Enchanting spot on the Caribbean
Founded 36 years ago as one of Fonatur’s (Mexico’s National Tourism Development Agency) projects to increase tourism, Cancún has all the infrastructure and comforts of a great travel destination: white sand beaches, warm crystalline waters, romantic Caribbean nights, golf, prestigious shops that carry the finest brands, sports fishing, world class hotels, restaurants and night life. And, of course, numerous marinas facilitate all nautical activities in the bay as well as in the Nichupté lagoon.
The presence of international chains and modern developments make one feel like it is a continuation of Miami, but with its own unique features. The hotel zone is a “7”-shaped island joined to the peninsula by two bridges. The city allows visitors to chose among 140 hotels, for all tastes and budgets, with more than 25 000 rooms. The world’s most famous hotel chains have combined luxury and comfort with hospitality and most offer a Spa, fitness room, tennis, Jacuzzi, aromatherapy, massages, steam baths and sauna: just what you need to pamper yourself before reboarding your boat. This is where the nightclubs and discos are concentrated. The main street is Boulevard Kukulcán, where visitors will find the best restaurants and malls.
For shopping, we recommend Forum by the Sea Mall, Kukulcán Plaza, Plaza Caracol or Plaza la Isla, where you will find international brands like Harley Davidson, Mont Blanc, Benetton, Gucci, Levi’s, Nautica, Cartier and Versace.
For duffers, there are nine golf courses, among them the Club de Golf Meliá, Pok-Ta-Pok, Club de Golf Moon Palace —designed by Jack Nicklaus, and headquarters of the 46th Mexican Open— and Gran Oasis Resort.
The presence of international chains and modern developments make one feel like it is a continuation of Miami.
Cancún is surrounded by beaches of fine sand, a turquoise ocean that shelters the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second largest corral barrier reef, and by the Mayan jungle. This is North America’s largest jungle and it encompasses archeological treasures of the Mayan culture, including the El Rey ruins, in front of Playa Delfines, and the El Meco archeological zone, north of Cancún, which can be reached by taxi. There is a view of the beautiful Chacmochuc lagoon from the top of the pyramids.
A Port for Relaxing
The best time for sailing is from January to June because there is no danger of hurricanes. This is also when the local and international regattas are held.
The best ports for docking are Isla Mujeres —inside the Macax lagoon— and Puerto Morelos. Both are sheltered, have all services and serve as the headquarters of the Harbormaster. There, you can carry out all arrival procedures, find the maps you will need and locate danger spots, the key to ensuring a good voyage.
Navigating the bay is complicated because there are many shallow spots and reefs. Hitting one, besides damaging the boat, can result in serious fines and sanctions from Quintana Roo’s coastal authorities, who have established strict conservation policies for the Mesoamerican Reef, which is considered an ecological reserve.
The lagoon has several marinas where one can sail in calm waters: however, its two bridges, which are a few meters high, limit the entrance to the larger sailboats. Because of this, it is more common to find motorboats and people enjoying water sports.
Hotels like the Camino Real, Intercontinental, Club Med and Fiesta Americana have their own dock and usually offer a full range of services to their guests. In many cases, they allow the boat to anchor and charge a daily fee for the use of the beach and the pool.
Isla Mujeres is right across the bay and can be reached by ferry, a 20 minute ride from Puerto Juárez or Punta Sam. Sailors of big vessels usually dock at the island port for two or three months while those navigating sailboats from Cancún to Central America usually stay for a week or two since it is considered a stopover between the Caribbean and the southern part of the continent.
The best ports for dicking are Isla Mujeres and Puerto Morelos.
Puerto Morelos, which has a capacity for 2000 boats, can also be used as a base. This is where most boats depart for visits to the area’s tourist centers. This marine terminal, Quintana Roo’s major commercial dock, is located 36 km from Cancún and the barrier reef begins off its coast.
Marina El Cid Cancún is located in this port. It can accommodate 150 boats of up to 37 m in length, has an entry depth of 3 to 4.5 m, a mounting ramp and dry dock. The concrete wharfs rise and fall with the tide and the installations provide services for the boats. It also has an office for issuing dispatches for coastal navigation. The breakwater protects the docks from winds coming from the north, east and west. Diesel and gasoline are available at the dock as well as services for disposing of solid waste material from the boats.
The Good Life
Isla Mujeres’ sheltered waters are calm and perfect for surfing, diving, fishing, snorkeling and riding on a sailboat. Local regattas are held from April to June. May is when the famous “De Sol a Sol” (From Sun to Sun) regatta, from the US, takes place.
There are several places for renting wave runners, sailboats and kayaks allowing visitors to enjoy the waves or a ride on the lagoon and the canals that wind through the mangrove.
Along the coast and inland, visitors can practice all levels of recreational diving: day or night, free, underwater walks, on their own (with tanks) in caverns and cenotes (sinkholes), as well as snorkeling in the same spots.
The reefs are banks of coral with an impressive variety of marine flora and fauna, truly a gift of nature for those who dive. The water temperature varies between 21 and 29 °C, visibility ranges from 16 to 32 m and depth is between 6 and 22 m.
Some of the most beautiful places are Punta Nizuc—where the Mesoamerican Reef begins—, Punta Cancún, Playa Tortugas —home to a great variety of tropical fish—, La Bandera and El Túnel.
The best time for sports fishing is between April and September, when there is abundant marlin, sailfish, swordfish, barracuda and dorado. International fishing tournaments are held between April and June.
The islands of Cozumel, Mujeres and Contoy, a protected ecological reserve and bird sanctuary for migratory and resident species, can be toured by boat. Sailing can be extended until midnight, either on the Nichupté lagoon (to the west of the hotel zone) or on Bahía de Mujeres to Isla Mujeres.
However, what sets Cancún apart is its party atmosphere. The nightlife is varied. You can visit some of the world’s biggest discos and dine in restaurants whose internationally renowned chefs will prepare dishes that will seduce all your senses.
Those who prefer a more peaceful setting should head for the Jazz Bar. And, to live the party to the fullest, until sunset, there is Coco Bongo or Daddy’O, that can hold close to 2000 people. The news is that the Fashion Café, which was remodeled, will soon reopen as the biggest disco in Latin America.
In Cancún you can either chose to be busy 24 hours a day or relax. And, from here you can continue your tour to Cozumel —ten hours away by sailboat and half that time by motorboat—to the Riviera Maya or to a neighboring state on the Yucatán peninsula.
Text: Daniela Leiserson ± Photo: AMURA