Useful information on
Cancun

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Cancun International
(CUN)

General info

Cancun General Information

Mexico's calling card to the world, Cancún perfectly showcases both the country's breathtaking natural beauty and the depth of its 1,000-year history. Simply stated, Cancún is the reason most people travel to Mexico. The sheer number of travelers underscores Cancún's magnetic appeal, with almost three million people visiting this enticing beach resort annually -- most of them on their first trip to the country. The reasons for this are both numerous and obvious.

Cancún offers an unrivaled combination of high-quality accommodations, dreamy beaches, easy air access, and a wide diversity of shopping, dining, nightlife, and nearby activities -- most of them exceptional values. There is also the lure of ancient cultures evident in all directions and a number of ecologically oriented theme parks.

No doubt about it - Cancún embodies Caribbean splendor, with translucent turquoise waters and powdery white-sand beaches, coupled with coastal areas of great natural beauty. But Cancún is also a modern megaresort. Even a traveler feeling apprehensive about visiting foreign soil will feel completely at ease here. English is spoken, dollars are accepted, roads are well paved, and lawns are manicured. Malls are the mode for shopping and dining. Travelers feel comfortable in Cancún. You do not need to spend a day getting your bearings, because you immediately see familiar names for dining, shopping, nightclubbing, and sleeping.

You may have heard that in 1974 a team of Mexican government computer analysts picked Cancún for tourism development for its ideal mix of elements to attract travelers --and they were right on. It's actually an island, a 24km (14-mile) sliver of land connected to the mainland by two bridges and separated from it by the expansive Nichupté lagoon. (Cancún means "golden snake" in Mayan.)

In addition to attractions of its own, Cancún is a convenient distance from the more traditional resorts of Isla Mujeres and from the coastal zone now known as the Riviera Maya - extending down from Cancún, through Playa del Carmen, to the Maya ruins at Tulum, Cozumel, Chichén Itzá, and Cobá. All are within day-trip distance.

You will run out of vacation days before you run out of things to do in Cancún. Snorkeling, jet-skiing, jungle tours, and visits to ancient Maya ruins and modern ecological theme parks are among the most popular diversions. There are a dozen malls with name-brand and duty-free shops (with European goods at prices better than in the U.S.), and more than 350 restaurants and nightclubs.

Restaurants

Cancun Restaurants

Restaurants in Cancun run the gamut; from luxurious meals set in opulent resorts or decadent restaurants, to simple meals served in haciendas on the beach or at walk up stands along the waterfront. All types of cuisine are available, from freshly caught local seafood to American chains like Rut Chris Steakhouse. No matter where your tastes lie, you are sure to find a Cancun restaurant that will serve you a meal you will not forget.

Villas Caribe Cancun Restaurant Selections

Club Grill – International – open Tuesday to Sunday from 7 to 11pm – Location, in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Bulevar Kukulkan Km 13.5, Cancun Island. Reservations required; phone 998-881-0808. Main courses from $11 to $40. This is the place for that special night out. Cancún's most elegant and stylish restaurant is also among its most delicious. Even rival restaurateurs give it envious thumbs up. The gracious service starts as you enter the anteroom, with its comfortable seating and selection of fine tequilas and Cuban cigars. It continues in a candlelit dining room with shimmering silver and crystal. Elegant plates of peppered scallops, truffles, and potatoes in tequila sauce; grilled lamb; or mixed grill arrive at a leisurely pace. The restaurant has smoking and nonsmoking sections. A band plays romantic music for dancing from 8pm on.

La Dolce Vita – Italian, seafood- daily from noon to midnight – Address: Bulevar Kukulkan Km 14.6, on the lagoon, opposite the Marriott Casa Magna, Cancun Island. Reservations required for dinner, phone: 998-885-0150, 998-885-0161.  Main courses from $9 to $29. Casually elegant La Dolce Vita is Cancún's favorite Italian restaurant. Appetizers include pâté of quail liver and carpaccio in vinaigrette, and mushrooms Provençal. The chef specializes in homemade pastas combined with fresh seafood. You can order green tagliolini with lobster medallions, linguine with clams or seafood, or rigatoni Mexican-style (with chorizo, mushrooms, and jalapeños) as a main course, or as an appetizer for half price. Other main courses include veal with morels, fresh salmon with cream sauce, and fresh fish in a variety of sauces. Recently added choices include vegetarian lasagna and grilled whole lobster. You have a choice of dining in air-conditioned comfort or on an open-air terrace with a view of the lagoon. Live jazz plays from 7 to 11:30pm Monday through Saturday.

Lorenzillo’s - Seafood, daily from noon to midnight – Bulevar Kukulkan Km 10.5, Cancun Island. Reservations recommended, phone: 998-883-1254. Main courses from $12 to $50. This festive, friendly restaurant; live lobster is the overwhelming favorite, and part of the appeal is selecting your dinner out of the giant lobster tank. Lorenzillo's sits on the lagoon under a giant palapa roof. A dock leads down to the main dining area, and when that's packed (which is often), a wharf-side bar handles the overflow. In addition to lobster -- which comes grilled, steamed, or stuffed -- good bets are shrimp stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, the Admiral's filet coated in toasted almonds and light mustard sauce, and seafood-stuffed squid. Desserts include the tempting "Martinique": Belgian chocolate with hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans, served with vanilla ice cream. The sunset pier offers a lighter menu of cold seafood, sandwiches, and salads. Children are very welcome.

History

Cancun History

The earliest "Mexicans" were perhaps Stone Age hunter-gatherers coming from the north, descendants of a race that had crossed the Bering Strait and reached North America around 12000 B.C. This is the prevailing theory, but there is a growing body of evidence that points to an earlier crossing of peoples from Asia to the New World. What we know for certain is that Mexico was populated by 10000 B.C. Sometime between 5200 and 1500 B.C. they began practicing agriculture and domesticating animals.

In the Southern part of the Mexican Republic, in the Eastern part of the Peninsula of Yucatán, on the Caribbean shoreline, lies the Rivera Maya (Mayan Riviera). It is called the Mayan Riviera due to the influence its well-known pre-Hispanic civilization exerted throughout the region, extending from Punta Brava to Punta Allen. The Northern coast boasts an impressive development of its tourist infrastructure, while the Southern shore is dotted with small picturesque villages surrounded by unspoiled beaches. Gran Arrecife Maya, the world's second largest colossal barrier reef is found off these shores and along with its tropical forests of exotic vegetation and mangroves, constitute a veritable window into the bio-diversity of Mexican wildlife species. The South is also well known for its underground rivers, sacred reservoirs, deep-sea caves and caverns.

With the arrival of the Spaniards in 1519, the principal Mayan cities, such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal had already been abandoned. The wars and conquests of other peoples, harsh climate and the dangers of the tropical forest, coupled with the frequent threat of hurricanes, made it difficult for the civilization to prosper. Xel-Ha went down in history as the first European settlement. Even so, during the Colonial period, population growth was hampered, given the proximity of the open sea and frequent pirate attacks. These assaults hindered access to firm ground, even when reached, the lush, mysterious forest posed no solution, and thus the peninsula remained unexplored for a long time.

In 1967 the Mexican Government recognized the importance of the tourist industry as an active ingredient in the country's economy. Given its natural beauty, which would tempt any traveler, this paradise was poised as a strong candidate for foreign investment towards the development of a hotels and entertainment infrastructure.

It is presently divided into three districts: The Ciudad de Cancún, with a population of 300,000 and a simple, practical infrastructure; the Reserva Ecológico, with its incredible lakes, rain forests and mangroves; and the Zona Hotelera, an island of hotels and shopping centers. Two new projects are currently underway which will include a tourist sea resort called Puerto Cancún, and the Malecón Cancún, covering some 170 acres of land.

Golf

Cancun Golf

Like a brilliant diamond sparkling in the Caribbean Sea, lies the island of Cancun, the crown jewel of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Under a balmy tropical sun and surrounded by colorful coral reefs, this emerald-green and turquoise blue Mecca attracts fun-loving tourists who delight in its white-sand beaches and warm Caribbean water.

Villas Caribe Cancun Golf Selections

Nestled between the Nichupte Lagoon and the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, lies Cancun's oldest, most prestigious golf club. Designed in 1976 by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Cancun's Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok artistically incorporates hundreds of meters of dramatic shoreline and ancient Mayan ruins into a truly enjoyable experience for golfers of all abilities. The 18-hole Pok-Ta-Pok Club or Club de Golf Cancún (tel.-998/883-0871, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr., design, is on the northern leg of the island. Greens fees run $100 per 18 holes, with clubs renting for $26 and shoes for $15. Hiring a caddy costs $20. The club is open daily, accepts American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, and has tennis courts.

The Hilton Cancún Golf & Beach Resort (tel. 998/881-8016; fax 998/881-8084) has a championship 18-hole, par-72 course designed around the Ruinas Del Rey. Greens fees for the public are $125 for 18 holes and $99 for 9 holes; Hilton Cancún guests receive a 20% discount off these rates, which includes a golf cart. Golf clubs and shoes are available for rent. The club is open daily from 6am to 6pm.

The Meliá Cancún (tel. 998/881-1100, ext. 193) has a 9-hole executive course; the fee is $43. The club is open daily from 7am to 4:30pm and accepts American Express, MasterCard, and Visa.

The first Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in the Cancún area has opened at the Moon Palace Golf Resort, along the Riviera Maya. Two additional PGA courses are planned for the area just north of Cancún, Puerto Cancún, in 2007 and 2008.

Airport

Cancun Airport

If this is not your first trip to Cancún, you'll notice that the airport's facilities and services continue to expand. Aeromexico (tel. 800/237-6639 in the U.S., or 01/800-021-4000 in Mexico; www.aeromexico.com) offers direct service from Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and New York, plus connecting service via Mexico City from Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Mexicana (tel. 800/531-7921 in the U.S., or 01/800-502-2000 or 998/881-9090 in Mexico; www.mexicana.com.mx) flies from Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Antonio, San Francisco, and San Jose via Mexico City, with nonstop service from Miami and New York.

Cancun Airport
Cancun Airport International (CUN) is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean and the point of entry to the "Mundo Maya". Every year millions of people visit Cancun and the Riviera Maya and the number of visitors is expected to increase rapidly thanks to the new mega-resorts already in construction all over the area.

Major international airlines as well as charter airlines have direct or connecting flights to Cancun every day. Now more than ever Cancun Airport International is easy accessible from almost every major city in the world. With first class shops, restaurants and services, Cancun Airport is one of the easiest most convenient airports to fly to/from in Mexico.

Documents for Arrival at Cancun Airport
A valid U.S. Passport is necessary to pass through customs at Cancun Airport.
Your passport will also be used to acquire a tourist card, which must be obtained in order to enter Mexico.

Cancun Airport Transfers
Renting a car is recommended in Cancun.
The concierge service that Villas Caribe offers is happy to arrange for car rental for you.

Should you choose not to rent a car, there are several other airport transfer options available:
Taxi prices in Cancún are clearly set by zone, although keeping track of what's in which zone can take some doing. The minimum fare within the Hotel Zone is $5 per ride, making it one of the most expensive taxi areas in Mexico. In addition, taxis operating in the Hotel Zone feel perfectly justified in having a discriminatory pricing structure
 
Cancun Departure Tax
There is a "Departure Tax” of about $18.00 US per person but this tax is usually included in your airline ticket and you don't need to pay it again. If you are not sure please contact your airline before you leave to Cancun and ask them if the Mexican Departure Tax is already included.

Communications

Cancun Communications

Communication with friends and family in the United States or elsewhere should not be a problem from Cancun.

All villas come quipped with phones and many with internet connections and fax machines.
Cell phone rentals and internet cafes are also readily available in-town as well.

Villa Phones:
Cancun Villas will come with their own phones.
This number will be given to you prior to your trip.
Long distance calls using any major credit card will usually be possible from these house phones.
 
Cell Phones:
Most cell phones will not work in Cancun. Phones with international roaming may work in Cancun, but it is always advisable to check with your cell phone provider before you depart. Should you need a cell phone while in Cancun, cell phone rentals are widely available in the town and can even be reserved in advance.

Electricity:
Outlets in Cancun are compatible with North American appliances

Internet Café’s:
C@ncunet, in a kiosk on the second floor of Plaza Kukulcan, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 13 (tel. 998/885-0880), offers Internet access at $2 for 10 minutes, or $7 per hour. It's open daily from 10am to 10pm.

Nightlife

Cancun Nightlife

Tequila is the national drink of Mexico, and chances are you will be offered a glass sooner or later. There are hundreds of tequilas available, ranging from the super-smooth to the pretty harsh varieties. To be considered authentic, tequila must come from the state of Jalisco and have a seal of certification. There are basically three types, all of which are made from the blue agave plant. Blanco (white) or plata (silver) tequila is fresh from the still and retains most of the flavor of the agaves plant.

Clubbing in Cancún is a favorite part of the vacation experience and can go on each night until the sun rises over that incredibly blue sea. Several big hotels have nightclubs or schedule live music in their lobby bars. At the clubs, expect to stand in long lines on weekends, pay a cover charge of $15 to $25 per person, and pay $5 to $8 for a drink. Some of the higher-priced clubs include an open bar or live entertainment

Cancun Nightclubs
One of Cancún's main draws is its active nightlife. The hottest centers of action are the Centro Comercial Maya Fair, Forum by the Sea, and La Isla Shopping Village. Hotels also compete, with happy-hour entertainment and special drink prices to entice visitors and guests from other resorts. (Lobby bar-hopping at sunset is one great way to plan next year's vacation.

A great idea to get you started is the Bar Leaping Tour (tel. 998/883-5402). For $49, it takes you by way of the Froguibus from bar to club - the list currently includes Señor Frog's, Glazz, and Coco Bongo -- where you'll bypass any lines and spend about two hours in each place. The price includes entry to the clubs, one welcome drink at each, and transportation by air-conditioned bus, allowing you to get a great sampling of the best of Cancún's nightlife. The tour runs from 8 pm to 3:30 am, with the meeting point at Come and Eat restaurant in the La Isla Hopping Village. American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, are accepted.

Continuing its reputation as one of the hottest spots in town is Coco Bongo in Forum by the Sea, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 9.5 (tel. 998/883-5061. Its main appeal is that it has no formal dance floor, so you can dance anywhere - and that includes on the tables, on the bar, or even on the stage with the live band! This place can and regularly does - pack in up to 3,000 people. You have to experience it to believe it. Despite its capacity, lines are long on weekends and in high season. The music alternates between Caribbean, salsa, house, hip-hop, techno, and classics from the 1970s and '80s. It draws a mixed crowd, but the young and hip dominate. Choose between a $15 cover or $25 with an open bar.

Car rental

Cancun Transportation

Cancun has one of the best highway infrastructures in the nation. Route 180 leads to Merida and Mexico City (more than 1,860 kilometers away). The region’s most important bus line is ADO.

Car Rental
Many major car rental companies have offices in the Cancun airport and area.  Cancun car rentals can be easily arranged for you by the Villas Caribe concierge service. A valid United States driver’s license is all the documentation needed in order to rent a car in Mexico.  Driving at night is highly discouraged in Cancun. Unless you plan on exploring outlying areas, you're better off taking taxis or using the easy and inexpensive public buses around Acapulco.

Bus travel within Cancún continues to improve and is increasingly popular. In town, almost everything is within walking distance. Ruta 1 and Ruta 2 (HOTELES) city buses travel frequently from the mainland to the beaches along Avenida Tulum (the main street) and all the way to Punta Nizuc at the far end of the Hotel Zone on Isla Cancún. Ruta 8 buses go to Puerto Juárez/Punta Sam for ferries to Isla Mujeres. They stop on the east side of Avenida Tulum. All these city buses operate between 6am and 10pm daily. Beware of private buses along the same route; they charge far more than the public ones. Public buses have the fare painted on the front; at press time, the fare was 60¢.

By Moped - Mopeds are a convenient but dangerous way to cruise around through the very congested traffic. Rentals start at $25 for a day, and a credit card voucher is required as security. You should receive a crash helmet (it's the law) and instructions on how to lock the wheels when you park. Read the fine print on the back of the rental agreement regarding liability for repairs or replacement in case of accident, theft, or vandalism.

Driving
Driving is on the right side in Cancun

Weddings

Cancun Weddings

If you are planning your wedding or honeymoon, travel to México will be a unique experience that you never forget. Discover everything that Méxio offers to you for that special and magic trip.

Your life's adventure together can be a magical beginning! Celebrate one of the most important days of your life enjoying the intimate and magical atmosphere of the best scenery in the Riviera Maya. Scenic views and beautifully designed landscaping form a unique combination to make this day an unforgettable and exciting experience.

Our villas will offer you the choice of the type of ceremony you want to have; either a civil wedding or a vow renewal. We will make the necessary arrangements according to your request. Our villas grounds allow you to have your wedding performed with the solemnity that such event requires within the uniqueness of the environment.

Shopping

Cancun Shopping

Despite the surrounding natural splendor, shopping has become a favorite activity. Cancún is known throughout Mexico for its diverse shops and festive malls catering to a large number of international tourists. Visitors from the United States may find apparel more expensive in Cancún, but the selection is much broader than at other Mexican resorts. Numerous duty-free shops offer excellent value on European goods. The largest is UltraFemme, Avenida Tulum, Supermanzana 25 (tel. 998/884-1402 or 998/885-0804), specializing in imported cosmetics, perfumes, and fine jewelry and watches. The downtown Cancún location offers slightly lower prices than branches in Plaza Caracol, Plaza Kukulcan, Plaza Mayafair, Flamingo Plaza, and the international airport.

The newest and most intriguing mall is the La Isla Shopping Village, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 12.5 (tel. 998/883-5025; www.laislacancun.com.mx), and an open-air festival mall that looks like a small village. Walkways lined with shops and restaurants cross little canals. It also has a "riverwalk" alongside the Nichupté lagoon, and an interactive aquarium and dolphin swim facility, as well as the Spacerocker and River Ride Tour - great for kid-friendly fun. Shops include Guess, Diesel, DKNY, Guess, Bulgari, and Ultra Femme. Dining choices include Johnny Rockets, Come and Eat, Häagen-Dazs, and the beautiful Mexican restaurant La Casa de las Margaritas. You also can find a movie theater, a video arcade, and several nightclubs, including Glazz.

Sights

Cancun Beaches & Activities

Without a doubt, Cancun’s strongest draw is its crystalline blue water. In these waters, or on the beaches, you can do all kinds of activities. You might want to take a spin on a wave runner or a banana boat. Or you can play some volleyball or simply bask in the sun on a white-sand beach as you take in the spectacular scenery of the hotel zone. The following beaches are located along Kukulkan Boulevard:

Playa Langosta – Located at Km 5 in the hotel zone, just west of Punta Cancun, it is one of Cancun’s most visited beaches. From Playa Langosta’s pier, there are several tour boats that will take you to Isla Mujeres.

Playa Tortugas - located at Km 6, west of Punta Cancun. This beach has calm and shallow waters, making it the ideal family vacation spot. In front of the pier, there is a platform for bungee jumping.

Playa Chac-Mool – Located at Km 10 in the hotel zone, in front of the Bojorquez Lagoon, this beach with moderate surf is a great place to sunbathe while sipping on a drink and looking out onto the Caribbean Sea.

Playa Marlin – Located at Km 13 in the hotel zone and half a kilometer south of archaeological site Yamil Lu’um, this place is a great romantic getaway for those looking to get away from noise and crowds.

Playa Ballenas – Located at Km 14 in the hotel zone, north of Punta Nizuc, the blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea invite you to do water sports. Has one of the best panoramic views of Cancun.

Playa Delfines – North of Punta Nizuc at Km 18 in the hotel zone, it is a great beach to soak up some sun and it has a lookout point that will give you an excellent opportunity to take some photos of the Caribbean Sea.

Isla Mujeres – Located 14 kilometers (9 miles) off the coast of Cancun; it is one of the most beautiful spots in the Mexican Caribbean. The island is 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and 1.5 kilometers (about 1 mile) wide. To arrive there, you can take a ferry or speedboat from Puerto Juarez, Punta Sam and Playa Linda. You can arrive by taking the Garrafon Cruise, which departs from the Embarcadero in Cancun’s hotel zone at Km 4. It arrives at Parque Natural Garrafon on the southern part of the island. You can do all kinds of aquatic sports at this beach, which offers wave runner rentals and banana rides.

Playa Gaviota Azul – Just behind Plaza Forum and south of Punta Cancun at Km 18 in the hotel zone, the beach has decent surf, making it a good place to swim and do other water sports.

San Miguelito – Located in the hotel zone at Km 16.5, between Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc, at this beach you can visit ruins at a small archaeological site, which is also called San Miguelito.

Yamil Lu’um – At Km 12.5 in the hotel zone, south of Playa Chac-mool, this beach has two Mayan structures. The more noticeable of the two is a construction that probably served as a lookout post for a temple.

Playa Las Perlas – At the beginning of the hotel zone and west of Punta Cuncan at Km 2.5, you’ll find this beach with balmy weather, ideal for doing such water sports as sailing, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming. This spot also has ferries that depart to Isla Mujeres.

Playa Linda – Located at Km 4, where the hotel zone begins, and 1 kilometer (less than a mile) west of Playa Langosta. Mujeres Bay is known for its calm waters, making it a safe place to swim. It is also a main stopover and departure point for cruise liners and other boats going to Isla Mujeres.

Playa Caracol – Located at Km 8.5, between Playa Langosta and Punta Cancun. The shallow waters at this beach make it an ideal swimming spot for children and beginners. It is also a fabulous place for water-skiing.

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To the right side of the entrance to the Cancún Convention Center is the Museo Arqueológico de Cancún (tel. 998/883-0305), a small but interesting museum with relics from archaeological sites around the state. Admission is $3; free on Sunday and holidays. It's open Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.

Another cultural enclave is the Museo de Arte Popular Mexicano (tel. 998/849-4848), located at on the second floor of the El Embarcadero Marina, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 4. It displays a representative collection of masks, regional folkloric costumes, nativity scenes, religious artifacts, musical instruments, Mexican toys, and gourd art; spread over 1,370 sq. m (4,500 sq. ft.) of exhibition space. Admission is $10, with kids under 12 paying half price. The museum is open daily from 11am to 11 pm.

Bullfights

Cancún has a small bullring, Plaza de Toros (tel. 998/884-8372; bull@prodigy.net.mx), near the northern (town) end of Bulevar Kukulkán opposite the Restaurant Los Almendros. Bullfights take place every Wednesday at 3:30pm during the winter tourist season. A sport introduced to Mexico by the Spanish viceroys, bullfighting is now as much a part of Mexican culture as tequila. The bullfights usually include four bulls, and the spectacle begins with a folkloric dance exhibition, followed by a performance by the charros (Mexico's sombrero-wearing cowboys). You're not likely to see Mexico's best bullfights in Cancún - the real stars are in Mexico City. Keep in mind that if you go to a bullfight, you're going to see a bullfight, so stay away if you're an animal lover or you can't bear the sight of blood. Travel agencies in Cancún sell tickets, which cost $35 for adults, free for children under 6; seating is by general admission. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.

Sightseeing

Get the best possible view of Cancún atop the La Torre Cancún, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 4 (tel. 998/849-4848), and a rotating tower at the El Embarcadero park and entertainment complex. One ride costs $9; a day and night pass goes for $14. Open daily from 9am to 11pm.

 

Archeological Sites

Tulum -- A popular excursion combines a visit to the ruins at Tulum with the ecological water park Xel-Ha. Ancient Tulum is a stunning site, and my personal favorite of all the ruins. A wall surrounds the site on three sides, which explains the name (tulum means fence, trench, or wall). Its ancient name is believed to have been Záma, a derivative of the Maya word for "morning" or "dawn," and sunrise at Tulum is certainly dramatic. The wall is believed to have been constructed after the original buildings, to protect the interior religious altars from a growing number of invaders. It is considered to have been principally a place of worship, but members of the upper classes later took up residence here. Between the two most dramatic structures - the Castle and the Temple of the Wind - lies Tulum Cove. A small inlet with a beach of fine, white sand, it was a point of departure for Maya trading vessels in ancient times. Today it's a playground for tourists, and you can enjoy a refreshing swim. Admission to the site without a tour is $3.50 (no charge on Sun), parking costs $1, and use of video camera requires a $4 permit.

Ruinas del Rey - Cancún has its own Maya ruins (tel. 998/884-8073) - a small site that's less impressive than the ruins at Tulum, Cobá, or Chichén Itzá. Fishermen built the small ceremonial center and settlement very early in the history of Maya culture. It was then abandoned, to be resettled again near the end of the post-Classic period, not long before the arrival of the conquistadors. The platforms of numerous small temples are visible amid the banana plants, papayas, and wildflowers. The Hilton Cancún hotel golf course surrounds the ruins, which have a separate entrance for sightseers. You'll find the ruins about 21km (13 miles) from town, at the southern reach of the Zona Hotelera, almost to Punta Nizuc. Look for the Hilton hotel on the left (east) and the ruins on the right (west). Admission is $4.50; free on Sunday and holidays. It's open daily from 8am to 5pm.

On Isla Mujeres, you have the opportunity to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery (tel. 998/849-4757; fax 998/849-4758; www.dolphindiscovery.com). There are several options for dolphin interaction, but my choice is the Royal Swim, which includes an educational introduction followed by 30 minutes of swim time. The price is $125 (MasterCard and Visa are accepted), with transportation to Isla Mujeres an additional $5 for program participants. Advance reservations are required. Assigned swimming times are 10am, noon, 2, or 3:30pm, and you must arrive 1 1/2 hour before your scheduled swim time. In Cancún, the Parque Nizuc (tel. 998/881-3030) marine park offers guests a chance to swim with dolphins and view them in their dolphin aquarium, Atlántida. The price of the dolphin swim ($135) includes admission to the park. It's a fun place for a family to spend the day, with its numerous pools, waterslides, and rides. Visitors can also snorkel with manta rays, tropical fish, and tame sharks. It's at the southern end of Cancún, between the airport and the Hotel Zone. Admission is $27 for adults, $23 for children 3 to 11 (American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted). Open daily from 10am to 5:30pm.

La Isla Shopping Center, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 12.5, has an impressive Interactive Aquarium (tel. 998/883-0411, 998/883-0436, or 998/883-0413; www.aquariumcancun.com.mx), with dolphin swims and the chance to feed a shark while immersed in the water in an acrylic cage. Guides inside the main tank use underwater microphones to point out the sea life, and even answer your questions. Open exhibition tanks enable visitors to touch a variety of marine life, including sea stars and manta rays. The educational dolphin program is $55, while the dolphin swim is $115. The entrance fee to the aquarium is $6 for adults, $4 for children, and it's open from 9am to 7pm, daily.
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