Cancun is one giant white sandy beach on the Caribbean blue sea! At the
top of the "7-shaped" island is the public non-hotel beach Playa
Chac Mool with restaurants. Around the point are the more tranquil waters
of Bahia de Mujeres. Otherwise you have to access the beach through the
hotels that also have lifeguards. Technically all the beaches are public,
but usually the only access paths are through the hotel lobby. To avoid
any hassles, have a relaxing tropical drink at the hotel's bar before
heading out onto the lovely beach.
Let's face it, Isla Cancún is one big beach and there's no use
pretending that there's anything else to do here. It's a lazy, beautiful
stretch of white sand. The only thing you need to know is that the beaches
on the western side face Laguna de Nichupté and are straitjacket-calm
and those on the eastern shore face the Caribbean and are prone to fierce
undertows. Isla Cancún is 23km (14mi) long, not very wide and known
as the Zona Hotelera. The island is connected to Ciudad Cancún
by two bridges.
As you wander down this main street through Cancun City admire the giant
pre-Hispanic sculpture reproductions that beautifully line the street.
Then, head to the entertainment theme park Magico. Here you can find restaurants,
international shops and even see one of the nightly dinner shows.
Cruise across the water on the 25-minute ferry ride to the Island of Women.
Join the laid-back atmosphere and lounge on the beautiful beaches as you
sip a frozen tropical drink. Or swim as you take in the gorgeous sunset
at Playa Norte where the sea is as peacefully calm as a land-locked lake.
Or head to Playa Paraíso and Playa Lancheros on the western shore.
For a more active day snorkel on the beautiful coral reefs of Garrafón
Marine Park at the southern tip. For a spectacular sight, check out the
wind-swept beaches on the eastern side of the island. If hunger strikes
you on this beautiful Isla, you're sure to be pleased with the variety
of fresh fish and conch, pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches. Then meander
along the cobblestone streets as you browse the shops selling Mexican
crafts and fine jewelry. To get here, take one of the ferries running
from downtown Cancun and Puerto Juarez.
Museo de Antropología y Historia
This museum has a collection of items - including jewellry, masks and
intentionally deformed skulls - from the Postclassic period (AD1200-1500).
Other exhibits include a Classic-period hieroglyphic staircase inscribed
with dates from the 6th century, and the stucco head that gave the local
archeological zone its name of El Rey. Most of the informative signs are
in Spanish only, though an English information sheet is available at the
ticket counter. Archeology buffs should be warned, however, that they
may be left wanting. The Mayan ruins really worth seeing lie far outside
of the city.
With more than 20 kilometers lined with hotels, restaurants, malls and
shops, you could spend your whole Cancun vacation exploring this main
road. During the day, take a break from the sun in the shops and malls.
At night, live-it-up in the party atmosphere of the bars and restaurants.
Ruinas del Rey
Don't miss these Mayan ruins that were wonderfully preserved and incorporated
into this major resort complex.
Be inspired by the chants and dance of Mexico and the Caribbean at this
energetic show. Cancun's most accomplished dancers and musicians present
this energy-packed performance of dance and music.
From Isla Mujeres it's possible to take an excursion by boat to tiny,
uninhabited Isla Contoy, a national park and bird sanctuary 30km (19mi)
north. The island's dense foliage is home to more than 100 bird species,
including brown pelicans, olive cormorants, turkey birds, brown boobies
and red-pouched frigates. In addition, red flamingoes, snowy egrets and
white herons make frequent visits. Bring mosquito repellent, and beware
of the boa constrictors and small crocodiles that live in the island's
Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm
Six species of sea turtle lay eggs in the sand along the island's calm
western shore. Although they are endangered, sea turtles are still killed
throughout Latin America for their eggs and meat, which are considered
a delicacy. In the 1980s, efforts by a local fisherman led to the founding
of the Centro de Investigaciones and the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, which
protects the turtles' breeding grounds and places wire cages around their
eggs to protect against predators. Hatchlings live in three large pools
for up to a year, at which time they are tagged for monitoring and released.
Because most turtles in the wild die within their first few months, the
practice of guarding them until they are a year old greatly increases
their chances of survival. The Turtle Farm is a scientific facility, not
an amusement centre. But if you'd like to see several hundred sea turtles,
ranging in weight from 150g (5oz) to more than 300kg (661lb), this is
the place for you.
Chichen Itza and Tulum
The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, among Mexico’s most photographed
attractions, mesmerize as silent temples to one of the world’s oldest,
most mysterious cultures. Chichen Itza, among Mexico’s largest ruins,
dates to 600 AD, and is anchored by the dramatic Kulkulkan pyramid. Two
cenotes (wells) within the city are Xtoloc, where first inhabitants settled,
and the Sacred or Sacrificial Well, honoring the god Chac, where children,
young girls, and warriors were thrown into deep waters after being purified
at the temazcal (steam bath). Sacred Well exploration has yielded human
skulls and bones, along with jade beads, rings and sandals of gilded copper,
gold bells, and embossed gold disks. Other notable Chichen Itza monuments
are the Chichanchob (Red House) with a red border around its portico;
the two-room Akab Dzib (meaning “obscure writing”); the Nunnery
and Nunnery Annex (for female priests); the Caracol (observatory); the
Temple of the Phalluses; the Temple of the Warriors, and the Group of
the Thousand Columns plaza. At the Ball Court (tlachtli), solid rubber
balls were propelled using the hip, where anyone shooting a ball through
one of the stone hoops was considered a winner, worthy of sacrifice. Walls
decorated in low relief depict elegantly dressed ball players witnessing
the beheading of a teammate. Tulum, a much smaller walled city nearer
Cancun to the south, is the only major Mexican ruin next to the sea, with
a spectacular drop-off overlooking azure waters.
Cozumel – diving capital of Mexico – is an island some 40
miles south of Cancun’s Hotel Zone and can be accessed by frequent
shuttles or by ferry from Playa del Carmen. Check AttractionGuide Cozumel
for its delights.