Cancún is Mexico's premier resort. It is its flagship resort, its most famous resort. In fact, unlike Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta which were once little fishing villages until tourism transformed them, Cancún is a made-to-order resort that was built specifically for tourism at a point where the dry, untamed jungle met a deserted, sandy shore. Originally planned in 1968, it has, over the years, developed into a major, world-class resort, packed with luxury hotels and upscale restaurants, and bordered by a powdery, seemingly endless beach where the sun shines brightly every day – well, at least 240 days of the year!
Cancún, in Mayan, means "Golden Snake," an apt description of the snake-like strip of golden sand that makes up Cancún's "Hotel Zone." Here, shore-hugging five-star hotels vie for a piece of the sun-drenched real estate, squeezed between the turquoise surf of the Caribbean Sea and the calm, azure waters of the Nichupté Lagoon, and backed by sand dunes where you can still visit the ancient ruins of the Mayans. There are no fewer than 25,000 luxury hotel rooms here, in establishments strung along a 27-mile (43.5-km) causeway, that annually accommodate more than 2.5 million visitors from all over the world.
And then there's the other Cancún, the inland Cancún, the Mexican town that was built to house the hospitality workers from the Hotel Zone. This is largely a mix of Yucatecán, Maya, Mexican and North American lifestyles that holds little interest for the visitor, save for the lively downtown area, El Centro, which is quickly becoming a tourist destination all of its own. Here, away from the shore and the Hotel Zone, a pleasant yet colorful place, quite different from the coastal strip, just keeps on humming.
Cancún has an international airport situated just outside the city that offers easy access to the resort. Cancún also makes an ideal base from which to explore the Yucatán.
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