Destination guide: Cancun & Tulum, Mexico

Cancun and Tulum are two of the most famous destinations in the Caribbean. Both are in south-eastern Mexico and are home to white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water, as well as exuberant native flora and fauna. Due to the large numbers of tourists who flock there every year, both Cancun and Tulum have a wide range of hotels and resorts to ensure a fun-filled vacation.

Check out our promotions and discover the archaeological remains of the Mayan cultura at Chichen Itza, Culum and Coba, dive on the islands of Cozumel and Mujeres, relive the ancient stories of conquerors and pirates and visit Xel-Ha, the largest acuarium in the world.

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  • Cancun & Tulum - Things to do

    Sights

    Mayan Temple

    Dedicated chiefly to Ixchel, Maya goddess of the moon and fertility, this temple was 'discovered' by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba's expedition in 1517. The conquistadors found various clay female figures here; whether they were all likenesses of Ixchel or instead represented several goddesses is unclear. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert almost completely destroyed the ruins.

    Location: Cancun
    Sub-Type
    : Ruin
    Address:  Isla Mujeres

    Museo INAH

    Closed for the past two years from Hurricane Wilma damage (even the museum's director doesn't know when it'll be opening its doors), Museo Inah is on the south side of the Centro de Convenciones in the Zona Hotelera. Skulls exhibiting the deformities caused intentionally by Maya parents to beautify their children are a bit creepy but also on display are jewelry and artifacts.

    Location: Cancun
    Sub-Type
    : Museum
    Telephone Number: +52 998 883 0305
    Opening Hours: 09:00-20:00 Tue-Fri, 10:00-19:00 Sat & Sun
    Pricing: admission around $35
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 9.5, Northern Blvd Kukulcán
    Website: www.mna.inah.gob.mx

    Playa Delfines

    Delfines is about the only beach with a public car park; unfortunately, its sand is coarser and darker than the exquisite fine sand of the more northerly beaches. On the upside, the beach has great views, there are some nearby Maya Ruins to check out and, as the last beach along the boulevard, it is rarely crowded. Heed the signs regarding swimming conditions as undertows are common here.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.0615741563273 / Longitude: -86.7787206172943
    Sub-Type: Beach
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 17, Zona Hotelera

    Playa Langosta

    In the middle of the north end of Zona Hotelera, Playa Langosta is a gem of a place for swimming. Facing Bahía de Mujeres, the beach is coated with Cancún's signature powdered coral sand and the waters are quite shallow, making it good for snorkeling. If you've had enough of the water there are lots of beach restaurants and bars.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.1458320624403 / Longitude: -86.7798149585724
    Sub-Type: Beach
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 5, Zona Hotelera

    Templo de las Pinturas

    The two-story Templo de las Pinturas was constructed in several stages around AD 1400-1450. Its decoration was among the most elaborate at Tulum and included relief masks and colored murals on an inner wall. The murals have been partially restored but are nearly impossible to make out. This monument might have been the last built by the Maya before the Spanish conquest and, with its columns, carvings and two-story construction, it's probably the most interesting structure at the site.

    Location: Tulum
    Address: Tulum Ruins

    El Castillo

    Tulum's tallest building is a watchtower appropriately named El Castillo by the Spaniards. Note the Descending God in the middle of its facade, and the Toltec-style 'Kukulcanes' (plumed serpents) at the corners, echoing those at Chichén Itzá. To the Castillo's north is the small, lopsided Templo del Dios Descendente, named for the relief figure above the door.

    Sub-Type: Castle
    Address: Tulum Ruins

    Estructura 25

    Estructura 25 has some interesting columns on its raised platform and, above the main doorway (on the south side), a beautiful stucco frieze of the Descending God. Also known as the Diving God, this upside-down, part-human figure appears elsewhere at Tulum, as well as at several other east-coast sites and Cobá. It may be related to the Maya's reverence for bees (and honey), perhaps a stylized representation of a bee sipping nectar from a flower.

    Sub-Type: Architecture
    Address: Tulum Ruins

    Shop

    Plaza Las Américas

    Plaza Las Américas at the south edge of the centro, is a vast modern shopping mall that includes the Liverpool and Chedraui department stores, a multiplex cinema and a food court. Don't confuse it with Plaza América, a small, aging arcade on Avenida Cobá with a few airline offices.

    Location: Cancun
    Sub-Type: Shopping Centre
    Address: Avenida Tulum, Downtown

    Eat

    Carrillo’s Lobster House

    Try Carrillo’s Plato Cozumel if you’re looking for something a bit special. This somewhat formal restaurant has air-con indoors and is fan-cooled outdoors, and entertainment is provided by mariachis. Follow the good smells leading to the blue building and you’ll be in the right place.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.1602500000000 / Longitude: -86.8262000000000
    Sub-Type: Mexican
    Telephone Number: +52 998 884 12 27
    Pricing: shrimp & fish dishes M$120-200, lobster dishes M$380
    Price Range: High
    Address: Claveles 35

    Checándole

    If you can only eat at one restaurant in Cancún, then you should eat here. It’s a bit away from the city center but well worth the extra effort. Dressed up with a palapa roof, Checándole specializes in Chilango (Mexico City) cuisine. The menú del día (fixed three-course meal) is just M$45 – great value. If it’s offering pollo en mole poblano (chicken smothered in a handmade chocolate and chili sauce), you should definitely go for it.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.1601931400000 / Longitude: -86.8345848500000
    Sub-Type: Mexican
    Telephone Number: +52 998 884 71 47
    Opening Hours: noon-8pm
    Pricing: mains M$50-130
    Price Range: Moderate
    Address: Av Xpujil 6 SM 27

    El Tapatío

    Touristy but good – this is a popular choice for hostel-goers, who suck down the mammoth fruit and veggie juices, shakes and smoothies at any time of day.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude: 21.1653300000000 / Longitude: -86.8291700000000
    Sub-Type
    : Health Food
    Opening Hours: 9am-11:30pm
    Pricing: dishes M$35-100, set meals M$65
    Price Range: Low
    Address: cnr Avs Uxmal & Palmera

    Entertainment

    Backstage Theater-Cabaret

    Cancun is well known for its lively gay and lesbian scene (though there's more for gay men than women), meaning there's plenty to do most nights. Backstage Theater-Cabaret features drag shows, strippers (male and female), fashion shows and musicals. Terrific ambience, joyful crowd. Other venues include Karamba which is popular with cross-dressers and Picante which is more for talkers than dancer

    Location: Cancun
    Type:
    Night
    Sub-Type
    : Gay/Lesbian
    Telephone Number: +52 998 887 9106
    Address: Tulipanes 30, Downtown

    Coco Bongo

    This is often the venue for MTV’s coverage of spring break, and tends to be a happening spot just about any day of the week. The club opens with celebrity impersonators, dancers and circus acts (think clowns, acrobats and the like) for an hour or so, then the rock, pop and hip-hop start playing.

    Location: Cancun
    Type: Night
    Sub-Type: Live Performance
    International Number: +52 998 883 50 61
    Opening Hours: 10:30pm-5am / Extras: Forum Mall

    Dady’O

    Opposite the Forum Mall, this is one of Cancun’s more elaborate dance clubs. The setting is a five-level black-walled faux cave with a two-level dance floor and what seem like zillions of laser beams and strobes. The predominant beats are Latin, house, techno, trance and hip-hop, and the crowd is mainly 20-something.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.1330283041166 / Longitude: -86.7475265264511
    Sub-Type
    : Music
    Telephone Number: +52 800 234 97 97
    Opening Hours: 10pm-4:30am
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán / Extras: Km 9

    Shop

    Fama

    Fama has a good selection of domestic and international newspapers and magazines. You'll also find a variety of international books, Mexican road maps and atlases, and racy swimsuits if you left yours at home.

    Location: Cancun
    Sub-Type
    : Books
    Telephone Number: +52 998 884 65 41
    Address: Av Tulum 105 SM 22 M4 Lotes 27 & 27A

    La Isla Shopping Village

    Unique among the island’s malls, this is an indoor-outdoor place with canals, an aquarium, ultramodern parasol structures and enough other visual distractions to keep even the most inveterate hater of shopping amused. For tipplers on your list, consider picking up a bottle of xtabentún, a Yucatecan anise-flavored liqueur.

    Location: Cancun
    Latitude
    : 21.1105652686996 / Longitude: -86.7642474174500
    Sub-Type: Shopping Centre
    Telephone Number: +52 998 883 5025
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán / Extras: Km 12

    Plaza Kukulcán

    The largest (and definitely among the stuffiest, attitude-wise) of the indoor malls is chichi Plaza Kukulcán. Of note here is the huge art gallery (taking up nearly half of the 2nd floor); the many stores selling silverwork; and La Ruta de las Indias, a shop featuring wooden models of Spanish galleons and replicas of conquistadors’ weaponry and body armor. But all is not lost; the plaza has a bowling alley and a large food court.

    Location: Cancun
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán Extras: Km 13

    Activity Overviews

    For decent snorkeling, you need to travel to one of the nearby reefs. Resort hotels, travel agencies and various tour operators in the area can book you on day-cruise boats that take snorkelers to the barrier reef, as well as to other good sites in the region. To see the relatively sparse aquatic life off Cancún’s beaches, you can rent equipment for about M$130 a day from most luxury hotels. Most of the major resorts rent kayaks and the usual water toys; a few make them available to guests free of charge.

    A core group of locals still heads out to Playa Chac-Mool and Playa Marlin to hit the little rollers. ‘Surf season’ runs from October to March. There’s no place in town to rent boards, but you can buy one at Koko Dog’z (www.kokodogz.com; Av Náder 42-1; [hrs] noon-8pm Mon-Fri, to 6pm Sat), which sells all sorts of boards – surf, kite, boogie, skim – and arranges wakeboarding on the lagoon for M$1950 an hour per boat.

    Scuba Cancún
    A family-owned and PADI-certified dive operation with many years of experience, was the first dive shop in Cancún. It offers a Cancún snorkeling tour (M$377) and a variety of dive options (including cenote, night and nitrox dives) at reasonable prices. It also arranges fishing trips. The bilingual (English and Spanish) staff is safety oriented and environmentally aware; there are Japanese- and Korean-speaking instructors on call as well.
    Telephone Number: 849-52-26
    Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 5.2
    Pricing: 1-/2-tank dives M$702/884, equipment rental extra

    www.scubacancun.com.mx

    Victor Martinez
    Was offering kiteboarding lessons when we passed through.
    Telephone Number: (cell phone) 998-1881404)