotels will organise trips for you and include transport. This park is themed around the jungle and the Mayans, but it has the huge advantage of having existing forest and real ruins to enhance it.
Take your beach towels as many activities mean you will get wet and you will definitely want to swim or snorkel along the palm-tree lined beaches. You can walk along the sea floor, see baby turtles and wander through the jungle, and for an extra charge swim with dolphins. Other family day trips options include: the eco park Tres Rios with its canoeing trails, horse riding and scuba diving; and a visit to the Aktun Chen park with its caves and stunning stalactites.
Day trip in Cancun
A trip to the ancient ruins at Tulum is definitely worthwhile, if you want to dip your toe into Mayan culture. This was a religious meeting point and is home to some historic altars. The ruins of the castle and the altar are so dramatic that it makes you wonder if you have wandered onto a Hollywood film set. Their rugged, craggy shapes are striking against the blue sky.
Historic murals are still visible on some of the buildings, and with the sea crashing below the atmosphere can be magical. If you saw the Mel Gibson film Apocalypto, you’ll be interested in the Tulum experience. If you are happy under the waves, then the idea of a snorkelling or learn to dive day could be attractive.
The area around Cancun offers great diving and snorkelling along the Great Mesoamerican Reef as well as around sunken ship reeks. For those without their water wings, the Sub See Explorer at Aquaworld offers a glimpse of undersea activity. Puerto Morales is considered one of the best dive locations near Cancun, and the water is lovely and calm, so it is great for those who have never touched a snorkel before.
Eating in Cancun
The hotel zone in Cancun is packed with restaurant options aimed at international tourists, but if you would like to try real Mexican food, then head for restaurants in the downtown area, where you can get a plateful of spicy specialities that really pack a punch, and are so much better than the Mexican meals you get served up at home. Of course you want to try a margarita, a typical Mexican cocktail, served with salt on the rim. And for something different, how about some chilli relenos?
Restaurants in downtown Cancun, also called Cancun city, tend to be cheaper than on the island. Cancun island serves up plenty of themed restaurants such as the TGI Fridays and the Rainforest Café.
Nightlife in Cancun
Nightlife in Cancun is colourful and fun, dominated by big bars with outrageous cocktails and plenty of loud music. Coco Bongo and The City are two of the best-known dance clubs where you can improve your salsa skills.
Cancun’s bars are generally packed with people and high energy. Expect to party the night away and enjoy the best tequila cocktails you have ever tasted. Many bars operate a system where you pay an entrance fee, acquire a wristband and get free drinks all night, but don’t forget to tip the waiters, otherwise your drinks might be slow to arrive.
Shopping in Cancun
There is no shortage of shopping in Cancun. In fact, if you were thinking it would be about arty crafty gifs in stalls along a road, think again. Cancun is famous for its American-style malls, complete with air conditioning and designer shops; a luxurious experience.
Many malls are situated along the Bulevar Kukulecan, which offers a huge range of goods. However, if you are looking for a bargain, then the downtown area is a little cheaper. For a fun shopping experience, try the Forum By the Sea mall for a range of big designer names such as Hilfiger and Diesel as well as the Hard Rock Café.
Even quirkier is La Isla Shopping Village, where you can wander around and choose from shops, restaurants or theme park rides. There’s a dolphin show and a cinema as well as a wide range of shops. The largest duty-free shop in town is UltraFemme, where you can pick up your favourite perfume for half price.