Explore Cancún: Deep Blue Seas and Mayan History in Mexico
Cancún—meaning "nest of snakes" in Mayan—is a city in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico. A trip to Cancún is very popular with tourists due to the 23-kilometer long sandy beach. Cancún currently has over 628,000 inhabitants. The local currency is the Mexican peso and the official language is Spanish. As recently as the fifties, the Yucatán was a sparsely populated area with several fishing villages until development started in 1970 to turn this area into a tourist metropolis. The majority of the hotel buildings are concentrated on a strip of land, which at a certain time was artificially connected to the mainland. The actual city center lies on the land side. The surroundings of the city are characterized by lush nature and beautiful forests.
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Activities in Cancun: What should you do?
There are so many things to discover on your vacation in Cancún. Here's a brief overview of the best activities and excursions:
Shopping in Cancun
The shops in Cancún are fully equipped for tourists. You will find both high quality boutiques and quaint shops selling souvenirs and traditional folk art.
- Shopping centers: La Isla, Plaza Kukulcan, and Plaza Forum Mall are popular centers with a well-rounded shopping set. You can get brand name clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. If you need a quick snack, there are numerous restaurants.
- Mercado 28: A flea market with local flavor where you can buy handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Luxury Avenue: In this shopping center you can shop for jewelery, watches, and fine clothing - or just marvel at the high-priced goods.
Pirate tip: At flea markets and in smaller owner-operated shops, a good haggle is expected, so bring your best skills to get a good bargain.
Trips to the surrounding areas of Cancún
Cancún is a great place to hang on the beach, but if you want to go on excursions and take part in exciting activities, you'll have to leave the city. We recommend:
- Xplor Adventure Park: For an action-packed day, head to this park near Playa del Carmen. A zipline leads through treetops, you can swim in an underground river, or you can take a tour on land and water with an amphibious vehicle—great fun for families with children as well.
- Xcaret: An ecological-archaeological park, where you can marvel at excavations, diverse fauna, and lush vegetation. In the evening there is music and dancing.
- Cenotes: Cenotes are flooded craters—huge natural pools worshiped by the Mayans as sacred waters. They deserve a closer look, and its possible to swim in some as well.
Museums in Cancun
Vacations in Cancún are perfect for beach bums, but of course there are also cultural offerings. Check out these interesting museums:
- Museo Maya de Cancún: Learn all about the Maya and their culture in this extensive exhibition.
- Museo Sensorial del Tequila: After visiting this museum, you'll know everything you need to know about tequila.
- Museo Subacuático de Arte: A museum with a large exhibition of figurines—all underwater! The exhibits are located on the sea floor and can be viewed by dive or by a glass bottom boat trip.
- Casa de Cultura de Cancún: This museum displays the art of contemporary regional and Mayan artists in a permanent exhibition.
Eat & drink on your Cancun vacation
The cuisine of the Yucatan's is notably much milder than the rest of Mexico, famous for its spicy food. If this is your first visit to Mexico, you can get a taste of the local cuisine in these restaurants:
- Lorenzillo's: This upscale seafood restaurant is known for lobster dishes of all variations.
- Bovino's Churrascaria: This steakhouse is highly prized by locals.
- La Habichuela: The oldest restaurant in Cancún offers Caribbean and Mexican cuisine and fish dishes in a romantic and cozy atmosphere.
Nightlife in Cancun
In Mexico there are plenty of opportunities to go dancing at night. The hottest discos are:
- Bulldog: Hip-Hop, Latin Rock, and the best of the eighties—the style of this nightclub is "funky" and a bit more focused on rock music.
- Coco Bongo: Dance and live shows as well as well-known pop and rock star impersonator. If you want an exuberant party vibe, you're in the right place!
- Dady'O: This prestigious club is also popular with the locals and its geared towards 80s, 90s, and Latino beats, plus live music and DJ sets.
Top tips for your vacation in Cancun
Not surprisingly, a lot of the best activities in Cancún are water-based. Read on for inspiration:
Relax on the dreamy beaches
The long and narrow beaches are made of fine white coral sand, attracting tourists from all over the world throughout the year. There are also many cocktail bars along the beaches to stop for a drink.
Snorkeling and diving
The underwater world off Cancún and Playa del Carmen is colorful and fascinating, so diving is well worth it. The Great Maya Reef is located in the immediate vicinity and rivals Australian reefs in its splendor.
Cancún has several golf courses. If you feel like playing a game or trying out the sport, you can tee off beachside.
Pirates of the Caribbean
The local agency Captain Hook offers rides and dinner shows on original Spanish galleons. A perfect exursion for the kids!
Ballet Folklorico de Cancun
This ensemble performs every night at the convention center and presents a show of traditional Mexican dances.
Discover the most popular attractions in and around Cancun
Since Cancun has been built up as a tourist city for the past several decades, you won't find anyhistoric buildings or significant sites in the city itself. The main attractions of the area are a bit outside the city. Guided day trips can be booked locally or on your own. If you want to have a relaxing vacation and at the same time explore archeological sites and the cultural history of the area, then Cancun is a great place for your vacation.
Pirate tip: In Mexico, it's not always appropriate to take photos. Indigenous people in particular often do not want to be photographed. Please be respectful and ask for permission if you are in doubt.
1. Chichén Itzá:
A visit to the ancient Mayan city with its famous pyramid is a must, if you are interested in the beach life, but also the culture of the indigenous people of the Yucatán, Chichén Itzá. An impressive cenote is one of the highlights.
Tulum is another Mayan city by the sea. A visit to the ruins is definitely worthwhile.
3. Playa del Carmen:
Playa del Carmen is located about 70 kilometers south of Cancun. It is a popular seaside resort and the ferry goes from there to the offshore island of Cozumel regularly. Of interest to extreme athletes: in November every year, the "Iron Man" competition is held here. A detour for diving is also worthwhile: you will find coral reefs, the same that inspired Jacques Cousteau.