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Cancún is a seaside resort in Mexico, and it is an ideal location for people who love sun, sea and beaches. Originally Cancún was a long island - hardly more than a sandbank - off the Mexican coast, populated only by a few fishermen. In the 1960's, the island was designated as the ideal place to be developed into a tourist centre, due to the beautiful white beaches and the coral reefs off the coast. The island was connected to the mainland through a dam, where an international airport was constructed. The city has expanded onto the mainland: a modern, planned city that attracts above all American tourists. The coastal strip to the south - to Playa del Carmen - has by now been filled with hotels.
The city has grown tremendously. At the start of the 1960's, it housed a mere few hundred families, at the moment it has over half a million inhabitants.
Cancún is located in the south-east of Mexico on the Yucatán peninsula. The Canal de Yucatán connects the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean Sea, on the other side is Cuba. In fact there are two Cancún: the elongated small island off the coast is the tourist centre with hotels, restaurants and shopping centres, and on the mainland is the actual city. The region is sometimes hit by hurricanes, like on October 22, 2005, when hurricane Wilma caused enormous damage.
As a planned tourist centre it is hardly surprising that tourism is the main (if not only) source of income in Cancún. Every year the city attracts three million visitors, most of whom are Americans. Local entrepreneurs have been complaining that in recent years tourists tend to stay in their hotels rather than spending their money in local shops and restaurants.
The airport, Aeropuerto Internacional de Cancún, is located 16 kilometres to the south of the city and 10 kilometres from the southernmost point of the Zona Hotelera. There are regular and chartered flights to many cities in North-America and Europe, and to the Cuban capital Havana. In addition, there are domestic flights, for instance to Mexico-City, Guadalajara and Veracruz.
There are two competing bus companies: Autocar and Publicar. In the Zona Hotelera there is a constant coming and going of cheap buses on the city's main road (Blvd. Kukulcan). Most of these buses go as far as the centre of the city (El Centro). From the central ADO bus station on the corner of the Avenida Tulum and the Avenida Uxmal. Trains depart for places elsewhere on the Yucatan peninsula: the ruins of Tulum, Chetumal, Cobá, Valladolid, the old Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, and the capital of Yucatán, Mérida.
There is a free brochure with all the bus services in the city, which is available at the airport and in most hotels.
Because Cancún is a modern city aimed at American tourists, driving there is not difficult. The city on the mainland can be a bit confusing because the various areas (Super Manzanas, Sm for short) have been built in a circle, usually around a square or park. The main roads follow the circular pattern around the manzanas.
People in Mexico tend to drive fast and sometimes they overtake other cars in an irresponsible way (to us at least). Beware of ramps that may even occur on motorways, especially when approaching a village.
The Mexican police is notorious for pulling over tourist for minor or alleged offenses. They regularly hold the tourist's driver's license in one hand, while demanding a 'small favour' with the other hand. Never park near a sign with a red bar through a black 'E'. This means you are not allowed to park there.
Cancún has many hotels, most of them located in the Zona Hotelera. It is a long strip directly on the beach with many American style high rise hotels and resorts. On the other side of the island (the lagoon coast) things are a bit more quiet, but for those who are looking for a more Mexican type of accommodation, downtown Cancún is a better option. Although you will not be immediately near the beach, most of the hotels there have a swimming pool. It is necessary to book your hotel room throughout the year.
For more information about Cancún, we recommend Google, and the following sources: