There’s just something about Cancun. With high-end accommodations and easy access to amazing natural and historic sites, we think it’s fair to say that its reputation as a place for party-goers is so passé. Sure, the appeal remains for those wanting to mix daytime in the sun with nighttime in the clubs, but the Cancun of today is much more refined, appealing to a broader audience. With easy access from various Canadian gateways, it makes the perfect destination for a quick escape, or the ideal add-on for travellers planning to explore more cultural and historic areas of Mexico with some beach time to round things out. Here’s how.
See & Do
Tulum ruins | Aaron Huber
Those who know Mexico know that the beach is only the beginning, in a country where history and culture abound. We recommend working with a travel advisor who can set you up with excursions through local tour operators to see some of the area’s attractions. Tulum is one of the most popular, located about two hours from Cancun. The site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city, this is best explored with a registered tour guide who can describe its meaning and significance. End your experience with a dip in the ocean; the beach is down a steep staircase from the cliff on which the ruins are located. (Sidenote: Plan to arrive at opening – an early wake-up call! – to beat the crowds.) From here, make your way to one of the cenotes in the area – Cenote Zacil-ha is among the highest-rated in the area and only a short drive from the centre of Tulum.
See a different side of Mexico by visiting Valladolid, which is about a two-hour drive inland from the coast but well worth your time. This small city is home to beautiful architecture – check-out the churches of Santa Maria la Antigua and San Benito, and pay visit to the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena (built between 1552 and 1560). Make your way through the narrow streets to the Donato Bates market where you’ll find authentic Mexican crafts, and then settle in for delicious Mayan dishes at a local restaurant. Francisco Cantón Rosado central park is another popular attraction not to be missed.
It would be a shame to visit Cancun and not make it to Isla Mujeres, considered a bucket list destination by many. This peaceful, serene paradise is located just off the coast (ferries leave every 30 minutes) and boasts peaceful waters, soft sand beaches and a diverse choice of activities. Divers should explore the underwater sculpture museum, MUSA, while those looking for less activity can simply find a spot at Playa Norte (North Beach). The gardens and archways of Hacienda Mundaca, built by pirate Fermin Mundaca, need be explored as well, in addition to the ever-popular Turtle Farm on island.
Eat & Drink
Referred to as the birthplace of all-inclusive vacationing as we know it today, Cancun is not necessarily known for its dining scene. But there are some options that might make venturing off-property for a bite to eat worth your time.
Put on your fancy shoes and head to Restaurante Careyes, located in the hotel zone. Serving up gourmet cuisine (the seafood and steak come highly recommended), here you’ll find great food and great service, with picture-perfect postcard views.
La Parilla is also well-reviewed, offering locals and visitors traditional Mexican dishes. Immerse yourself in authentic colour and art – plus a little mariachi, to boot – while enjoying exquisite flavours... and maybe even a little tequila
Stay & Sleep:
Luxury is not hard to come by in Cancun, with various properties vying for upscale business. Paradisus Cancun is one example and while it does cater to families (look out for the kids’ and teens’ clubs onsite and a new Family Concierge section), there is also an adultsonly option – Royal Service – for couples or friends seeking the ultimate in solitude and relaxation. With Royal Service, guests will enjoy an elevated experience thanks to the attention of a personal butler plus a private restaurant and pool unavailable to other guests. Rooms within the Royal Service section continue to be modernized, with those already completed showcasing an airy, cool design.
Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort is another high-end option and a favourite among Canadian travellers. Forget your typical margarita or pina colada; mixologists will fix your perfect drink – treat yourself to the marshmallow martini. Enjoy included access to non-motorized water sports plus dining options well above and beyond what you’d expect from any typical all-inclusive property. Farm-to-table ingredients are used throughout, and an array of cuisines are available (including American, Mexican and Pan-Asian). But it’s not just about taste here; be sure to soak-in the breathtaking view at La Gondola, which is open for breakfast in the morning and Italian dining in the evening.
Club Med Yucatan
If you’ve yet to drink the Club Med Kool-Aid, we suggest you start with Club Med Yucatan. Boasting a refreshed look thanks to recent renovations throughout, here you’ll find great food and comfortable rooms and suites – but those details are secondary to the awesome selection of activities available for adults, kids and families alike. From waterskiing and wakeboarding to sailing and windsurfing; from tennis and water polo to golf and snuba; from archery school to the flying trapeze…the list goes on – and it’s all included. Various room categories are available to accommodate larger groups, and for an upgraded experience, splurge on the Jade five-trident luxury space.