Miles of beaches, endless luxury accommodations and a nonstop party atmosphere have transformed this once sleepy village on the Yucatan coast into one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions, particularly during spring break.
Cancun could be split roughly into 2 parts: The downtown area, el centro, is home to many smaller hotels, quaint restaurants, and shops. The famed Hotel Zone, zona hotelera, is on a 14-mile peninsula jutting out into the Caribbean Sea.
Nearest major international airport: Cancun. The airport has direct connections to Europe as well as many North American cities.
Airport/hotel shuttles can be arranged upon arrival at the main terminal. Pre-registration is available through Mexico Web.
Bus: Cancun's public bus system is an economical and convenient way to travel both in and outside of the city. Within the city, blue signs highlight the numerous stops that will get you anywhere in the city between 6 a.m. and midnight. Buses marked zona hoteleres will take you - surprise - to the Hotel Zone. Give the driver a quick wave and he will drop you right at your doorstep.
Out of town routes, such as trips to Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Playa del Carmen, originate at the downtown terminal near the intersection of Tulum and Uxmal Avenues.
Taxi: Easy to come by. As with any destination offering unmetered cabs, negotiating a price before departure is an absolute must. Hotels often post typical rates to use when haggling for a fair price.
With an average temperature of 80 F (27 C), average water temperature of 86 F (33 C), and 240 days of sunshine, nearly any time is a good time for a siesta. If you are looking for a high-volume party atmosphere, the best months are February and March - the peak of the American university's spring break season. If a thrifty getaway is what you seek, late summer and early winter are most affordable. September and October should generally be avoided due to windy weather and the occasional tropical storm.
Cancun is equipped with everything from luxury all-inclusive resorts to small, quaint inns. Reservations are always suggested, but they are essential from December through April; rooms during the last week in December and the first week in January are sold out months in advance.
When selecting a hotel, start with the location. Generally speaking, the Hotel Zone has mostly high-rise hotels, but this is where it's at when it comes to partying. With the Caribbean Sea to the east, Mujeres Bay to the north, and Nichupte Lagoon in the center, almost all options in the hotel zone have some type of beachfront property. The downtown area has less expensive and more intimate hotels, but you'll need to take a bus or taxi to get to the beach.
To narrow down your ideal hotel location further, read on for specific beaches and party spots.
Beaches along the northern side of the 14-mile semicircle kiss the waters of Mujeres Bay. Some of the north side's most popular beaches include:
- Playa Caracol & Punta Cancun - The shallow water and the flat bottoms make these excellent choices for children. Parents aren't neglected though: Restaurants, bars and water activities are also available.
- Playa Langosta, Playa Las Perlas & Playa Tortugas - With shuttles to Isla Mujeres, high-wave action, sand volleyball, and numerous bars and restaurants, these 3 beaches have it all.
- Playa Linda - Playa Linda's dock is the departure point for submarine and dive tours as well as the main shuttle to Isla Mujeres.
Bordering the Caribbean Sea, east-side beaches offer breezier conditions and higher waves than their northern counterparts.
- Chac Mool, Gaviota Azul & Playa Marlin - The higher wind speeds of these 3 beauties are perfect for sailboarding and parasailing.
- Playa Ballenas - Offers tube rides, sand volleyball, parasailing and, as with all these beaches, people watching.
- Punta Nizuc & Playa Delfines - In addition to incredible sand and surf, these two beaches offer an awe-inspiring view.
- San Miguelito - With its small Mayan ruin, this beach mixes activity with history.
While Mexican fare such as enchiladas, burritos and margaritas abound, "typical" Cancun cuisine caters to the city's array of international visitors. You will be able to find everything from Italian and French to vegetarian and Chinese. Plus, buffets and all-you-can-eat specials have become an economical trend.
While the Hotel Zone is home to endless hot spots offering sun, sand and sure-fire evening entertainment, many of Cancun's most awe-inspiring attractions are just beyond the city limits. Mayan ruins, nature preserves and dense jungles are just a sampling of offerings that are well worth your time.
When it comes to Cancun's little annoyances, time-share presentations and overpriced cab fares top the list. During your stay, you will doubtless be approached by a time-share recruiter offering free tours or services in exchange for your attendance at a presentation. While the deal isn't actually a scam, discuss all the details up front before signing up for a "free" tour.
Partying and nightlife are to Cancun what casinos are to Las Vegas. A few of the evening "must sees" include:
- Batacha & Azucar - Located at the Camino and Hyatt hotels respectively, these 2 clubs heat up the night with live salsa music.
- Cat's - Cancun meets the Caribbean with live reggae bands and no cover charge.
- Christine - Offers a more sophisticated dress code and a fabulous light show.
- Daddy'O and Daddy Rock - A hip-hop, hard rock combo offering late night dancing and plenty of fun.
- La Boom - Late-night partying and dancing culminate in one of the area's largest bikini contests.
- Senor Frogs - An internationally known restaurant and bar with a unique mix of casual dining and a wall-to-wall party atmosphere.
While you are there
A trip to the Yucatan isn't complete without a visit to one of its mysterious and ancient Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza, located just a few hours outside the city, is the area's largest and most noted ruin. While Tulum is a bit smaller and less accessible for exploring, it offers a fabulous seaside vantage point just 80 miles south of Cancun. A trip to Tulum can be topped off with a visit to Xel-Ha, a nature preserve offering snorkeling or a quick, refreshing dip. In addition to independent excursions by bus or car, tours can be arranged once in Cancun or through Mexico Web
If diving is your pleasure, the waters off the coast of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel make for an irresistible 1 or 2-day side trip. Take the daily bus to Playa del Carmen, and catch the hourly ferry to Cozumel for the perfect dip. Check the left column on the Yucatan Web Transportation page for Ferry schedules
Offering everything from tours to diving to fishing to water toys, Aqua World is a water enthusiast's number one choice. A more natural getaway is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. This 1.5-million-acre coastal reserve includes rainforest, wetlands, savannas and marine environments, and more than 300 bird species and everything from pumas to howler monkeys.
To fake that you've been there
Retell the story of the mysterious missing worm from your last bottle of tequila...
Linking for a better vacation
Mexico's Tourism Board offers more information and a message board for posting questions.
Mexico Web's Cancun area also includes a with sections that include: Cancun, divers, clubs, commerce and students.