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48 hours in Cancun - see more than just sea

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Most people visit Cancun to unwind on gorgeous beaches in the sun. But there’s no shortage of things to do for the traveler who wants a little more from their holiday. Here’s an itinerary which will allow you to see the best things on offer in just 48 hours.


5 p.m. – As your plane lands, you’ll see the stunning beaches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast stretching out beneath you, but before you get to your sun-lounger, you’ll have to make it into Cancun from the airport. There are plenty of taxis, both small cars and larger SUVs and vans, which wait outside the airport. If you are booked with a tour or travel company, their representative will be nearby with your name on a sign.


A cab from the airport to the “Hotel Zone” will cost around $50. A cheaper option is to take a bus into town and get a much cheaper taxi from the bus station. Bus companies “ADO” and “Riviera” run regular services into the city from the airport. You can buy at the companies’ stalls or onboard the bus.

6 p.m. – Once you’ve reached your hotel, drop off your stuff and head to the beach. There are no shortage of fantastic beaches to check out, but Playa Delfines at the southern end of the main strip is a great choice if you’re looking for someone a little quieter. If you want the full-on Cancun experience, Playa Chac Mool, at the northern end, is always buzzing.


9 p.m. – Once you’ve had enough sun for the day, head back to the hotel and get ready to experience Cancun’s famous nightlife. For dinner, Black Hole (situated in the Grand Oasis Hotel) is a unique, almost theatrical experience, and well worth the $60 cost. A series of more than 20 fabulous taster dishes are served to you in various theatrical ways, your senses heightened by dining in almost total darkness. If you can’t resist sampling the legendary Cancun nightlife, try Palazzo Cancun



9 a.m. – Most people don’t see much of the “Mexican part” of Cancun, and they’re missing out. Grab a taxi to Mercado 28, where you can buy all manner of souvenirs and locally produced goods.


11 a.m. – If you want another day on the beach but like something a little quieter, Isla Mujeres is where you want to be. Cooler and less crowded than the main beaches, the island is just 20 minutes away by boat and you can catch the regular ferry there from the “Hotel Zone”.


1 p.m. – You can rent golf carts on the island to get around easily and at your own pace. Head south to El Garrafon, the natural park at the southern end of the island. On the way, make a stop at Playa Lancheros. This serene beach is in a breathtakingly beautiful cove, and has a fantastic restaurant right on the beach which serves amazing fresh seafood.


4 p.m. – After you’ve seen the natural park, head back up the west side of the island. Stop off at the Turtle Farm (Tortugranja), where you can see baby turtles swim in tanks and learn more about the conservation of the local populations.


7 p.m. – Before boarding a ferry back to the mainland, stop off at Playa Norte to watch the sun set. As the beaches on the mainland face east, this is something you can only get on the Isla Mujeres.


9 p.m. - It wouldn’t be a vacation in Cancun without a night out partying. Coco Bongo is an intense experience, part circus, part nightclub and part stage show. For $70 you’ll have an unforgettable night out.



9 a.m. – You can’t visit this part of Mexico and miss out on one of the wonders of the world just up the road. The Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza are well worth the two hour drive inland. There are also many organized bus tours if you don’t have a rental car.


11 a.m. – Getting to Chichen Itza as early as possible will help you avoid the crowds, and also leave you the rest of the day to stop at the points of interest on the way home. The Cenote Dzitnup caves are on your way back to Cancun on the outskirts of Valladolid, and should not be missed.


2 p.m. – Hacienda Selva Maya is an old cattle ranch just outside the caves which has been turned into a restaurant. It serves traditional Mexican food made from family recipes. Try the “queso relleno” (cheese stuffed with ground beef). It’s a specialty of the Yucatan peninsula - salty, creamy, rich and spicy.


4 p.m. – Valladolid is a pretty little city, and its markets are full of opportunities for last minute souvenir shopping. The Convent de San Bernadino in the middle of town is a gorgeous example of 16th century Spanish colonial architecture, filled with religious murals and exquisite carvings and statues. If Chichen Itza only whetted your appetite for Mayan ruins, there are more at Ek Balam, 15 minutes north of central Valladolid.


5 p.m. – For a more authentic experience of Mexican Cancun before you go, make sure to take a stroll down Yaxchilan Avenue. Lined with fantastic little bars and cafes, it’s the perfect place to relax with a farewell coffee before you depart.


If you have more time…

Scuba Cancun – There are plenty of aquatic activities on offer in Cancun, and scuba diving in the warm, clear waters is hard to beat.


Parque de las Palapas – A small park downtown where lots of locals congregate.


Museo Maya de Cancun – A great chance to learn a bit of Meso-American history before your trip to Chichen Itza.


Torre Escenica Cancun – A tower in the middle of the hotel zone than offers great views over the city and neighbouring islands.


MUSA – A subaquatic sculpture park just accessible from the Isla Mujeres.


Parroquia de Cristo Resucitado – A beautiful modern open-air church not far from the main resorts.


Tempo – A fantastic restaurant which serves a variety of food from all over the world paired with a comprehensive wine list.


Tulum – Mayan ruins similar to Chichen Itza. Not as extensive as its more famous cousin but in an astonishing seaside setting.


Cozumel – A lively island to the south of Cancun, famous for its watersports and great fishing.


Playa del Carmen – You can catch the ferry to Cozumel from this lively tourist town with great beaches, situated just across from Cozumel on the mainland.



Location/contact details:

Day one

Grand Oasis Hotel

Blvd. Kukulkan Km. 19.5 Lote 50, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico


Day two

Mercado 28

Av. Xel-ha Mz. 13, SM 28, 77501 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 892 4303


Playa Lancheros

Isla Mujeres, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 274 0018


National Reef Park Garrafon

Quintana Roo, Mexico

01 998 193 3360



77400 Isla Mujeres, QROO, Mexico


Playa Norte

Avenida Rueda Medina 130, Centro - Supmza. 001, 77506 Isla Mujeres, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 877 0307


Coco Bongo

Blvd. Kukulcan Km 9.5 #30, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

01 800 841 4636


Day three

Chichén Itzá

Yucatan, Mexico

01 985 851 0137


Cenote Dzitnup

Camino a Dzitnup, Yucatan, Mexico


Hacienda Selva Maya

Carretera Federal Valladolid-Mérida Km. 3.5, Entronque a Dzitnup, 97780 Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico

01 985 100 4331


Ek Balam

Yucatan, Mexico


Other tips

Scuba Cancun

Blvd Kukulcan Km 5, Zona Hotelera, 77500, Cancún, QROO, Mexico

01 998 849 7508


Palapas Park

Calle 10 Margaritas, 22, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico


Museo Maya de Cancún

Blvd. Kukulkan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 885 3842


Torre Escénica Cancun

Torre Escénica Cancun, Boulevard Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico



Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 15.3, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

044 998 848 8312


Parroquia de Cristo Resucitado

Avenida Kukulkan Kilómetro3.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Benito Juárez, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 849 5454


TEMPO by Martin Berasategui

Boulevard Kukulcan Km 16.5, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

01 998 881 1120


Tulum Archeological Site

Carretera Federal No. 307 Km 128, 77710 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

01 983 837 0796