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Cancun: 5 Minute Guide

Chichen Itza. Image: Getty

About: A Mexican-based, Spanish-speaking resort facing the Caribbean Sea, Cancun teems with contrasts. It’s famed for its white, sandy beaches and aquamarine waters: every hotel chain worth its salt has a seafront property here, each fervently vying for the attention of the holidaymaker using their spas, pools, bars and restaurants as bait. Meanwhile, outside the so-called Hotel Zone is a lively downtown area with restaurants and bars aplenty to keep you entertained.

Attraction: Cancun’s major draw is definitely its beaches: long, wide and power-white sands against a sparkling blue sea, they attract watersports enthusiasts and families alike, with some of the best diving, snorkelling and sportfishing in the world. Or alternatively, simply find a comfy lounger and settle in for a day of soaking up some rays.

Building: Chichen Itza, a Mayan World Heritage Site an hour’s drive from Cancun, is often referred to as the Mexican version of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Whether you dispute this or not, you can’t argue against the beauty of this nod to ancient Mayan civilisation, which was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. If you don’t have much time, head straight for the Temple of Kukulkan, a perfect pyramid with steps on either side providing a wonderful vantage point for watching the sun, whether it be at sunrise or sunset.

Shop: From uber-chic boutiques selling designer labels to flea markets, and large, air-conditioned malls to souvenir shops, Cancun will excite anyone with a desire to shop. Best of all, it’s duty-free, with bargains to be had in jewellery, beauty products and electricals. Check out the Mexican Handcrafts Market for the best in hand-made sombreros, shawls, toys, T-shirts and candles.

Eat: It comes as no surprise that most of Cancun’s best restaurants are located in the Hotel Zone, with two of the resort’s three AAA Five Diamond restaurants — the highest accolade in Mexico — found in the Four Seasons Hotel and the third, Le Basilic, in the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Hotel. If you’re looking for a more local experience instead, head downtown and dine in one of the many steakhouses, seafood restaurants and authentic Mexican joints, where you can enjoy both the company and the Mariachi bands who play while you eat.

Bar: Party lovers should head straight for Congo, a terrace bar with three dance floors, DJs, dance competitions and a 4am licence, ensuring the party continues until dawn.

View: You can’t beat the view of the ocean from Aloft’s slick rooftop pool or adjacent bar and roof garden 10 floors up. It’s bedecked in the brightest of pink and yellow furnishings, and is a great place to spend a few hours relaxing with a cool drink.

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