Family Travel Survival Guide: Cancun

Visiting this Mexican hotspot is almost a given—here’s how to make it your own.
cancun family vacation survival guide
CHOOSE A SIDE: Knowing how to navigate the tourist-chocked streets will save your sanity (Adalberto Rios Szalay/Sexto Sol/Stockbyte/Getty)

In a place where all-inclusives are all the rage, one might not expect to find much in the way family-friendly adventure and culture. In the case of Cancun, most travelers seeking a good dose of both break free of the famed Hotel Zone and head down the coast to the Mayan Riviera, where close proximity to eco-parks and famous Mayan ruins is a major draw. That's not to say that those who opt to stay in the Hotel Zone can't find interesting attractions on the Yucatan's northeastern-most tip. "Cool" does, indeed, exist in Cancun. You just need to know where to look for it. And that often means leaving the all-you-can-eat buffets poolside and venturing beyond the resort bounds.

Lay of the Land
Cancun was made for vacationing—literally. Just a few decades ago, most travelers south of the border probably didn't even know the city existed. That changed in the 1970s when Mexico's government selected the city on the Yucatan's northern tip to be its next tourism star. And with its inviting tropics—turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, lush flora, and year-round sunshine—it didn't take long for the world to catch on, and the city hasn't looked back since.

Cancun is divided into three districts: Ciudad de Cancun, the residential and business district; Reserva Ecologico, a natural, undeveloped area; and Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), where tourism reigns supreme. The Hotel Zone is a thin stretch of real estate shaped like the number seven that stretches along 14 miles of beachfront, with the bay, Nichupte Lagoon, and Caribbean Sea lapping its shores. While the coastlines are everything one imagines a tropical paradise to be, the area within is more of a concrete jungle, packed with large resorts, shopping plazas, and eateries. And the area is still developing, with more hotels cropping up every year—a reflection of its ever-growing popularity. The good news for travelers: with so many options, there's bound to be a deal.

Linda Samuel is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

Published: 22 Apr 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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