Mexico: Cancun | Mayan Ruins, Resorts & 'Ritas

by Lori Seto

Seemingly carved out of the jungle, Cancun sits at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, twinkling with big resorts and a boisterous nightlife. Ancient Indian cities and beautiful palm-fringed beaches compete for your attention during the sun-soaked days; the nights steam up with delicious food, tantalizing margaritas, and smokin' disco DJs.

In A Word: Ruins

Cancun's big resorts offer a comfortable nest from which to explore ancient Mayan ruins. The seaside Mayan city of Tulum is closest. Good day trips include Coba, a quiet site with towering temple pyramids, and Chichen-Itza, a prominent city from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. El Castillo, Chichen-Itza's 98-foot pyramid centerpiece, is a must-see.

Why We'd Go: Three Features You'll Never Forget

  • Isla Mujeres: Hop a day or night cruise to the laid-back "Island of Women," where ancient Mayans worshipped Ixchel, goddess of rainbows, fertility, and childbirth. Lounge under a grass palapa on lovely Playa Norte beach, or head south on a moped or golf cart to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery, or visit the Tortuga Marina Turtle Farm.
  • Souvenir shopping: Colorful shopping stands can be found everywhere, but Ki Huic on Tulum Avenue in Cancun is the place to go for crafts. For silver, visit Flamingo Plaza and Fiesta Plaza on Kukulcan Boulevard, downtown Cancun's main drag. Look for the "925" quality stamp, and don't hesitate to bargain at outdoor markets.
  • Mexican eats: Sample traditional Yucatecan dishes and tasty seafood.

When To Go: Cancun At Its Best

  • Best weather: Cancun is reputed to have more sunny days than any other Caribbean spot. Trade winds temper the average 80-degree temperatures. The rainy season runs from May through October; hurricane season swirls from September to October.
  • Best prices: May to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel
  • Festival highlights: Carnival rocks the city in February; the weeklong Cancun Jazz Festival grooves in May; El Senor de las Ampollas is celebrated with fireworks, dancing, and music from late September to early October. Check out Cancun's website for details.
    For more information about Mexico, contact the Mexico tourist board, (800) 44-MEXICO.

Photo: Mexico Tourism Board

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