Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

TripBlog
Sep 22, 2021

Established as a tourist destination in the early 1970s, Cancun has risen to prominence, alongside Acapulco, as the premiere resort town in all Mexico. Beachgoers from around the world come to experience Cancun's white sands and blue Caribbean waters, its steamy nightlight and luxurious resorts. Discover what makes this such a perennially popular destination. In this guide, we'll introduce you to some great things Cancun has to offer and offer our recommendations for making the most of your Cancun vacation.

Contents

1) Arrival and Accommodations
2) General Location and Layout
3) Beaches and Attractions
Playa Delfines and More
Mayan Culture
Cancun Underwater Museum
4) Mexican Culture in Central Cancun
5) Fabulous Day-Trips around Cancun
Chichen Itza
Tulum
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Cancun is much more than a place for beach bums and partygoers. The region contains amazing Maya archaeological sites, fabulous shopping, and of course, delicious foods. When planning your Cancun adventure, it’s best to allot yourself several days. Consider mixing visits to the beach with day-trips to archaeological sites to provide yourself with a well-rounded experience. Mexico does not have significant COVID-19 travel restrictions. Visitors from the United States, Canada, and elsewhere can readily travel to Cancun.

1) Arrival and Accommodations

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Visitors arriving in Mexico from abroad simply need to fill out a standard health questionnaire, which can be done online prior to departure or when you arrive. At the time of writing, Mexico's land border with the United States remains closed to non-essential traffic. However, overland transportation to Cancun is not practical owing to the distances involve. As before, flying remains the best way to get yourself down to the sunny Yucatan.

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

In the vast majority of cases, travelers will find arrival easiest via Cancun International Airport. CUN's modern terminal serves a regional hub and gateway to other impressive Yucatan destinations. Once you arrive, it's easy to find transport to central Cancun or to the resort area in the hotel zone. As regards hotels and accommodations, prices vary with proximity to the beach. If you plan to stay in the hotel zone, you might check out Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun for a truly memorable resort experience. Travelers hoping to save a bit on their hotel stay should look towards central Cancun. The Ramada or Four Points are great budget alternatives.

2) General Location and Layout

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Cancun is essentially two cities separated by a large body of a water. The hotel zone is the main resort and tourist area. It's located on a narrow island connected to the rest of the city by major roadways. A 7-mile stretch of essentially uninterrupted white sand beaches and top-notch resort accommodations are the principle attractions in the hotel zone. Visitors staying here will have no problem entertaining themselves by indulging in a bit of the Cancun resort life. Room rates in the hotel zone naturally tend to run a bit higher than in the central city. Downtown Cancun features large residential blocks arranged in geometric patterns. These blocks contain densely packed housing along with shopping, restaurants, and other establishments. As Cancun has continued to expand over the years, the city is essentially growing to the northwest.

3) Beaches and Attractions

Playa Delfines and More

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

No matter where you're staying, the beaches along the hotel zone are among the best in the world. The magnificent Caribbean climate coupled with the long stretches of white sands and sparkling blue waters make Cancun a resort destination like few other. When you visit, you will recognize why the region has captivated travelers for years. Playa Delfines is a public beach and is accessible even to those not staying in the hotel zone. This is a favorite location to visit at sunset. If you’re in the mood for a long stroll, try walking north along the beach up to Playa Gaviota Azul. There at the tip of the peninsula you can snap some photos of Punta Cancun Lighthouse. There are plenty of places to stop along the way for a cocktail or a bite to eat and the whole experience will doubtlessly leave you marveling at your surroundings.

Mayan Culture

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

After you've had your fill of sun and sand, we very much recommend visiting Cancun's several excellent museums. The Maya were prevalent on the Yucatan Peninsula and Cancun houses some of the best-preserved artifacts from this period. The Mayan Museum set along the hotel zone is a modern museum with a truly stunning collection. It offers stunning ocean views that complement the experience and add to the sense of wonder. The relics on display tell the story of the Maya and help visitors appreciate the region's long history and rich culture. Admission to the museum includes entrance to the adjoining archeological site San Miguelito. Here you can wander among Maya ruins and get a sense for their building techniques and architectures. A bit further north are the El Rey Ruins featuring the relics of a Maya temple and ceremonial platforms. You can easily combine a visit to the Mayan Museum, San Miguelito, and the El Rey Ruins.

Cancun Underwater Museum

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

For a truly unique museum-going experience, don't pass up the opportunity to visit the Cancun Underwater Museum. Here you can snorkel through an innovative underwater sculpture garden that was created in part to help preserve the coral reefs surrounding Cancun. The museum provides a dedicated place for visitors to explore the clear waters without damaging the region's fragile underwater ecosystem. The Cancun Underwater Museum features over 500 sculptures arranged within two separate sections of the Cancun National Marine Park. It's an unforgettable experience as you dive into the blue and watch the forms emerge and appear to dance in the light.

4) Mexican Culture in Central Cancun

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Cancun City proper sits across the narrow waterway separating it from the hotel zone. This is where you will find the best shopping experiences and local culture. Mercado 23 is a large local market with many different vendors. It's primarily a food market, which means it's a great place to buy some fresh produce or sample some delicious local foods. Those looking more for gifts and wares should try nearby Mercado 28, which is a long running flee market. The market's maze of vendors is fun to explore as much for the authentic sights and sounds as for the chance to find a great gift or souvenir. Head inside while still shopping with the locals at the Plaza Las Americas. This indoor shopping center might provide welcome relief from the sun and heat. You can also save it as an option in case of rain, which can occur frequently in Cancun’s tropical climate. Even if you’re not the shopping type, exploring downtown Cancun is a reward unto itself.

5) Fabulous Day-Trips around Cancun

Chichen Itza

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

For all Cancun has to offer, there is even more waiting for you in the regions just beyond. Depending on how much time you have, you should try to visit at least a few of these places. Chichen Itza is a couple hours' drive from Cancun and one of Mexico's most well-known archeological sites. The city dates to the pre-Columbian period and is one of the largest known Maya cities. The preserved temples are world-famous and awe-inspiring. Make sure to visit the famous El Castillo. There are few better places grasp the advances made by Mayan civilization.

Tulum

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Tulum is located south of Cancun. Erected at the height of the Mayan Empire, Tulum's costal ruins are beautifully set on the seaside cliffs. Let the ocean breezes waft over you as you're transported back in time. Visiting Tulum also provides a great chance to stop at Cenotes Dos Ojos. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that form when underground water causes the limestone to collapse, creating stunning natural depressions. Depending on the particular Cenotes, it's often permitted to swim or venture into the underground areas. Cenotes are closely associated with the Yucatan and really are something to behold. It's a magical experience when light streams in from above to create intricate patterns and shapes on the cave walls.

Cozumel and Isla Mujeres

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Isla Mujeres is the old fishing town located not far from Cancun. Life in Isla Mujeres moves at a bit slower pace and can be a nice spot if you need a vacation while on vacation. Don’t miss the chance to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery. Wading in the water with these amazing creatures will give you a completely new perspective and bring joy to your heart. You might also take the opportunity to daytrip over to Cozumel Island. This island is normally a favorited port of call for regional cruise lines. San Miguel de Cozumel is the main city with much of the rest of the island remaining largely undeveloped.

Cancún: A Guide to Mexico's Caribbean Resort Paradise

Whether you long for some fun in the sun, or the chance to explore Mexico's amazing cultural history, Cancun is one of those can't-miss destinations. There is plenty there for people of all ages. Pack some sunscreen and come discover why they call Cancun the Glistening City.