to Cancun are lucky because there is so much to see and do in this
area. Whether you stay in town or go on a day trip there is something
for everyone to enjoy. Below are some of the more popular attractions.
Once you have decided on where to go you can head out on your own
or ask one of the local travel agencies to make arrangements for
you. Many of the hotels offer special package deals to the more
Cancun is surrounded by a variety of islands each
with their own personality and all within easy reach. Exploring
these places will show you why this area attracts so many visitors.
This tiny island (five miles long and half a mile
wide) is known as the Island of Women. Isla Mujeres is a 25-minute
ferry ride from downtown Cancun and despite its popularity with
day-trippers from the mainland has retained its laid-back atmosphere.
The preferred activity here is lounging on the beach with drink
in hand and the perfect place to do this is at Playa Norte where
the sea is a calm as a lake and waist deep for the first 35 meters
(100 yards). It’s also the perfect place to watch the sunset. Playa
Paraíso and Playa Lancheros on the western shore are also pleasant
spots for swimming and sunning. At the southern most point of the
island is Garrafón Marine Park where you can snorkel along some
of the famous coral reefs. The eastern side of the island has spectacular
Dining on Isla is a treat with menus that offer a variety of fresh
fish, lobster, shrimp, and conch along with great pizza, steaks,
sandwiches and hamburgers. Shopping is equally as fun – you can
wander through the cobbled streets of downtown looking at the shops
selling everything from t-shirts to Mexican crafts. Isla is well
known for its finely crafted jewelry created by local artisans.
Ferries run from downtown Cancun (Puerto Juarez) For more information
check out our www.visitislamujeres.com.
Cozumel has the distinction of being the largest island
in Mexico as well as the largest cruise ship port. It’s an exciting
combination of casual sophistication that offers the perfect recipe
for a great vacation. Located 19 kilometers off the coast and two
hours south of Cancun, Cozumel is a flat island with an interior
covered by dense jungle, and marshy lagoons. On the western side
are white sandy beaches with calm waters where you can snorkel,
sail, windsurf or scuba dive. Eastern side beaches are deserted
stretches of sand with dramatic rock formations and powerful surfs
– a favorite place to surf or boogie board. Since so much of Cozumel
is undeveloped there is lots of wildlife on land and in the ocean.
It’s most famous attraction is the magnificent coral reef that surrounds
the island drawing hundreds of divers from around the world. But
that’s not all it has to offer. Cozumel's restaurants have an international
cuisine that rivals Cancun, especially the seafood (lobster, king
crab, grouper and red snapper) with a Mediterranean accent. Shopping
is an even bigger industry than diving for Cozumel due to the cruise
ships. Prices are higher here than inland but the variety is excellent
including folk art, gold and silver jewelry, pottery, painted balsa-wood
animals, blown glass and handcrafted textiles. It’s hard to explore
the whole island in one day, but fortunately there are a number
of excellent luxury resorts and hotels should you decide to spend
the night. For more information visit our www.visitcozumel.com page.
There is no better place to get away from it all than
on Isla Holbox. This small island (25 km/16 mi long) rests at the
tip of Quintana Roo, just north of Cancun and offers a kind of romance
and tranquility that is rare these days. The small village has no
paved roads and the gregarious residents get around on electric
golf carts. On the gulf side of the island are long stretches of
sand, where the birds gather to bask in the sun. It’s a beachcomber’s
paradise – the sands are strewn with hundreds of seashells. Afternoon
breezes from the Gulf of Mexico ensure that the island remains cool.
Hotels are charming but few fall into the luxury category as compared
to Cancun. But with that breeze, glorious sunrises and sunsets,
serenity and calm, fresh seafood and cold beer, swinging in a hammock
under a palapa roof may be all that you need. To get there from
Cancun, take Highway 180 (almost to Chemax), after the checkpoint
station, turn north to Kantunilkin road. Follow this road north
to the village of Chiquilá where the road ends. Here you can catch
a ferry or a water taxi to Isla Holbox. Times vary but there are
usually five crossings per day. Ferries cost $1.50, water taxis
$15. Total travel time from Cancun, including ferry crossing is
approximately 4 hours.
THE COLONIAL CITIES
A trip to one of the nearby colonial cities is an
adventure into the past. Many of the cities in this area are an
exotic blend of the Spanish and Maya cultures giving them an distinct
character and charm.
Valladolid is a city founded in 1543 by the Spanish
Conqueror Francisco de Montejo. It is a picturesque village with
many 19th century buildings and churches. Its main sights are the
large cathedral found off the main square and the marvelous ex-Franciscan
convent and church of Saint Bernardino of Siena (founded in 1552).
Both were ransacked during the War of the Castes when the Maya,
tired of abuse and discrimination, rose up against the Spanish residents,
killing most of them and reclaiming the city. A history of this
uprising is displayed in a series of paintings in the town hall.
In the middle of town is the ancient cenote Zaci where the original
Maya city of Sisal was first built. Other architectural highlights
include a variety of majestic mansions, the cathedral of Saint Servacio,
and the museum of Saint Roque. Outside of town is the famous Dzitnup
cenote, an underground water hole feature in National Geographic.
Valladolid is famous for its delicious sausages and its local liqueur,
Xtabentún, flavored with honey and anise. There are also excellent
markets where you can buy sandals, baskets, handmade textiles and
leather goods. Located on Highway 180, two hours west of Cancun.
Izamal, also known as Ciudad Amarillo (the yellow
city), is a perfect example of a typical Spanish colonial town.
All the buildings, by order of a town law, have been painted an
earthy yellow. In the center of town is the enormous 16th century
Monastery of St. Anthony de Padua, built from the stones of a giant
Maya pyramid devoted to Itzamná, father of the Maya gods. Inside
are 75 yellow arches in a gigantic atrium that houses frescoes of
saints and a statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.
Many miracles have been attributed to this statue and every year
there is a pilgrimage in her honor. A few blocks away stands the
remains of a royal city and an ancient Maya pyramid. Kinich Kakmó
is currently being excavated and restored. Just off the main square
are horse drawn carriages offering rides through the town while
a number of lovely cafés serve food and drinks. To reach Izamal
from Cancun, take Highway 180, west for 3.5 hours approximately
273 km (169 mi). Watch for the sign that reads, Izamal, and turn
Mérida is the beautiful capital of the Yucatán state
and is the cultural and intellectual center of this region. Known
in its heyday as the Paris of the Yucátan, where the barons of the
henequen trade built their mansions, Mérida is a city that has a
blend of French, Moorish and Spanish architecture. A visit here
will teach you about the history and culture of the Yucatán. Since
it’s a much larger city than Cancun it has more to offer in the
way of museums, restaurants, shops, theaters, universities, schools
and historical buildings. However, it also has more traffic and
noise, which can be a shock after the quiet beaches along the coast.
The Centro Histórico (Historic Center) is where you will find many
of the older, stately buildings and mansions including the stately
Casa de Montejo, built in 1542 and the Renaissance style Cathedral,
home to the second largest crucifix in the world. Paseo Montejo,
dubbed the Yucatán’s Champs-Elysées, is a 10-block street lined
with the many opulent mansions built in the 18th century. There
are also a number of lovely parks and fine museums located throughout
the city. The hotels and restaurants are world class, offering the
very best of Mexican and Yucatecán hospitality and cuisine while
the open-air market offers the excellent shopping at the best prices
anywhere on the peninsula.
of Anthropology and History (INAH)
Cancun’s museum is located on the ground floor of
the city's convention center. It traces the Maya culture with an
impressive collection of 1,000 to 1,500-year-old artifacts. There
are a number of impressive carvings and frescoes, along with ancient
artifacts that have been unearthed at nearby sites throughout Quintana
Roo. A visit to the National Institute of Anthropology and History
can add another dimension to your exploration of the Maya ruins
and is a fascinating introduction to the ancient culture. It’s also
a great way to pass a rainy day in Cancun. Guided tours in English,
French, German, and Spanish are available. Open Tuesday to Sunday,
9 AM – 7 PM. Admission: $3, children under 11 free. Sundays free.
Located at the Cancun Convention Center, Blvd Kukulcán Km 9. Tel:
Museum of Anthropology
(Museo de Anthropologiá e Historia)
This museum is located in the grand capital of Mérida.
Originally a residence for the governor, this mansion was transformed
into a museum in 1977. The Museo de Anthropologiá e Historia showcases
the Maya culture and history with exhibits of artifacts found from
ruins on the peninsula. Here you can see ancient conch shells, stones,
feathers, jade objects and jewelry used in Mayan rituals. Another
display case explains the various customs of tattooing and head
binding along with the myths associated with them. Open Tuesday
to Saturday, 8 AM – 8 PM, Sundays, 8 AM – 2 PM. Admission: $1.60.
Free on Sundays. Located on Calle 43 and Paseo Montejo, Mérida.
Tel: (999) 23-05-57.
Museum of the
Maya Culture (Museo de la Cultura Maya)
Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, is home to
the impressive Museum of Maya Culture. This is a sophisticated,
interactive museum that explains the complex world of the Maya.
Various exhibits outline the social classes, politics and customs
along with the medicinal and domestic uses of plants. The most exciting
display is the three-story Sacred Ceiba tree that represents the
Maya cosmology. You can journey to the bottom floor into the underworld,
to the middle floor that is earth or the top floor where the heavens
and Maya gods reside. There are also hands-on exhibits demonstrating
the long and short Maya calendar and their mathematical system.
Models of the various sites show the differences in architecture.
This museum is extremely popular with young and old alike and it’s
well worth a visit for those who wish to learn more about the Maya.
Open Tues-Thurs, 9 AM- 7 AM, Sat 9 AM-8 PM, Sun 9 AM – 2 PM. Admission:
$3. Located on Héroes and Calle Mahatma Gandhi, Chetumal. Tel: (983)
Teatro de Cancun
Enjoy the chants and dances of México along with the
dances and drum beats of the Caribbean at Teatro Cancun. This is
an high-energy show full of movement and music performed by some
of Cancun’s most talented dancers and musicians. No reservations
are required. Located at Blvd Kukulcán, Km 4. Tel: (998) 849- 4848.
Casa de Cultura
(House of Culture)
Cancun’s community center for culture is located downtown
and offers a variety of weekly cultural events such as music concerts,
dance rituals, plays and poetry readings. An on-site museum displays
works of local artists and the exhibits change each month. Admission
fees are nominal. Located at Prolongación Av. Yaxchilán, Sm 21.
Tel: (998) 884-8364.
The first bullfight in Mexico was held in 1526 in
honor of Hernán Cortés and shortly afterwards bullfighting arenas
were built throughout the country. While Cancun’s bullring is certainly
much younger than those found in other cities, it maintains all
the traditions of this ancient duel. You can witness the battle
between man and beast every Wednesday at 3:30. Tickets begin at
30 minors of 13 years are free. The door opens to 3:00p.m., can
arrive earlyby seats. Located on Av. Bonampak (past the Pemex Station,
near Plaza las Americas) Tel/Fax: (998) 884-8372 or (998) 884-8248.