© 123rf.com / Robert Lerich
Luxury is the buzzword in the new Cancún, completely reborn after Hurricane Wilma decimated the tourism zone in 2005.
After Hurricane Wilma, the sand was replenished but isn't as soft and dazzling white as in the past. The water is calmest on the northern stretch of beach while waves pound the south shores. Holidaymakers can hire wave runners, kayaks, and inflatables to play in the sea and lagoons.
Isla Mujeres is a short ferry ride east of Cancún and offers a simple downtown area with folk art shops and ethnic cafes, good snorkelling and the opportunity to swim with dolphins at Garrafón National Park (Carretera Garrafón Km 6). Snorkelling tours and booze cruises from Cancún's marinas are very popular, as are waverunner and kayak tours of the lagoons.
Cancún is an excellent family destination with long stretches of calm water, lifeguards at most beaches and organised children's activities at many hotels. Several franchise restaurants and take out eateries cater to children's finicky taste buds. The dolphins, sharks and tanks filled with tropical fish at the Interactive Aquarium at La Isla (www.interactivedolphins.com) are great fun.
The coastline between Cancún and Tulum, dubbed the Riviera Maya, is packed with gorgeous coves and beaches, action-packed theme parks, archaeological sites and opportunities for adventure. Xcaret (Carretera 307), 72km (44 miles) south of Cancún, is an ecological theme park that's like a microcosm of all things Mexican. The top-notch nightly folkloric dance show is a must-see.
Begin your special night out with sunset cocktails overlooking the lagoon at Thai Lounge (Boulevard Kukulcán). The sky and water panorama is better here than from the east-facing beaches in front of the hotels. Move on to Puerto Madero (Boulevard Kukulkán) for a leisurely Argentine beef and wine feast among Cancún's high-energy sophisticates; indoor tables are best for people watching. The local crowd moves on to the terrace above the lagoon at Bling (Boulevard Kukulcán) for the latest DJ driven rhythms.