Just a dot on the map before 1970, Cancún is now the biggest resort in the Caribbean. Its Hotel Zone occupies a huge, narrow sand spit shaped like a giant “7.” Over on the mainland lies the fast-growing town of Ciudad Cancún, also known as Downtown. All along Boulevard Kukulcán are hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and visitor attractions, including some excellent museums and atmospheric Mayan sites.
Visitor Information: kiosks inside Town Hall; (998) 881 9000; www.cancun.travel
El Rey Site: open 8am–5pm daily; adm $2.75
El Meco Site: open 8am–4pm daily; adm $4
Museo Maya: Blvd Kukulcán, km 16.5; (998) 885 3842; open 9am–6pm Tue–Sun; adm $6
Museo Subacuático de Arte: Blvd Kukulcán, km 15.3; (998) 848 8312; open 9am–5pm daily; adm varies
Cancún’s greatest glory is made up of fine white silicate sand that is soft and some-how always cool despite the warmth of the sun. There are several public access points from Boulevard Kukulcán. The north side of the “7” is best for swimming; the eastern beaches have more crashing waves.
Cancún is a shopaholic’s heaven, where visitors will find everything from Mexican souvenirs in the markets of Downtown to international fashion in the vast, gleaming malls of the Hotel Zone, such as the exclusive waterside development of La Isla.
The hub of the more Mexican part of Ciudad Cancún is tree-lined Avenida Tulum. It’s a good spot for a stroll, and its cafés and restaurants are more tranquil than those by the beach.
Over 500 statues, created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, are viewed via scuba-diving, snorkelling, or on a glass-bottomed boat.
This beautiful museum is dedicated to the ancient Mayan civilization. Right next to the striking modern building that houses it is an archaeological site called San Miguelito with plenty to explore.
A water park, Wet'n Wild has slides and rides of all sizes for all ages, a snorkeling pool with stingrays and (harmless) sharks, and even bungee-jumping.
These structures were part of a city that was prominent in the last centuries of Mayan civilization, just before the Spanish Conquest. Close to the site is a re-creation of a Mayan village, giving visitors a feel for the Mayan way of life, including traditional cooking.
Near the Isla Mujeres ferry ports, the city of El Meco dates back to AD 300. An impressive pyramid and the remains of an opulent Mayan palace can be seen.
The placid lagoon enclosed by Cancún Island offers more tranquility than the ocean, and is a favorite place for watersports. To the west are mangroves and jungle.
Cancún’s nightlife is most concentrated in the “Corazón” but it extends all the way to Ciudad Cancún. A non-stop party atmosphere is maintained in clubs varying from Mexican traditional to modern cool.
The Dreams hotel at the tip of Punta Cancún is where Cancún started back in 1971, when it opened as the first hotel on the island. The rest of the “7” was then empty except for trees, dunes, and a very few beach houses and fishing lodges. Since then, Cancún has acquired over 32,000 hotel rooms.