Thirty years ago the barrier island that we know today as Cancun (kan KOON) was inhabited by iguanas, turtles, birds, and the few Mayans who took a different road from their ancestors (most of whom lived inland).  Mexico’s far-seeing tourism officials fed information about the entire country into computers to come up with the ideal spot to develop for a new age of tourism.  They found such a spot at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.  They named the area Cancun, and today it hosts more than 2 million vacationers a year and is a city of 300,000 inhabitants.

The Caribbean waters around Cancun are crystalline, and the beaches have almost pure-white sand.  More than 100 hotels line the quarter-mile-wide, 14-mile-long strip, which is joined at one end to Cancun City and the mainland.  The lagoons that separate Cancun from the mainland provide safe haven for water sports.  Cancun also makes a good home base for visiting Mayan ruins in the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cancun is undeniably Mexican, but to most visitors it’s a culture of tequila and cervezas, serapes and sombreros, and fajitas and hamburguesas.  The vast acres of sand, the warm Gulf of Mexico, and the 24-hour activities, added to the familiar Mexican-American culture, are what make it one of the world’s favorite destinations.

On the other had, within a few hours’ drive of Cancun are Mayan ruins that are some of the greatest archeological sights in North America, Tulum and Chichen Itza.  The engaging Yucatan capital of Merida is not much farther away.

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