There are three main reasons people visit Cancun; the incredible white sand beaches, the celebrated all-night parties and the astonishing archaeological wonders triumphantly with-standing over two thousand years of existence. A holiday into Cancun is an experience that blends Spanish old-world diplomacy and provincial life-styles with Mayan culture and modern progressive attitudes. History is alive and well, rustling beside you like ghosts, while music fills the air and sunbathers toast beside calm blue waters.
Cancun has nearly twenty-two kilometres of white sand beach. On nearly any given day, the deck chairs spread out in uniform display as far as the eye can see, and there are enough blankets spread out, sporting golden-brown sun worshippers to appear as a world conference for magic carpet owners. Your beach location choice will probably be dictated by how close it is to your hotel, but you do have a choice in type of water you prefer.
The north side beach is what gave the Caribbean Sea its reputation. The pale water stretches out tranquilly, a mirrored surface reflecting back the spotless sky. Generally, the further east you go into the hotel zone, the deeper the colour of the sea becomes, and the stronger the surf. In the Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya, you can find surf schools, although for a classic surfing experience in Mexico, you will have to go past the Isla Mujeres to where its east point meets with the ocean. There you will find unstoppable waves to fill up your surf dreams. The wildest the Caribbean Sea gets is during a hurricane.
It’s a two and a half hour drive from Cancun to reach Chichén Itzá, but well worth the trip. The awe-inspiring ancient city was an industrious urban centre for over four hundred years. The site features a pyramids, temples, colonnaded arcades of a magnitude that defies the senses. Here Chac Mool reclines, keeping silent watch, while behind stands the columns of the one thousand warriors. Here is America’s largest and oldest ballpark; 168 metres long and seventy metres wide; where Mayans cheered their champions on 1,500 years ago.
Chichén Itzá is a true demonstration of Mayan architecture and their acute knowledge of mathematics, engineering and astronomy. The dazzling Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, is constructed with 365 steps, one for each day of the year. Each of the temple’s sides has 91 steps, culminating with the top platform to form the last step. What makes the temple legendary and keeps building designers stumped is that during the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadowy serpent appears and begins slithering down the steps. As the sun begins to set, the shadowy snake joins the stone head of the serpent at the base of the great staircase to one side of the pyramid.
If Chichén Itzá is not on your schedule, but you still wanted to see some Mayan ruins, you’re in luck. The El Rey ruins are located squarely in the middle of the hotel zone. While the archaeological site is small, it does have one advantage, especially for wild life photography enthusiasts. Over recent years, hundreds of iguanas have decided to take up residence on the crumbling remains of a long-ago era. Not only do they like sunbathing as much as the Average Cancun guest, but they are completely unafraid of humans. If they won’t come out of their holes, just toss them a piece of that Mexican torta you were eating, and there will be dozens to snap pictures of for your wildlife collection.
The wispy, seven kilometre long island located thirteen kilometres off Cancun’s coast never gained much attention until it was discovered as a prime location for scuba diving and snorkelling. The Isla Mujeres has outstanding aquatic conditions, with calm clear waters, abundant sea life, coral reefs and hidden caves. Its activities include kayaking, aerial zip lining, caving and hiking, but its main attraction is swimming, especially when a few flipper friends join the crowd. Swimming with dolphins has become the high light of many Cancun holidays and has turned the Isla Mujeres into a busy recreational site.
Cancun is packed with people year-round, but the people of the Yucatan Peninsula have not ceased to appreciate their beautiful, tropical environment. Cancun’s resort zone, at the end of the hotel zone offers a variety of tours that include snorkelling, kayaking, sailing and glass-bottom boat rides. The area becomes more lush as you gravitate toward the Nichupte Lagoon and enter a region of brightly coloured birds, slithering reptiles and monkeys screaming from the trees. The sanctuary is protected, but there are trails for hikers, bicyclers and joggers to enjoy a refreshing morning in an area that lets you see what Cancun looked like before it became a city.
Spanish traditions die hard in Mexico. The sport of fighting bulls is an integral aspect of Mexican culture, where even in the small villages scheduled bullfights are as common as rodeos. There is a bull-fighting ring at the Plaza de Toros in downtown Cancun. If you are an animal rights activist, are squeamish about blood, or otherwise have a heart to gentle for the sport, you will probably not enjoy the spectacle of fighting bulls. If you are made of steel and determined to grasp all the colour and vitality that constitutes Mexico, you may wish to add a bullfight to your agenda.
There is an art involved with the role of the matador. His movements are fluid as a dance, his timing is spotless. Although to our gentle eyes, the matador seems cruel, this is a fight to the death between man and beast. Sometimes the bull does win the battle; crushing, maiming or tossing his antagonist. If the bull wins, he’s not put to death. He’s put out to pasture where he can live into old age, contentedly breeding other mighty fighters.