Cancun lies in the coastal area in Mexico’s easternmost state Quintana Roo, on the north-east of the Yucatan Peninsula. Quintana Roo state boasts numerous lagoons, sandbars, mangrove swamps, coral reefs, the beautiful Carribean Sea, and several islands such as Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, and Contoy.
The Belize Reef extends 250 km from the edge of Isla Mujeres into the Bay of Honduras. It is the fifth largest reef in the world and offers magnificent diving and snorkeling opportunities. There are 20 km of wonderful swimming beaches on the coast of the Caribbean and in the surrounding area lie the truly amazing remains of the Mayan culture.
Cancun is a world-renowned tourist resort visited by over 3 million tourists each year. The sunny resort offers an abundance of water sports and a lively nightlife that continues into the morning hours, every night.
Good hotels, restaurants and shopping opportunities cater to the holidaymakers’ every need. Cancun emerged in 1970s as a tourist development project. Originally a deserted island with superb white sand, it soon became Mexico’s most popular, most successful and largest tourist resort. The island is today connected to the mainland by two bridges. A multitude of hotels, resorts, bars and shops are located along Cancun’s main avenue.
Cancun has a semi-tropical climate. During the winter the temperatures are around 20 to 29 C, evenings are cool. Summer is hot and temperatures range from 26 to 34 C. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, whereas September and October are the rainiest months, as well as most likely months for hurricane and storms. Rainfall mainly occurs during the afternoons or at nighttime. The warmest month is July, the coolest is January, the most precipitation occurs in September and October.
January average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 88.9 mm rainfall February average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 55 mm rainfall March average temperature 25.5 deg Celsius, 40 mm rainfall April average temperature 26.7 deg Celsius, 40 mm rainfall May average temperature 27.7 deg Celsius, 116 mm rainfall June average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 177 mm rainfall July average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 109 mm rainfall August average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 149.9 mm rainfall September average temperature 27.7 deg Celsius, 228.6 mm rainfall October average temperature 26.7 deg Celsius, 218.4 mm rainfall November average temperature 25.5 deg Celsius, 96.5 mm rainfall December average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 109.2 mm rainfall
Two official companies provide transfer to the hotels in Cancun and Riviera Maya. Gray Line and T.T.A both offer shuttle services or private transfer. Their booths are located right after the Customs Service.
Collectivos are white vans seating 12 passengers. They do not leave until they are full. This is the cheapest transfer but it takes around 45 minutes, as the van lets off passengers at their hotels.
Taxi: negotiate the price beforehand, but expect the ride to be more expensive than the Collectivo.
Car rental offices can be found at the airport, as well as in town. A car is ideal for exploring the rest of the Yucatan peninsula but you should be extremely careful. Some roads are well maintained while others have huge potholes.
The bus network is efficient and dependable. They connect the town and the beaches at Zona Hotelera.
Taxis in Cancun are not metered so it is essential to agree upon a price beforehand.
Passenger ferries depart from Puerto Juárez, a port located 4km north of Cancún.
Express boats leave every 30 minutes for Isla Mujeres, the ride takes around 25 minutes. The slower boats leave every hour and the journey takes 45 minutes.
Cancun is a world-renowned water sports capital, surrounded as it is by the crystal, shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea that are so ideal for snorkeling or scuba diving. The reefs, corals and rich marine life make Cancun a top diving destination. The Gran Arrecife Maya (Great Mesoamerican Reef) is one of the world’s largest reefs.
Cancun offers numerous diving schools and the experienced scuba divers can head to the Island of Cozumel which offers excellent facilities and superb diving spots.
When diving or snorkeling on reefs a certain set of rules should be followed to secure the fragile natural habitat. Do not wear sun block or tanning lotion, do not feed the animals, do not take anything from the sea, do not throw anything on the reef, do not step on the coral and do not throw any garbage into the sea.
Jet Ski, parasailing, and windsurfing are also widely available.
Cancun has many fine beaches but when the sea is not safe for swimming you can also head to one of the many hotel pools, jacuzzis, and swim-up bars.
Organized games of water polo and volleyball are available at several hotels. Some hotels offer also introductory scuba courses in their pools.
Cancun offers a wide choice of golfing opportunities. Cancun golf courses are fascinating, the scenery is truly magical. The largest golf courses are the Cancun Golf Club at Pok ta Pok and the Hilton Cancun Golf Club.
Located 130 km from Cancun, Tulum is one of the most stunning archeological areas on the Mayan Riviera. The Tulum beach is one of the most beautiful in the entire Carribean Sea, not to mention the mysterious Mayan ruins which are a spectacle in themselves. Most exciting is the Mayan Pole from which the Mayan Pole Flyers tie themselves and leap into the air unwinding their ropes from 30 meters to the ground. It is a spectacle not to be missed.
The most impressive of all Mayan ruins is 2.5 hours drive away from Cancun. Chichen Itza covers an area of 15 square kilometers and features numerous stone buildings, temples, palaces, stages, markets, baths and ball courts. The highlights include the ancient ball court and the ‘El Castillo’ temple pyramid renowned for its astronomical significance. Its features mark the Mayan calendar and the solstices and equinoxes of the year. 365 steps on the sides of the pyramid mark the days of the year.
The island is located only 10 km from the coast of Cancun. It a calm and quiet place where you can imagine that time has stopped. The peaceful island lies in the beautiful green and blue waters of the Caribbean. The best beaches are located in the north of the island, in the vicinity of the town. The water is superb: crystal clear, shallow and calm. The nearby popular reef El Farito offers splendid snorkeling opportunities. Snorkeling is also possible in the Isla Mujeres Turtle Protection Center. Certified divers can explore the Punta Norte, the amazing Manchones reef, the Navy Boat shipwrecks, and for the adrenaline lovers, the Sleeping Sharks cave.
Cancun possesses some of the fines beaches in Mexico, and are its major draw. The white sands seem to go on forever and the beaches are everyone’s dream come true. There are many activities available at the beaches, from volleyball, parasailing, snorkeling, to wave-running, or, you can decide to simply relax and in a hammock.
The beautiful Caribbean waters are very welcoming but note that there is a strong undertow at some of the beaches. A colored flag system is in use, to signal the sea conditions. Sea conditions can change while you are swimming so keep an eye on the flags at all times.
- White Flag - Excellent Sea Conditions - Green - Normal Sea Conditions (safe to swim) - Yellow - Changeable sea conditions (practice caution) - Black or Red - Unsafe / Danger (do not swim in the sea)
The archeological site featuring Mayan ruins is located close to the Zona Hoteliera. Here an ancient Mayan city was established, which was at its peak between 1250 and 1520 AD. Today the ruins feature a small temple and several ceremonial platforms. Tours in English, Spanish, French and German are available.
Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 9 Phone: (998) 883-0305 Web: http://www.inahqr.gob.mx/MAC/MAC.htm Open: Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Located in the ground floor of the Cancun Convention Center, the archeological and anthropological museum houses a wealth of Mayan culture. The artifacts are from 1,000 to 1,500 years old. Among the highlights are the carvings and frescos, ancient jewelry, masks and the deliberately deformed skulls. The museum provides a fascinating insight into the ancient culture of Mayans.
Guided tours are available in English, German, French and Spanish.
XEL-HA NATIONAL PARK
Xel-Ha makes for a great day-trip from Cancun. The area is a national park which has been turned into a water theme park, built around the natural lagoons and inlets. A wide choice of activities is available: snorkeling, floating down the river in a rubber ring, swimming with dolphins, and much more. The park also features several restaurants and a bar.
Mexican cuisine is known world-wide as one of the tastiest and most diverse. ‘Tortas’ (flour tortilla wraps) form the basis of this colorful and exciting cuisine. They are often combined with grilled meat, spicy sauces and salads. Mexican cuisine includes a rich variety of sea food: octopus, calamari, shrimp and fresh lobster.
Plenty of delicious fresh fruit is also available.
Cancun has a wide variety of restaurants catering to all tastes from traditional Mexican to world cuisines.
The Zona Hotelera and El Centro both abound in great restaurants and eateries. The Zona Hotelera restaurants mostly cater to Western tastes, mostly serving less spicy, sometimes bland food. The best food can be found at the local haunts found in El Centro. Many small restaurants serving great seafood and traditional Mexican cuisine can be found in the Mercado Veintiocho.
Most restaurants are fine but the ones located along the Avenida Tulum are often too crowded and noisy. If you venture off Avenida Tulum, you can find many excellent Mexican restaurants in the Parque de las Palapas.
This is the biggest fiesta in Cancun. This joyous occasion is celebrated with floats, street parties, and numerous events throughout the town accompanied by local food and drink.
Christmas celebrations are a big deal. The festivities begin nine days before Christmas and finish after the New Year. The celebration includes street fairs, processions, piñata breaking, feasting in honor of the Virgen de la Soledad. Special passion plays called 'pastorelas' are staged.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (DAY OF THE DEAD)
Date: November 1
The cemetery becomes a lively place on this occasion. Families gather in the cemetery and decorate the graves of their loved ones with marigolds and personal favourite objects of the deceased. A traditional meal is eaten at the graveyard. Families stay awake all night to remember their loved ones.
CANCUN JAZZ FESTIVAL
Date: mid-May Location: Parque de las Palapas
The Parque de las Palapas and the area around the convention center come alive with great performances by top jazz musicians from around the world.
FIESTA OF ISLA MUJERES
The celebration honors the patron saint of Cancun's neighbor island, Isla Mujeres. The event is celebrated with processions, dances and bullfights.
Cancun is famous for an active nightlife, it is regarded one of the top party destinations of all Latin America. Nightclubs and bars are everywhere. The choice of music is wide, bars usually have an all-you can-drink cover charge. Evening activity begins around 10:30 pm and lasts until sunrise.
The clubs in Cancun tend to be quite expensive, the cover charge, which allows you to drink free all night, costs around $40.
The most popular club in Zona Hotelera is Coco Bongo is also the largest. It has multiple levels, huge dance areas and music catering to all tastes.
ORGANIZED BAR TOURS
Organized bar-hopping tours are available. If you want to take in several clubs in one night and taste the best of Cancun nightlife this is the perfect choice. The bus takes you to five top clubs and bars for $50 per person and entry into the clubs is included.
For sea adventure combined with an evening party, you can choose one of the sunset cocktail or dinner cruises that offer splendid views of the sunset over Cancun. Hop onboard the 'Capitán Hook' or the 'Columbus' and treat yourself to a relaxing and romantic evening.
Ballet Folclorico offers a taste of real Mexico. The live show, held at the Convention Center, features a presentation of dance, music and bright costumes all from the history of Mexico.
The first settlers, the Maya, came to the region centuries ago. The area of today’s Cancun, however, remained sparsely populated while other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula enjoyed great development. Trade routes, vast temples and pyramids were built. The Cancun area served as the burial site, as archeological discoveries have shown.
Spanish Conquistadores in the early 1500s settled the inland area was settled, but Cancun was left untouched.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
Cancun started to develop only in 1970. The success of Acapulco as a major tourist resort in Mexico inspired the government to produce another large tourist area. After extensive market research, Cancun was picked as the perfect spot. At that time just 120 plantation workers were Cancun’s only inhabitants.
In 1972 Cancun was established as a city and by 1974 the area opened for business. By 1979 it was already becoming a popular tourist resort, attracting over 2 million of visitors per year. Rapid growth continued throughout the 1980s and wealthy USA, Canadian and European visitors started to favor the place.
Over the last 30 years Cancun has grown enormously, tourism has flourished, and the number of residents has risen to 600,000.
In 2005 the area was hit by Hurricane Wilma but by January, 2007 the resort had been almost entirely repaired; only small pockets of damage can still be seen.
Mexicans are warm, compassionate, emotive and friendly. They respect authority and hierarchy and are a very class-conscious society.
In formal situations men greet by shaking hands and a women by patting on the right shoulder or arm. In friends and family circles, women kiss on one cheek men hug briefly.
Mexicans have a very close personal space, when talking, they tend to stand quite close to one another and touch each other on the arm or back. Even though your personal space may be different, you should not move away, as this could be regarded as an insult and bad etiquette. A prolonged grasp of the hand during the handshake can also be quite common – try not to break the handshake too quickly as this could also be considered as rude.
Sometimes Mexicans do not make eye contact; this is a sign of respect and should not be taken as an affront.
Machismo: Macho attitudes are incorporated in Mexican males almost from birth, and machismo plays a pervasive role in shaping Mexican culture.
When invited to a Mexican home bring a simple gift such as sweets or flowers. Do not bring marigolds as they symbolize death. Red flowers also have a negative connotation.
When invited to a party it is considered inappropriate to arrive on time. In most places it is acceptable to be 30 minutes late. Only men give toasts.
Cancun is hot all year round. Make sure you drink enough water to avoid dehydration.
The greatest danger in Cancun is overexposure to sun. Remember to use plenty of sun block.
In general, Cancun is the safest city of this size in Mexico. The only problem usually reported from the Carribean Coast is petty theft.
To avoid unnecessary difficulties practice common precaution. Lock your car and do not leave anything valuable in the vehicle.
When you go swimming at the beach or pool do not hide your wallet into your shoes; it is an old trick and every pick-pocket has heard of it.
Recently there has been an increasing number of reported rapes, especially on the deserted sections of the beach, at night or early morning, and also in hotel rooms.
Crossing a street in Cancun can also prove to be a dangerous undertaking as drivers are not particularly tolerant to pedestrians.
The hurricane season runs officially from June till November, where August, September and October are considered the peak months. Tropical storms and hurricanes are quite frequent during this period. The hotel and airfare prices go down but if you decide to visit during this period, follow the weather reports closely and check the official sources regularly.
The area is affected by numerous tropic storms each year.
Harsh penalties are strictly enforced for the possession and trafficking of illegal drugs. There are strict regulations for exporting and temporarily importing firearms.
Emergency: State Federal Police: (52-998) 884-117 Judicial Federal Police (52-998) 881-9840
Cancun has an average of 240 sunny days per year, making it a year-round destination. The high season falls between December and April with the temperatures around 30ºC and 18ºC at night. The weather is gloriously sunny. However, the high season also brings bigger crowds and a rise in prices. The highest prices are expected from mid-December to January and especially around Christmas.
Spring Break, Christmas and Easter holidays should be booked well in advance.
After Easter crowds and prices diminish.
Summer months are hot and humid, temperatures hover around 35ºC.
The hurricane season falls between June and mid-October. While the cooling winds make the temperature more bearable the danger of hurricanes is ever present. If you choose to visit during this period pay attention to weather alerts.
The rainy season lasts from the end of August until mid-November. Afternoon showers and occasional floods are quite common.