Cancún: the promised land of American youth. It’s the spring breakers central of bad decisions. And the main reason your parents don’t want to let you go alone, or with friends. Chances are you were conceived in Cancún following an over the top beach party and a handful of molly pills. This place is basically what Egypt was to Europeans a few years ago. It’s close, cheap, beautiful and fun. In addition to that, Cancún is also really warm and located in the Caribbean. It’s party central, first and foremost and it plays that role very well. When I say Cancún I mean the resort area. The actual city is, more or less, just for the locals who usually work at the hotels. It’s great if you want to visit the local markets or try authentic food. Tourists usually just stick to the resorts. They’re a separate city. You arrive at the airport and the hotel usually sends a shuttle to transport all the visitors. I think it strips away the element of adventure. I understand that some people just want to take their friends or family on vacation. Have everything served on a silver platter and not worry about the details. There's nothing wrong about that.
The resort district is a playground for adults of all ages. There are those massive beach parties and clubs for young people. There are restaurants and areas for couples with kids. Cancún is not just for the party animals. Though, it is kind of is a closed-off homogenous enclave for Americans. Still, you might want to research different hotels, depending on the purpose of your trip. Once you’re settled in, it’s time to explore. Cancún, in a nutshell, is your hotel, the vast beach, and the main street. It’s standard procedure when it comes to all-inclusive holidays. You eat breakfast, head for the beach and party at night, rinse and repeat. You can do some snorkelling and other water sports, but that’s pretty much it. Even the restaurants in the resort area are Americanized. The Mariachi are the only genuine Mexican accent here. They’re amusing the first time you see them, maybe even the second time. The third time is when it starts getting really annoying.
If you haven’t gone insane by now, you probably want to get out of Cancún. Most hotels organize day trips to nearby attractions. Chichen Itza takes about 2 hours to get to, but it’s worth the drive. It was one of the largest cities built by the Mayans and it’s very well preserved. You can walk around and see all the structures, but you can’t climb any. Someone actually slipped and fell from one of the pyramids. Apparently, you can’t count on common sense these days. There are stone loops spread around higher sections of the buildings. People who managed to throw a ball through one of those won the honour of having their heart cut out and eaten. Mayans and their human sacrifice… Chichen Itza was the centre of worship of a deity called Kukulcán. There’s a massive pyramid in the center of the city: El Castillo (Spanish for "the castle"), also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. The Mesoamerican step-pyramid is truly amazing. Kukulcán is the Mayan version of the feathered serpent god, which is a shared mythology in Mesoamerica. It’s also known as the Vision Serpent; as local shamans commonly used psychedelic drugs. Fascinating how different people see the same things in their drug-induced trips.
The town of Tulum is another worthwhile day trip you can take from Cancún. The name might ring a bell if you’re into the Instagram fitness community. Tulum Jungle Gym is this DIY open-air icon. They have handmade primitive equipment and weights made from a special kind of wood: very inventive stuff. The main landmarks here are the ruins of a Mayan coastal city. El Castillo (the Castle) was the first building the European expeditions saw when they arrived in Mexico. I think it makes an even greater impression in modern times. Exploring the ruins overlooking the Caribbean on a sunny day is an unforgettable experience. Make sure you visit at least one cenote; they’re all over the Yucatán Peninsula. Cenotes are natural sinkholes, where the ground collapsed revealing underground pools of water. The Mayans traditionally used them for sacrificial purposes. Don’t be surprised if you find a human skull at the bottom. I mean, be surprised, just don’t panic and drown. Don’t come on Sundays, it’s when the locals take over the cenotes.