Cancun

Cancun's beautiful beaches and innumerable fun spots make it a go-to destination for tourists and business people; Cancun played host to more than 5 million visitors last year. In 2015, business tourism in Cancun increased by 100 percent and now accounts for one-fifth of its tourist trade.

The tropical climate is hot and humid throughout the year. Late June is the hottest time of the year and the water stays quite warm all year long. Summer and autumn can bring hurricanes, so trip insurance might alleviate some of the disappointment of a cancelled vacation.

History of Cancun

  • The Mayans settled this beautiful area around 200 B.C. and called it Nizuc, which means promontory.
  • It was conquered in 1516 by Francisco de Montejo.
  • Juan de Dios Gonzales, a Spanish map maker, documented its location in 1776.
  • The pirates controlled its waterways until the 19th century.
  • All were captivated by this island's amazing turquoise blue waters and incredible plants and animals.

Cancun history obscures the actual origin of the name Cancun; it may have been Mayan. However, the island's reputation as a resort began in January, 1970. This was at the behest of the Mexican president, who wanted to make a tourist mecca that would outshine Acapulco.

Since investors were reluctant to invest in this remote and relatively unknown island, the Mexican government financed the first several hotels, one of which was the Hyatt Cancun Caribe. In 1974, the first hotel opened and currently, there are more than 300 hotels on the island. Cancun can provide lodging for more than 24,000 people and lodging is available in every price range.

Cancun Aerial View

© f. ermert - Aerial View of Cancun Beaches

The Cancun Project had a master plan with three construction objectives:

  1. An international airport on the southern part of the island;
  2. A tourist zone with hotels, shopping, marinas, golf courses, and so forth;
  3. A residential zone with housing, schools, shopping, medical facilities, and so forth, for permanent residents.

In 1974, Cancun became a project in the National Fund for Tourism Development and has since transformed from being an obscure fishing village to one of Mexico's most famous resorts.

Cancun Hotels

© f. ermert - Hotels Lined Up on Cancun Beach

Cancun Attractions

Cancun has one of the largest reef systems in the world, comprised of about 25 percent of the world's sea life. Extending for more than 600 miles, the Great Maya Reef is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. More than 500 species of sea life and 65 varieties of coral are known to inhabit the Great Maya Reef. Unfortunately, tourism is damaging this incredible habitat so it has become protected by international law.

Mesoamerican Reef

© Thomas Wiborg - Turtle Swimming in the Mesoamerican Reef

Aquaworld Cancun provides scuba lessons as well as diving trips, fishing, parasailing, swimming with the sharks or dolphins, and many more activities for visitors of all ages.

Xel-Ha Park has the largest natural aquarium in the world, and the most beautiful, according to some. Activities include swimming, exploring Mayan ruins, kite flying, bike riding, relaxing in the seaside hammocks, and more. Xel-Ha has a children's area and a buffet restaurant.

Xel-Ha Park

© Tommy Chang - View of Xel-Ha Park

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Chichen Itza has the largest Mayan ruins in the area and dates back to 750 A.D. Its variety of architectural styles indicate that it was inhabited by many different types of people. The Chichen Itza Light and Sound Show Tour is not to be missed, and children of all ages will surely be delighted by the Captain Hook Tour.

Chichen Itza

© Paul Simpson - Chichen Itza

Isla Mujeres, or Isle of Women, is a great destination for shopping or relaxing, with its peaceful beaches and relaxed ambiance. Boating, windsurfing, sunbathing, shopping, or dining, offer spectacular entertainment and is great for families on a budget. The Catamaran Tour and the Tortugranja, or Turtle Farm, will delight the youngsters and the adults, and golfing aficionados are sure to love the spectacular golf courses.

Isla Mujeres Cliffs

© Alistair Edmondson - Cliffs on Isla Mujeres

Playa Tortugas provides some of the best beaches in the area and the water is much calmer than some of the beaches, making it ideal for rafting. The many area restaurants provide cuisine for all tastes. Considered a hangout for locals, Playa Tortugas has excellent shopping and street entertainment. Playa Tortugas is free, which can be a boon for those on a budget.

Playa Tortugas, Cancun

© Shinya Suzuki - Playa Tortugas, Cancun

The Interactive Aquarium, located in La Isla Shopping Center, is a great family destination with touch tanks, shark feeding, and swims with the dolphins. Educational and fun, the younger set can be impressed by the sea dwellers. The Interactive Aquarium accepts only pesos or credit cards, no American dollars, and special attractions can cost extra.

Interactive Aquarium

© Liz Brooks - Fish at the Interactive Aquarium

Additional family friendly attractions in Cancun include:

  • Coco Bongo Cancun Tour, which lasts five hours
  • Subsee Explorer Tour, a two hour event
  • Sunrise Marina Jungle Tour, lasting two hours
  • Dolphinaris' Dolphin Interactive Program, one hour duration
  • Dolphin Trainer for a Day Platinum Tour, lasting all day
  • Dolphin Swim and Ride Tour, approximately one hour
  • Garrafon Adventure Tour, lasting all day
  • Xichen Deluxe Tour, which includes the Cancun Scenic Tour, and lasts all day
  • Jolly Roger Pirate Show Tour, duration about four hours
  • Xoximilco Tour, which includes the Cancun Scenic Tower, and lasts about four hours

Those without children might enjoy visiting the Cenotes and enjoying some scuba diving among the spectacular sea life that is native to the area. The Reef and Shipwreck Snorkeling Tour, lasting approximately four hours, provides a boat tour and guided diving among shipwrecks and colorful sea creatures.

Xcaret at Night provides afternoon access to Xcaret's many natural attractions, and nightfall provides traditional dances, music, costumes and more, at the Gran Tlachco Theater. Traditional Mexican folkloric entertainment is enthralling and provides a musical history of the country.

Xcaret at Night

© Beth and Anth - Xcaret at Night

Those with an interest in archaeology might enjoy Viator's exclusive tour of the Tulum ruins with a professional archaeologist. This tour lasts all day and isn't recommended for young children.

Ruins at Tulum

© Greg Willis - Ruins at Tulum

Cirque du Soleil provides an incredible dinner theater experience, complete with champagne, while watching their show about an alchemist and his daughter. The tale is tailored to the history of Cancun; transportation to the show is provided.

 

Cirque du Soleil Act

© Don Voaklander - Cirque du Soleil Act

 

Cancun Beaches

Cancun is famous for its pristine beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. Some areas have calmer water than others, which might be a factor for those intending to dive or raft.

Some of the best beaches for diving or snorkeling include:

  • Punta Nizuc, which is at the southern edge of the island
  • Isla Mujeres, abundantly populated with sea turtles
  • The Underwater Museum of Cancun
  • Cozumel, with abundant coral reefs
  • Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay

© Mitchel - Half Moon Bay Beach

Additional beautiful beaches in Cancun include:

  • Puerto Morelos
  • Tulum Ruins Beach
  • Playa Delfines
  • North Beach
  • Playa Chac Mool
  • Playa Forum
  • Playa Tortugas
Puerto Morelos Beach

© Stephen Rees - Puerto Morelos Beach

Cancun Travel

Peak tourist season in Cancun is from December through April and the airfare and accommodation rates are the most expensive during those months. Those wanting to visit Cancun on a budget can visit from May through November at a substantially reduced rate.

Accommodations are structured toward the tourist trade and are in proximity to the buses, restaurants, and the resort hotels. For a vacation with more local than commercial flavor, Merida is a good option, with ample and excellent accommodations.

View of Merida

© Lucy Nieto - View of Merida

The Cancun International Airport is the second busiest airport in Mexico and has links to many major airlines in the Americas, as well as the UK and many European carriers. Luggage carriers are outside and can get luggage from the carousel to the transport.

Taxicabs, sedans, vans, or SUV's can provide transportation from the airport to the hotel or other accommodation. City taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport and one who tries to do that may not be legitimate.

Buses operate regularly between downtown and the airport and are the safest and most cost-effective method of transportation. A taxicab from the airport to a hotel can be prohibitively expensive; a better alternative is a bus from the airport to the bus station and then a taxi from the bus station to the hotel.

Cancun Bus

© kitty meets goat - Bus from Cancun Airport

Autobuses de Oriente and AutoCentro are the two main bus services in Cancun. Both operate on a regular schedule and charter service is available. Buses are best for traveling within the city, they are inexpensive and provide regular, frequent service. If a bus is full, it may be best to wait for the next one due to pickpocketing concerns. Buses aren't equipped with air conditioning or padded seats, and drivers may speak limited English.

Taxi service is available but more expensive than buses and there may be several passengers on board. Cars are expensive to rent and somewhat unpredictable. Mechanical malfunctions may necessitate a bribe if the driver is stopped by police. Additional insurance will probably be required.

Cabs in Cancun

© Shinya Suzuki - Cabs in Cancun

Cancun Hotels

Cancun offers some spectacular hotels in all price ranges. Some of the highest ranked resort and spa facilities include:

  • Le Blanc Spa Resort
  • Nizuc Resort and Spa
  • Secrets The Vine Cancun
  • Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun
  • Hyatt Zilara Cancun
  • Sun Palace
  • Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun
Live Aqua Resort Cancun

© Shutter Runner - Live Aqua Resort Cancun

For those on a more limited budget, the following lodgings, all rated four out of five stars, may be appealing:

  • Emporior Hotel & Suites Cancun
  • Villas Marlin
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites
  • Cancun Bay Resort
  • Omni Cancun Resort & Villas
Omni Resort Cancun

© Andrea Lee - Omni Resort Cancun

Cancun Off the Beaten Path

Cancun offers some unique experiences, especially for those who veer from the traditional tourist fare.

  • Cancun Underwater Museum: Over 450 life-sized statues are at a depth of 13 to 30 feet and are best observed by snorkeling or scuba diving.
  • Isla Contoy Bird Watching: One of Mexico's most important nesting sites, Isla Contoy has over 150 species of birds. Visitors are welcome on a limited basis, so advance arrangements are recommended.
  • Puerto Morelos: A sleepy fishing village just south of Cancun, Puerto Morelos has fantastic beaches and jungles.
  • Valladoid: About 100 miles west of Cancun, Valledoid was once home to the Vaccaei, an ancient Celtic tribe. The area has incredible cathedrals, monuments, and shopping.
  • Herradura Tequila Sensory Museum: For lessons in the history and the making of tequila, visit the Herradura Tequila Sensory Museum.
  • Xoximilco Cancun: This festive town features boats that were once transport vehicles. A variety of folklorico entertainment will delight all ages.
Frigatebird on Isla Contoy

© Michael Klotz - Frigatebird on Isla Contoy

Facts About Cancun

  • Cancun's beaches extend more than 14 miles.
  • Don't drink the water. Hotels and restaurants have filtration systems so their water is safe.
  • The white sand beaches, cool to the touch, are from crushed coral.
  • Cancun has more than 240 days of sunshine every year.
  • The three largest underwater caves in the world are located in Cancun.
  • Almost 50,000 weddings are performed annually.
  • The hotel zone is on a peninsula shaped like the number seven.
  • More than $71 million dollars were spent restoring the beach damage from the 2005 Hurricane Wilma.
  • Cancun is responsible for almost half of Mexico's tourism revenue.