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Cancun – the Spring Break capital on the Costa Maya

View from Hyatt hotel

In the ’60s, here was only an island full of mangroves where fishermen used to venture in search of crawfish and other goodies… It was an idyllic and deserted place, a green strip of land between the sea and the lagoon… That until the moment a brilliant mind in the Mexican government had a brilliant idea this is where a glamorous resort that would attract millions of tourists from overseas must be born… and, in 1974, Cancun came to life.

Mexico was already a first-rank destination for North American tourists. Not too far from the capital, the famous Acapulco, the capital city of the entertainment in the 50’s, indestructibly related to Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor had come to life, also via a governmentally planned effort… But Mexico still  needed one more top resort… Acapulco was already old it was placed near the Pacific, where a cold current passes, it was relatively far off from the United States, where most tourists came from…  So, someone sighted the top of the Yucatan Peninsula, located one hour by plane from Miami, by the always warm Caribbean sea, on a breath of heaven. Cancun, the Caribbean Sea pearl, was inaugurated in 1974 with great pomp and fireworks. And, although it was opened at about the same time as other seaside rivieras in other parts of the world, Cancun has remained and continues to be a beautiful place, a destination for all seasons with numberless entertainment opportunities that are in a successful competition even with Miami, a warm and green sea , the beach with fine white sand and numerous attractions around.

Cancun is divided into two distinct areas – Ciudad del Cancun – this is where the Mexicans who work in the hotels and tourist area live, a city well maintained and prosperous compared to many other cities in Mexico, but where the tourist interest only lies, maybe, in the bus terminal and in some budget hotels. The second area – Zona Hotelera is built on a crescent-shaped spit of land separating the Caribbean from a quiet lagoon, but full of crocodiles. Do not be afraid, crocodiles do not get out of the water too often and under no circumstances in tourist areas…

What is Cancun? Well … is a top resort where everything is perfect, it is basically something else than the rest of Mexico. If you go to Cancun to see Mexico, then, well, the wrong thing is that Cancun has nothing to do with Mexico, it is a resort with super whimsical clubs, with excellent restaurants, hotels displaying extreme luxury, malls, tourist attractions. Over two million foreign tourists come to Cancun annually, the peak times being around New Year’s Eve, when cohorts of tourists come down from the freezing North for the sun, sea and heat and during the so-called North American Spring Break when Cancun is a favorite destination… also supported, of course, by the famous MTV parties that have made the resort “younger” in recent years.

Cancun clubs are famous worldwide. Coco Bongo is well-known for the shows that make Las Vegas fade away, Dady ‘O  has several floors with zillions of lasers, and, for the more classic ones, there is also Dady Rock where old Elvis still lives, being recently moved from Acapulco to the shores of the Caribbean. The restaurants, are, also, carefully selected … although there is still no Romanian restaurant, you can, instead, eat from the spicy food of Mexico to the U.S. fast food outlets – McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino Pizza are, obviously, all in Cancun. But you can not miss seafood restaurants … lobsters do, after all, live on the Caribbean shores, ready to jump from the water straight on the plate.

What else can you do in Cancun? Well, lots … every 50 meters, a nice Mexican who speaks English (Cancun is the only place in Mexico where you can find plenty of English-speaking locals) will come with a breviary full of offers – from car rentals to tours all around the area, swimming with dolphins or scuba diving, going to Xel Ha and Xcaret water park or on a shopping tour around Cozumel, maybe even a one-day tour to Mexico City – it is just 2 and a half hours away by plane! For car rentals, it is worth studying several offers because they can vary, while the other tours are at standard prices that vary slightly…

In Cancun, you can go to the Isla mall – here you can enter the water alongside with some dolphins who will also kiss you on the cheek, a moment immortalized by a careful photographer … But, if you want to ride on a dolphin, well, you can only do this further south in Xel Ha.

Cancun is there, on the peak, prices are high, as are the services, everything is perfect, the grass cut to the millimeter, but it is a large gilded cage… One would still feel like going to Mexico, to taste a mouthful of Mexico, but this you will not feel in Cancun … Or maybe you cannot afford Cancun … Oh, well, there are numerous alternatives… Cancun was the first, but it has drawn a development of the whole seaside which has also got a marketing name… Costa Maya!

Not too far from Cancun, offshore, you can find Isla Mujeres. Prices are low here, more young people who do not have the Cancun-kind of money come and, on top you can enjoy a more authentic  Mexican atmosphere with the famous bodegas, it is a colorful and cool place. The northern part of the island has one of the most famous beaches on the Costa Maya – Playa los Cocos – a palm beach, the beach that offers most of the postcard-type images: green sea, white beach and coconuts … There are only few umbrella lounge chairs, the fine white sand is plentiful, and the shade is provided by coconuts… and what lounge chair would you need when the sea is so green and inviting?

Isla Mujeres is not very big … about eight, maximum nine kilometers long and about one kilometre in width … You can go on foot, but you can also ride electric cars, the golf kind. They can be rented everywhere, everyone uses them and they are fun to use. And, on the island, real car owners willy-nilly have to drive slowly and cautiously – that is completely different than the way they do it on the continent!

Once Isla Mujeres is checked, it is best to walk down the Carretera, along the Maya coast. From Cancun, an almost perfect highway goes straight to Tulum, but, unfortunately, not along the seacoast. Because, along the seacoast, there are many all-inclusive “folds” … And, every year, their number grows exponentially.

Next destination: Playa del Carmen. If the Cancun “diamond” is a very Americanized diamond, the Playa del Carmen “pearl” is Mexican. And how can it be otherwise … here you can find hotels with thatched roof cottages, the hotels are the normal size, not as huge as those in Cancun, and the streets are packed with flowers, the beautiful tropical flowers of Mexico… The main street is Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), New York Fifth Avenue’s competition. But if Fifth Avenue is dominated by skyscrapers, Quinta Avenida is full of terraces with Mexican delights troops crossed, during the evening, by strolling mariachi bands… Aiiaiaia! In Playa del Carmen, one feels one has reached Mexico! If you are not satisfied with shopping in Playa, you can take the boat and, one hour later, get to the island of Cozumel, one of the main stops of the cruise ships (Cancun has no harbour). One can do tax free shopping here, but do not expect electronic gadgets or cigarettes, but, rather, semi-precious stones called tanzanite – it can take you, depending on the qualities of each person as negotiator, to US $ 500 per kilo.

Just southwards of Playa, real estate developments continue. But among all-inclusives and mega-hotels, there are also two strong points that should be on the agenda of every tourist who has arrived in the area – the Xel Ha  and Xcaret  parks. Firstly, for those who are familiar with the Aqua Parks in Europe, Egypt and the Turkish coast, well, they have got nothing in common. They are, basically, beautiful natural reservations where you can bathe in a perfect lagoon or do many other water-related activities. At Xel-Ha, you can swim alongside with the dolphins, you can ride them, do scuba diving or just snorkeling. Even if you cannot swim, for quite some dolars, you can go on the sea bottom with a bell on your head …you basically walk among gorgeous fish, at a depth of five metres, without getting your hair wet. Or you can just sprawl in a hammock under the palm trees, surrounded by noisy parrots. At Xcaret, the emphasis lies less on ecology and more on the show. Here you can also swim with dolphins, take a walk on the sea bed, but you can also enjoy Hollywood-worthy shows rendering old Mayan traditions – the Gran Tlachco theatre can accommodate up to 6,000 spectators reproducing old Mayan habits in a sound extravaganza of colour and sound – except that of ripping the chest open and removing the heart to thank the gods. Instead, dancing, singing and playing Maya football are all properly honoured… And, in order for the show to be complete, you not only get Maya ancients, but also habits of the contemporary Mexico – rodeo, riding Amazon ladies enchanting the audience .

Cancun is the expensive location for whims. Playa del Carmen is more family-oriented. Isla Mujeres is a heaven for budget travelers, however, there is also an alternative den of the Riviera Maya – Tulum… two steps away from one of the most famous Mayan archaeological sites, situated on the seacoast, you can sleep in cottages located literally on the seashore ​​– during high tide, you sit on the cottage stairs with your feet in the Caribbean, playing guitar in the moonlight – no electrical power… with a bottle of tequila or more… And what could be more beautiful than a sunrise over the Caribbean?

When to travel to Mexico

The Cancun area basically has two seasons – the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season is summer, starting in July and it can even occur in autumn. In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit Cancun fully, causing huge losses and destroying even the most solid structures of the major hotels. Meanwhile, Cancun has recovered, but few would like their holiday to be interrupted by a hurricane and, instead of a five-star hotel share a gym in Merida or Ciudad Cancun with other few hundreds of tourists evacuated at high speed. The best time is from November to May, with a reasonable temperature up to April. Basically, the New Year is a perfect time to go to Cancun!

How to get to Cancun

Cancun is a booming international airport. Many charters from Europe and North America reach Cancun directly, but, unfortunately, there are few direct flights from Europe operated by flagship airlines (only British Airways flies straight from London Gatwick and Air Berlin from Dusseldorf). You can find direct flights from UK, France and Italy by the “holiday airlines” – Monarch,Thomas Cook, XL Airways or Blue Panorama, but flights can be seasonal. In case you do not need or have an US Visa, the easiest way is to exchange planes in Miami or in other US hubs (like Atlanta). In case you want to avoid US (for visa or customs hassle reason), you can fly to Mexico City (any major European airline flies there) and take a local Mexican airline to Cancun.

Mexican Visa

All EU citizens need only a passport and can stay up to 180 days in Mexico. Same situation for citizens of US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and another number of countries from East Asia, South America and Caribbean. For a full list of countries whose citizens do not require visa, please, check the site of Instituto Nacional de Migracion. Citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Peru and Brazil should apply for an Electronic Visa Authorization. Good news is that citizens from countries who require visas, but have a valid US visa can enter Mexico visa-free.

Food

Cancun is a tourist area, so there can be no shortage of food among the hundreds or thousands of restaurants in the area. However, it is better to be cautious – many tourists start their Mexican trips with stomach problems (metaphorically called “Montezuma’s Revenge”), so it would be good for the first one-two days before you get used to it to try safer food – pizza, hamburgers, salads… After this period, you’ll get a treat if you like spicy food … and if you do not, you must clearly state it to the waiter – “no picante !”

Cancun photos

 Mexican beaches: Isla Mujeres

Beaches of Mexico: Isla Mujeres

Such a nice sand…

Turtles in Mexico

Tortugas :)

Turtles in Mexico

A shark fished in Mexico

Shark fishing

Turtles in Mexico

Mexican Xcaret cactus

Mexican Xcaret flamingo

Wonderful flamingo in Xcaret

Xcaret parrot

Mexico travel

Mexican beaches: the laguna

Tulum cabanas

Tulum – the budget Costa Maya

Mexican beaches: Tulum beach

Exotic hotels: Hyatt hotel lobby

The luxury Costa Maya – Hotel Hyatt

Mexico hotels: Hyatt

Mexico travel

Mexican hotels: Hyatt

Cancun travel

The malls of Cancun featuring Maya locals

Mexico hotels: Riu hotel

Isla of Mujeres: Playa Coco.jpg

The famed beaches of Isla Mujeres

Isla of Muheres: Playa Coco

Isla Muheres photos: Playa Coco

Isla Muheres photos: Playa Coco

Isla of Muheres: Playa Coco

Isla of Muheres: Playa Coco

Isla of Muheres

The “cars” of Isla Mujeres

Isla Muheres photos

Isla of Muheres

Center of the Isla

Isla of Muheres

Isla muheres photos: golf electric cars

Isla of Muheres travel

Isla Muheres photos: Flying fox

Isla of Muheres: Mexican iguana

In Mexico, even the iguanas smile :) Just do the same !

Isla Mujeres photos

Isla Mujeres photos

Isla Mujeres photos

Cancun travel

Cancun restaurants

Cancun trip: visit mall Isla Cancun

The malls of Cancun

Cancun trip: visit mall Isla Cancun

Cancun travel

Cancun travel

Cancun spring break

The grand view from Hotel Hyatt’s balcony

Cancun photos: Cancun beaches

Cancun hotels: Hyatt

Mexican turtles

Mexican dolphins

Parrots  from Cancun

Cancun travel: visit and play with the dolphins

What can be more tender than a dolphin kiss ?

Cancun restaurnats: Mall Isla Cancun

Mexican beaches

Cancun restaurnts: Hyatt breakfast

Cancun hotels: Hyatt

Cancun nightlife; party on the beach

Well….

Cancun trip

I love Mexican hammocks !

Cancun trip

Cancun travel: Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo

Xel Ha

Xel Ha

The paradise of Xel-Ha

Xel Ha

Până acum există "6 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Ele says:

    Does “tortuga” mean turtle?

  2. Ross says:

    Good info. At least you give a true picture of Cancun rather than all flowers and paradise.

  3. ioana says:

    buna,
    help me pls cu o info….la sf mai plec in cancun si facem o escala de 7 ore in mexico city, e safe sa iesim, se merita?ne incadram ca timp.
    cum am putea face toate astea in siguranta?putem gasi vreun ghid etc?

    multumesc

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    My name is Cezar (where the nickname "Imperator" comes from) and I have travelled to 105 countries around the world. In this blog, I would like to share with you stories, memories, travel tips & tricks and news to help you plan your journeys !

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