The Insider Guide to Cancun

Its party reputation may be deserved, but go beyond the reggaeton-blaring nightclubs to discover an enchanting destination. A plum spot on the Caribbean coast, astonishing Maya ruins and castaway-style islands may quench your thirst for culture and nature, if not your hangover.

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¡Vamos! The Main Attractions

An unabashed resort destination, Cancun is anything but dull. Your inner beach bum will certainly be happy with the charming strips of idyllic Caribbean coastline, head north to Isla Blanca – not actually an island but a peninsula – for a quieter experience away from the tourist throng. Or if you’re set on staying in Zona Hotelera, where the grand resorts are found, head to the pleasant Playa Delfines where you can take a short walk to the Maya ruins at El Rey. Speaking of which, you can hardly come to the Yucatan Peninsula without delving into Maya history; a day trip to Chichen Itza and the stepped pyramid of Kukulkan always impress, but the crumbling pyramid at Coba (which you still can climb for views over the jungle) or the abandoned city of Ek Balam feel a little less touristy. More relics can be found at the Museo Maya de Cancún, home to some 400 archaeological finds. Or for a quirkier cultural excursion, the Underwater Museum of Art displays an eerie yet fascinating collection of 500 sunken statues; snorkel, dive or stay dry and visit the sight in a glass-bottomed boat. A quiter, yet no less extraordinary, underwater experience can be found swimming in the glassy waters of a cenote, or sinkhole; there are thousands to visit but the brave (or foolhardy) might want to swim alongside the (not very large) crocodile, Pancho, in Casa Cenote. Alternatively, if you’re coming with the family, you may be tempted by Xcaret Park, an amusement-cum-nature park home to underground rivers, the impressive aerial acrobatics of Papantla Flyers, and grand displays of pre-Columbian dances. Cancun is also home to the main international airport in the region, making it the jumping-off point for the boho-spirited Tulum to the south, Spanish colonial cities of Valladolid and Merida to the west, and the Caribbean islands of Cozumel, Holbox and Isla Mujeres, all off the Quintana Roo state shoreline.

Neighborhoods in Cancun