Things to Know about Cancun

The tropical breeze that greets you when you step into the welcoming vistas of Cancun is as warm as its people and Mayan culture. The architecture along the city's magnificent 14-mile Hotel Zone, nestled between the mangrove-laden jungle of the Nichupte Lagoon and the beckoning azure waters of the Mexican Caribbean - looms above the land that less than three decades ago was jungle. Bright and bustling, Cancun's days and nights are alive with shopping, international cuisine, discos and ecological adventures.

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The Islands - Cancún is surrounded by a variety of islands, all within close proximity.  Of these principal attractions, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel remain the perennial favorites.

Isla Mujeres 
Isla Mujeres, a picturesque island only 7 km (4.5 miles) long by 650 m (.4 miles) wide, is the perfect place for those who like to snorkel, eat fresh seafood or shop for quality jewelry at great prices.  The island can be reached by ferry, small boats and even by sailboat.

The beaches:  the west coast is renowned for its beauty, while the large extensions of powdery white sand characterize the northern beach, Playa Norte.  The Garrafon National Park (south) is perfect for snorkeling.

Shopping:  the stores in Isla Mujeres offer a large variety of arts and crafts: Yucatecan hammocks, reproductions of Maya art, beachwear and jewelry.

Restaurants:  if seafood is your thing, Isla Mujeres is the ideal place for you to enjoy it.  Fresh fish, shrimp, conch and lobster are daily caught.  You can also find an array of Italian, Mexican, French and international specialty restaurants throughout the island.

Getting There:  There are plenty of options to choose from.  Many boats make the trip to the island from the Hotel Zone docks.  Ferries also leave from Puerto Juarez, (every 30 minutes) and Punta Sam (cars and passengers).

Isla Discovery:  Enjoy a fun-filled day in Isla Mujeres.  The tour includes transportation to the island, a visit to a beautiful white sand beach, a shopping tour at the island's charming downtown and a lunch buffet with open bar.  A variety of unique activities offered at different times so you can plan your perfect day.

Dolphin Discovery:  Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery is Isla Mujeres, the Riviera Maya at Puerto Aventuras, and in Cozumel at Chankanaab National Park.  Swim and interact with dolphins in the ocean.  In the Swim, Encounter, Snorkel and Dive with Dolphins programs, you will enjoy learning about the intelligent creatures.  T-Shirts and other souvenirs for sale.

Cozumel is the largest island (53km/32mi long) in Mexico.  It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful reefs on the planet, which have cliffs of magnificent coral and some of the world's most challenging wall diving sites.

Snorkeling: the waters of Cozumel are ideal for beginners, where they can snorkel in the shallow reef near the coast or at Chankanaab National Park.

Diving: experienced divers have the opportunity to explore the impressive walls of coral, like those in Palancar, standing up to 30-meters (100 ft) tall.

Archaeological Sites: Cozumel was a Maya ceremonial center to worship Ixchel, goddess of fertility.  San Gervasio is the most popular site, located on the main east/west road.

Restaurants: Cozumel is a treat for the palate, especially when one thinks about fish and fresh seafood.  Many world-class international specialty restaurants can also be found here.

Shopping:  Cozumel's fame for its numerous jewelry shops is rightfully earned.  Here you can find everything from exotic gems to the finest diamonds.

Getting there:  From Cancún, small airlines have frequent service to the island (it's a 15 minute flight).  A car ferry departs daily from Puerto Morelos.  Passenger ferries leave Playa del Carmen hourly.

The Riviera Maya-South of Cancún, Along Highway 307, is the Riviera Maya.  The road through this 160 km coastline runs parallel to the sea, and almost every turnoff to the left leads to a magnificent site -- be it pristine white beaches, Maya sites or a luxurious waterfront development.  The best way to explore the area is by car, though there is a very good bus service between Cancún, Tulum and points in-between.

Puerto Morelos - About 36 kilometers (22 mi) south of Cancún is Puerto Morelos, with its beautiful beaches, an offshore reef that is great for diving and snorkeling, restaurants and small, inexpensive hotels.

Playa del Carmen - Located just 68 kilometers (41 mi) from Cancún, Playa del Carmen (or Playa) has some of the finest beaches and coral reefs on the coast, with accommodations the range from five-star quality to rustic.  Playa's pedestrian walkway is lined with shops, boutiques and a wide variety of restaurants.

Xcaret - Situated 72 kilometers (45 mi) south of Cancún is the entrance to the privately owned eco-archaeological park of Xcaret.  It features an archaeological site thought to be the vestiges of the Maya port of Pole.  Other attractions include a number of cenotes (natural sinkholes), a beautiful natural inlet--which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling--, dolphins, an aviary, a tropical aquarium, a butterfly pavilion and a museum.  Stay for the Xcaret at Night show.

Puerto Aventuras - Nestled beside a lovely stretch of dazzlingly white beach is Puerto Aventuras, 98 kilometers (60 mi) south of Cancún.  This 900-acre development features hotels, condominiums, restaurants, shops, marina, dive center, nautical museum and an 18-hole golf course.

Akumal - Akumal, located 102 kilometers (64 mi) south of Cancún, is right on the shores of a tranquil bay with clear, shallow water that is perfect for snorkeling.  There are several hotels, restaurants and shops.  Snorkeling and diving trips to the off-shore reefs (considered some of the finest in the area) are offered by many waterfront dive operations.  Fishing trips are also available.

Aktun Chen - Come see the five-million-year-old cave system of Aktun-Chen.  Located a 107 kilometers (64 mi) drive south of Cancún, this grotto is the only known extensive, above-water-level cave system in the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula.  Visitors can se its ancient stalagmites and stalactites with the aid of a bilingual, informed guide, who explains the process through which the caves were formed.  Located 2 kilometers west of the Cancún-Tulum Highway, at 107 km.

Chemuyil - The beach at Chemuyil, located 109 kilometers (68 mi) south of Cancún, is not a built-up as other areas.  Occasional wild pigs, monkeys and deer wander out of the emerald-green jungle and onto the beach. Although accommodations aren't fancy, many back-packers trek in for the pristine beaches and amazing snorkeling.  There is a quaint camping site in the middle of a clearing just a short way into the jungle.

Xel-Há - In Xel-Há National Park, located 122 kilometers (73 mi) south of Cancún, nature ahs created incredible caves, inlets and lagoons.  Fish from the Caribbean take refuge in the placid waters of Xel-Há, where freshwater from nearby streams mixes with the ocean.  Snorkelers can mingle with the multi-colored, brilliant fish.  The park also offers all modern amenities and services.

Tulum - The impressive cliff-top archaeological site of Tulum (136 km/86 mi south of Cancún), dating from the Maya Post-classic period (A.D. 900-1512), is one of the most famous landmarks in the Maya World.  It commands spectacular views of the Quintana Roo coast. Bring your bathing suit for a swim after visiting the archaeological site.

Sian Ka'an Reserve - Covering 1.3 million acres, lies one of Mexico's largest parks; the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, which covers about 20 percent of Quintana Roo's territory, this reserve is home to countless species of birds and other animals.

Average Temperature
Time Zone - Cancun is on Central Standard Time
How do I get around?

In Cancun, city buses are available from 6:00 am to midnight. Taxi cabs are available 24 hours a day and run at fixed rates, so check prices. In Playa Del Carmen, buses run to Cancun every 30 minutes and ferries to Cozumel are available almost every two hours.


The peso is the Mexican form of currency. It is suggested that you exchange small amounts of U.S. dollars for pesos. Major credit cards are also widely accepted. A pocket calculator can also be helpful when you shop to help convert U. S. dollars to pesos. Bartering when shopping outside of the resort areas is practiced. U.S. dollars are accepted in the resort areas but keep in mind any change that is due back will be in pesos. One recommendation is to use a credit card which will present the daily currency exchange on your next billing statement.

Language - Spanish is the official language. English is also widely spoken in the hotel areas.
Proof of Citizenship

Acceptable forms of proof of citizenship for U.S. citizens traveling between the U.S. and our International Destinations are a valid passport, OR a certified, state issued birth certificate with raised seal AND a valid government photo ID, a naturalization/citizenship certificate, Armed Forces' ID or discharge papers stating place of birth. It is the traveler's responsibility to provide proper documentation. Married women traveling with any documentation in their maiden name must supply a marriage license (a copy is acceptable).


While in Mexico, you may want to visit sites rich in Mayan heritage or try a scuba diving excursion in the ocean waters. The 1.5 million acre Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve south of Cancun, invites you to experience an authentic eco-tour, an up-close investigation of animal and plant habitats - in the wonderful ecological region of Cancun.

    At Xcaret Park,
    this eco-archaeological experience will give you the opportunity to learn more about the Aviary and Aquarium. Swim in the Underground River, see the ruins or enjoy the beach and snorkeling areas.

    In Tulum and Kantenah,
    you can explore the only Mayan fortress built by the sea and used by the Mayans as their port of entry for Caribbean goods to all the Mayan cities. Combine this cultural visit with the pleasure of swimming and snorkeling at Xel-ha Lagoon, one of the world's biggest natural aquariums.

    Take an Isla Mujeres Trimaran Adventure
    and sail across the channel, directly to the fisherman's wharf of Isla Mujeres. If the weather permits, snorkel in one of the best spots on the Tulum Coast.

    Nichupte Lagoon
    Ride through the channels of the Nichupte Lagoon in a glass bottom boat and snorkel at Punta Nizuc Reef on the Moby Dick tour.

    Go on a diving excursion
    without the scuba gear on the Atlantis Submarine.

    Enjoy dinner and cocktails
    on a relaxing evening cruise or lobster cruise.

  • Carnival (February/March)
    A Mexican fiesta in the Mardi Gras tradition
  • Sol a Sol Sailboat Regatta (April/May)
    Begins in Florida and ends at Isla Mujeres
  • Cancun Jazz Festival (May)
  • International Fishing Tournament (May)
  • Cancun Fair (November/December)
    Amusement rides, arts & crafts and food


  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Scuba Diving
  • Parasailing
  • Waterskiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Windsurfing
  • Bullfights are held through the winter season
  • Jai alai games are held daily
  • Golf


Shops are open daily from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. In Cancun, visit downtown flea markets and the malls of Caracol, Flamingo and Kukulkan, which are open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

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