Central America | Mexico | Yucatan Peninsula | Quintana Roo | Cancun – Sun and sand in Cancun
I came to Cancun, Mexico, expecting a lot of sun and sand, and that is exactly what I got. There’s no use denying that Cancun is mostly one long beach, and I spent the last few days lying on the beach working on my tan, and consuming tacos and quesadillas.
From Toronto I caught a flight to Cancun with a few transit stops in between. The Americans are still paranoid about you even if you’re only transiting through the country, as I found that getting out of Toronto was harder than getting in – anyone boarding an American flight is subject to fingerprinting and photographing.
I arrived at Cancun late in the evening, and the first thing that hit me was the climate. Walking out of the airport, I was hit by the tropical heat.
On arrival at the hostel I had no hesitation changing out of my jeans and into shorts and flip flops. The hostel I stayed at is in downtown Cancun, on the mainland. The dorm room has a rather unusual roof and ceiling made up of bundled leaves, making it appear like a jungle bungalow. I can only imagine it also makes quite an efficient fire hazard.
The next day I decided to make my way out to the Zona Hotelara, or Hotel Zone. This long thin stretch of beach stretches out from the mainland in a shape sort of like a 7. The entire twenty-two kilometre-long strip is practically lined with hotels, and is the more expensive part of Cancun to stay at. Getting out there from the mainland is not a problem though, costing only six pesos on one of the many frequent buses.
After getting off at one of the beaches, I was immediately struck by the azure blueness of the water. Cool, clear, blue water lapping on white sand. I spent some time sitting on the beach taking it all in, not to mention having a dip in the cool water.
Walking the 7
After what I estimated to be medium rare on the “cooked” scale, I took a long stroll along the beach. As I walked on the water’s edge, mostly with the waves lapping at my feet, I passed several of the hotels’ beachfront areas. Hotel guests aplenty could be seen sitting on deck chairs working on their tans and sipping on daquiris. A lot of water sports are also available along the beach, such as parasailing, snorkelling, and jetskiing.
I walked quite far that day, rounding the corner of the 7 and continuing until I came to a beach pub shack for a late meal. At this pub, there are swings hanging from the roof around the bar for patrons to sit on, instead of the usual bar stools.
One day I decided to take a day trip out to the island off Cancun, Isla Mujeres. This island is meant for the tourist, offering a village of shops near the harbour and an island of beaches and snorkelling. Seeing that I was only here for the day, I decided to go on one of the boat snorkelling tours. It turned out that the other six people on the boat were all from Spanish-speaking countries like Chile, Mexico, and Spain. While at first begrudging that I did not have any English-speaking tourists to talk to, I soon found that the group was rather friendly and it was a great chance for me to practice my Spanish with the likes of Miguel, Jose, and Jesus.
The day consisted of several snorkelling dives off the coast in crystal clear water, surrounded by tropical reef fish. There was also a stop at a turtle farm and a swim with a shark. I didn’t quite know what to make of this; here was an old shark being held by a boy, and tourists were going in the water to have their photo taken. I’m not sure the shark enjoys spending his days like this.
After returning to the main island, the Chilean couple Eric and Kristina decided to rent a golf cart, and invited me to come with them. I sat at the back facing backwards while Eric drove the cart through the island. However, he had a propensity to go over the speed bumps at high speed, which made for a rather interesting ride for me because I was facing backwards and had no way of knowing when he was about to hit one. Along the way, we stopped at a street stall and bought some coconuts to drink out of. After finishing the coconut juice, the lady split the coconuts for us so that we could eat the flesh. So here I was this afternoon, trundling along Isla Mujeres on the back of a golf cart with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, munching on fresh coconut flesh. I certainly could not have foreseen this when I got up that morning. But that’s the best thing about travel, not knowing what the day has in store for you.
A beach lover’s haven
Cancun is practically an ideal location for spending time on the beach. There are plenty of shops and bars along the main strip to keep tourists occupied. The nightlife is undoubtedly lively; when I visited a club one night, it appeared to be packed mostly with American college students enjoying the end of the school year.
There are also plenty of other diversions from Cancun available, such as the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza nearby, and of course the excellent Isla Mujeres.