CANCUN TRAVEL GUIDE
For a full day of outdoor entertainment, go to Xcaret, a theme-park on a previously pristine natural cove about 1.5 hours south of Cancún. www.xcaret.net. Expensive, but worth it.
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Take a day trip to this laid-back little island for a different taste of the Caribbean. Life is slow, streets are sandy, and it’s all about enjoying the beach and unfussy seafood. From Cancún take a tour, or hop on a ferry or speedboat from Punta Juárez (US$1.50--$3.50 one way; 36K south of Cancún) or for more money, from the more convenient Embarcadero Marina, in Cancún. The tour company 100% Vela offers catamaran trips to Isla with snorkeling and lunch on the beach.
Many people avoid “dolphin swim” encounters because they oppose forcing dolphins to live in captivity. Based at Dreams Cancún Resort & Spa, Delphinus, which opened in May 2007, allows guests to swim with dolphins in an “environmentally-friendly habitat for the dolphins in the resort’s own seaside lagoon.” Check it out at www.delphinusworld.com.
Cancún currently has five golf courses with more under development and others close by in the Riviera Maya. The 9-hole course at Gran Meliá Cancún (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 12, tel. 998/885-1160) is one of the less expensive places to play. Club de Golf Cancún (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 7.5, tel. 998/883-1230) is a pretty 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Prices are reasonable for Cancún, and the club has a swimming pool and tennis courts.
Nightlife is justifiably famous in Cancún. You’ll recognize the usual suspects: Senor Frogs, Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, and so on. Additionally there are dozens of fun clubs and countless bars and coffee houses. To dance with the locals to merengue, salsa and cha cha, hit Azucar (Dreams Resort, Punta Cancún s/n, tel. 998/848-7081). Cocobongo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9.5, 998/883-5061) combines ‘musica latina lite’ with lounge music, 80s pop, and rock. Across the street, Dady’O, caters to a young set. Don’t forget to dress up.
Following the worldwide trend, many of Cancún’s five-star hotels have impressive spas, most with correspondingly high prices for facials, manicures and body treatments. Check out the Westin, Dreams, Secrets, Ritz-Carlton, Royal Sands, Le Meridien, Hilton, Gran Meliá, Paradisius, Hyatt, and Club Med, among others.
Scuba Cancún (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 5, across from Playa Langosta; tel. 998/849-5225, www.scubaCancún.com.mx) is a well-respected, family-operated scuba operation offering tours and certification.
Despite its name (“Diving Only”), Solo Buceo (Dreams Hotel, Punta Cancún, tel. 998/883-3979, www.solobuceo.com) rents wave runners in addition to leading dive and snorkel trips.
Where to Eat in Cancun - Click here for price key
Rolandi’s ($--$$; Av. Cobá 12, SM 3, downtown, tel. 998/884-4047; www.rolandi.com) serves yummiliscious pizza and homemade pasta dishes daily. Great choice for casual yet delicious Italian eats.
Lorenzillo’s ($$$, Blvd. Kukulcán Km 1.05, Zona Hotelera, tel. 998/883-1254). For fresh-from-the-tank (i.e., live) lobster prepared in several styles or other fresh seafood dishes. Eat on the patio overlooking the lagoon or in the air-conditioned dining room. Daily for lunch and dinner.
For delicious Brazilian-style cuts of meat in the hotel zone, head to Río Churrascería ($$$$, Blvd. Kukulcán Km 3.5, Zona Hotelera, tel. 998/849-9040).
Since you’re in Mexico, you might want to eat... Mexican food. But consider Yucatecan food instead. Labná ($$--$$$, Av. Margaritas 29, SM 22, downtown; tel. 998/885-3158) serves unusual local specialties like poc chuc (pork in sour orange sauce) and shark casserole in a lovely but unpretentious setting.
For traditional Mexican eats and more than 100 tequilas, visit La Destilería ($$--$$$, Blvd. Kukulcán Km 12.6, across from Plaza Kukulcán, Zona hotelerea; tel. 998/885-1087).
Cancun Hotel Recommendations - Click here for price key
For downtown lodgings you can’t beat Xbalamque ($; Av. Yaxchilán 31, downtown; tel. 998/884-9690; www.xbalamque.com). For a budget hotel it has lots of amenities, including restaurant and cafe, room service, bar, gym and beach club; breakfast included in rate. 90+ rooms and suites.
Also downtown, the smaller Rey del Caribe ($; Av. Uxmal 24, SM 2, downtown; tel. 998/884-2028, www.reycaribe.com), has a lush garden, spa, pool, and an environment friendly attitude, using solar power and composting toilets.
Since most every major chain is represented in the hotel zone, you can choose your favorite. For an upscale but not over the top stay, our pick is the Hilton Golf & Spa Resort ($$$$; Blvd. Kukulcán Km 17, Zona Hotelera, tel. 998/881-8000 or 800/445-8667 toll-free from the US; www.hilton.com). Besides golfing and spa-ing, there’s yummy seafood and Japanese eats at Mitachi restaurant.
Cancún Visitors and Convention Bureau, Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, Zona Hotelera, tel. 998/884-6531.