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Cancun is a stunning Caribbean paradise with a dual history, one rich in ancient Mayan influences and Spanish imperialism, and the other a modern lesson on the growth of this slender island into a fascinating tourist Mecca. Back in 1967, the Mexican government began searching for a complete tourist destination on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. They found that Cancun had it all. It had the natural and cultural beauty highlighted by the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the unforgettable white sand beaches, and the incredible offshore reefs. Cancun enjoys 15 miles of beautiful powdery white sand beaches and an endless view of the Caribbean Sea. Its surrounding waters are ideal for aquatic sports including snorkeling, diving, and parasailing. Golfing is also readily accessible year round.The surrounding areas are rich with Mayan influences, one of the most advanced ancient civilizations the world has ever witnessed. Cancun is comprised of two distinct landmasses, Ciudad Cancun and Isla Cancun. Ciudad is located on the Yucatan mainland and features shopping and restaurants, as well as pharmacies, banks, travel agencies, and other general businesses. Many quick trips to the surrounding ruins of the Yucatan begin here. The second region, Isla Cancun, is the heart of the resort city. Isla Cancun is connected to the mainland by two bridges, and features luxurious resorts, championship golf courses, deep-sea fishing, diving, unforgettable beaches, and a whole lot more! The low-slung jungles of this part of Mexico the Yucatan Peninsula were first settled by the Maya, whose culture and elaborate temples (like those at Tulum and Coba) continue to fascinate archaeologists and casual visitors alike. By the time Cortes began the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1519, the Maya culture was already in decline. But the conquistadors accelerated that descent with bloody battles and deadly European diseases. Eventually, the northern part of the Yucatan was settled by landowners of Spanish descent who used the Maya as workers. Though Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, decades of civil strife, dictatorships and instability followed. More than 1200 archeological sites, many completely restored, are within a few hours drive from Cancun. Popular guided day tours of the ruins of Tulum, Coba, and Chichen-Itza can be arranged upon your arrival.
 
Two distinct landmasses comprise the Cancun region. Ciudad Cancun is on the Yucatan mainland and features shopping and restaurants, as well as pharmacies, banks, travel agencies, and other general establishments. It is also the starting point for many quick trips to the surrounding ruins of the Yucatan. The second region, Isla Cancun, is the heart of the resort city. Isla Cancun is connected to the mainland via two bridges, and features opulent resorts, championship golf courses, deep-sea fishing, diving, amazing beaches, and so much more! Once the sun sets, Cancun offers a large selection of entertainment that includes Mexican-style bars and sophisticated nightclubs, playing anything from salsa music to modern dance club mixes. Dining in one of Cancun's excellent gourmet restaurants that offer live dancing and music shows, or browsing through an exclusive Mexican shopping pavilion, are just two of the many things you can look forward to on your visit to this Mexican paradise.
 
Where You're Cruise Ship Dock
Cancun is a tender port and the ship anchors quite a ways from the tender pier. It is about a 20 minute tender ride to get to shore however, the water is seldom rough as it is quite shallow. Cruise ships dock at the Centro Empresarial Cancun on Boulevard Kukulkan. It is a full service pier complete with shops, restaurants, and access to efficient public transportation to get you on your way to exploring all there is to see in the region, it is a great walking city, and many of the most popular attractions can be easily covered on foot. However, there are other modes of transportation to take advantage of.
 
Some ships offer city tours that take you through the Hotel Zone and to the El Rey ruins. Do-it-yourself types can spend their time exploring the plush resorts, restaurants and shopping malls in the Hotel Zone or just lounging on the beach. You can explore the Hotel Zone on your own by taking a public bus or taxi along Boulevard Kukulcan. The distances between resort hotels can be long, however, so walking may not be practical.
 
Taxis are readily available on the island, but there are some features of local taxi service to be aware of. Taxi rates within the hotel zone will cost you a minimum of $5 per ride, regardless of the distance. In addition, a discriminatory pricing system can charge tourists up to double the amount that local pay using the taxi service. Always ask your taxi driver for a rate card before beginning your trip. Taxis will take you to the surrounding sites of Chichen-Itza and the Riviera Maya for an hourly fee of approximately $30. Bus travel in Cancun is the most popular way of getting around town. At a modest 45 cents per ride, with buses operating from 6am to 10pm daily, you can travel to any major destination on the Island easily and cheaply. A moped can be rented from one of several agencies in town, beginning at $25 per day. Be aware that traffic in Cancun is heavy, and mopeds are a dangerous addition to the mix. You must provide a credit card as a security deposit if you wish to rent a moped in Cancun.
 
Attractions
Cancun is an exotic, tropical island with modern comforts and conveniences. A carefully planned layout and infrastructure make this destination complete. Cancun has it all. It is a 14 mile long thin ribbon of sand, which is shaped like the number "seven". You will find over 18,000 hotel rooms and some 200 restaurants. Shopping is great, with over a dozen American-style shopping malls. It is very rare to find a site better equipped with natural, archaeological, and man-made attractions. Cancun more than 1200 archeological sites, many completely restored, which are within a few hours drive from Cancun. You can arrange guided day tours of the ruins of Tulum, Coba, and Chichen-Itza upon your arrival. From here tour Tulum's romantic cliff top ruins and the Coba Mayan ruins, featuring the pyramid of Noboch Mul with 120 steps.
For adventure seekers Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula has sight-seeing treasures. Also known as the Costa Turquesa, it stretches 300 miles to the south along the Yucatan's eastern flank is the Tulum Corridor region. This scenic and unspoiled coastal zone is emerging as one of Mexico's newest resort zones. Several new all-inclusive properties have opened, and there is still plenty of off-the-beaten-path exploring. Dozens of remote coves and deserted stretches of jungle-lined white sand beach are easy to reach. There are also dozens of archaeological sites here, ranging from magnificent, fully restored ancient cities to unexcavated, ceremonial centers.

Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm
A 25-minute boat ride from Cancun. A land of white-sand beaches and colorful Caribbean architecture, Isle Mujeres features terrific shopping and dining values as well. Six species of sea turtle lay eggs in the sand along the island's calm western shore. Although they are endangered, sea turtles are still killed throughout Latin America for their eggs and meat, which are considered a delicacy. In the 1980s, efforts by a local fisherman led to the founding of the Centro de Investigaciones and the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm, which protects the turtles' breeding grounds and places wire cages around their eggs to protect against predators. Hatchlings live in three large pools for up to a year, at which time they are tagged for monitoring and released. Because most turtles in the wild die within their first few months, the practice of guarding them until they are a year old greatly increases their chances of survival. The Turtle Farm is a scientific facility, not an amusement centre. But if you'd like to see several hundred sea turtles, ranging in weight from 150g (5oz) to more than 300kg (661lb), this is the place for you.The Isla is blessedly close to four fine reefs: Los Manchones, La Bandera, Cuevones and Chital. A regular stop for divers includes the Sleeping Shark Caves, about 5km (3mi) north of the island, where the usually dangerous creatures are said to be lethargically nonlethal because of the low oxygen content of the caves' waters. The good snorkelling and better swimming beaches are on the southern part of the island along the western shore (the Bahía de Mujeres), though Playa Norte, the town's principal beach, lies calmly facing northwest. If you desperately need a break from sun and sand, there's some ruined remains of a Mayan temple dedicated to Ixchel at the southern tip of the island.

The Ruinas del Rey
It is a small archeological site 13 miles from town, built by Mayan fisherman as one of the first permanent settlements of the Mayan culture. Later abandoned, it was subsequently re-established by the Mayans just prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the early 16th century. A lush backdrop of banana plants and wildflowers surround the numerous temples that adorn this site.(tel 9/884-8073)

The Tres Rios
Eco/adventure Park is a 150-acre parcel of land located 25 minutes south of Cancun. It is a beautiful reserve that offers a variety of outdoor adventures for the whole family, including snorkeling, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, and much more. You will be given access to the bikes, canoes, kayaks, and snorkels to complete your adventure. Open daily from 9am to 6pm, Tres Rios is sure to make a lasting impression on the young and young at heart. (tel 9/887-4977)

Isla Contoy
From Isla Mujeres it's possible to take an excursion by boat to tiny, uninhabited Isla Contoy, Marine National Park, a coral coastline that attracts divers and snorkelers from around the globe. Bird sanctuary 30km (19mi) north. The island's dense foliage is home to more than 100 bird species, including brown pelicans, olive cormorants, turkey birds, brown boobies and red-pouched frigates. In addition, red flamingoes, snowy egrets and white herons make frequent visits. Bring mosquito repellent, and beware of the boa constrictors and small crocodiles that live in the island's brackish ponds.

Bullfights
Cancún has a small bullring, Plaza de Toros (tel. 998/884-8372; bull@prodigy.net.mx), near the northern (town) end of Paseo Kukulkán opposite the Restaurant Los Almendros. Bullfights take place every Wednesday at 3:30pm during the winter tourist season. A sport introduced to Mexico by the Spanish viceroys, bullfighting is now as much a part of Mexican culture as tequila. The bullfights usually include four bulls, and the spectacle begins with a folkloric dance exhibition, followed by a performance by the charros (Mexico's sombrero-wearing cowboys). You're not likely to see Mexico's best bullfights in Cancún -- the real stars are in Mexico City. Keep in mind that if you go to a bullfight, you're going to see a bullfight, so stay away if you're an animal lover or you can't bear the sight of blood. Travel agencies in Cancún sell tickets, which cost $35 for adults, free for children; seating is by general admission. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.

Panoramic helicopter tours:
Allow you to see a complete overview of this island paradise and the surrounding areas. Both day and evening flights are available. Tours to the ruins and flights south along the Riviera Maya are also an option.
-Heli Data (tel. 998/883-3104) offers customized tours with hourly rates depending upon the length of flight and time of day. Hotel pickup is provided.
-Heli Tours (tel. 998/849-4222 or 998/849-4230) offers a 15-minute ride over the Cancún Hotel Zone for $79.

The Beaches
Going to the beach is one of everyone's favorite things to do in Cancun and while you don't have to go any further than the foot of the tender pier, you can simply walk down the beach until you find just the right one for you. There are several beaches available by either taxi or ferry, so if you really want to get away from it all, you can simply select one of them and go. Cancun offers many opportunities for SCUBA diving (for both beginners and experienced alike), sport fishing charters, an Atlantis submarine operation, horse back riding, snorkeling tours, swim with the dolphins, a jungle tour by small boat, sailing, ATV tours and much more. Cancun is a full on destination with many deluxe hotels in the hotel zone and tons to do.

Outside of Cancun are numerous attractions that are worth visiting. These are all available from most of the ports located on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Calica and Progresso) so if you are visiting more than one port be sure to understand where the attraction is located from the ports.
 
Cancun is the perfect resort city for one reason: its incredible coastline. Dotting this coastline are many beaches that provide ample opportunity to relax and soak in the sights of this paradise. Although the best stretches of beach are directly adjacent to the big hotels, all beaches are public property and are open to anyone who wishes to enjoy them. Playa Tortuga, Playa Linda, and Playa las Perlas are some of the more famous beaches, where you can ride a parasail, rent a Jet Ski, and take part in other water sport adventures. Yet, in addition, there are numerous other beaches, many away from the large crowds, that offer a different type of Caribbean experience. The choice is yours!

Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
If want to Scuba dive or just snorkel in the clear shallow waters and see the coral and fish, Cancun has ideal waters for both.. The colours, shallow reefs and sheer diversity of marine life, make Cancun one of top resorts world-wide for divers and snorkelling. Of particular note, is the Gran Acerife Maya, (Great Mesoamerican Reef) which is one of the largest reefs in the whole world! For the experienced divers, explorations of the caverns and wellsprings, the cenotes, should not be missed. Veterans might wish to take a side trip to the popular reefs of El Garrafon.
Cave of the Sleeping Sharks:
Or, if you are just starting out, then an introductory course, offered by many of the resorts, would suit you best. Scuba Cancun (Paseo Kukulkan, tel. 9/884-1011) offers a 4-hour course. If you would like to get a view of this undersea paradise without getting wet, then contact. Aquaworld (Paseo Kukulkan, tel. 9/885-2288) for an unforgettable glass-bottom boat ride.

Museo Arqueológico de Cancun
A museum To the right side of the entrance to the Cancún Convention Center is the a small but interesting museum with relics from archaeological sites around the state. .This museum has a collection of items - including jewellry, masks and intentionally deformed skulls - from the Postclassic period (AD1200-1500). Other exhibits include a Classic-period hieroglyphic staircase inscribed with dates from the 6th century, and the stucco head that gave the local archeological zone its name of El Rey. Most of the informative signs are in Spanish only, though an English information sheet is available at the ticket counter. Archeology buffs should be warned, however, that they may be left wanting. The Mayan ruins really worth seeing lie far outside of the city. Admission is $3.50; free on Sunday and holidays. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 7pm, (tel. 998/883-0305)
There are such a tremendous variety of things to do in and around Cancun, yet several notable highlights have attracted millions of visitors the world over because of their appeal to families, tour groups, etc. Several are just a quick bus or taxi ride from Isla Cancun, while others are walking distance from the port.

Outside of Cancun are numerous attractions that are worth visiting. These are all available from most of the ports located on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Calica and Progresso) so if you are visiting more than one port be sure to understand where the attraction is located from the ports.

Chichen Itza (sounds like Chicken Pizza) Here are the ruins of Maya's most advanced city. They are well preserved and well worth the trek to get to them. Chichen Itza is world famous with archaeologists and its pyramids, temples and other structures boggles the mind. Getting to Chichen Itza is an all-day trip and may well be hot. Wear comfortable walking shoes and don't forget your camera.

Tulum and Xel-Ha (pronounced two-loom and shell ha) Tulum is a fabulous Mayan ruin right on the coast line with its temples overlooking the Caribbean below. Tulum is a photograper's delight. Progresso is the best port to access this attraction from. Xel-Ha is a wonderful lagoon that is surrounded by caves, crystal clear water and tons of fish to watch as you snorkel your way through the waterways.
Xcaret (pronounced Sca-ret) Xcaret is a fabulous echo-archaeological park that is of interest to everyone. It offers wonderful snorkeling in its lagoon and inner waterways that twist and wind their way through lots of unusual structure. Their is an underwater river that funs for almost 1/3 mile until it empties into the lagoon that everyone loves (especially children) There is a small ruins site, a small zoo, restaurants, bars, hammocks to lay out in and a great beach to boot. Xcaret is right next to the port of Calica and is an excellent day.
 
Eating Out
A wide range of dining options spanning Mexican, American, European, and Asian cuisines dot Cancún's Hotel Zone and downtown, with some of Mexico's top restaurants located right here. Restaurants divide into roughly three categories: expensive and international in resort hotels; independent establishments along the lagoon (with great sunset views); and inexpensive Mexican eateries in El Centro (Cancún City). One cheap, reliable Mexican chain in the Hotel Zone serving tasty meals, including breakfasts, is Vips, across from the Convention Center. The establishments listed below are typically locally owned, one-of-a-kind restaurants or exceptional selections at area hotels. Many schedule live music. Unless otherwise indicated, parking is free.
 
One unique way to combine dinner with sightseeing is aboard the Lobster Dinner Cruise (tel. 998/849-4748; www.thelobsterdinner.com). Cruising around the tranquil, turquoise waters of the lagoon, passengers feast on steak and lobster dinners accompanied by wine. Cost is $89 per person for the surf-and-turf menu. The two daily departures are from the Aquatours Marina (Bulevar Kukulcán 6.5). A sunset cruise leaves at 5pm during the winter and 5:30pm during the summer; a moonlight cruise leaves at 8pm winter, 8:30pm summer. Another -- albeit livelier -- lobster dinner option is the Captain Hook Lobster Dinner Cruise (tel. 998/849-4451; www.pirateshipcancun.com), which is similar, but with the added attraction of a pirate show involving two 28m (92-ft.) replicas of 18th-century Spanish galleons, making this a fun choice for families. The steak option costs $90 per person, and the lobster (or steak and lobster) option is $100 per person, including open bar. It departs at 7pm from El Embarcadero at Playa Linda, and returns at 
10:30pm.

Fat Tuesdays at the foot of the tender pier is legendary. MTV' Spring Break Show is shot at Fat Tuesdays if that givers you any idea. There is a crowded bar, an excellent beach and wonderful swimming right there. Many folks from the ship will not get any further than Fat Tuesdays. Carlos and Charlie's, Senior Frogs, Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood all have restaurants/bard in Cancun, but Fat Tuesday's is the best.
 
Once the sun sets, Cancun offers a large selection of entertainment that includes Mexican-style bars and sophisticated nightclubs, playing anything from salsa music to modern dance club mixes. Dining in one of Cancun's excellent gourmet restaurants that offer live dancing and music shows, or browsing through an exclusive Mexican shopping pavilion, are just two of the many things you can look forward to on your visit to this Mexican paradise.

Maria Bonita (Hotel Camino Real, tel. 9/883-0100) will make you feel a part of Cancun culture with its crooning mariachis, marimba music, and a delightful array of mouth watering dishes to choose from. In addition, a great bar invites you to try one of their 50 varieties of tequila. When it's time to dance the night away, head to Christine's at the Hotel Krystal. Known for its laser-light shows and video displays, Christine's opens at 9:30pm nightly.

La Torre Cancún Paseo Kukulkán, Km 4 (tel. 998/849-4848 or 998/889-7777), a rotating tower at the El Embarcadero park andentertainment complex. One ride costs $9; a day and night pass goes for $14. Open daily from 9am to 11pm.
 
Shopping
Cancun offers three separate shopping malls, a central flea marketplace downtown and numerous shops, boutiques and specialty stores in and around the tourist facilities. Numerous hotels also offer shopping opportunities. Cancun's newest shopping center, La Isla Shopping Village (located in the hotel zone) offers top name stores, restaurants, bars, entertainment (even an aquarium) and is the major center most tourists shop at. The Flea Market prices are higher than those on Cozumel, so if you are planning on buying local items you might want to wait. Mexican items (blankets, dolls, jewelry, onyx carvings, leather goods, ceramic ware and other collectible items) sporting equipment, clothes and just about everything else you can think of.
 
Aside from the surrounding natural splendor, Cancún is known throughout Mexico for its diverse shops and festive malls catering to international tourists. Visitors from the United States may find apparel more expensive in Cancún, but the selection is much broader than at other Mexican resorts. Numerous duty-free shops offer excellent value on European goods. The largest is Ultrafemme, Av. Tulum, SM 25 (tel. 998/884-1402), specializing in imported cosmetics, perfumes, and fine jewelry and watches. The downtown Cancún location offers slightly lower prices than branches in Plaza Caracol, La Isla, and Kukulcán Plaza. It's open Monday to Saturday from 9:30am to 9pm and Sunday from 2 to 9pm.
 
Handicrafts are more limited and more expensive in Cancún than in other regions of Mexico because they are not produced here. They are available, though; the best open-air crafts market is Mercado 28 in Cancún City. A less enticing open-air market in the Hotel Zone is Coral Negro, Bulevar Kukulcán Km 9.5, next to Plaza Dady'O, open daily from 7am to 11pm. Plaza La Fiesta, next to the Cancún Center (tel. 998/883-4519), is a large Mexican outlet store selling handicrafts, jewelry, tequila, leather, and accessories. It's open daily from 7am to midnight.
 
Cancún's main venues are the malls -- not quite as grand as their U.S. counterparts, but close. All are air-conditioned, sleek, and sophisticated. Most lie on Bulevar Kukulcán between Km 7 and Km 12. Kukulcán Plaza and La Isla offer the most extensive parking garages.

The Kukulcán Plaza (tel. 998/885-2200; www.kukulcanplaza.com) houses hundreds of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. It has a bank, a bowling alley, several crafts stores, a Play City with gambling machines, a liquor and tobacco store, several bathing-suit specialty stores, music stores, a drugstore, a leather-goods shop (including shoes and sandals), and a store specializing in silver from Taxco. U.S. eateries include Häagen-Dazs and Ruth's Chris Steak House, and there's an extensive food court. The adjacent Luxury Avenue complex features designer labels such as Cartier, Coach, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Ultrafemme. The mall is open daily from 8am to 10pm, until 11pm during high season. Assistance for those with disabilities is available upon request, and wheelchairs, strollers, and lockers are available at the information desk.
 
The long-standing Plaza Caracol (tel. 998/883-1038; www.caracolplaza.com) is one of Cancún's less glamorous malls, although it houses among other things, Casa Rolandi restaurant and its Very Wine lounge. It's just before you reach the Convention Center as you come from downtown Cancún, and is open daily from 10am to 10pm.
 
Most people come to entertainment-oriented Forum by the Sea, Bulevar Kukulcán Km 9 (tel. 998/883-4425; www.forumbythesea.com.mx), for the food and fun, choosing from Hard Rock Cafe, Carlos 'n' Charlie's, Rainforest Cafe, and CoCo Bongo, plus an extensive food court. Shops include Diesel, Harley-Davidson, Massimo Dutti, Señor Frog's, Sunglass Island, and Zingara Beachwear and Swimwear. The mall is open daily from 10am to midnight (bars remain open later).
 
One of Mexico's most appealing malls is the La Isla Shopping Village, Bulevar Kukulcán Km 12.5 (tel. 998/883-5025; www.laislacancun.com.mx), a wonderful open-air complex that borders the lagoon. Walkways lined with quality shops and restaurants cross little canals (boat rides are even offered through the canals), and an attractive boardwalk lines the lagoon itself, as well as an interactive aquarium and dolphin swim facility. Shops include Bulgari, Guess, Nautica, Nine West, Puma, Tommy Hilfiger, Ultrafemme, and Zara, as well as a large Mexican handicrafts store called Casa Mexicana and an iStore selling Apple products. Among the dining choices are Johnny Rockets, Chili's, Italianni's, Planet Hollywood, the romantic Thai restaurant, and the new Elefanta. You will also find a movie theater, video arcade, and several bars, including La Madonna.


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