Unlike any other city in Mexico, Cancun truly offers the best of both worlds. No other city can claim the unique distinction of being a glamorous, modern resort destination right in the middle of the ancient Mayan kingdom and vibrant nature of the Yucatan Peninsula. With ease, you can explore the ancient Mayan ruins or nature preserves during the day and enjoy world class shopping and dining in the evening. The following is a sample itinerary for a day in Cancun, incorporating both the city’s rich history and luxurious modern offerings. As we have skipped the beaches, the water sports and numerous other activities for this itinerary, it must be said that these options only scratch the surface of what Cancun has to offer.
A great way to start a day in Cancun is with a trip to the historic Ruinas de Coba. Between 400 and 1100 A.D., this sprawling Mayan city boasted a population of over 100,000. Though Coba is known to have been a center of commerce in the Mayan Kingdom, much of city’s history, including its eventual fall, remain shrouded in mystery. Located between the equally entrancing sites of Chichen Itza and Tulum, Coba offers the most tropical experience of any Mayan site.
Tours of the ruins are available through many of the major resorts and generally disembark from the Hotel Zone early in the morning. As you arrive you might see spider monkeys frolicking on the steps of the pyramids and tropical birds drifting overhead. You can ride a bicycle along the paths of this massive city or climb the Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the Mayan kingdom, for a breathtaking view of the adjacent lakes and surrounding forest. With more than 6,500 total structures, most dating between 500 and 900 A.D, there is certainly plenty to explore.
Another great activity just outside of Cancun is the picturesque Isla Contoy. Beyond serving as the Yucatan Peninsula’s most valuable ornithological preserve, this small island is also one of Mexico’s most pristine national parks. Located off the eastern-most point of the Yucatan Peninsula, the prevailing currents support incredible marine life and the preservation of coral reefs. To maintain the island’s diverse ecosystem, only 200 visitors are allowed at the site each day. As a result, the four-hour tours offered by official guides are known for their intimacy and wealth of information.
In addition to bird watching and simple enjoyment of tropical splendor, visitors can view a number of exhibits about the area’s plant and animal life in the visitor center. To conclude your visit to Isla Contoy, climb the visitor center’s open-air observation tower for a magnificent view of the park and an always-pleasant sea breeze.
When you return to the city, it should be time to shop. With a number of shopping centers containing all of the world’s finest retailers, you will find everything you are looking for at prices below similar stores in the U.S. The Plaza Caracol, the largest of these shopping centers, houses over 200 boutiques and galleries with everything from the finest European fashion to unique local art and jewelry. After browsing the racks at Ralph Lauren and Gucci, you can even settle down in one of the complex’s many elegant cafes.
Cancun’s most luxurious shopping center is probably the 500,000 square-foot Plaza Kukulkán. In addition to all types of great local products, all the best stores like Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Rolex are located within these walls. The plaza even features a scuba diving center where shoppers can hop in water for a lesson or two. When you are finally ready to unwind after your exciting day in Cancun, there are also plenty of great restaurants and bars in this area.
Sit back, relax and plan the next day’s adventures.