Resting on the northeast corner of the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun was built on a site selected as the ideal spot for a new tourist development by the Mexican federal government. The state of Quintana Roo was still a federal territory and the area had few inhabitants when construction started in 1970. It is composed of fourteen miles of pristine white beaches shaped like a number “7”, home of the Mayan archaeological wonders, turquoise seas, a bountiful underwater world, and world-class vacation amenities. It is still considered the gateway to the Mayan World (El Mundo Maya). Mayan temples and ritual sites are everywhere, some smothered by lush jungle, others easily accessible.

The Cancun hotel zone is almost entirely built around the tourist industry. It abounds with all-inclusive resort hotels. Stay there if you don’t mind spending your vacation with many other tourists. Most tourists are primarily from English-speaking North America and there are also many tourists from Europe, but many tourists also come to Cancun from the rest of Mexico.

Downtown Cancun, especially once you get away from the ADO bus station and nearby hostels and hotels, is where most residents live. There are many restaurants (La Parrilla, Los Pericos, Los Arcos, El Timtnhehdon de Cancun, Va que Va; all of them are really good restaurants, and the best much cheaper than Hotel Zone, and Mexican cousin), shopping centres (Plaza Las Americas, Plaza la Isla in Hotel Zone, Plaza Outlet), markets (Mercado 28 y 23) and clubs in the downtown area that you can visit during your stay (Cocobongo, Dady’O, Palazzo, Mandala).

History

As documented in the earliest colonial sources, the island of Cancún was originally known to its Maya inhabitants as Nizuc (Yucatec Maya [niʔ suʔuk]) meaning either “promontory” or “point of grass”. In the years after the Conquest, much of the Maya population died off or left as a result of disease, warfare, piracy, and famines, leaving only small settlements on Isla Mujeres and Cozumel Island.

The name Cancún, Cancum or Cankun first appears on 18th-century maps. The meaning of Cancún is unknown, and it is also unknown whether the name is of Maya origin. If it is of Maya origin, possible translations include “Place/Seat/Throne of the Snake” or “Enchanted Snake”. Snake iconography was prevalent at the pre-Columbian site of Nizuc