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.
Cancun & Tulum - Things to do
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.
Address: Isla Mujeres
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.
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
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.
Latitude: 21.0615741563273 / Longitude: -86.7787206172943
Address: Blvd Kukulcán Km 17, Zona Hotelera
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.
Latitude: 21.1458320624403 / Longitude: -86.7798149585724
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.
Address: Tulum Ruins
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.
Address: Tulum Ruins
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.
Address: Tulum Ruins
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.
Sub-Type: Shopping Centre
Address: Avenida Tulum, Downtown
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.
Latitude: 21.1602500000000 / Longitude: -86.8262000000000
Telephone Number: +52 998 884 12 27
Pricing: shrimp & fish dishes M$120-200, lobster dishes M$380
Price Range: High
Address: Claveles 35
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.
Latitude: 21.1601931400000 / Longitude: -86.8345848500000
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
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.
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
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
Telephone Number: +52 998 887 9106
Address: Tulipanes 30, Downtown
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.
Sub-Type: Live Performance
International Number: +52 998 883 50 61
Opening Hours: 10:30pm-5am / Extras: Forum Mall
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.
Latitude: 21.1330283041166 / Longitude: -86.7475265264511
Telephone Number: +52 800 234 97 97
Opening Hours: 10pm-4:30am
Address: Blvd Kukulcán / Extras: Km 9
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.
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.
Latitude: 21.1105652686996 / Longitude: -86.7642474174500
Sub-Type: Shopping Centre
Telephone Number: +52 998 883 5025
Address: Blvd Kukulcán / Extras: Km 12
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.
Address: Blvd Kukulcán Extras: Km 13
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.
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
Was offering kiteboarding lessons when we passed through.
Telephone Number: (cell phone) 998-1881404)