Cancun Travel Guide


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.

Isla Cancún
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.

Avenida Tulum
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.

Isla Mujeres
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.

Paseo Kukulcan
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.

Teatro Cancun
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.

Isla Contoy
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 brackish ponds.

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.

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