The Beach...and Beyond

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[history] [description] [shopping] [mall rat paradise]
[Location & Directions]

Cancun is a tale of two cities. Downtown is high-energy mass tourism and residential life while the Hotel Zone is resort living at its best with enough shopping malls to exhaust a shopaholic and a throbbing nightlife.

It is hard to believe that before 1970 the town was barely a dot on the map but plans to build a destination to replace Acapulco’s fading star have succeeded brilliantly.

It is well known as a party city but outside of Spring break and high testosterone frat boys, it is a wonderful place to unwind, shop and a great base for nearby ruins, islands and eco parks such as Xcaret down south.

For more information on Cancun Tourist Information,
click here.

Cancun has the finest beaches in the Yucatan with baby soft powdery white sand and the inviting warm Caribbean Sea. All beaches in Mexico are free and one of the best in Cancun is Playa Delfines. If the waves prove too strong, then opt for Playa Tortugas, which faces Isla Mujeres.


The area was never very important to the Mayans and even its name in Mayan is less than inspiring – nest of snakes. When the conquistadores first arrived, they ignored Cancun as the mosquito-ridden mangroves and low-lying scrub were not very appealing. Even though it received a few refugees as fallout from the War of the Castes in mid 1800s, it remain undeveloped until 1971.



Yamil Lu’um
This is the smaller of the two Mayan ruins in the Hotel Zone. It has two small temples. Some suspect that as they are sited above the beach on the highest point in Cancun, they could have been watchtowers and lighthouses.

One of the ruins is called the Temple of Scorpion and the other the Temple of the Handprint. Unfortunately, there is little left in the ruins to explain the origins of the names. It is wedged between two hotels, one of them being the new Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort. If you cannot gain access through the hotels, approach it from the beach.

El Rey ruins near Cancun
photo source:

El Rey
This is a relatively small set of ruins and easily accessible, it was first sighted by American explorer John Lloyd Stephens and his draftsman, Frederick Catherwood, it dates back to between 3rd and 2nd BC. Its ancient name Kin Ich Ahau Bonil is Mayan for "king of the solar countenance, and was believed linked to Mayan astronomy.

There are 47 structures here and it differs from most Mayan cities for having two plazas bordered by two main streets. Most other cities have only plaza and bones recently at the pyramid suggest that this could have been a religious burial site.

There are English and Spanish signs explaining the site’s history. However, the hundreds of iguanas that call this home are just as intriguing. Bring bananas and bread to feed the iguanas which can be found sunning all over the ruins. A few peacocks can be spotted strutting around. The El Rey ruins are at km 18 on Blvd Kukulkan.

El Meco
Located to the north in Mujeres Bay, El Meco is a good visit for an hour in the afternoon. Located between Puerto Juarez and Punta Sam, it is a small site of 14 structures with its main pyramid in relatively good condition. You will need to rent a car or get a taxi to get to this location.


Mercado 28..."Authentic" Shopping
This popular market in downtown Cancun offers the most authentic shopping for Mexican gifts and souvenirs. It has eclipsed the flea markets along downtown’s Tulum Avenue for variety. A covered market, vendors sell just about from sterling jewelry to painted Mexican ceramics, embroidered blouses and dresses, hand-tooled leather goods, sombreros and blankets to tourist junk.


Mall Rat Paradise

OK, I'll admit. I've always liked malls. Funny, because I don't much like shopping. But malls are such great places to just sit back people-watch. And for mall rats like me, Cancun is heaven on earth: partly because of the people and partly just because of the scale and audacity of some of these Centros Comerciales.

I have one clear favorite: La Isla, conveniently located toward the city end of the Hotel Zone (Km 12.5 phone: 998 883-5025). It's Venice meets Vegas. Canals run through the complex which features upscale stores (about a hundred) with designer merchandise from around the world, restaurants themed to the max and clubs the size of airports. There's a yacht club, an aquarium and a cineplex.

I don't remember actually ever buying anything here, but we've spent happy hours just wandering around when it was too hot for the beach.
Here's a list of other malls in the area with their location (kilometer marking for those I could find) and phone numbers.

Have fun!

Centro Commercio Mayfair
Paseo Kukulkan
Kilometer 8.5
Convention Center Shopping Plaza (50 shops)
Paseo Kukulcan
Convention Center Shopping Plaza (50 shops)
Paseo Kukulcan
Forum by the Sea
Avenida Kukulcan
Kilometer 9
Plaza Caracol (200+ shops)
Blvd. Kukulcán
Kilometer 8.5
Plaza La Fiesta
Blvd. Kukulcán
Kilometer 9
Plaza Flamingo
Paseo Kukulkan
Kilometer 11
Plaza Kukulcan (400 shops)Paseo Kukulcán
Kilometer 13
Plaza Nautilus
Planta Alta No.44
Plaza Terramar
Royal Plaza Shopping Center
Paseo Kukulkan
Kilometer 16.5

Location and Directions

The Hotel Zone starts 6.5 miles from the airport on Boulevard Kukulcan.


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