Cancun’s aptly named Hotel Zone is practically one giant beach. The 22-kilometre-long island is surrounded by water on all sides, with the outer edge hemmed by a never-ending swathe of sand. And, thanks to Cancun’s spot alongside the Caribbean Sea, the beaches are pretty special. We’re talking pearly white sands and balmy, clear waters. The north of the Hotel Zone – that’s the top of the seven, where you’ll find luxe lock-ups like the Riu Palace Peninsula - is lapped by gentle, paddle-friendly waves, because there’s a small island just offshore that protects it from bigger swells. Towards the east, the downward stroke of the seven faces the Caribbean, so the waters are brilliantly blue, and the waves are a tad livelier. Jet skiing, anyone?
Did you know that holidays to Cancun land you in a prime spot for a bit of time-travelling? Mexico was the stomping grounds of the Ancient Maya people thousands of years ago. Luckily for us, they left behind some pretty impressive sights. One of them, the ancient city of Tulum, is only 90 minutes’ drive away from Cancun. The clifftop ruins were once a thriving civilisation, and its trio of temples are still standing today – albeit in a slightly crumblier state. Then, there’s the big one – Chichen Itza - named among TripAdvisor’s top landmarks of the world earlier this year, and one of the New7Wonders of the World. The site is famed for its grisly temples, where unlucky humans were once sacrificed to the gods, and the towering El Castillo, a massive, and mysterious, step pyramid. The old Maya were a clever bunch, too. Twice a year, El Castillo’s tiered shape creates a shadow of a snake-like figure crawling down the structure. And, when you add together the steps on all four sides of the pyramid, it adds up to 365 – the number of days on the Mayan calendar. Show offs.
Fiery chilli con carne. Fajitas spilling with salsa. Cheese-smothered enchiladas. Yes, we’re drooling at the thought of those, as well, but you’d be downright cheating yourself if you ate any of that on your trip to Cancun. You see, what most people think of as Mexican food is actually more Tex-Mex, a fusion of the cuisines of Mexico and its American neighbour. In Cancun, though, you can get more of the real deal. Take a stroll along the shores of the number seven, and you’ll come across beachfront shacks serving mouth-watering street food, like esquites – cups of sweet corn topped with your choice of butter, lime juice, chili powder, cheese, and mayo – or pasty-like turnovers called empanadas. What’s more, there are hundreds of high-end restaurants lined along Cancun’s coast. And, naturally, seafood features heavily on their menus. Expect to be served things like white clams, shark tacos, and lobster tails.
Fish and chips. Ant and Dec. Cancun and clubbing. The Caribbean Coast resort is known all over the world for its wicked after-dark scene. And it all goes down in the Hotel Zone. Saunter along the seaside strip post-sunset, and you’ll find cocktail lounges, open-air bars on the sand, and in-your-face nightclubs vying for your entrance fee. Cancun’s number one nightspot is undoubtedly Coco Bongo. Acrobatic performers, bar-top conga lines, and world-class DJs are all in a night’s work at this place. In fact, CNN once said it “puts Vegas to shame”. If you want in on the action, we offer an exclusive ticket that includes express entry, premium seats above the crowds, and waiter-served drinks all night long. Still not convinced? Check out the video below. We recently hooked up with fashion gurus, ASOS, to shout about our nightlife-centric Scene holidays, and this was the end result when we flew the ASOS crew out to Cancun.
Nope, we’re not still talking about Cancun’s night scene. We’re on about the wildlife. It’s another thing that people rarely associate with this part of the world. But, when you take the resort’s location into account, it all makes perfect sense. The Big Seven is haloed by the warm Caribbean Sea, leaving nothing but the jade green Nichupte Lagoon between it and Mexico’s mainland. Take a boat out onto the lagoon, and you can hunt for aquatic birds, turtles, and even crocodiles. Or, go the other way – out onto the Caribbean Sea – and you can come face-to-fin with gigantic whale sharks. These gentle giants, who can reach up to 32 feet long, feed on nothing but microscopic plankton, so it’s perfectly safe to get in the water with them. Elsewhere around the Yucatan Peninsula, there are iguanas, monkeys and jaguars waiting to be found.
Flights to Cancun are your springboard to some of the finest hotels along Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. Just take the Riu Cancun, for example. It’s located on the shoulder of the Hotel Zone, and counts a beachfront address, four sleek swimming pools, and a jam-packed activities agenda as just some of its high points. Of course, you don’t have to stay on the seven at all – you’ll still fly into Cancun Airport if you chose a hotel in nearby resorts like the Riviera Maya, or Playacar. The latter’s home to the Riu Yucatan, which has a typically Caribbean feel, thanks to a carpet of lofty palm trees and a ribbon of white sand. If it’s more of a relaxing break you’re after, give the Sensimar Seaside Suites & Spa a try. As part of our adults-only Sensimar collection, this property is all about helping you reconnect. And it does so in style – Jacuzzi® junior suites, gourmet dining, and poolside waiter service are all part and parcel here.
If you can’t find the right time to go to Cancun, just hit and hope. Chances are you’ll be there when something’s going on. During the US Spring Break – around March or April – the resort turns into a week-long party, and superstar artists fly in for bass-busting performances. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo (that’s the fifth of May, if you didn’t get it), which is sometimes called Mexico’s Independence Day. Ironically, it’s not celebrated with as much gusto in Mexico as it is across the border, but, thanks to the American influence on the resort, Cancun’s clubs throw an awesome party on the day. Fast forward to autumn, and Dia de los Muertos – the Mexican answer to Halloween – is on the cards. It’s a massive deal for Mexicans, and, although it’s used to remember the deceased, it’s far from a macabre affair. Expect street parties, thousands of faces painted like skeletons, and a huge festival that takes place at the Xcaret eco-archaeological park.
Author: Lee Dasilva
The huge, luxurious Riu Palace Peninsula hotel from our Platinum collection is just 15 minutes from Puerto Juarez where you can swim with whale sharks.
TUI SENSIMAR El Dorado Seaside Suites come with hot tubs in every room and a Mexican beach where you can book a couples’ massage.
Whether you’re aiming to become the next David Guetta or Van Halen, you can live like a rock star at the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun.
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