Mostly known for its beaches and party scene, Cancún is the Yucatán Peninsula's tourist central. Avoiding spring break season and summer vacation may help avoid crowds of beer-guzzling college students, but the city still caters to mass tourism and hedonism year round. Reserve rooms in more expensive all-inclusive resorts if you want more peace and quiet. There is more to the area than bars, night clubs and kitschy tourist shows; the Yucatán offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy snorkeling, diving, hiking, bird watching and exploring archaeological sites.
Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm is located on Mujeres Island, just off the coast of Cancún. Originally a sparsely settled fishermen's haunt, the island is now home to a turtle farm that helps provide breeding grounds for giant sea turtles. The turtle farm is not the only attraction of the island; visitors can enjoy white sand beaches, snorkeling, diving in El Garrafon National Park, and exploring reefs and caves. Windsurfing is popular on the island's beaches. You can take a day trip to Mujeres Island by boat from either Puerto Juárez or Cancun's hotel zone. Make arrangements to stay the night on the island in order to take more advantage of boat tours or visit another nearby island, Contoy, which hosts a wildlife refuge and over 90 species of birds.
Park Las Palapas
Park Las Palapas serves as the town square for Cancún and is a nice place for a picnic or a walk. The shallow water at Playa Langosta makes it an excellent location for snorkeling. This coral sand beach is located in Zona Hotelera's north end. Many restaurants and bars line the beach, so don't expect this to be an escape from Cancún's tourist scene.
See skulls, jewelry, contemporary exhibits and Mayan artifacts at Museo INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History). The museum is not far from El Rey archeological site. Visit the city's main passenger port, Puerto Juárez, if you want to take a ferry ride or check out nearby islands. Avenida Tulum is the city's main boulevard and is lined with shops, banks and restaurants.
The main attraction in Cancún, besides the beautiful beaches, are the Mayan ruins. The city's main Mayan Temple was built in honor of Ixchel. It was rediscovered in 1517 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and his expedition. Unfortunately, Hurricane Gilbert badly damaged the ruins in 1988. Within Cancún Hotel Zone, there are two sets of Mayan ruins: Yamil Lu'um and El Rey Archaeological Zone. El Rey is a bigger site, although Yamil Lu'um's ruins are in a picturesque setting.
Article Written By Heather Carreiro
Heather Carreiro is a certified English teacher who has been writing since 2008. The editor of Matador Abroad, her work has appeared online at BootsnAll, Matador Network, GoNOMAD, Journey Beyond Travel and Expat Women. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Bridgewater State University.