Cancun’s picture from the 70s – I wish I had seen it before but I wasn’t even born. It must have been an uncontaminated paradise compared to what it is now (see main picture – courtesy of Wikimedia).
I always ask myself if progress is a good thing… it certainly is if you think about all the employment it creates, but I wonder if whether this the only possible way or there is a more sustainable option.
That said, to be totally honest with you, the city of Cancun in itself is other than charming, especially compared to a historical city such as Merida o Valladolid or all the other cities of the Republic of Mexico. Cancun, on the contrary, is a very recently built city, the downtown buildings, and streets make no sense at all and there’s nothing to see except for a few markets; the hotel zone is a skyline of gigantic hotels, though the majority of them offer a ”luxury experience” they are still blocking the stunning view of the powdery-white sand and multiple shades of blue of the amazing water. Luckily there are some entrances to the beach that are of public access. Here is a list of my favorites.
The hotel area also offers a huge variety of nightclubs and bars for the young crowds, touristic shops, and restaurants.
Yet somehow, even without the historical feeling, I still reckon it has its charm…
Living here, I have to say, was a blessing. Cancun is known among the “mystics”, to be one of the most energetic centers of the world, and to be honest, even if you cannot touch it, you can totally feel it. I do. I felt it from the very first time when I came here 15 years ago, and when I left for professional reasons I knew I would have been back again at some point in my life; and without forcing destiny, here I was 6 years later after receiving a call with a job offer in Cancun. There is something about it that you need to experience for yourself or you won’t understand, it’s something that I believe works like a magnet because all the times I wanted to leave for different reasons, I never quite made it. It is here where I found my love for yoga and meditation, for vegan nutrition and a healthy living style.
This is what is living here is for me. I leave the party zone to the youngsters and keep the mystical side for myself, and I just love it. Furthermore, it is just a 10 minute-drive from Cancun International Airport, which makes me feel connected to the rest of the world. For those visiting, I would definitely suggest stopping off for a couple of nights before heading southwards. If you wish to stay for a week or longer, chill out at the hotels and beautiful beaches by all means, but please do yourself a favor, get out of the golden cage and explore.
There is so much to see and do within Cancun and its surroundings, along with the Riviera Maya and inland towards the beautiful cities of Merida (about a 4-hours drive away), Valladolid (just an hour away), Chichen Itza and much more. You can also take one-day excursions if you feel more comfortable, although if you are reading this you must be an adventurous, curious traveler, so you will definitely want to explore on your own.
The Hotel Zone is so called in order to distinguish it from the downtown area, where normal life takes place; as opposed to the area where tourists and local visitors chill out on the beautiful beaches in the huge hotels and enjoy their vacations.
I always hear the amusing phrase ‘’but you live in Cancun, you are always on vacation’,’ from my parents and friends. Yeah right…, I still go to the office from 9 till 7…., but yes ok, I can easily go to the beach on weekends, so I am not complaining.
Here in Cancun, I believe you find the best beaches in this region; and of course, I have my weekly appointment with a swim. Cancun has a very peculiar shape, with about 27 km of coast in the shape of an upside-down L, interrupted only at 2 points: one being the canal that connects the lagoon to the sea, which is a beautiful spot at km 4 I suggest visiting; the second break being Punta Cancun, located at km 7, where the second oldest hotel was built in the 70s and has now been refurbished.
Around that area is my favorite stretch of beach, where the sea is flat and you can easily swim and snorkel. From the Crystal Palace hotel (previous the Hyatt) at km 7 right the way along until km 27, where the very first hotel, Club Mediterranee, was built and still remains, you can easily walk on the soft beach; very good exercise I have to say… even if I haven’t done it yet myself.
And talking about exercising, one thing I really appreciate about, Cancun is the cycling (and walking) path that runs along the coast on the street side, interrupted by the entrance of the hotels, but very handy if you wish to go out for a walk, or do your morning (or evening) run. If you run close to the bridge (km 4) early evening, you will see amazing sunsets on the lagoon side.
Opposite the beachside, on the other side of the road, you can enjoy the huge lagoon that separates the hotel zone from the city.
Some hotels are built on that side as well, and even though you cannot walk directly to the beach from your room you can still enjoy an amazing view of the lagoon and gorgeous sunsets, which I find really charming.
There are actually a lot of water sports and tours organized there with lots of enjoyment and fun. You can also enjoy a great shopping center ‘’La Isla’’ with all sorts of shops, especially brand stores and souvenir shops, as well as lots of restaurants facing the lagoon, where you can enjoy a romantic dinner at sunset. From the downtown area, the lagoon side is amazing.
A beautiful walking area, ‘’Malecon Tajamar,’’ has just been finished, with a 1500-meter promenade along the lagoon, offering you a spectacular view from this side of the water, especially at sunset. Somebody even saw a dolphin here…I was not so lucky, but it is fascinating anyway.
This is one of the spots in town where many early birds gather to do sports, run, or just walk while soaking up the beautiful sunrise. It is quite a popular place in the evening too, to walk off the stress from a long working day, take the kids rollerblading or take dogs for their daily stroll, and sometimes you can also find some free yoga classes as well!
On the lagoon, you can also practice different watersports and in the Hotel Zone, there are a few spots where to can inquire. One is at the Lighthouse Marina at La Isla commercial center (km13) and the other is at the sunset marina hotel (km.5.8) here you can find jungle tours in the kayak on the lagoon, Jetpack, boat tours, jet boat and fly board.
Prices are reasonable and they are professional. Its lovely to go around mid-afternoon and afterward watch the sunset on the lagoon.
Within the city there are still a couple of spots that deserve a bit of attention:
The popular and picturesque Mercado 28 where you can find local pottery and various object of the colored art and crafts. It is allowed to bargain although don’t be surprised if some of them don’t even bother to go a cent down in order to sell the product.
My favorite is Mercado 23, which offers local fruits and vegetables, seeds of every sort, local food, and other kinds of stuff. That’s where locals hang out.
In Cancun, we are also fortunate to have two small archeological sites and one Museo Maya in the Hotel Zone.
I am also a maniac of coffee shops and besides the common Starbucks, you will find cute little cafes where you can sip your latte or your favorite hot or cold drink while reading a book or doing your work in a cozy and friendly environment.
The city, downtown and the Hotel zone offers a good variety of restaurants of any sort which I have listed in this comprehensive post.
For more practical tips on money exchange, water, safety and so on.. you can read this full article here
We have also partnered with this amazing company that organizes tours if you don’t like to be on your own. I understand that if you don’t have a huge availability of time it’s much more comfortable to be taken. I get it. Therefore I have searched for the best selection of companies as there are so many. And I found these with the most amazing comments on services and organization. I have selected my favourite tours for you here below. But you can also browse through their page and check your own favorite, by clicking here.