Cancún offers something for everyone. Here are our top tips on how to enjoy your Cancún vacation.
BE THE MARGARITA
It’s a simple truth: When you come to Cancún you will have a margarita…maybe several. Those staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún can do the ubiquitous cocktail one better: They can bathe in one. Yep, guests who are tired of the typical varieties of the cocktail (or are recovering from an overdose of same) can order a “margarita bath.” The tub is filled with soothing, therapeutic saltwater, and the rim is lined with sea salt, just like on the edge of a margarita glass. Cleanliness is next to…
Find a beach and stop to do nothing but enjoy the semitropical climate, the unbroken stretches of pristine white sand, and the crystalline turquoise water that are, together, the reason the Mexican government selected Cancún for tourist development back in the late 1960s. There’s a beach for every taste here. Like to tan with a bartender and a cool glass nearby? Then stick to the resorts at Playa Tortugas or Playa Chacmool. For more seclusion, go south to Punta Nizuc, or rent a car and head out to discover a strand of your own. All that’s left to do is relax, and isn’t that what a vacation is for?
TAKE A STROLL
Even in Cancún the simple pleasures of real Mexico are only a short bus ride away. For an enjoyable end to the day, head downtown in the late afternoon, walk the streets, poke your head into the small shops, and pick up a few items in the market. Then, as the sun goes down, join the locals for the paseo, the ritual evening stroll when families, friends, and lovers amble through the parks and along the streets, greeting each other and enjoying the arrival of another balmy night.
Everyone becomes a sea creature in Cancún, so why not strap on a pair of fins, grab a snorkel, and head underwater yourself? With great visibility and plentiful fish, even first-timers are in for their share of eye-popping submarine visions. Those with more experience can take the city bus to the Club Med, then beach-walk about a half mile south to Punta Nizuc for prime snorkeling on the Belize Barrier Reef. Remember, though, that the current can be deceptively strong, so swim only where you see others.
One taste of red snapper prepared Creole-style – with green bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions – will clue you in to the Caribbean influences on the region’s piquant cooking. For a taste of Mayan culinary traditions look for pollo pibil, chicken wrapped in a banana leaf and baked or roasted in a pit. There’s great seafood at El Pescador, the local haunt located in the Parque de las Palapas, downtown. And for delicious traditional fare such as poc-chuc (grilled pork with pickled onions), try Los Almendros, on Avenida Bonampak at Sayil.
HAVE THIS DANCE
If a fourth-grade performance of the hat dance was the last time you saw anyone kick up his heels Mexican-style, it’s time for the Ballet Folklórico de Cancún at the Convention Center. It’s just the place to acquaint yourself with the great variety of Mexico’s costumes and dances. The food served before the show is fairly predictable, but the swirling lace dresses, the infinitely varied choreography, and the sheer exuberance of the music and moves make for a grand evening out.
Pack sunblock, mosquito repellent, and walking shoes, then rent a car and make the roughly three-hour drive to Chichén Itzá, home to one of the finest Mayan archaeological sites in the area. Thought to have been constructed between the sixth and fourteenth centuries, it covers about two square miles. It’s impossible to miss the Temple of Kukulcán (also known as El Castillo) and the Sacred Well, where the skeletons of 50 people, as well as thousands of gold and jade articles, have been found. There’s much more to see, and Mayan buffs may want to make this an overnight trip.
The search for just the right souvenir can take you well beyond the hotel zone. Hit the shopping malls, or take a trip downtown to Mercado 28 and Ki Huic, two craft-filled markets where vendors sell everything from serapes to fine silver jewelry. Keep an eye out for embroidery, a wide range of later¿a (crafts made from tin), leather goods, and clothing. Don’t forget the fashionista’s dictum: Any ethnic garb should only be worn back home.
A LOT OF BULL
Bullfights are very much a part of the Iberian side of Mexican culture, and neophyte matadors and experts alike test their mettle at Cancún corridas throughout the year. The action takes place in the bullring located a block south of the Pemex station. The best seats are in the sombra (shade), but you can save pesos by snagging a spot in the sol y sombra section, which gets sun at the beginning of the program and shade at the end, when it’s hottest. A mariachi band and flamenco dancers entertain prior to the fights, which usually take place on Wednesday. Suspend judgment, think of Goya, and enjoy.
Find a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Mexican Birds, ask your hotel to arrange for a guide and a boat, break out your life list, and head for the quiet southern end of Laguna de Nichupté. The brackish mangrove-bordered lagoon attracts more than 200 species of birds, including herons, ospreys, and egrets. A stone’s throw from the resorts, you’ll feel as though you’re a world away.