Saturday, April 18, 2009
Cancun "Mexican Caribbean"
Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula. Cancun is located on the Yucatan Channel that separates Mexico from the island of Cuba in the Greater Antilles. The Cancun region is sometimes known as the Mexican Caribbean.
Cancun is the municipal seat of the Benito Juárez municipality and a world-renowned tourist resort. The city centre is located on the mainland which connects the Nichupté and Bojórquez lagoons to a narrow "7" shaped island where the modern beachfront hotels are located. The island of Isla Mujeres is located off the coast and is accessible by boat from Puerto Juarez.
Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm
Several species of sea turtle lay eggs in the sand along the island's calm western shore. Although they are officially an endangered species, sea turtles are still killed throughout Latin America for their eggs and meat, which are considered a delicacy. In the 1980s efforts by a local fisherman led to the founding of Isla Mujeres Tortugranja, which protects the turtles' breeding grounds and places wire cages around their eggs to protect against predators.
Hatchlings live in three large pools for up to a year, at which time they are tagged for monitoring and released. Because most turtles in the wild die within their first few months, the practice of guarding them until they are a year old greatly increases their chances of survival. The Turtle Farm is a scientific facility, not an amusement centre. But if you'd like to see several hundred sea turtles, ranging in weight from 150g (5oz) to more than 300kg (661lb), this is the place for you.
Dedicated chiefly to Ixchel, Maya goddess of the moon and fertility, this temple was 'discovered' by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba's expedition in 1517. The conquistadors found various clay female figures here; whether they were all likenesses of Ixchel or instead represented several goddesses is unclear. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert almost completely destroyed the ruins.
Park Las Palapas
Park Las Palapas is quiet and safe, a great place for an afternoon picnic or an evening stroll.
Delfines is about the only beach with a public car park; unfortunately, its sand is coarser and darker than the exquisite fine sand of the more northerly beaches. On the upside, the beach has great views, there are some nearby Maya Ruins to check out and, as the last beach along the boulevard, it is rarely crowded. Heed the signs regarding swimming conditions as undertows are common here.
In the middle of the north end of Zona Hotelera, Playa Langosta is a gem of a place for swimming. Facing Bahía de Mujeres, the beach is coated with Cancún's signature powdered coral sand and the waters are quite shallow, making it good for snorkeling. If you've had enough of the water there are lots of beach restaurants and bars.
Plaza Las Américas
Plaza Las Américas at the south edge of the centro, is a vast modern shopping mall that includes the Liverpool and Chedraui department stores, a multiplex cinema, a food court and a salsa dance club. Don't confuse it with Plaza América, a small, aging arcade on Avenida Cobá with a few airline offices.
Puerto Juárez is the main port for passenger ferries to Isla Mujeres. Punta Sam, the dock for the slower car ferries to Isla Mujeres, is about 7km north of downtown. Irregular services leave from the Zona Hotelera.
There are two sets of Maya ruins in the Zona Hotelera. The smaller site is Yamil Lu'um, where only the outward-sloping remains of the weathered temple's walls still stand; however, the ruin is still worth a visit, as much for its lovely setting as anything else.
To reach the site visitors must pass through either of the hotels flanking it or approach it from the beach - there is no direct access from the boulevard.
The tiny Maya structure and chac-mool statue on the beautifully kept grounds of the Sheraton Hotel are authentic and were found on the spot.
Zona Arqueológica El Rey
There are two sets of Maya ruins in the Zona Hotelera and, though neither is particularly impressive, both are worth a look if time permits. The first is the Zona Arqueológica El Rey, on the west side of Blvd Kukulcán between Km 17 and Km 18, there's a small temple and several ceremonial platforms. The other, much smaller, site is Yamil Lu'um.
PRICE 6 pesos (about 60 us cents)
Bus stops are marked "Parada" and show a picture of a bus. All busses marked "Hoteles R1" go on a circle route from the Hotel Zone and along Av. Tulum to the Crucero. Those marked R2 or R15 go to Wal-Mart. All other busses are a complete mystery that will not be solved by vacationing gringos. Service is quite frequent. During the evening rush hours, crowded busses will sometimes pass without stopping, often because they are on special contract transporting workers for some hotel or construction company.
The best way to go on day trips outside of Cancun as far as Tulum or Chichén-Itzá is to take one of the busses that leave from the central bus station downtown near the second traffic circle. Just try your best to understand the system, as we never quite got the gist of it in some two years of commuting from Puerto Morelos to Cancun. You buy your ticket at either of the two sets of windows representing the different lines.
The difference between first and second class busses is not immediately distinguishable, except there is reserved seating on first class long distance routes. Get to the bus station as early as possible in the morning and make sure that you know what time the last bus in the return direction leaves.
There is also luxury bus service to and from Mérida that is well worth the extra charge and is actually more convenient than going by air. Consult any travel agent.
We defy death here to tell the truth about the taxi situation in Cancun. That is the exact and literal truth and may God strike us down with a thunderbolt if we lie. An informed source told us that the publisher of a leading tourist guide here was threatened with death for printing the official prices of taxi service in Cancun. Each taxi driver feels free to set his own rates, which are determined by secret consensus. You're supposed to know when the price has changed, even if it hasn't.