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Travel guide to Cancun, Mexico

When you’re planning a quick getaway, you consider two very important factors: proximity and cost. No matter where you live in the U.S., chances are Mexico is your best bet for both.

Woman in hammock in Cancun

As a 20-something, Cancún is synonymous to spring break with all of your college friends. When you’re older and actually established, you can probably afford to splurge a bit more. Not only that, but chances are you’re for relaxation and not nights filled with tequila shots.

Cancún definitely has it all — great weather, a safe environment (you can explore outside of your resort) and outdoor adventures — all at a reasonable cost.

What to do

Explore Mayan culture

There are plenty of tours available to explore the mysterious archeological sites Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. Of the three, Chichen Itza — home of the Mayan civilization — is the most-recognizable landmark. The structure’s architecture is truly awe-inspiring, and it’s a wonder of the world not to be missed. By car it takes about 2.5 hours to get there, and it tends to get very crowded with tourists, so be warned.


La Isla Shopping Village is one of my favorite shopping destinations in Cancún. It’s conveniently located across the street from Live Aqua Cancún (see below) and boasts over 150 shops. Stores range from exclusive boutiques to larger brand names like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Take note, however, the deals are not better than those in the U.S. La Isla has a lot of outdoor sections, so it feels as if you’re in a village. In addition to a movie theater, yummy restaurants and food trucks, you’ll also find the Interactive Aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins. Yes, a place like this actually exists.


One of the best parts about going to Cancún is that, for the most part, it’s very safe. Going on your own explorations is not out of the ordinary for tourists, as Cancún is extremely civilized. Review sites, word-of-mouth recommendations and hotel concierge are great resources for must-try dining establishments. Du Mexique is one of those must-try places. Located in downtown Cancún, patrons of this gastropub rave about the changing menu and seasonal ingredients. While there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path restaurants to try, there are many that stand out as award-winning eateries located comfortably amidst a hotel or resort that you can visit as well.

Where to stay

Cancún doesn’t appeal to only a certain type of person. It’s for that reason that there are plenty of hotel options from which to choose, each of which will provide a certain type of experience. Interested in a full-on adventurous vacation? The Occidental Grand Xcaret will take care of that for you. Interested in an all-inclusive experience with a shopping mall right across the street? Live Aqua is the place for you. Or maybe, like me, you think vacations are meant for relaxation and relaxation only. For those who want a pool, beach, food and drinks at their fingertips, you can’t lose with El Dorado Maroma.

Occidental Grand Xcaret

This is an all-inclusive resort located adjacent to the spectacular eco-archeological Xcaret park right in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Guests staying three or more nights can take advantage of the Unlimited Xcaret Xperience package. This allows unrestricted admission to the theme park to enjoy more than 40 attractions of nature and culture, including a coral reef aquarium and a butterfly conservatory. This is great for couples and families — especially with the added bonus of returning to your hotel room as often as needed. The hotel itself features 11 restaurants, nine bars, five swimming pools and organized sports.

Live Aqua Cancun

Ranked the top Mexican resort in Travel + Leisure’s 2012 World’s Best awards, this adults-only, all-inclusive property offers 335 rooms and 36 suites, all of which have sensational panoramic views overlooking both the pools and the Caribbean Sea. The resort is all about helping you find your own personal experience by way of your senses. Five different aromatherapies are bountiful throughout the common areas, and you can choose what aroma you like for your own personal room. The Spa Aqua relaxation experience cannot be missed. It really feels as if you’ve entered serenity. Make sure to come an hour early to enjoy the sauna, steam room and plunge pools — and stay late to take advantage of the jet showers. There are seven different dining options (MB Restaurant being my favorite) and 24-hour in-room dining available as well. Live Aqua is located in the middle of civilization, with La Isla Shopping Mall right across the street.

El Dorado Maroma

This beachfront resort provides nothing but rest and relaxation, with a schedule of daytime activities if you’re interested. El Dorado Maroma is an all-suite resort with only 99 rooms available, making it extremely intimate. You’ll get to know your neighbors if you want, or you can keep to yourself if that suits you more. The suites are extremely spacious and separated by a bathroom area, bedroom and living space. If you’re on the ground floor, chances are you have a “swim out” room. This means you can jump right in the pool outside of your room and let it bring you over to the main pool if you wish. There’s a spa and gym and personal concierge to set you up with any off-site activities you might be interested in. There are four gourmet restaurants, none of which require a reservation. If you’re looking to escape from the real world, this is your must go-to destination.

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