Cancun; the Caribbean playground of American spring breakers, luxury seekers and beach lovers; a destination that oozes relaxation and high living from the get go, that seems to jump from the pages of travel brochures in a flurry of paradisal sands and glistening crystal waters, sprawling resort hotels and rustic bamboo cocktail bars.
But, just in case the steady stream of postcard pictures and glossy magazine ads wasn’t enough to get you booking that flight down south, we’ve put together this list of the top ten reasons to visit Cancun, dealing with everything from its roaring nightlife to its pristine natural surroundings and curious historical wealth. Just try to resist after that!
While Cancun’s beaches are firmly the province of people, flecked with tanning tourists and hair-of-the-dog partiers, its sprawling coral reefs and unique marine habitats are a totally different story. Here, visitors can discover a kaleidoscope of tropical sea species, ranging from the long and majestic lemon shark, to a number of rare and endangered sea turtles. But the wildlife-spotting here doesn’t end at the shore either, and guests willing to make the short trip to the nearby UNESCO biosphere at Sian Ka'an could be in with a chance of seeing some of Mesoamerica’s rarest land beasts too!
Need help deciding between Jamaica and Mexico for your Caribbean vacation? See Hopper's Destination Battle: Mexico vs Jamaica
Pizzas, pastas, paellas, high-stacked, all-American burgers, freshly caught Gulf seafood, succulent local veg dishes, colorful sushi, oriental spiced soups and curries from the Indian subcontinent; you name it, Cancun does it and does it well. With such an array of top-class, luxury resorts, this little corner of Mexican Yucatan has done well to attract some of the best chefs from around the world, all ready to cook up their personal specialities on demand. Of course, there are also plenty of hidden beach shacks selling traditional Mexican dishes to discover too!
While the Midwest states of North America descend under a blanket of winter snows and the great plains of Canada frost over white, the tropical beaches of Cancun and the Yucatan shimmer in their high-season sun. But it doesn’t stop there, because even from April onward the city smolders in average temperatures in excess of 75, while the sea temperature peaks to a steamy 85 and uninterrupted sunshine still dominates the days (at least, that is, between the occasional hurricane!).
When it's hot at, you'll want to be at the pool. Check out Hopper's ranking of the five best hotel pools in Cancun
Photo by PriceTravel pictures/Flickr.
Cancun is one of the most popular destinations for American air travelers and, thankfully, flights are pretty affordable. The city boasts excellent air connections, offering direct flights to 17 American cities, and there are numerous tips travelers can use to secure cheap flights to Cancun. Just check out Hopper's when to fly and buy reports to see how to save money, like when the best day to book or depart is and how far in advance travelers should book their flights.
Between the sprawling modern shopping center of Kukulcan Plaza in the heart of the city’s Hotel Zone and the super chic fashion stores of nearby Playa del Carmen, shopaholics coming to Cancun can rest assured that a little retail therapy is never too far away. The city also boasts an array of local crafts, arts and food markets, where visitors are invited to come and hone their haggling skills, while other sellers can even be spotted roaming between clusters of sunbathers on the sands from morning to night.
It’s no secret that most people head to the hotel strip of Cancun for the beachcombing and sunbathing, while others will come to swim, snorkel and scuba dive in the reefs that line the coast. However, Cancun has also been known to attract another group of more adrenaline-ready travelers, who come to ride the rolling swells of the more rugged and elemental beaches that lay a little further afield. If that sounds like you, then be sure to check out the city’s Playa Chac Mool, or nearby Cozumel Island, where the point breaks of the east coast are said to be the most constant in the region.
Check out Hopper's travel spotlight on Cozumel to see info on a great scuba diving destination
No list of Cancun’s best bits could possibly be complete without at least a mention of its hotel and resort scene. It’s unquestionably one of the most developed in all of Mexico (if not the world!), boasting literally hundreds of accommodations to choose from and one of the safest tourist zones in the whole country. From the sprawling 5-star, all-inclusives like the Hyatt Zilara and Le Blanc Spa Resort all over the Riviera Maya, to the more focused boutique hotels like the Sandos Cancun, there’s something for everyone in this tropical retreat.
Don't miss Hopper's ranking of the five best all-inclusive beach resorts in Cancun before choosing where to stay
There are few destinations in the world where sunbathers can tan themselves so close to ancient ruins and beachcombers can wander in the shadow of looming temples two millennia old. Of all the ancient archaeological sites near to Cancun, it’s the sprawling complex of Chichen Itza – with its towering, terraced monoliths – and the smaller ruins at Tulum that form the historical exemplars. They are both popular day trips from the city, are well served by tour operators in town, and offer perhaps one of the most fascinating and complete glimpses of ancient Mayan architecture on the continent.
Chichen Itza is also on Hopper's list of the five best day trips from Cancun, check it out
Between the leaning balneario bamboo bars, the chic inner city cocktail spots, the multitude of luxurious resorts and the smattering of world-famous super clubs that pepper the coast and downtown districts of Cancun, everyone from the tequila-shooting spring breaker to the Caribbean rum punch aficionado will find somewhere to while away their hours after dark here. For the most eye-popping show of the lot, travelers should be sure to head to the legendary Coco Bongo, or the famous Dady'O, where laser parties and acrobatic shows dominate the nights.
Also see Hopper's ranking of the best hotel bars in Cancun for tips on where the party's at
No, those aforementioned glossy ads weren’t Photoshopped. No one tinkered with the lighting to add a little extra glimmer to the sands or turquoise sheen to the water, we promise - Cancun really does look like that; a patchwork of ivory beaches and sun-kissed sea that runs for more than 20 miles up the Yucatan coast, offering up some of the most paradisiacal sights in all of Mexico along the way. On the city’s north side, the lively Playa Las Perlas and Playa Tortugas are great places to people watch and swim, while windsurfers and diehard sunbathers will love the more rugged conditions at Playa Delfines or Chac Mool.
Or, if you're more inclined to impulsive travel, see 5 reasons to drop everything and travel to Cancun right now!