In 1967, the Mexican government commissioned a study to pinpoint the
ideal place for an international Caribbean resort. The computer
chose Cancún, and a Cinderella-like transformation began. More
vacationers come here than to any other part of Mexico, and many
come again and again for the white-sand beaches, crystalline
turquoise waters, sizzling nightlife, numerous restaurants, and the
proximity of Maya ruins throughout the Yucatán peninsula.
It's clear as you fly into Cancún that this resort was carved out
of the jungle. When development began here in the early 1970s the
beaches were deserted except for birds and iguanas. Now luxury
hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants line the oceanfront
But there is more to Cancún than plopping yourself down under a
palapa (thatched roof). Downtown offers a more authentic
glimpse into the sights and sounds of Mexico. For diving and
snorkeling, the reefs off Cancún and nearby Cozumel, Puerto Morelos,
and Isla Mujeres are among the best in the world. Cancún also makes
a relaxing base for venturing to the stupendous ruins of Chichén
Itzá, Tulum, and Cobá, remnants of the area's rich Maya heritage.
The Maya people settled the area during the Pre-Classic era,
around AD 200, and remained until the 14th or 15th century. But
little is known about them. Other explorers seem to have overlooked
the barrier island -- it doesn't appear on early navigators' maps.
It was never heavily populated, perhaps because its terrain of
mangroves and marshes (and resulting swarms of mosquitoes)
discouraged settlement. Some minor Maya ruins were discovered in the
mid-19th century, but archaeologists didn't get around to studying
them until the 1950s.
Cancún has followed the typical course of any tourist resort
area, first attracting the jet set and gradually welcoming less
affluent tourists. Nowadays there are large numbers of
package-tourists and college students, particularly during spring
break when hordes of flawless, tanned young bodies fill the beaches
and restaurants. Overview Copyright by Fodors