Cancún. City in Mexico, North America


City in Mexico, North America

Cancún Photo © BORIS G

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Avenida Yaxchilan in
	Cancún, Mexico
Avenida Yaxchilan in Cancún, Mexico. Photo by Matthew T Rader
Cancún is located in Mexico on the southeastern side, in the Yucatan Peninsula in what is known as the state of Quintana Roo (Wikipedia
	Article). It is near the part of the coast known as Riviera Maya, and is an area that is particularly popular with tourists and locals alike.

History of Cancún

What was originally inhabited by Mayans, is now a bustling city full of restaurants, shopping, tourist destinations, and things to see. Cancún originally, possibly, translated to “point of grass” but the true translation is not known. However, in Mayan translation it could also mean “Enchanted Snake” which is the Mayan version of the word ‘Cankun’.

There weren't many Mayans left after a variety of tragic occurrences such as disease, famine, warfare, and piracy after the Conquest.

Made up of pristine jungles, beaches, marshes, and mangroves, Cancún was a place that very few people knew about until a few decades ago; it was a deserted island that was as beautiful as it was mysterious. It is the home to numerous Mayan ruins and only had exotic animals as its inhabitants after the Mayans disappeared. In fact, it wasn't until 1970 that the area was developed and until then, there were a total of three inhabitants. By 1974 the first tourism project was started by the city and the National Fund for Tourism Development.

During preparations for the Olympics, Mexico formed a National Plan of Tourism in 1968. This was enacted to stimulate tourism to the area and having an island that was a paradise would be the perfect place for this. The first hotel was built on the island in 1972 and from that point on, Cancún because a top destination spot with over three million tourists visiting each year.

Interestingly enough, in the 90s and 2000s, Cancún was an area controlled by the drug cartels known as Juarez (Wikipedia Article) and including the Gulf Drug Cartels and still is a trafficking area throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

However, overall this is a safe area if you use precaution. Even with the drug cartel activity, tourists are rarely targeted and as long as you use precaution, this is a beautiful and exciting place to visit, which leads to the next part, things to do in Cancún.

 - Cancún
Cancún Beach. . Photo by Mardetanha

Things to Do in Cancún

Whether you enjoy culture, nature, shopping, water sports, or relaxing on a beach, Cancún has all of that to offer and more.

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza
For those who enjoy exploration and local culture, a trip to Chichen Itza is the opportunity of a lifetime to see the largest Mayan archaeological site and one of the most well-known landmarks in the entire country of Mexico. Just a short boat ride away and still in the Quinatana Roo area, it's not to be missed. There are numerous other ruins that are available to visit while in Cancún. Chichen Itza may be the most well-known and famous, Tulum is another area of Mayan ruins that has a lot to offer, including a nearby beach.

For another look at the natural beauty and history of Cancún, the island of Isla Mujeres (Wikipedia Article), which means ‘Island of Women’, features sea turtles, tours, and even the ruins of a 19th century mansion which has a questionable history that includes the slave trader owner's death.

If you want to really see some of the animals, sea creatures, and insects of Mexico then Xcaret is an ideal destination. It features the largest Eco-park in North America and you can spend an entire day there and still not experience everything there is to do. There are cultural shows, authentic food, and plenty of up-close and personal experiences with animals and aquatic creatures. There is even a butterfly pavilion that rivals any other in the world.

For a relaxing time on the beach, Playa Tortugas offers pristine beaches, crystal clear water, and an atmosphere that is calming and relaxing. Cancún is also home to amazing coral reefs with the Belize Barrier Reef (part of the Mesoamerican Reef Project), which is the second largest in the world with the Great Barrier Reef only being larger. Scuba diving is a top rated experience and you can even see the Cancún MUSA Underwater Museum which is home to submerged sculptures which propagate corals.

There are also many water sports activities to do in Cancún as well as excursions that allow you to experience everything in a guided and safe environment. There are jungle tours, sailing and boat charters, pirate ships and dinner cruises, fishing, jet skiing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming.

Along with exploration and relaxing, Cancún offers shopping. From flea markets and souvenirs to designer labels and high-end boutiques, there's something for everyone and every budget. For instance, Market 28 is the flea market where you can find handcrafted items and art. For those wanting to visit many stores, Plaza Las Americas has over 50 stores including three large department stores.

 - Cancún
Cancún Beach. . Photo by unknown

Laguna Grill -
Laguna Grill - Cancún. Photo by Jeremy T. Hetzel

Food and Drinks in Cancún

While Mexican food may be the staple in Cancún, there is everything for every palate. You can find international and local cuisine alike. However, Yucatan flavors combine Mexican and European flavors for a unique take on typical Mexican food.

The drinks range from everything you're familiar with to tropical drinks that you'll find in most Caribbean locations such as mojitos, pina coladas, tequila sunrises, and margaritas. Of course, you'll find plenty of mescal and tequila no matter where you go.

There numerous bars, dives, and cheaper alternatives but for a night out on the town, Cancún has the distinction of boasting Five Diamond Restaurants by AAA. These fine dining restaurants offer everything from Italian and seafood to Mexican and Oriental. In fact, you can even find Argentinean, American, Caribbean, Continental, Indian, and Thai food as well. No matter what you choose, the prices range from nominal up to extravagant depending on where you choose to eat.

The Weather in Cancún

The weather in Cancún is similar to most of the Caribbean weather – hot, humid, and tropical. The average temperature is around 73° Fahrenheit (23° Celsius) in the winter and 82° Fahrenheit (28° Celsius) in the summer. It does get a lot of rainfall and it does get hurricanes although the most severe hurricane activity happens about once every decade. Still, this is something to keep in mind when planning your vacation. Hurricane season runs from June 1st until November 15th each year but was originally shorter in this 1950s before there were Hurricane Reconnaissance Planes to determine the activity of these storms. Do keep in mind though that winter may be the best time to go since it is not only the off-season for hurricanes but it is not as hot. Yet, it is still warm enough to enjoy tropical weather even when it's snowing back home.

Sunrise over Cancun
	Beach - Cancún
Sunrise over Cancun Beach - Cancún. Photo by Shutter Runner

Things to Keep in Mind When Visiting Cancún

As with any destination, there are things to keep in mind so that you stay safe and enjoy your visit. Cancún is a pretty safe place to visit but it is a city with thousands of tourists and locals so as with any other place you're not familiar with, be aware of your surroundings. There isn't much crime in this area even with the mention of the drug trade earlier. However, stay away from dark streets or alleys, don't wander around the beach at night when you're alone, and as with any place, don't show off your money by flashing it around.

Don't go to areas you are not familiar with or down streets or areas of town that are off of the main path unless you are with a tour guide. This includes venturing out of the main part of Cancún and into what is known as the “real” Mexico.

Cancún is closer to the equator than many tourists might be used to. This means that you'll burn faster so always wear waterproof sunscreen so that you don't get a bad sunburn and ruin your entire trip.

While it's fun to indulge in the many adult beverages Cancún has to offer, don't drink too much that you lose your sense of better judgment. Always stay with a crowd and never venture out alone with someone you do not know personally. By the way, the legal drinking age in Cancún is eighteen and above.

Sunset -
Sunset - Cancún. Photo by Luis García S
Know the Flag Warning System. The beaches can be dangerous during certain conditions and even the strongest swimmers can get into trouble. The colors vary with a white flag being the safest but no matter how much you may think that not being able to swim will ruin your trip, don't swim at all if you see a red or black flag. Even knee deep water can be dangerous in these conditions because of the undertow which can sweep you right off of your feet and lead you out to where you cannot swim back in. These are typically red flags while sometimes a black flag can mean dangerous sea animals such as sharks. Check with your hotel to be sure of the color coded system.

While the water is mostly safe to drink and most is purified, bottled water is always your best bet when in doubt. You can always ask to be sure if you are in a restaurant or hotel by saying, “Auga purificada, por favor,” which means, “Purified water, please.”

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that in Cancún, traffic has the right of way, not pedestrians so be careful when crossing any roadway or walking along the road. You can find transportation easily with a taxi service and most excursions include transportation by bus. Ferries are a way to travel to other islands and surrounding areas such as Chichen Itza and Tulum.

No matter what you do in Cancún, it has something for everyone. Whether you love relaxing or you are a thrill-seeker, you can find both and on top of all of the fun you can have, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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Author: Karsun. Last updated: Jan 18, 2015

Pictures of Cancún

Sunset at Laguna Nichupté - Cancún
Sunset at Laguna Nichupté - Cancún. Photo by Lucy Nieto


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