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Cancun Vacation Guide

It's no secret that Cancun is the place for fun in the sun but it has much more to offer than nightclubs and fancy cocktails. From water sports to archeological marvels, Cancun is a tropical paradise with something to offer everyone.

What to See & Do - Top Attractions & Activities


Your biggest concern while in Cancun is deciding what to do with your time because there are so many options. In addition to all that Cancun has to offer, there are neighboring areas worth considering, including the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. No matter what type of adventure you seek, opportunities abound.

There are four major theme parks in or near Cancun, where eco adventures, archeological and cultural points of interest, water sports, and restaurants come together for one exciting, day-long experience.

Xcaret. Here you will find a full spectrum of activities. Xcaret is an eco park, where nature and modernity coexist. On site you'll find a museum with scale models of ancient Mayan cities; a Butterfly Pavilion; a Wild Bird Breeding Aviary; an archaeological zone; a Mayan village; two underground rivers; a Botanical Garden housing an Orchid and Mushroom Farm and an Apiary; traditional horsemanship exhibitions; a Coral Reef Aquarium; two dolphin areas; a lagoon with manatees; pumas and jaguars on their own lush islands; small mammals representative of local fauna; five restaurants serving authentic Mexican and Caribbean specialties, along with live music; plentiful aquatic activities and a rotating scenic tower so you can take in all that the park has to offer. Could you ask for more?

Garrafón Natural Park. Only a pleasant 25-minute cruise from Cancun, this all-inclusive park is located on Isla Mujeres. From Mayan temples and sculpture gardens to scuba diving and kayaking, Garrafón should rank high on your travel itinerary. Put your kayaking skills to the test or enjoy a leisurely paddling tour in the pristine Caribbean waters, or climb the 40 ft high tower to get a panoramic view of the island. Garrafón is perfect for families - kids (and adults) have access to all the water adventures they can think of, and then some, while adults can peruse the stores and the Museum of Mundaca the Pirate at the Caribbean Village, as well as taste traditional Yucatan food at El Acantilado.

Aktun Chen. Located about 75 miles from Cancun along the Mayan Riviera, you'll find this amazing natural wonder. Aktun Chen literally translates as "cave with an underground river inside" in Mayan. The park covers an area of 988 acres of unexplored Rainforest. Three caves have been discovered on the site that have a cenote or underground river. The main cave is suitable for a walking tour, which is enhanced with indirect lighting, so that guest can view the thousands of stalactites, stalagmites and natural sculptures, all of them formed by water and calcium carbonate over five million years.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling


In Cancun, the three best places to snorkel are Punta Nizuc, Punta Cancún, and Playa Tortugas. There are several places where you can rent snorkeling equipment and locate tours. Snorkeling is frequently offered as part of a tour package for those who do not want to venture off on their own. There is a package for every type of traveler. There are tours designed specifically for groups, you can enjoy snorkeling with others with a similar passion.

  • Blue Peace Diving Phone: 98-85-14-47
  • Ocean Sports Phone: 98-84-60-34

Scuba Diving

Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen and the Yucatan offer excellent diving opportunities, as they are located just minutes from the world's second largest barrier reef, the Great Maya Reef. There are plenty of places to rent equipment, get certified and book tours, whether you're a beginner or advanced diver. Many resorts have dive centers and most if not all beaches have a local dive center and boat.

The following are noted as the best dive spots in the region: La Mancha Grande, La Mancha Chica, Punta Maroma, Cerebros, Los Arcos North and South, El Cofre, Xcalacoco North and South, Moc Che, Chen Zumbul, El Esfuerzo, Sabalos, Ina, Islote, Punta Venados, and Punta Venadito.

  • Lemon Divers Phone: (98) 45-09-77
  • Scuba Cancun Phone: 52+(998) 849-7508 / 849-4736
  • Nautilus Dive Training Center Phone: 52-98-844-967
  • Manta Divers Scuba Center Tel: (52) (998) 885-0281 or (52) (998) 849-4050


You can forget those images of deep-sea fishing that involve charting rough waters in the bitter cold Alaskan winter. Fishing around Cancun is a leisurely and rewarding pass time.

If you're fishing for Blue Marlin, the best time to visit Cancun is June-August. The best months for sailfish is March-July. Grouper can be caught October-December; Wahoo November-June. Your best chances of catching an Amberjack are better in between September-December. April-June are best for Dolphin fish, Black fin Tuna, and Bonita (Bonita are also excellent in July and August). October-December are prime Barracuda and Kingfish fishing months.

  • Let's Go Fishing Phone: (52) (998) 849-4785
  • Tequila Sunrise Adventures Phone: 984-873-5513

Cancun Beaches

Cancun's coast has an "ocean side" and a "lagoon side." For obvious reasons, most of the hotels face the ocean side. There are no beaches on the lagoon side. Tourists swim and sunbathe on the ocean side beaches, whereas jet-skis, kayaks, and other rentals are available on the lagoon side. Cruise ships, shuttles, and water taxis all depart from the north beach side.

North beaches

Playa Las Perlas
Just under two miles from the beginning of Cancun's Hotel Zone. Great for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. You can catch the shuttle to Isla Mujeres from this beach.

Playa Linda
A little less than three miles into the Hotel Zone. You can meet up with dive tours, submarine excursions and the shuttle to Isla Mujeres from this beach.

Playa Langosta
3 1/4 miles into the Hotel Zone. Enjoy swimming, water sports, restaurants and bars. There is also a dock with shuttles to Isla Mujeres and scuba diving and snorkeling tours.

Playa Tortugas
About four miles in the Hotel Zone. Great for the typical beach activities, plus there are restaurants and a dock to catch shuttles to Isla Mujeres and diving and snorkeling tours.

Playa Caracol
About four miles in the Hotel Zone near Punta Cancun. This is a great spot for kids because of the shallow and flat sandy seabed. The downside is that it's also really crowded.

East beaches

Beaches are pretty much the same as on the north side, with the only difference being that beaches on the east side are not sheltered by Isla Mujeres so winds and currents are stronger sometimes, which is not much different than the conditions of many of Florida's beaches.

Gaviota Azul
About six miles in the Hotel Zone near Punta Cancun.

Chac Mool
6 1/2 miles in the Hotel Zone near Punta Cancun.

Playa Marlín
Almost nine miles in the Hotel Zone between Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc.

Playa Ballenas
About nine miles in the Hotel Zone Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc. This is a popular Cancun beach. There are bars and restaurants located here.

San Miguelito
About 11 miles in the Hotel Zone. You can view Mayan ruins at this beach.

Playa Delfines
A little under 12 miles in the Hotel Zone near Punta Nizuc

Punta Nizuc
About 14 miles in the Hotel Zone, this beach is where many of the more upscale hotels and resorts are located.

Hiking/Horseback Riding/Kayaking

Cancun itself is a nature lover's paradise but the areas surrounding it are ripe with lush rainforests, jungles and infinite possibilities for exciting adventures on foot, horseback, bike, canoe and kayak, making it impossible to mention one activity without the others.

Reserva Natural Tres Rios

Reserva Natural Tres Rios is a must for Eco tourists. Situated in a low subtropical jungle and mangrove on the Riviera Maya, between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, this ecological park is only 35 minutes south of Cancun International airport on the Riviera Maya on the Cancun-Tulum Highway. Choose your activity: kayaking, canoeing, or jet skiing through the mangroves swamps of this tropical reserve. Or, you may decide to walk, horseback ride, or bike through jungle trails. Keep an eye out for the exotic animals peering out from the brush. Snorkeling is available off the coast, where you can view the many tropical fish and coral reefs.

Reserva Natural Tres Rios Phone.: 1-800-714-3643

Golfing in Cancun

When it comes to golfing, Cancun is par for the course. Choose from several well-manicured courses with views of the ocean. It doesn't get better than swinging a golf club with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop.

  • Cancun Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., this 18-hole, par 72 golf course has a view of a lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. A practice tee, putting greens and ancient Mayan ruins dot the 6,636-yard course. Cancun Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok Phone: (52) (998) 883-12-30 or 883-12-77
  • Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort is Cancun's only Par 72 Resort Hotel Golf Club. It is located next to the Nichupte lagoon. It offers an 18-hole full service complex with 6,767 yards for guests and non-registered visitors. They offer a driving range, practice, green, putting green, unique sand traps, golf shop, electric carts, and equipment rental. Phone: 98-81-80-16 or 98-818-000.
  • Gran Melia Cancun golf course is located at the Hotel Melia. An 18-hole executive par 54 golf course with a total length of 1,818 yards, the course offers a magnificent view of the ocean. A putting green is available. Phone: 98-885-1160, 998 885 1114 or 98-831-1230.
  • Cancun Oasis Golf Club at the Oasis Cancun Hotel is a smaller golf course. It is a 9-hole par 27 course with a length of 888 yards with a putting green. Phone: (52) (998) 885 0867
  • Playacar Golf Club is a par 72 championship golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge. This one-of-a-kind course is carved out of the Mayan jungle. Club rentals, practice tee and a putting green are available. Phone: (52) 987-306-24
  • Puerto Aventuras is a nice 9-hole par 36 golf course designed by Thomas Leeman. The total length of the course is 3,236 yards. A putting green is available. Phone: 987-3-5109
  • Club de Golf Cancun is an 18-hole professional quality golf course with pro shop, club house, restaurant and bar. Special rates apply for guests of the following hotels: Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, Hyatt Regency Cancun, Camino Real, Presidente Intercontinental, Holiday Express, or Marriott Casamagna. Phone: 998-883-12-30 or 998-883-12-77
  • Golf Club Moon Palace Cancun is located in the Mayan Riviera at the Moon Palace Resort. They have a par 72 championship golf course. You must have your own set of golf clubs. Phone: 52 (984) 873-0624 for 9am to 5pm or 52 (984) 873-0676

Cancun Day Trips

Isla Mujeres is only 8 miles from the shores of Cancun. If you enjoy snorkeling then the El Garragon Natural Park is a beautiful place to see the habitants under the sea. Relaxing and shopping may be your reason for your journey to Isla Mujeres. The Playa Norte beach is a quiet yet great place for shopping, dining in their restaurants, and staying over the night in one of their many hotels. There are four different ways to get to Isla Mujeres. The public ferry in Puerto Juarez and it will only take around 15 to 45 minutes. You might enjoy a shuttle boat that leaves from Playa Linda or Playa Tortuga, the ride will take one hour. The water taxi is another way to visit Isla Mujeres, but is more expensive but faster. But, who really wants to miss out on the ride and arrive faster? The best way is to take a daylong pleasure boat trip most of which leave from the pier at Playa Linda.

Yucatan Peninsula. Some of Mexico's most popular resort areas spot the Yucatan coast. Home to world-class scuba diving and ancient Mayan ruins such as Tulum and Chichen Itza. There are several tours that will take you to either location, for a day of history and adventure.

Cancun Hotels & Resorts

Ritz-Carlton Cancun - Live in the lap of luxury at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, a AAA Five-Diamond award-winning resort. Enjoy 1,200 feet of white sandy beach, two sculpted outdoor pools, ocean front whirlpool, three tennis courts and fitness center, not to mention the full-service Kayanta Spa. Indulge in water rituals, massage therapies, body treatments and facials influenced by pre-Columbian and ancient cultures. For your meals, choose from among the five dining options offered by the hotel. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun Phone: (52) (998) 881-08-08

Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort - Located right on the beach along the main strip of the Hotel Zone, the resort offers a renowned 72-par golf course, as well as complete luxury resort amenities and services. So, slip on a bathrobe and relax as you watch the sun set from your oceanfront balcony. Phone: (52) (998) 881-80-00

Flamingo Cancun - The Flamingo Cancun Resort & Plaza is the perfect hotel for travelers who want to relax in a peaceful environment, yet still be close to Cancun's hot restaurants and nightlife. Located in the middle of Hotel Zone on the beach midway between downtown Cancun (20 minutes by taxi) and across the street from the Flamingo Plaza shopping mall. The hotel is located within walking distance of shopping malls, nightclubs and restaurants. There are two pools, one of which overlooks the ocean. Flamingo Cancun Phone: (52)(998) 848-8870

Hotel Calinda Viva - A modern 8-story, 210-room (plus two presidential suites) complex with ocean views, this hotel is ideal for budget-conscious travelers who don't want to sacrifice quality. Calinda Viva Cancun features all the standard amenities: two swimming pools and pool bar, white sand beach, beautiful ocean views, tennis courts, and two restaurants. The hotel is located just minutes away from shopping malls, the convention center, movie theaters, dining and the entertainment district, as well as nightclubs. Calinda Viva Cancún Phone: 998-883-0800

Radisson Hacienda Cancun - The Radisson Hacienda Cancun is a colonial-style hotel reminiscent of an 18th-century hacienda, conveniently located in the heart of Cancun. As a guest here you have access to an exclusive beach, as well as a swimming pool, two saunas, health club facilities and spa services. There are two restaurants onsite and room service is available. The hotel is located close to recreational activities, shopping and entertainment. Radisson Hacienda Cancun Phone: 998-881-6500

Miramar Misión Cancun Park Plaza - Each guest room has a partial view of both the lagoon and the ocean. One of the most notable features about the hotel is a large, rectangular swimming pool that extends through the hotel and down to the beach, with built-in, submerged sun chairs. There's also an oversize whirlpool, which the hotel management claims is the largest in Cancun, a sun deck, and a snack bar on the 7th-floor roof. A popular nightclub, Batacha, is located onsite, as well as three restaurants. Miramar Misión Cancun Park Plaza Phone: 998-883-1755 or Toll Free 800-15-1333 or in the U.S, 998-883-1755

Popular Eating & Drinking Establishments

There are dozens of dining options in Cancun and the surrounding areas, so it may come down to closing your eyes and pointing to one. From traditional Mexican food to Caribbean and Mayan specialties to international fare, you're likely to enjoy your Cancun dining experience as much, if not more so, than your outdoor activities.


The Destileria - Step back in time to learn the history of tequila in this old tequila distillery. The food and décor are worth a visit in their own rite. The walls feature a collage of tequila memorabilia and history. By the time you leave the on site museum, you'll be a tequila aficionado. Phone: 998-885-1087.

Plantation House - The Plantation House is about seafood. Sample delectable Caribbean seafood, including farm fresh lobster. Your perfectly grilled entrée will arrive via boat, making for one of the most unique dining experiences you'll ever encounter. Phone: (52) (998) 883-14-33

Al Cielo Restaurant - This romantic restaurant is located next to the Al Cielo Hotel right on Xpu-Ha Beach, close to Playa del Carmen and Tulum, in the heart of Mexico's Riviera Maya. The restaurant is open with a thatched roof-perfect for watching the sun set over the Caribbean while you dine. Phone: 984 84 09 012

Café Del Mar Xpu-Ha - Situated right on the beach, this casual restaurant serves Mexican and international cuisine while you sunbathe and relax in the sun. No need to worry about changing for dinner. The restaurant is part of the Hotel Villas del Caribe Xpu-Ha. Phone: 984 873 2194

The Palm Restaurant - If it's fine dining you want, The Palm Restaurant has your number. Choose from huge prime aged steaks and oversized Nova Scotia lobsters, features filet mignon, prime rib, lamb chops, their signature steak and seafood such as swordfish, shrimp and salmon. Also offered is Poultry, Veal and Pasta specialties. The Palm Restaurant is also known for its lively atmosphere and "Wall of fame", where you'll find caricatures of celebrities and local VIPs. The restaurant is located in an annex to the President Intercontinental Hotel Phone: 848-8747

Cancun Nightlife

Most people go to Cancun for some level of partying and with that in mind, your hotel staff will most likely be able to set you up with a bar tour that is either free or very inexpensive. You can always venture out on your own, just take a taxi from your hotel. The following hot spots are some of the most popular and vibrant in Cancun.

  • Señor Frog's - Senor Frog's is by far the most popular spot among young Cancun tourists. During the day, this is a great family restaurant but after sundown it transforms into a club with live music, DJs, karaoke and even contests (yes, those kind of contests). The most famous attraction here is the water slide that travels to the lagoon.
  • The City - The City is one of the newest nightclubs in Cancun. Their motto is "Day or night we never sleep." Opened on Jan 29, 2004 The City, Cancun is a massive venue, with a beach area open during the day and capable of holding up to 15,000 guests. The club itself can hold more than 4,000 guests on three floors. The City Cancun has already attracted live performances from big names such as 50 Cent and renowned DJ Sasha to perform at their venue. Other artists associated with the club include Oscar G, Sean Paul, The Basement Jaxx and Eminem.
  • Fat Tuesdays - Known for being raucous and rowdy, Fat Tuesdays is for die-hard partiers. The bar features one wall lined with frozen drink machines and another wall displaying men's thong underwear. Don't let that dissuade you though. Fat Tuesdays is the ultimate beach party.
  • Bulldog Cafe - This lively club has hosted several bands including Guns n´Roses, and AC/DC. They also offer a VIP lounge with a Jacuzzi for just you and your guests.
  • Captain Hook Pirate Adventure - This is a great place for the entire family. If you want to avoid the wet t-shirt contests and drunken college kids, the Captain Hook Pirate Adventure has plenty of wholesome food and entertainment.

John Big Hat Walsh - See you in Cancun!

See you in Cancun!
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