Margaritas, mega-resorts, Mayan ruins, this is the real Cancún
In the 1970s Mexico's ambitious tourism planners decided to outdo Acapulco with a brand new, world-class resort in the Yucatán Peninsula. The place they chose was a deserted sand spit offshore from the little fishing village of Puerto Juárez. Its name was Cancún.
In the last two decades Cancún has grown from a tiny jungle village into one of the world's best-known holiday resorts. The Mexican government sunk vast sums into landscaping and infrastructure, yielding straight, well-paved roads, drinkable tap water and great swaths of sandy beach.
There are about 140 hotels in Cancún with more than 24,000 rooms and 380 restaurants. Four million visitors arrive each year in an average of 190 flights daily. The Hotel Zone of Cancun is shaped like a 7 with bridges on each end connecting to the mainland. Hotels on the vertical or long side of the 7 tend to have rougher beaches and beach erosion can be a problem. Resorts on the horizontal or short end of the seven tend to have more gentle surf because the waves here are blocked by the island of Isla Mujeres which lies just off shore. The Hotel Zone offers a broad range of accommodations, ranging from relatively inexpensive motel-style facilities in the older section closest to the mainland, to high-priced luxury hotels in the later sections.
Cancún has the sun on permanent retainer. The city's temperature averages an idyllic 27°C (80°F) year-round, dipping painlessly from time to time, hitting 19°C (65°F) in January. It can swelter to 38°C (100°F) in May, though ocean breezes keep it more bearable than the rest of Yucatán. Hurricane season lasts from July to November. Cancún got severely clobbered in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma (but has made an impressive recovery since then).
November and early December are perhaps the best times to go, as the climate is good, there are fewer tourists and prices are low. The busy season is from mid-December to April, when prices are noticeably higher. Surcharges get tacked on around the Christmas, New Year's and Easter holidays.
Semi-tropical weather, where the sun shines 253 days of the year on average, helps Cancún maintain a healthy holiday reputation. Rainfall is rare, though violent storms called nortes can roll in on any afternoon, their black clouds, high winds and torrents of rain followed within an hour by bright sun and blue sky. Averages don't drop much below 20°C (68°F), summer temperatures push but rarely exceed 35°C (95°F) and the humidity level stays just high enough for the promise of a swim to be tempting all year round.