Lay of the Land: Cancún's 14-mile-long Zona Hotelera is a skinny strip of land between mangrove lagoons and the Caribbean Sea. The zone is shaped like a 7, with Boulevard Kukulcán beginning at the edge of downtown, running straight to Punta Cancún, then continuing on to its longest stretch south to the airport. The fanciest hotels and restaurants are located along the southern side of the zone facing the open sea.
Close to half of all international tourists to Mexico visit the Cancún region—which is why former Mexican President Vicente Fox arrived there the minute Hurricane Wilma's winds died down in October 2005. Fox pledged to devote billions to bring Cancún back to life ASAP, and the reconstruction has been so impressive that President George W. Bush even dropped by to see it. Six months later, Cancún's beaches were back, hotels were reopening, and the nightlife was rowdier than ever. Sadly, the beaches are again disappearing, and the sand is no longer talcum-soft and white. But the hotels, restaurants, and clubs are hipper than ever, and the region is taking on a sophisticated flair.
You'll find plenty to do in Cancún, but you won't enjoy much of a tropical backdrop or indigenous culture. If you're looking for a more authentic taste of Mexico, you're better off in Isla Mujeres or the Riviera Maya.
WHEN TO GO
Peak season runs from mid-December to Easter and is busiest around holidays, especially Semana Santa, the holy week before Easter. Spring breakwhen hordes of college students brave the heat and humidity in search of a good timeis not recommended. Early spring and the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have good weather, reasonable temperatures, and thinner crowds.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cancún International Airport (Mexico's second largest) is some seven miles (or 20 minutes by car) from the city's main hotel district. A new third terminal opened in 2007, doubling its capacity and adding state-of-the-art security. The airport is served by American, Continental, Delta, and Northwest, as well as by Mexican airlines Aeroméxico and Mexicana, and there are flights from nearly every major U.S. city. The Cancún airport also links the city with other important tourism spots in the Yucatán region, including Mérida and Cozumel. Large car-rental chains such as Budget, Avis, and Hertz have branches at the airport; private taxi journeys run upwards of $40 to the Zona Hotelera, though "collective" taxis (called collectivos, for shared rides) travel from the airport to the Zona Hotelera for under $10.
Within the Zona Hotelera, the best way to get around is by foot, if the sun isn't blazing. Buses run the length of the Zona Hotelera into downtown and are the easiest transportation option. The trip costs about 65 cents. Taxis are abundant. Fares are set by zone, with rides within the Hotel Zone set at an $8.50 minimum each way and rides within the downtown zone set at a $3 minimum each way. To get from the Hotel Zone to the downtown zone, expect to pay $10–$15 each way (fares are higher at night and when the ride originates from a hotel).
Cancún Tourist Office
Cancun Center, 1st Floor
Blvd. Kukulcán, Km. 9
Tel: 52 998 881 2745
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