Cancun, Mexico, is wrapped in crystal clear water and brilliant sunshine, so it’s no wonder the shoreline gets top billing. Government developers, looking for a way to eradicate the poverty of the region, created this comfortable resort area on the Mexican Caribbean from the sand up to take advantage of the gorgeous aquamarine water and temperate climate. Cancun is the top resort in Mexico.

Cancun either reassures visitors or annoys them. Travelers who enjoy the feel of Old Mexico will never find Cancun to be as colorful or as spontaneous. With more than 30,000 hotel rooms, it’s not the place for isolated sun worship, either. The resort facilities have overgrown the original plans for the town, making the layout of hotels and shops somewhat cramped, though newer, more sprawling properties have been constructed on the edge of town in recent years.

But those hankering for a no-hassle beach vacation can fly in and soak up the sun without speaking a word of Spanish (or exchanging U.S. dollars). Those interested in learning about the ancient Maya civilization can visit several exceptional archaeological sites on day trips.

Also within reach is the island of Cozumel, a haven for divers and snorkelers. And Playa del Carmen—once an oasis of rustic, laid-back charm—is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, with a great variety of restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment. It is also the hub of a growing ecotourism movement. And Isla Mujeres, the closest island to Cancun, is still famous for snorkeling and never lost its friendly, fishing village allure.


There are actually two Cancuns: the Hotel Zone on the island and Ciudad Cancun (Cancun City), a district on the mainland that is more of a residential and business enclave. You can get from one to the other via a short bus or taxi ride.

The island, which is where most visitors spend their time, is 14 mi/22 km long, less than 0.5 mi/1 km wide and shaped rather like the number seven. It is connected to the mainland by bridges at each end, which were built after landfill linked the island to the peninsula. It has calm, shallow waters off its northern side, wilder Caribbean seas to the east, and the vast brackish Nichupte Lagoon between the island and the mainland.

There are no street addresses on Cancun island because there’s really only one road—Boulevard Kukulcan. Places on the island are located by their distance (in kilometers) from the northern end of the boulevard, which begins at the edge of Ciudad Cancun. Markers indicate every kilometer along the side of the road.

The bridge that connects the northern tip of the island to the mainland is just past the Kilometer 4 marker; the southern bridge to the mainland is at Kilometer 25. Thus, a hotel whose address is “Km. 12” is about 7.5 mi/12 km from the north end of Boulevard Kukulcan. Ciudad Cancun, on the other hand, does indeed have streets with names and regular-sized city blocks.