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Cancun, Mexico

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Waves at Cancun Beach

Waves at Cancun Beach

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Cancun Beach

Cancun Beach

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Cancun Resort

Cancun Resort

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Cancún is a great place to experience 21st-century Mexico, because it has everything you’d want in a vacation: shopping, sports, spas, and beaches. Here you’ll find five-star resorts, exceptional food, Mexican culture, and natural beauty within minutes of the world-famous Mayan ruins. That said, there isn’t much that’s quaint or historic in this distinctively modern city, many of whose residents have embraced the accoutrements of urban middle-class life—cell phones, Internet, cable TV—that are found all over the world.Most locals live on the mainland in the part of the city called El Centro and work in the posh Zona Hotelera, whose main drag is called Boulevard Kukulcán. Kilometer markers alongside Boulevard Kukulcán indicate where you are, starting from Km 1 near El Centro to Km 20 at the southern tip of Punta Nizuc. The area in between consists entirely of hotels, restaurants, shopping complexes, marinas, and time-share condominiums. Most travelers base themselves in this 22½-km (14-mile) stretch of paradise, unless the charm of El Centro’s city life trumps the beach.The party atmosphere of Zona Hotelera has inevitably earned it the title "spring break capital of the world." Dozens of bars and nightclubs cater to college students just south of Punta Cancún at Km 9. Fortunately, this late-night/early-morning scene is contained within a small area, far from the larger resorts. Although Cancún is a magnet for youth on the loose, families are drawn to the limitless water sports, pristine beaches, and children’s activities including theme parks, live entertainment, and dolphin programs.For authentic Mexican food at some of the best hole-in-the-wall cantinas, travel west of Avenida Tulum (El Centro's main street) to Yaxchilán. The more upscale area of El Centro is east of Tulum to Avenida Bonampak. Although El Centro is less visited by travelers than Zona Hotelera, the downtown area holds cultural gems that will remind you that you really are in Mexico.

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Things You Can't Miss

Place
Revel in World-Class Beaches
Revel in World-Class Beaches

You’ll find your place in the sun on Cancun’s 14 miles of legendarily perfect sand — from party-happy Chac Mool to more secluded Punta Nizuc.

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Getty Images

Place
An Island Escape From the Cancun Scene
An Island Escape From the Cancun Scene

Take a 20-minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, where you can snorkel at Garrafon, chill out at a seaside bar or rent a scooter and explore on your own.

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Robert Harding/Alamy

Place
A Taste of Genuine Mexico at El Centro
A Taste of Genuine Mexico at El Centro

Cancun’s old downtown district includes lively shopping areas such as Market 28, where you can bargain for clothes, crafts and jewelry.

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Image Credit

John Mitchell/Alamy

Place
Mayans in the Tourist Zone
Mayans in the Tourist Zone

Delve into the history of this rich culture at Cancun’s Maya Museum and the nearby plazas and temples of the El Rey archaeological site.

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Alamy

Place
Ancient History at Chichen Itza
Ancient History at Chichen Itza

Take a day or overnight trip to this spectacular Mayan city, which ranks among Central America’s most important archaeological complexes.

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Aurora Creative/Getty Images

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Must Reads Before You Go

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Cancún Travel Guide

Cancún vacation travel guide and tour information such as Playa Delfines, Tulum, Cancún Underwater Museum, Museo Maya de Cancún

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