Let’s face it, Cancún isn’t exactly known for its culture. On the scale from Abandoned Paradise to Crowded Tourist Trap, Cancún ranks just behind the Olive Garden in Times Square.
Determined to find out whether the oyster had a pearl, I decided to spend a long weekend in Cancún. But plenty of travel bloggers have covered this destination from an “over-touristed plastic” angle, and while they’re not wrong, I’ve decided to focus on my five highlights.
#5 – Fancy hotels with fancy pools
My accommodation preferences tend to fluctuate between cute little Airbnbs and dirt cheap hostels. Most of the time, I think of hotels as bland and void of personality. But that’s not really a fair assessment. In Cancún, hotels are really the only option… and I have to say… mine was one of the cheapest at $79 per night and I ended up really enjoying relaxing there.
#4 – Venturing out
Cancún occupies a very specific zone, and you don’t have to venture far outside it to discover adorable towns with a little more cultural validity. I enjoyed spending time in Valladolid while en route to Chichen Itza.
#3 – Islas Mujeres + beach
Just half an hour from Cancún by boat, Isla Mujeres is a gorgeous little piece of Caribbean beach life. While still popular with tourists, it feels significantly more authentic than the beaches in the hotel zone. And you can still order a caipirinha directly to your sun lounger.
#2 – Cenote
The Yucatan peninsula has many ancient sinkholes, or, “cenotes”. As I floated on my back, I was acutely aware that the water descended over 45 meters below my suspended body. I felt weightless looking up at the perfect sky like it was an entire planet and I was an astronaut observing it from the other side.
#1 – Chichen Itza
My sixth wonder of the world, Chichen Itza was actually more exciting than I expected! I’d never heard about the interesting way the sun lights the pyramid on the equinox. I also learned about bloodthirsty Mayan sports. And my personal favourite; discovering the crazy high-pitched sound that the pyramid makes when you clap next to it.
If you consider yourself the adventurous type, as I tend to, Cancún is never going to become a favourite destination – but there’s definitely enough to make a short trip memorable.