White sand beaches hemmed by gleaming high-rise hotels attract holidaymakers in their droves. Once a wild, hedonistic party playground, modern Cancun is less about tequila-fuelled revelry than beach-bum sophistication. An array of trendy boutique hotels, swish cafes and funky bars have replaced many of Cancun’s former Spring Break hangouts. A party scene still raves until sunrise but is all-together classier in style with world-class tourist facilities that cater to a discerning vacation crowd.
After the devastation of Hurricane Wilma in 2005, Cancun has emerged triumphant, rebuilt and reborn, and remains Mexico’s most popular beach getaway.
Cancun is over-run with things to do and see and boasts spectacular long stretches of powder-fine beaches. Calm waters and lifeguards ensure most are safe for children, and organised kid clubs and activities run from volleyball to face-painting. A number of fine nature reserves and protected areas contain monkeys, flamingos, whale sharks, marine turtles and crocodiles in their natural habitat. Numerous guided tours cater for kayaking, hiking, snorkelling and diving with an opportunity to swim with dolphins a rare and special interactive treat.
• Interactive Aquarium: dolphins, sharks and other marine life
• Snorkelling around Isla Mujeres
• Swimming with dolphins at Garrafón National Park
• Boat trip to nesting birds at scenic Isla Contoy
• Wildlife spotting in Isla Holbox’s lagoon, including whale sharks (July & August)
• Early morning jungle tours and treks
• Open-top-jeep bird-watching safari
• Mountain biking through leafy rainforest trails
• Deep-sea fishing in warm Caribbean waters
• Sailing tours, sailboat charter or catamaran island-hops
Cancun Tourism Office
Calle Pecari 23, Cancun, Q. Roo, Mexico 77500
Tel: (+9) 881 9000.
Colourful street markets in Cancun’s down-town district are crammed with trinket and handicraft stalls. Top buys include silver and beaded jewellery, highly-painted pottery, leather bags, Mexican coffee and vanilla. Several large air-conditioned shopping malls offer a wide range of international sportswear and High Street names. The best include Flamingo Plaza, Kukulcan Plaza, Plaza Forum by the Sea, El Tesoro de Kukulcan and Plaza La Fiesta.
Authentic homespun Mexican fare is thin on the ground in Cancun, where franchise restaurants abound. However there are plenty of good Thai, Italian, Argentinean and Japanese restaurants – although these can be pricey on the main streets. For the best cheap eats and real taste of Mexico, head to the family-run cafes and taco stands downtown. Some backstreet local cantinas offer live music at weekends, complete with strolling mariachis and homemade dishes.
When to go:
Cancun has warm sunshine all year round. Try to avoid hurricane season, which runs from July to November.
20 minutes tender ride by boat.