In the late 1960’s, the Mexican government took interest in a remote sandbar on the eastern shore of the Yucatán Peninsula. The resort of Cancún was born. It all started in 1976 when the Mexican government, recognizing the importance of tourism to the country’s economic future, began a detailed search to pinpoint ideal sites for tourism development. Cancún emerged as the government’s top candidate.
Still, the new resort reached the 1980’s as a relatively small and undiscovered destination with a dozen or so hotels. A building boom in the mid-1980’s finally vaulted Cancún into the global tourism arena as THE resort of the ‘90’s. In fact, Quintana Roo State now garners 35% of Mexico’s annual tourism revenue.
Cancún has it all, offering an exotic, tropical island setting buoyed by modern comforts and conveniences. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a site better endowed with natural, cultural, and man-made attractions. Cancún’s hotel zone is a 22.5-km-long slender ribbon of sand. Its stunning beaches must be seen to be believed: silky smooth, sugar-white sand, lapped by the turquoise and emerald waters of the Caribbean.
Cancún is comprised of three distinct but integrated areas: the City of Cancún, a raffish boomtown of 500,000 people, popular for shopping, dining, less expensive accommodations; the ecological reserve-lovely lagoons and mangroves; and the hotel zone. A well planned layout and modern infrastructure give the destination a polished, although mostly un-Mexican appearance.
The area’s history is rich with Mayan influences. The Yucatán Peninsula is where Mayan culture flourished for centuries prior to the Spaniard’s arrival in 1519. Over 1200 archaeological sites are scattered within a few hour’s drive from Cancún. Many sites have been wonderfully restored, while others are still shrouded by tangled jungle vegetation.
Even Cancun’s ultra-modern resort zone harbors achaeological sites dating to the 12th century. Popular day tours to sites like Tulum, Cobá, and Chichén Itzá afford visitors the opportunity to appreciate the work of one of the world’s most advanced ancient societies. Beyond the area’s famous archaeological sites, the Mayan culture has survived despite tourism’s rapid encroachment. In fact, much of Cancun’s population is of Mayan descent.
Where to go if you are in Cancun: