Sun Country Airlines | Cancun | Riviera Maya
More than just a Spring Break retreat, Cancun offers cool, crushed-coral beaches, Mayan ruins and a flourishing cityscape that’s become a favorite vacation stop for celebrities, families and travelers of all ages. Cancun offers lively adventures at every hour, beginning at sunrise, with a trip to an eco-park or a visit to the market for souvenirs and chili powder-covered exotic fruits, and ending with a night of drinks and dancing at an Avenida Bonampak discotheque.
Facts & FundamentalsCancun did not exist until 1974, when the Mexican government began developing the jungle expanse into a world-renowned tourist destination. The Hotel Zone is shaped like a “7,” and the shorter side of the zone (horizontal part of the “7”) experiences gentler surf thanks to Isla Mujeres blocking incoming waves. The ruins at Chichen-Itza have served as a concert venue for Sir Elton John, Sarah Brightman and other major musicians. The world’s second largest coral reef, the Great Maya Reef, is located off Cancun’s coast, where the beach is actually crushed coral that never gets hot to the touch. Cancun is organized by “supermanzanas,” or super blocks. All main roadways are named after Mayan cities, while lesser streets are named for animals, fish, fruit or flowers. Traces of the Mayans can be found throughout the Yucatan region, which is home to as many as 2,700 different ruins. Cancun’s Hotel Zone features one such Mayan site, El Rey. Cancun locals are known as “Cancunenses.” Thanks to laws protecting Cancun’s wetlands, the area is a sanctuary to over 450 species of birds, making it a great stop for bird watching. The Riviera Maya, a premiere tourism district beginning in Cancun and running south along the coast, features three of the longest underwater cave systems in the world: Dos Ojos, Nohock Na Choch and Ox Bel Ha. Cancun recently began attracting higher-education institutions, such as Universidad La Salle Cancún, Universidad del Caribe and Instituto Tecnológico de Cancún.
Sun worshippers truly find their paradise in Cancun, Every day here feels like summer thanks to the region’s tropical climate, which translates to minimal temperature variations between seasons. Annually, the average high temperatures reach into the 80s and the average low drops only into the 70s. Courtesy of the Caribbean, travelers with accommodations close to the coast get to enjoy nice breezes and slightly cooler temperatures than those found further inland.
When visiting from June through November (during hurricane season), keep an eye on weather in the Atlantic. While hurricanes and tropical storms are quite rare along the Cancún coast, they aren’t unheard of. Still, even during the rainy season (May-October), it’s not unusual to see warm sunshine and clear blue skies just an hour after a storm, or to experience rain in only a select area of the city.
For a coastal city that didn’t exist before 1974, Cancun has wasted no time becoming a top vacation spot for tourists around the globe—from sun worshippers and adventure seekers to celebrities and vacationing families. The Mexican government’s grand ambition of turning a sparsely populated jungle landscape into a Caribbean paradise has met nothing but success, as witnessed by the more than 400 million visitors who bask in the beauty of Cancun each year.
Cancun’s coastal location in the Yucatan Peninsula provides easy access to both the stunning beaches and rich inland attractions. Considered the northern Gateway of the Riviera Maya, Cancun sits on the Caribbean coast and is separated from the mainland by the Nichupte Lagoon. The city offers more than 14 miles of turquoise waters and white coral beaches, which never grow hot to the touch. You can focus on the water: snorkeling, scuba diving, riding jet skis, deep-sea fishing or swimming with the dolphins. Or you can head inland on an eco-tour of the lush, tropical jungle, explore the area’s legendary cenotes (sinkholes filled with cool groundwater), or climb the awe-inspiring Mayan ruins.
Exploring Mayan culture is a must (and easily accomplished) once you see how much it still permeates modern Cancun. The city explodes with excitement on Mayan holidays, such as the New Year, when locals and visitors alike flood Chichen Itza and celebrate into the night. The Yucatan region features more than 2,700 different ruin sites, and Cancun’s own Hotel Zone is even home to the El Rey ruins. Take your taste buds on a historic tour by dining on the region’s distinctive cuisine, such as pibil-style dishes with Mayan spices, chaya and steamed tamales made with corn tortillas and pork or exotic fruits.
If you choose to stay within the city limits, you’ll never run out of things to do. Cancun essentially consists of two main areas: the Hotel Zone and El Centro (Downtown). While the Hotel Zone offers a concentration of accommodations, dining and beach access, El Centro provides a more authentic Mexican experience. There, you can enjoy ceviche in an Avenida Bonampka restaurant, or sip aguas frescas and munch tacos from a street vendor as you stroll Parque de las Palapas. Be sure to visit the markets, such as Mercada 28, where you may have just as much fun haggling over the price as choosing from the fantastic variety of locally made goods. And the fun doesn’t end at sundown: Cancun’s more than 350 restaurants and nightclubs (discotheques) can keep you partying and dancing at all hours.
One of the greatest beauties of Cancun, though, is its recognition of this gorgeous land and the need to preserve it. The fervor for authenticity extends beyond El Centro’s cuisine to the waters and MUSA, an underwater sculptural museum designed to encourage coral growth in the Great Maya Reef. Bird sanctuaries along the coast, such as Isla Contoy, eco parks and federally protected areas like the Rio Lagartos Bio-Reserve allow the Cancun landscape to flourish while giving visitors up-close encounters with dolphins, crocodiles, turtles, flamingos and other exciting wildlife they’ll never forget.
Retorno del Rey #36, Zona Hotelera
Cancún, Quintana Roo, 77500
Described as elegant and impeccable, the Ritz-Carlton’s Club Grill offers elevated dining and live Jazz for your special evening. Sip a Mexican wine perfectly paired with an entrée from the Continental menu, which changes every three months. Visit the anteroom for pre- or post-dinner cocktails, Cuban cigars and lively conversation.
52 998 881
Av. Margaritas 25, Sm 22, El Centro
Fantastic seafood and rich dishes await you at La Habichuela. Try cocobichuela, a coconut filled with lobster, shrimp and a light curry sauce, while you relax in the cool indoor dining room, or sip a Mayan coffee out in the garden, where you’ll feel like you’re dining among Mayan ruins.
52 998 884 3158
Kukulcan Blvd Km. 15.6 Hotel Zone
Request a seat on the lovely terrace at exotic Laguna Grill, featuring a contemporary menu of fusion dishes, steak and seafood. Try the chef-recommended Parmesan Sea Scallops or Chupe de Jaibas for the main course, and indulge in tropical fruit carpaccio as you watch the sun set over the lagoon.
52 998 885 0267
Blvd Kukulcán, km 9, Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa
Enjoy authentic Mexican at Paloma Bonita, a restaurant decorated to represent Michoacan, Oaxaco and Jalisco states. Start with olive bread and exciting dishes, such as chile relleno and queso fundido Oaxaca. The experience isn't complete without trying one of 70 brands of tequila while the traditionally dressed waiters dance alongside the live mariachi band.
52 998 848 7082
Av. Uxmal No.31 S.M3
Cancun offers various international cuisines, and the best Japanese is served at Yamamoto’s. You can sip sake or green tea and watch in awe as the sushi chef prepares your favorite rolls and sashimi, or try the teppanyaki and fried rice for a hot dish. Don’t forget the tempura ice cream for dessert!
52 998 887 3366
From authentic dishes at Avenida Tulum’s street-side eateries to the international cuisine and chain restaurants of the Hotel Zone, Cancun has something for both the mild-mannered diner and the culinary explorer. Long isolated from Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is now home to a unique cuisine exuding Mayan and European influences. Habanero chili peppers, corn, honey and recados, or seasoning pastes, also feature prominently in Yucatanean cuisine, and Cancun’s location on the Gulf of Mexico means fresh seafood – including conch meat, squid and octopus – is always at hand.
Cancun’s two leading dining areas are the Hotel Zone and Downtown (El Centro). Although often pricier, the expansive Hotel Zone offers the greatest variety of cuisines. Diners can choose from popular chains, such as the Hard Rock Café and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, local fare and fine-dining establishments, such as the Club Grill at the Ritz-Carlton. Leading international options include Japanese, French and Italian foods, as well as contemporary fusion restaurants that cater to the eclectic and multi-cultural palates.
El Centro, on the other hand, is the sure-fire option for authentic Mexican cuisine, such as queso relleno, sopa de lima and poc-chuc. Douse the heat of habanero peppers with a sweet, milky horchata or freshly made aguas frescas. If you’re searching for a more budget-friendly option or like to dine after dark, then stop by Downtown’s Avenida Yaxchilan and eat at one of the open-air restaurants or taco stands as you listen to dueling mariachi bands.
The street-side cafes along Avenida Tulum are another hotspot in El Centro. This pedestrian-friendly street runs parallel to Avenida Yaxchilan and is home to flea markets, vendors and an array of eateries. Relax in an air-conditioned restaurant and enjoy a pibil-style dish, or choose a seat outside and people-watch as you sip a Mayan coffee made with Xtabentun, an anise liqueur. Another “must-try” as you stroll the streets: a cup of mango, jicama, oranges, watermelon and other fresh fruit with chili powder, which offers your taste buds a thrill without hurting your wallet.
You can also follow the locals to Parque de las Palapas, located just off Avenida Tulum. A cultural center, Parque de las Palapas is a common meeting ground. Relax on one of the beautiful park’s many benches as you enjoy a freshly prepared quesadilla for lunch, or grab a marquesita for dessert while the kids run around the playground. This is the place to go for classic Mexican snacks, such as roasted corn, churros or panuchos.
Finally, the newcomer on the Cancun dining scene is Avenida Bonampak, which has become a favorite of both natives and tourists in search of a quick bite or a fun night out. Whet your appetite before dinner (and impress the locals) by ordering a michelada, made from dark beer, lemon or lime juice, and sauces. Then fill up on ceviche, a local specialty consisting of onion, cilantro, tomato, fresh lemon juice and fresh shrimp, shellfish or octopus, before hitting Bonampak’s popular discotheque at night.
Chichen Itza, 77500
(Jun 21, 2011) Celebrate the Mayan culture that has long influenced Cancun by participating in the annual Summer Solstice. Take a trip to the Chichen Itza ruins for this unique opportunity to see the sunlight create a zigzag pattern that mimics a snake creeping up the pyramid to the stone carving of Kukulkan.
La Fiesta de Playa
Along the beaches
(Aug 14 2011) Cancún's exquisite shoreline takes center stage during this mid-August event, which features tons of live music, open-invite parties and spirited competitions. A great time to be in Cancún!
El Grito/Mexican Independence Day
Throughout the city
(Sep 16, 2011) Cancun overflows with confetti and cries of “Viva Mexico!” every September 16th for Mexico’s Independence Day. Known as “El Grito,” after the famous speech (“grito”) given by Miguel Hidalgo to inspire revolution in 1810, this day is marked by parades, bell ringing live music and dining on traditional Mexican dishes.
Dia de La Raza
(Oct 12, 2011) As the “Day of the Race,” Mexico’s Columbus Day is a time for delicious food, bull thrilling fights and huge parades that celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of Latin America and the start of Hispanic culture. The Cancunenses celebrate all night long by hosting revelries featuring dancers, piñatas, games and more!
Throughout the city
(Dec 16-24) In Cancún nine days leading up to Christmas are loaded with tons of family-friendly activities, including parades and street fairs.
From the white beaches of the Hotel Zone to El Centro's cobblestone streets, Cancun comes alive with multiple festivals each month. Cancun lives up to its reputation as a party city in the very best way by being a center for cultural, historical and religious celebrations throughout the year. The gorgeous coastline also inspires celebrations of the area’s natural wonders, making fishing competitions, La Fiesta de Playa and the Cancun World Cup Triathlon annual staples. Visitors can always expect lively music and a mouthwatering array of treats to accompany these festivities.
Cancunenses proudly proclaim their heritage as they celebrate major Mexican holidays, such as Dia de La Raza, Dia de la Revolcion and Independence Day. As the Mexican Columbus Day, Dia de La Raza commemorates Columbus’ discovery of Latin America. Daily festivities include dancing, bullfighting, music and parades in the city center. Excitement builds again in November for Dia de La Revolucion (Mexican Revolution Day), when the streets brim with ceremonies, parades and national pride over the start of a war to overthrow dictator-like Pofirio Diaz in 1910. But one of the biggest civic celebrations occurs on September 16th, Mexico’s Independence Day, when the partying commences the night before and lasts throughout the following day with seemingly unending slate of parades, street dances, parties and resounding cries of “Viva Mexico!”
Cancun also hosts the International Gastronomic Festival, a culinary event that brings the Riviera Maya’s best, most-talented chefs to the Hotel Zone, where you can sample some truly amazing dishes. Stick around a few days to then take part in the International Caribbean Cultural Festival, featuring dance, poetry and musical performances by famous Caribbean artists. And for a visual treat, the Cancun International Film Festival’s gala premieres of both Latin American and foreign films, VIP parties and red carpet gatherings are sure to please movie lovers and star gazers alike.
In addition to captivating the imagination, the region's Mayan ruins continue to be popular venues for celebrations of that ancient culture. Cancunenses head to the Chichen Itza ruins for the Summer Solstice to observe the longest day of the year, as well as the Autumnal Equinox, when the sun shines on the pyramid and creates the illusion of a snake slithering up to the stone statue of Kukulkan on top. The Mayan New Year, which takes place in July, is another great time to gather with locals to both embrace traditions of the past and celebrate the start of a new cycle in one’s life.
Among religious holidays in Cancun, Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) has risen to the status of a National Holiday, and is an important time to build altars for deceased loved ones and bring gifts of drink and food to their graves. Another important event, the Feast of Our Lady of Carmen, is a day dedicated to eating, drinking and bull fighting in the name of Cancun’s patron saint. And if you’re in town during Las Posados, the nine days before Christmas, join in on street fairs, watch passion plays and try your hand at breaking a piñata!
Cancun International Airport (CUN): Cancun, Mexico
Chetumal Km. 22
Cancun, Q. Roo 77500 Mexico
Ticket Counter Location
Terminal 3, Sun Country Ticket Counter.
Click here for Cancun International Airport Terminal 3 map.