It took only 4 years to transform a small Mexican fishing community into the country’s most popular beach resort and most likely about 4-minutes before it was awash with US and European travelers filling up the flash all-inclusive resorts, lazing on the glorious beaches and partying until there is no tomorrow. Spread out along the Yucatan Peninsula, and located on the north end of the Riviera Maya, Cancun is Las Vegas and Ibiza’s San AntonioBay rolled in to one. It’s the biggest Spring Break destination on the planet, where days of water sports and sun worshipping are matched by nights of relentless hedonism and the opportunity to let go of all inhibitions.
Cancun brings in up to 4million tourists per year, mostly from the US, and it is easy to see why as, although being a brash in-your-face destination, the magnificent beaches and boundless amenities are instantly likeable. This is first and foremost a self-styled party town and it is likely that it won’t appeal to everyone. Yet behind the commercial façade are traces of pre-1974 Cancun. You’ll need to pull out all the stops, but delve deeper and it is possible to stumble across traditional salsa dancehalls, cheap as chips taco stands, a token folk-art museum and threadbare beach shacks serving cool beers and seafood snacks. Moreover, it is not all about all-inclusive chain hotels, as in amongst the mass of resorts are a host of budget backpackers hostels and a handful of family-run guesthouses, ideal for those looking for more of the Yucatan experience to go along with the 24-hour entertainment.
Things to do in
Cancun Water Sports - There are two main reasons for coming to Cancun and if you are not dancing the night away then chances are you’ll be hitting the beaches and taking part in the abundance of water sports activities. Even though many are dominated by large hotels, all of the powdery white sandy beaches are for public use and the warms waters make for superb water based activities. This is the place to swim, snorkel, ride inflatable bananas, jet ski and go deep sea fishing.
Aquaworld run popular snorkeling tours to Punta Nizuc, which involves riding a small speedboat through the lagoon before hitting the reef. For jet skiing and parasailing just take a stroll along the beach to find hoards of touts and tour operators. A fun way to explore what lies beneath is on a BOB Submarine, a Breathing Observation Bubble that functions like an underwater scooter. For diving and PADI courses check out Scuba Cancun and Manta Divers. There are also plenty of opportunities for whale shark swimming, fishing trips and dolphin tours off Isla Mujeres.
La Casa del Arte Popular Mexicano - For a little culture and a break from the beach check out this small but well thought out museum showcasing Mexican folk art. Amongst many exhibits are musical instruments, traditional costumes and a replica village market. Open daily from 9am to 7pm.
Mayan RuinsCancun - Although not the most exciting Mayan monuments in Mexico the two ruins in Cancun’s Hotel Zone are still definitely worth checking out. One is the Yamil Lu’um, the old remains of temple walls, and the other is Zona Arqueologica El Rey, a small temple surrounded by a handful of ceremonial stages.
Cancun Nightlife - You don’t need to go far to find somewhere to eat, drink and party in Cancun, whether it is within an all-inclusive hotel resort or amongst the hundreds of bars and restaurants dominating the town. This is Spring Break capital and the town is forever swamped with groups of college students from the US and an increasing number of European travellers. Venues range in style from swanky lounges to beachfront shacks to relentless party bars tempting revellers with drinking games and all-you-can-drink deals.
Corona Bar - Classic party bar with heavy boozing, table top dancing and a casual, almost non-existent, dress code.
Senor Frogs - The ultimate Cancun party bar and usually the first point of call for Spring Breakers.
The Lobby Lounge - Elegant piano bar at the Ritz Carlton, ideal for those after a more refined evening.
Cancun Pub Crawl
Bulldog Cafe - Cancun’s rock and roll mecca with al-inclusive drinking and staff in skimpy bikinis.
Coco Bongo - Huge, modern disco with live shows and playing a diverse selection of music.
Dady O - Another busy spot incorporating a nightclub, sports bar and live shows.
The City - Enormous nightclub and famous laser show pulling in locals and vacationers alike.
Budget Hotels Cancun
Hostal Mayapan - Friendly hostel in amongst Cancun’s hotel zone. Tel (52) 998 883 3227.
Hostel Mundo Joven - Large, clean hostel in the heart of Cancun. Rates include breakfast. Tel (52) 998 898 2103.
Hostel Quetzal - Very popular hostel where rates include dinner and breakfast. Worth booking advance. Tel (52) 998 883 9821.
Midrange Hotels Cancun
El Rey del Caribe - Eco friendly hotel offering bright rooms with small kitchens and pleasant pool. Tel (52) 998 884 2028.
Grand Royal Lagoon - Good value resort and restaurant in the hotel zone. Tel (52) 998 883 2899.
Luxury Hotels Cancun
Ritz Carlton Cancun - The epitome of luxury with superb off-season packages. Tel (52) 998 881 0808.
Westin Resort & Spa - Stylish and contemporary hotel in a quiet area with its own lagoon beach. Tel (52) 998 848 7400.