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Cancun masterfully mixes the exotic with the familiar, so Americans can experience a completely different way of life without the struggle of trying to adapt to the unknown. English is spoken everywhere, the U.S. dollar is valid currency, and familiar names in hotels, restaurants, and shopping ensure that as soon as you land, you are off and ready to have fun!
By land or by sea
The action in Cancun centers around three bodies of water: the Caribbean Sea, with its amazing scenery and strong surf; the calm waters of the Bahia de Mujeres, perfect for kids and families; and the Nichupte Lagoon, a hub for water sports. Sports enthusiasts can sail, jet-ski, kayak, and snorkel, while sun worshippers can stretch out on powder white sands with a tropical drink in hand.
Back on land, work up a sweat on scenic tennis courts, or take to the greens on a championship golf course. Horseback riding, ATV tours, and zip-line excursions are also available for those who are able to drag themselves away from Cancun’s dazzlingly clear waters and elaborate hotel pools.
The nearby Mayan archaeological sites are likely to tug you away from all the pleasures of resort living for at least a day, and they’re a worthwhile diversion. Travel through time at any of the 1,200 archaeological sites that are scattered along the region, including major sites at Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. These marvels of architecture, most of which have been wonderfully restored yet are still shrouded by dense jungle, reveal a profound mathematical and astrological wisdom.
When you’re done adventuring, an astounding array of high-end shopping, upscale dining, and luxurious spas await. Stroll an outdoor craft market, explore the open-air malls, and indulge in sumptuous seafood and traditional Mexican fare. When the sun goes down, swap swimsuits for dancing shoes at Cancun’s famed nightspots and paint the town red until sunrise.
If you prefer a more remote setting, the tiny Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is only a short boat ride away. This laid-back and comfortable island invites you to try its many water sports or just stretch out on the soft white beaches alongside deep turquoise waters.
With all the resorts, recreation, world-class shopping, and great nightlife, it’s no surprise Cancun thrives as one of the hottest leisure destinations anywhere. And with so many exciting changes, even return visits seem new again!
Cancun after dusk
Get your drink and dance on at Cancun’s Hotel Zone and Boulevard Kukulkán with nightclubs like Coco Bongo and Mandala featuring acrobats, laser shows, and more! Cancun is widely known for its discotheques, bars, clubs, and party cruises. Since the town's whole reason for being is to create a fun experience for tourists, it is only natural that the entertainment is unlimited. The range is extensive, from romantic piano lounges, to dance clubs, to sports bars. There are several "booze cruises" with open bars, and they often include a stopover for a beach barbecue.
More serene dinner cruises have romantic dining with live music. Your tour or transfer operator can usually provide current guides for nightlife and other events, and you'll also find the latest issues of free guides handed out at the airports and distributed around town. As a bonus, many restaurants and night spots offer coupons.
Among the various well-known U.S. restaurant franchises that dominate the area, there are many locally owned restaurants where you can enjoy authentic local dishes, often with live musical entertainment. Yucatecan cuisine combines Mayan and European ingredients, and has gained a reputation as one of the finest in all Mexico. Unique regional offerings include:
- Sikil Pak, also called pumpkin seed dip, is a fine paste to accompany tortillas or boiled eggs, made with ground pumpkin seeds and roasted vegetables;
- Tikin Xic, or Yucatan fish, is fresh fish cooked on a girl and served with a paste made from orange juice and Annatto tree seeds;
- Cochinita Pibil, Yucatan pork, is a slow-roasted pork dish where the meat is marinated with spices and Achiote and wrapped in banana leaves.
Otherwise, seafood and steak are the staples of most menus in Cancun. You can also find Arabic, Chinese, Italian, French, Cajun, and Polynesian food, in addition to U.S. and local fast food joints. Beach hotels will have at least one formal restaurant, and most offer casual beach and poolside dining rooms as well.
Things to see and do
Cancun is filled with must-see attractions and wonders. Items marked with a (*) are Liberty Travel Insider Experiences, handpicked tours (some exclusive to Liberty Travel) that can be booked as part of a Liberty Travel Escape.
Chichen Itza Private Tour (with upgrades to Cooking and City Tours) *
Enjoy a fascinating day trip to the central area of the Yucatan on a privately guided tour of Chichen Itza, with an early arrival to avoid the crowds. Taste authentic Mayan cuisine, or upgrade this tour and prepare a Mayan meal of your own! For the full experience, you can finish your day by exploring beautiful architecture and an ex-convent at a classic colonial city.
Isla Mujeres VIP (with upgrades to Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin Experience) *
Get ready for an activity-packed day at the Royal Garrafon Natural Reef Park. You’ll go hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and zip-lining, and also enjoy an international buffet lunch in the exclusive Garrafon wine cellar. Upgrade to include the Dolphin Encounter and you also receive a handshake, kiss, and hug from friendly dolphins. With the full Dolphin Experience upgrade, you’ll spend a full hour in the water with dolphins and join in their games.
Ruinas del Rey
Though the Mayan structures here are not Mexico's most famous, the site has other benefits like plenty of soothing solitude and great bird- and iguana-watching.
Puerto Morelos Snorkeling *
Experience a guided snorkeling adventure at one of the most beautiful and fascinating Yucatan Peninsula locations. Bathed by spectacular turquoise water, this off-the-beaten-path coral reef has been declared a National Marine Park. Snorkel two different areas of the reef to witness two distinct and incredible habitats. Finish the day relaxing on a beautiful white-sand beach surrounded by the turquoise sea while enjoying a cold beverage and light snacks.
Tulum & Must Do’s in Mexico *
Discover the ancient Mayan culture at one of the most beautiful and best preserved coastal Mayan sites in the Yucatan during this full day experience. Tulum is located atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and is a must see while vacationing in Cancun. Afterwards, relax at the surrounding white-sand beach, swim in a nearby cenote, and visit the iconic 5th Avenue of Playa del Carmen for lunch and shopping.
Museo de Anthropología
Engaging exhibits on Mesoamerican and Mayan history, the museum is a nice cultural diversion from the tourist scene.
Explore and enjoy!
Sink your toes into the city’s famed powder-soft beaches, sport fish for tuna, barracuda, and blue marlin, or explore the surrounding jungles on a Jeep or ATV tour.