Cancun, in the state of Quintana Roo, was previously a long strip of forest flanked by beaches. Cancun's history as a resort area dates back only to 1970, when the Mexican government chose the spot for development as a tourist destination thanks to the area's great weather, beautiful beaches, clear waters, and nearby coral reef. Cancun is now the biggest resort area in the country, with a population near 500 000, but receiving over 3 million visitors annually.
Areas of Cancun:
Cancun is divided into three distinct areas. "Ciudad Cancun" (Cancun City), a somewhat typical Mexican town on the mainland where most Cancun residents make their home, which contrasts strikingly with the impressive hotel zone, "Isla Cancun" (Cancun Island), known more commonly as the Hotel Zone. There is also an ecological reserve with mangroves and lagoons.
Cancun Island is a 15 mile-long sandbar located off the mainland and connected by causeways on either end. The body of water between Cancun Island and the mainland is called the Nichupte Lagoon. Ciudad Cancun has economical hotels and markets, but most visitors stay in the hotel zone, along the main road, Kukulkan Avenue, a strip of elegant hotels and modern resorts. This is where tourist amenities, upscale shopping and nightlife is concentrated.
Map of Cancun:
View a map of Cancun's Hotel Zone.
Climate and Nature:
Cancun has a subtropical climate. The weather is warm year-round but can be cool at night during the winter. The vegetation is characterized by low forest trees and brilliant flowers. The mangrove swamps and coral reefs are inhabited by an astounding variety of animals and the area is a paradise for bird-watchers.
Read about the weather of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Activities in Cancun:
- Visit archaeological sites of El Rey and Yaml Lu Um
- Practice water sport activities: water skiing, windsurfing, parasailing, snorkeling and scuba diving
- Enjoy the beautiful beaches with gentle waves, white sand and turquoise water
- Go shopping at the Plaza Caracol or in the markets in Ciudad Cancun
- Visit the interactive aquarium
Day Trips from Cancun:
Cancun is the perfect starting point for discovering the Mayan Riviera. It's easy to make day trips to Cozumel, Playa del Carmen or the archaeological sites of Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. XCaret eco-archaeological park or the nature reserve of Sian Ka'an are also easily visited as day trips.
See more Cancun day trips.
Accommodations in Cancun:
Cancun has a huge array of hotels from which to choose.
- Hotel Margaritas offers great value in Cancun City (Check rates)
- ME Cancun is a luxurious resort which attracts a glamorous fun-seeking crowd (Check rates)
- Temptation Resort and Spa, an all-inclusive adult-only resort with a contemporary, hip vibe and a fun adult atmosphere (Check rates)
- Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa is a luxurious all-inclusive on the Northern tip of Cancun's hotel zone, a good choice for family vacations (Check rates)
Getting There and Getting Around:
Cancun's international airport (Airport code CUN) is the main point of entry. It is located just 6 miles from the hotel zone and receives flights from major international airlines as well as charters. Search for flights to Cancun.
Many agencies in Cancun offer activities and day trips to the surrounding areas. You can also rent a car (compare rates) to explore the area independently. Unlike some other areas of Mexico, roads in the Riviera Maya are in good condition and well-marked.