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As one of the most popular beach destinations in North America, Cancún, on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, is famous for its 14 miles of white-sand shores, luxury hotels and endless nightlife.
The popular resort destination is expected to attract 5 million visitors this year. Although its turquoise waters are too shallow to welcome cruise ships, it's possible to ferry and bus over from nearby Cozumel, a regular port of call. Be forewarned, however, that the trip will take about two hours in each direction.
Unseen by most day-trippers or by vacationers who don't stray from their resort hotels, downtown Cancún offers a mix of tradition and modernity, and is home to many restaurants, shopping centers and outdoor markets where locals spend their time. Day-trippers will have to watch the clock if they want to visit the famous Maya ruins of Tulúm, Chichen Itzá or Cobá, each of which is up to two hours away. But no worries: Even those with only a few hours to spend in Cancún will find plenty to occupy their time. And the people watching is great!
Cancun has a shallow reef so nearly all ships dock at Cozumel and passengers ferry over. See the ships that call on Cozumel.
While Cancún City is on the mainland, the hotel strip is situated on a narrow, seven-mile-long peninsula shaped like a fish hook, with the open Caribbean on one side and the less scenic Nichupte Lagoon on the other. Most water-sport activity takes place on the ocean side, with virtually every resort, as well as scores of independent operators, offering windsurfing, parasailing, jet-skiing, kayaking and other active pursuits. Fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving require a boat trip, and there are many rewarding options from which to choose . Championship golf courses overlooking the Caribbean and eco-parks with underground rivers and cavern tours are also popular draws.
Showcasing everything from traditional Mexican cuisine downtown to chic bistros and upscale international restaurants, the Cancún dining scene is nothing if not diverse. Simply Seafood, on Boulevard Kukulcán, serves off the boat seafood in traditional Caribbean style. Salt features Mediterranean cuisine from a wood burning oven, with tables that overlook the ocean. Puerto Madero is an Argentine restaurant specializing in steak, seafood and specialties such as serves a fusion of Spanish cuisines. Menu highlights are the spicy beef empanadas, lobster tail and grilled ribeye Madero. Pik Nik is a wonderful and inexpensive lunch spot serving up homemade localized Mexican dishes such as fish tacos and ceviche.
The most efficient way to get around Cancún is by taxi. They are plentiful, but make sure a price in negotiated before taking off. There are also public buses that have frequent stops throughout the downtown and Hotel Zone areas.
ADO is the main inter-city bus carrier serving the Yucatán Peninsula. It offers regular service from Playa del Carmen, where the ferry from Cozumel docks, to Cancún. The ferry takes about 45 minutes and the bus ride is about an hour. The cost for both for one adult round trip is about $30.
The other way to get from Cozumel to Cancún and back is an airline called MayaAir. It costs about $130 round trip and takes 15 minutes.
Cancún has a tropical climate characterized by warm year-round temperatures, high humidity and a pronounced rainy season. The average annual temperature stays around 80.8° F. You can expect a gentle breeze from the ocean to keep you comfortable, but dress comfortably when visiting ruins because the temperatures rise as you go inland. The tropical storm season lasts from May through December, with peak precipitation in September.
The best times to visit Cancun are in the late winter and early spring, when humidity and rainfall are at a minimum. Late June is especially hot, so come prepared if you try the off season. Hurricanes can be a major threat in late summer and autumn.
Yes, you can drink the water so long as your hotel or restaurant has a water purification system. If in doubt, order bottled water or stick to soda or beer and go without ice.
The sun's UV rays are extremely strong in Cancún, even on cloudy days. Sunscreens that may be adequate elsewhere may not be sufficient in Cancún. Always apply a fresh layer of sunscreen after taking a dip in the ocean.
In the water: Be aware that, depending on the season, ocean currents can be treacherously strong.
On the streets: Don’t use non-bank ATMs. Watch out for pickpockets, especially on the local buses.
Hucksters: “Tourist information” is often code for timeshare offers. A free tour is usually a sales pitch to buy.
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“Take the tour from Cancun to Chichen Itza. It's an all-day trip but worth it for the transportation there — over 125 miles. Don't expect to climb to the top as it is no longer allowed.”
San Jose Mercury News