Mexico is vibrant, colourful and unique.

The country has many faces, from cactus-studded deserts to white sandy beaches and blue waters, tropical rainforest and jungle-clad hills to steep rocky canyons and narrow gorges, and from snow-capped volcano peaks to bustling cities.

Mexico has endured a torrid history. Since the height of Mayan and Aztec civilisations, it has suffered the destructive force of the Conquistadors, European colonial rule, civil and territorial wars, rebellions, dictatorships, recessions and earthquakes.

But despite all of that the Mexican people remain warm and friendly. Much of the countryside remains unspoilt by development, and its cities display a unique style of architecture. Evidence of this extraordinary history is seen in the form of ancient Mayan temples strewn across the jungles and ruins of Aztec civilisations, rural indigenous villages, Spanish colonial cities and silver mining towns, and traditional Mexican ports.

The country's culture is richly diverse blending together traditional and modern, where pagan meets Christian in a series of festivals, or fiestas throughout the year.

But a visit to Mexico isn’t all about history and culture.

Mexico also boasts several hundred miles of coastline extending down through both the Pacific and the Caribbean, which has branded the country as a popular summer retreat destination. Beach resort cities such as Acapulco, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya are accepted vacation havens.  

The currency is the Mexican Peso. You will find that credit cards are not as widely accepted as in Europe or the USA. MasterCard and Visa are the two most widely accepted cards with American Express and Diners Club accepted on a smaller scale. There are ATMs in cities and most major tourist destinations nationwide, although not all debit cards are accepted, so check before leaving.





Cancun, a seaside city in Quintana Roo, is one of the world’s best known tourist resorts. It is Mexico’s most popular destination.  Once a small fishing village, today it is made up of 2 parts – the tourist area with glitzy hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, and the downtown area inhabited by permanent residents.

The downtown area is in direct contrast to the tourist sector. You won’t find any air-conditioned shops here. Instead there are bustling street markets with noisy vendors.

The hotel zone, situated on a thin strip of land (Isla Cancun) in the shape of a figure ‘7’, is what people imagine when they talk about Cancun. It is a vision of Caribbean paradise with soft white sand beaches and clear blue-green waters.

Here you can enjoy high quality accommodation, a wide choice of restaurants and shops, a notoriously energetic nightlife, and an array of activities, including both land and water sports.

It is also a great base from which to explore some of the nearby attractions, particularly the ancient Mayan site of Chichén Itzá on the mainland.

Cancun has something for everyone. It has a rich mixture of ancient architecture, spectacular modern hotels, colonial style buildings and much more besides. There is an amazing selection of water sports on offer, from snorkelling to scuba diving and exhilarating sports such as parasailing. Two great ecological parks offer a day away from the beaches, perfect for children and adults as there are endless activities on offer including swimming with dolphins.

All in all, the city has lots to offer. But for relaxing in the sun on the beautiful white sandy beaches, Cancun is the place to be.

See & Do

The main draw of Cancun is the stunning beach. Here you can indulge in a range of activities such as snorkelling, volleyball, parasailing, jet skiing and deep sea fishing.

But Cancun isn’t all about sun, sea and sand. If you can tear yourself away from the beaches, there are plenty of other sites to explore. Such as:

  • Xcaret – set in a lagoon style island, this tropical and ecological amusement park includes the opportunity to swim with dolphins
  • Ruinas de Rey (Ruins of the King)
  • Tulum – Mayan ruins
  • Snorkelling the barrier reef
  • Cenotes (natural sink holes)
  • Horse riding
  • Museo de Antropologia de Cancun
  • Parque Nizuc (Wet’n’Wild)
  • Alligator farm
  • Botany Park
  • Golf


A trip to Cancun wouldn’t be complete without a spot of retail therapy.

Shopping malls offering similar souvenirs, sportswear and brand-name shops line the hotel zone:

  • Kakulcán Plaza (includes ‘Luxury Avenue’, bars, cafes, cinema and a bowling alley)
  • Plaza La Isla Shopping Village (Venetian style)
  • Flamingo Plaza
  • Plaza Caracol
  • Forum by the Sea
  • Plaza Las Americas

If you prefer to indulge in an authentic Mexican shopping experience, you can head downtown and browse one of the many markets:

  • Mercado 28 – handmade art, silver jewellery and pottery
  • Ki Huic – Mexican clothes and jewellery
  • Coral Negro – Outdoor craft market
  • Plaza La Bonita – paintings, Mexican art and handicrafts


Food & Drink

There is a wealth of cuisines available in Cancun. You will find everything from high-class restaurants to recognisable franchises, taco stands and fast-food joints.

If you want to ‘go native’ the Yucatan cuisine is regarded as the finest in Mexico. It combines Mayan and Spanish influences and includes dishes such as cochinita pibli (sucking pig backed in banana leaves with annatto sauce) and panuchos (tortillas with fried black beans, chicken and pickled onions).

Listed below are just a few of the places you might like to try:

  • El Mexicano, Plaza Mayfair
  • Maria Bonita, Punta Cancun
  • La Parrilla, Downtown
  • Italianni’s, Boulevard Kukulcán
  • Outback Steak House, Flamingo Plaza
  • Hong Kong, Kukulcán Plaza
  • Rainforest Café, Plaza Forum by the Sea

Of course, when sampling the local cuisine, don’t forget to try Mexican Tequila.


Cancun's nightlife provides something for everyone. Whether you are into music, theatre, cinema or night clubs, there is plenty of choice. After dark the city, particularly the Hotel Zone, comes alive, most clubs opening around 10pm and pumping out the music until sunrise, or later the next morning.

  • Music – El Mexicano Restaurant (Mariachi Band)
  • Theatre – Casa de la Cultura (Downtown)

     Teatro de Cancun

  • Cinema – Cinemark (La Isla Shopping Centre)

    Cinépolis (La Gran Plaza)

  • Nightclubs – Coco Bongo (La Gran Plaza)

          The City (La Gran Plaza)

          Hard Rock Café (La Gran Plaza)

          Daddy ‘O (La Gran Plaza)


 If you want a more Mexican feel to your clubbing, head downtown to one of the typical ‘cantinas’ bars near the bullring.  

To experience the true wonder of Mexican partying, travel between February and March and experience the incredibly noisy and colourful Mardi Gras.


Despite the wealth of things to see and do in and around Cancun, you may want to venture further afield to discover what else Mexico has to offer. Here are just a few places you could visit:

  • Chichén Itzá
  • Merida (colonial town)
  • Riviera Maya – the coastline between Cancun and Tulum with many coves and beaches
  • Xcaret – ecological theme park
  • Xel Ha – world’s largest natural aquarium

Health & Safety

Petty crime is common, but sensible precautions should ensure there are no problems.

Some visitors are afflicted by cases of diarrhoea and fever, known colloquially as 'Montezuma’s revenge', caused by unfamiliar bacteria in water and food. You should not drink tap water so always drink bottled water and use it when cleaning your teeth. Watching that you don’t over-indulge in spicy Mexican foods, margaritas or Mexican beer will also help.  



Playa del Carmen



Playa del Carmen is located on the East Coast of the Yucatan peninsula, 68 km south of Cancun. Its fine white-sand beaches, blue Caribbean Sea and subtropical climate make it one of the most attractive destinations of the Mexican Caribbean.

The city stretches out along both sides of the traffic-clogged Carretera 307. The main tourism services are near the coastline. The heart of the tourist zone is Avenida Quinta with Playacar, a large planned resort community with golf course, residential areas and several all-inclusive resorts is located south of the ferry pier.


A holiday in Playa del Carmen means rest and relaxation, enjoying the sun, sand and sea.

The azure sea is the perfect temperature for swimming and the ocean breeze helps to keep you cool. Unwinding and relaxation will come naturally as you immerse yourself in the laid-back lifestyle of the resort. Seaside bars and restaurants are the perfect palace to kick off your shoes and enjoy a delicious lunch with your toes in the cool white sand.


The most popular beaches are to the north off Calle 30. Several beach clubs are located here offering lounge chairs, umbrellas, beach beds, water toys and restaurants.

It is also perfectly placed as a base from which to explore the many Mayan ruins, snorkel, swim in a cenote (underground cave), or explore the charming island of Isla Mujeres.

Despite the obvious growth of tourism in the area, Playa del Carmen is still one of the prettiest beaches on the coast and has retained its small town feel. The off shore reef provides some spectacular diving opportunities and less than an hour away (by boat) the island of Cozumel offers some of the best diving in Mexico. There are also numerous dive centres offering reef and cave diving in the limestone caverns along the coast.

The small commercial town centre is packed with souvenir shops, trendy bars and cafes, restaurants, designer clothes shops and hotels, and has a vibrant nightlife that caters for the smaller beach settlements nearby.  

See & Do

With its stunning location and spectacular azure sea, there is plenty to keep you occupied during your stay at Playa del Carmen. Here are just a few of the activities you might like to try:

  • Snorkelling
  • Scuba diving
  • Tours of Cenotes (freshwater sinkholes)
  • Hire sailboats
  • Jet ski
  • Parasailing
  • Windsurfing
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Horse riding
  • Visiting Mayan temples



If you love to shop, you will love Playa del Carmen. It has the best shopping scene in the Mexican Caribbean.

Avenida Quinta, Calle Corazón, and nearby side streets have the best selection of shops. Great buys are Mexican amber jewellery, fanciful woodcarvings from Oaxaca, and textiles from Chiapas and Guatemala. The resort's main shopping malls are Plaza Pelicano on 10th Avenue and the Paseo del Carmen close to the ferry pier.

The open-air Paseo del Carmen Mall (Calle 1 between Avenidas 5 and 10) is packed with brand-name sportswear, jewellery shops and franchise restaurants.

If your budget can stretch to designer wear, head for 5th Avenue. You will also find plenty of speciality stores to browse around for jewellery, Mayan-inspired arts and crafts, handbags and the like to complement your new wardrobe.

Souvenirs range from tacky ashtrays to bright and beautiful sarongs, Mexican blankets and sombreros, and even genuine Cuban cigars from La Casa del Habano. Playa del Carmen boasts a Wal-Mart on 30th Avenue, and several American style supermarkets like Chedraui on the corner of Juarez and Highway 307, and Super San Francisco on 30th Avenue. There are also many mini-marts dotted around which sell all the essentials holidaymakers need.

Food & Drink

No matter how finicky you are, you will find something to your taste in Playa del Carmen.

Cuisine ranges from traditional Mexican through all the international favourites, including sushi and vegetarian. For a top Mexican taste go a little off the beaten track behind 5th Avenue and look out for a small Taqueria where you can pick up a tempting taco or two for a pittance. Street vendors in the main square (Zocalo) are also a good budget option, especially for fresh fruit and tasty tamales.

When it comes to restaurant dining, you will find everything from Mexican to Chinese, Indian to Italian and everything else in between. During your stay you must try the authentic Yucatecan cuisine at Yaxche (pronounced JAG-shey, Calle 8 between Avenidas 5 and 10). Prices are varied so stick to the back streets away from Avenida 5 for inexpensive local eateries and taco stands.

It is impossible to list all the restaurants here, but here a few places you might like to try:

·         The Blue Lobster

·         The Blue Parrot

·         La Palapas Hemmingway

·         El Serape

·         Taquerias

·         Alux Cave

·         Byblos



Most of the nightlife in Playa del Carmen takes place along 5th Avenue.

Whether you want dancing, sipping margaritas on a rooftop, soaking up some live jazz, people-watching from a street side bar, learning to salsa, or downing shots and raving it up on a flashing dance-floor, you will be able to find your ideal venue.

One of the newest hotspots is the huge Bali Club on Calle 12. Another indoor dance club, which has live bands on Saturday nights, is Bliss, on Calle 4. There are also numerous open-air bars which operate into the early hours, some offering live music or DJs and dancing as the night wears on, others confining themselves to serving up drinks under the stars.

Here are a few places you might like to check out:

  • Casa del Agua
  • Diablito Cha-Cha-Cha
  • Negro Sal
  • Alux Cave
  • Amaris
  • Bali Club
  • Blis
  • Captain Dave’s on the Beach
  • Glass Bar
  • Yellow Submarine


If you can tear yourself away from the shops and beaches, you might like to explore a bit more of Mexico.

Here are a few examples of the excursions you can take from Playa del Carmen:

  • Xcaret (ecological park and swim with dolphins)
  • Caves at Aktun Chen
  • Mayan temples at Tulum
  • Cancun
  • Archaeological site at Cobá
  • Diving at Cozumel Island
  • Xel-Ha (world’s largest natural aquarium)
  • Garrafón Reef Park

Health & Safety

The water is usually safe to drink in the major hotels and restaurants serving tourists, but ask to make sure it is agua purificada (purified water). Bottled water is also widely available. Be careful also with drinks that are frozen or served on the rocks.  

Generally, Playa del Carmen is a very safe city. Most safety tips are common sense to follow any time you travel: Stay on the main streets where other tourists travel, never walk alone at night, avoid wearing jewellery or carrying anything that will make you a target for thieves or pickpockets and be careful using ATMs, especially at night

Riviera Maya


The Riviera Maya (also known as the Mayan Riviera) stretches from Punta Brava just south of Cancun International Airport to Punta Allen just south of Tulum.

It is one of the most fascinating destinations in the world. Tropical beaches, ancient ruins, abundant marine and wildlife abound. The Great Mayan Reef is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere.

Along the Mayan Riviera, on the highway there is the occasional Mexican craft market, small industrial centre, and lots of resort entrances. On the shoreline there are numerous privately owned rental cabanas, fishing and diving operations and beaches.

This richly multicultural and cosmopolitan area overlooks the azure Caribbean Sea. It can be enjoyed by people of any age. It is a haven for water lovers with its white sandy beaches, and beautiful multicoloured fish life.

On land you can encounter temples and legends that have survived centuries, explore subterranean rivers and explore the lush jungle.

The most popular travel destination in the Mayan Riviera is Playa del Carmen which is where you can catch the ferry to go to Cozumel. After Playa del Carmen the next town of any great size is Tulum.

See & Do

Covering such as long area of coast, the Riviera Maya offers lots of opportunities for water sports and beach life. The main beaches are: Playa de Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Xpu-Ha, Kantenah, Akumal, Tulum and Xcacel. All of these offer water sports so you can indulge in anything from scuba diving to snorkelling, deep sea fishing to parasailing and just about anything else in between.

If you want to head inland, there are always jungle tours, Mayan temples (Tulum), golf or any number of local resorts (Playa de Carmen etc) that you can explore.

(For more suggestions see the Excursions section below)


There is plenty of shopping to be done in this area with most towns and resorts sporting a selection of shops. However the best shopping in the Maya Riviera is done in the boisterous town of Playa del Carmen. Boutique shops line Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). This is also home to a number of restaurants that offer native and international cuisine. The mixture of duty-free stores and tasty dining makes shopping on the Quinta Avenida a thrilling experience.

The handicrafts of the region are famous all over the world for their originality and colourful shapes and there are also lots of wonderful art galleries and jewellery stores, especially in Playa del Carmen, where you can find unique pieces encrusted with both precious and semiprecious stones.  

The stores in the Riviera Maya have a wide variety of intriguing items including hats, woollen serapes, cotton hammocks, and Mayan liquor called Xtabentun. There are also many artists and craftsmen in the streets offering their unique work for very good prices.  

Food & Drink

The Riviera Maya is rich in culinary opportunities. You can experience anything from traditional to virtually any international cuisine you care to mention. There is a vast array of restaurants in the area but head for the larger resorts for the biggest selection.

Here are a few suggestions you might like to try:

  • Que Fresco (Tulum)
  • La Casa Del Agua (Playa del Carmen)
  • Marisqueria (Playa del Carmen)
  • Mezzanine (Tulum)
  • Agua Maya (Playa del Carmen)
  • Blue Parrot Beach Club (Playa del Carmen)
  • Cheester (Playa del Carmen)
  • Cocina 38 (Playa del Carmen)


As with the shopping facilities in Riviera Maya, the main nightlife can be found in Playa del Carmen along 5th Avenue. If you prefer something a little quieter, there are many restaurants and quiet bars in some of the smaller resorts.

But if you like your nights loud and brash, here are a few suggestions you might like to try:

  • Casa del Agua
  • Diablito Cha-Cha-Cha
  • Negro Sal
  • Alux Cave
  • Amaris
  • Bali Club
  • Blis
  • Captain Dave’s on the Beach
  • Glass Bar
  • Yellow Submarine


The main attraction in Riviera Maya is the beaches and their assorted water sports. However there is much more to see in the area than just stunning white-sand beaches and clear turquoise waters.

If you want to spread your wings and see what else this beautiful part of the world has to offer, why not try some of these:

  • Xcaret – ecological park
  • Xel-Ha – largest natural aquarium in the world
  • Akumal
  • Aktun Chen dry cave
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Cozumel
  • Chichén Itzá
  • Tres Rios Ecological Park
  • Yaax Che Jardin Bontanico
  • Sian Ka’an Bisphere Reserve
  • Jungle Tours
  • Mayan Temples at Tulum

Health & Safety

The water is usually safe to drink in the major hotels and restaurants serving tourists, but ask to make sure it is agua purificada (purified water). Bottled water is also widely available. Be careful also with drinks that are frozen or served on the rocks.  

Generally, the Riviera Maya is a very safe place. Most safety tips are common sense to follow any time you travel: Stay on the main streets where other tourists travel, never walk alone at night, avoid wearing jewellery or carrying anything that will make you a target for thieves or pickpockets and be careful using ATMs, especially at night.

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