Cancun`s postcard-perfect beaches with warm white powdery sand and turquoise crystal clear waters have made it one of the world`s favourite tropical destinations. The city has got a perfect balance between relaxation and endless entertainment options.
However, Cancun is fighting off its bad reputation of being a top party destination because thousands of American students are flooding Cancun for Spring Break. It is an ideal destination, especially for the younger generation with a 365-day party available for college students.
THE HISTORY BEHIND PARADISE
This large holiday centre was just a dot on the map before 1970. Four decades ago, Cancun was a deserted peninsula, and only a few people knew of its existence. Due to its perfect weather and natural beauty, a nearly forgotten region of the Caribbean was selected by the Mexican government as an ideal place for tourism development. Once small fishing village Kankun on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula became one of the most visited destinations in Mexico, attracting millions of tourists annually. Today Cancun is home to a half-million residents and is Mexican the most prosperous city in the Yucatan Peninsula. Based on the reaction of many people we meet, you either love Cancun or hate it.
Unfortunately, the large hotels and spring break atmosphere have resulted in large parts of Cancun losing its Mexican identity. But it doesn`t mean that you can`t enjoy the area. The city offers so much more than just wild spring break parties and glitzy hotels. Don`t let the party reputation fool you – Cancun has much more than that.
Step away from resort`s pools and sit on the sand and realise that much of Cancun`s beauty rests beyond the luxury interior of your 5-star hotel. After you look at the neon –turquoise waters, after sinking your toes in softest sands you ever felt, after just a few hours there, your opinion will do a complete 180-degree turn.
When travelling to Cancun, try to Avoid Spring Break (try not to come to Cancun in March and April) as thousands of travellers fill huge nightclubs across the city for a week of partying.
There are two parts of Cancun: one is the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) and downtown Cancun. The Zona Hotelera, a narrow piece of land shaped like the number “7”, is entirely composed by all-inclusive resorts, shopping malls, restaurants and visitor attractions. On the mainland is the fast-growing city, also known as downtown. It is a place where most independent travellers stay, and the locals live. Ciudad Cancun gives you a taste of local flavour or undeveloped beach. So, to get the full feel for Cancun, you need to see both.
GETTING AROUND CANCUN
If you are staying in Cancun, forget about renting a car or taking an expensive taxi. Cancun has the most excellent bus system of any tourist destination we`ve been to. The buses run 24 hours a day throughout the Cancun Hotel Zone, and the cost of a one-way ticket is only about 8.5 pesos. It is straightforward to use and the most important – very cheap. The public transport in Cancun is an excellent alternative to expensive taxis.
The bus stops are easy to find because they are almost everywhere. They go all the way by Kukulkan Avenue from the beginning of the hotel zone to the Cancun Downtown area. The two major routes in Cancun are R1 (Ruta 1) and R2 (Ruta 2):
R1 – Take this route if you want to go downtown, Puerto Juarez, or the Cancun bus station (to get onto ADO buses to Playa del Carmen or Tulum)
R2 – Goes to Mercado 28
- The buses on “the ocean side” of the street will go towards downtown, and “the lagoon side” buses will go towards the airport.
- If you know the bus you want and you see it coming, wave your arm, and a driver will stop for you.
- It is best to pay as close to the 8.50 pesos as possible. If you give a driver 9 pesos, most likely you will not receive any change.
- Bus drivers do not accept American coins, so if you pay with dollars, it is going to be 1 dollar.
If you prefer to take a taxi, every hotel and Shopping Mall at the Cancun has a Taxi spot. But make sure you check the fare before you get in. Also always check that the taxi driver has the ID card with the driver`s name, driver`s licence and his photo.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN CANCUN
1. CANCUN`S BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Cancun is a holiday destination famous for its beautiful beaches with stunning views over the crystal clear waters. Most of Cancun`s hotels have direct access to the beaches.
If you are tired of the standard beaches along the Hotel Zone, try heading to one of Cancun`s public beaches. Sun yourself on the most famous beach Playa Delfines which now has “Cancun” written with 3-dimensional letters which you can also use for making photos.
Other public beaches: Playa Tortuga, Playa Ballenas or Playa Marlin.
Helpful Tip: You can get to all the above beaches with the local bus R1.
Aside from the many all-inclusive resorts on the ocean with pools, water sports such as snorkelling, jet-skiing, there is still plenty to do throughout the Hotel Zone of Cancun.
The Nichupte Lagoon is a large lagoon with fresh and saltwater located between the Hotel Zone and the mainland. It is a popular place for recreational fishing, water-skiing or non-motorized water activities, such as kayaking. Jet skis and wave runners can also be rented at most marinas for self-guided excursions on the lagoon.
The lagoon pathways are also an ideal place for joggers, bike riders and walkers where they can enjoy beautiful views of the lagoon and the hotel zone.
⚠️ The Lagoon is home to crocodiles. Signs are warning of the presence of crocodiles and the risk of danger in approaching their habitat.
A lot of people visit Yucatan peninsula for diving. With the world`s second-largest barrier reef Cancun has spectacular diving opportunities. Divers can also explore the ancient shipwreck or nearby the underwater museum. Unfortunately due to Martina`s ear condition, we cannot dive. For that reason, we can`t recommend any dive spots.
4. SHOPPING IN CANCUN
If you would like to avoid the high priced sales of the Cancun Hotel Zone, you should go to Mercado 28, which has got a more local feel. Mercado Veintiocho is a traditional Mexican flea market situated in the heart of downtown Cancun. This is made up of a labyrinth of alleyways and stalls. It is a huge craft market filled with vendors hawking many of the same souvenirs (ceramics, clothing, jewellery, magnets, tequila or spices) you can find in the Hotel Zone, but for a half price. It is a fun way to get the real Mexican market experience. We spent a couple of hours getting lost in Market 28, bartering with vendors.
We love shopping in markets such as Mercado 28 as it is a perfect place for picking up souvenirs and gifts. It is far from the fancy mall you can find on Avenida Kukulkan, but here we have found some of our most treasured souvenirs.
The vendors are keen to make a sale. If you want to buy something, negotiate the price down. If you are not interested, just give them a firm “no thank you”.
Shopping in Cancun
If Mercado 28 is not your thing, do not worry. Cancun is a shopping haven where you can find everything from ultra–chic designer stores and famous brand names to souvenir shops selling local Mexican handcrafts. Here is a list of just some of the great places to go if you fancy shopping in Cancun:
- La Isla Shopping Village (Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 12.5, Hotel Zone)
- Kukulkan Plaza & Luxury Avenue (Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 13, Hotel Zone)
- Plaza Caracol (Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 8.5 Hotel Zone)
- Plaza Las Americas (Av. Tulum 260, Downtown)
- Plaza Flamingo (Blvd. Kukulcán, Km 11.5)
Cancun attracts many club lovers. The city`s nightlife is among the best in the world with a lot of bars and nightclubs with special effects and laser shows. They cover everything from rock, reggae to salsa and techno. Most of them have an all –you – can –drink cover charge for their pricey entry fees. You have a mission to complete by the end of the night – get as many drinks as possible so yours 80 USD are well spent.
For those who love to dance, most popular nightclubs are: COCO BONGO (Cancun`s the best and the most famous club with the spectacular, wild shows they put on each night), DADY` O, PALAZZO or SENOR FROG`S.
Golfing in Cancun is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience. Cancun and the surrounding areas on the Riviera Maya provide some of the most excellent golf courses overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The golf courses meet the highest standards set by professional golf tournaments and expert golfers. If you love this sport, you can enjoy the courses in Cancun`s Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok, Hilton Cancun Golf Club, Puerto Cancun, Iberostar Cancun Golf Club, The Gran Melia Cancun or Puerto Cancun. There are also other courses in the Riviera Maya, such as the Riviera Maya Golf Club.
7. TAKE A DAY TRIP TO CHICHEN ITZA
Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Man-made Wonders of the World, is the most famous ancient city of the Mayan Culture.
8. DISCOVER ISLA MUJERES (The Island of Women)
When you feel ready to take a break from cosmopolitan Cancun, find a piece of paradise in the nearby Isla Mujeres. The island with a laid-back feel is just a ferry ride from the busy city. A relatively unspoilt island with crystal clear waters is Cancun`s best spot if you want to escape the city`s crowds. Therefore, a day trip to tranquil Isla Mujeres is one of the best-kept secrets of Quintana Roo in Mexico.
READ MORE about Isla Mujeres:
Have you been to Cancun before or is it on your bucket list? If you have any Cancun recommendations, we would love to hear in the comments.
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