Cancun & Merida, Yucatan

We are planning a family vacation to Cancun early this spring. Besides relaxing and playing on the beach do you have other activity suggestions?

In its short life as a vacation destination, Cancun has been acclaimed for its beautiful beaches, energetic nightlife and nearby Mayan ruins. Uxmal, Tuloum and Chichen Itza are among the most visited, but you might enjoy a visit to the newly discovered Ek’Balam. Typical photos of Mayan ruins show exposed block. When occupied, these structures had a smooth plaster finish painted with elaborate murals. Ek’Balam is noteworthy as some of the paintings have survived--fortunately preserved beneath a collapsed overhanging structure.

To fully appreciate the Yucatan Peninsula book a lunch or dinner at one of the restored Haciendas now serving discriminating travelers. These fabulous estates were once the dominate feature of the area’s social and commercial life. Dine on a veranda while admiring the richly colored buildings, lush landscapes and magical setting reminiscent of an era long ago. At nighttime as these properties are dramatically lit and your imagination dances with the past. Two outstanding examples are the Haciendas Santa Rosa and Temozon.

The capital city of Merida is known for its colonial architecture and the cultural vibe of her Plaza Grande. The centrally located Governor’s House is now home to a fascinating museum tracing the region’s history through artifacts and stories.

To observe the region’s wetlands visit the Celestun Ecological Reserve along Yucatan’s eastern shore. Explore this national preserve by boat to view hundreds of flamingos and study the Mangrove forests so important to the coastline’s ecosystem.

South of Cancun is Xcaret, a nature and Mexican culture theme park. This ambitious attraction features an extensive network of underground waterways, beaches, artisans village, fantastical cemetery (Dia de Muerto) and, in the evening, the very popular and professionally presented “Xcaret de Noche.” Most every Mayan archeological site you visit will have a ball court, but here you will finally be able to see a game. The history, culture and traditions of the Yucatan Peninsula are brought to life through song, dance, and pageantry. Spectacularly entertaining.

Many visitors don’t get beyond the resort strip and touring a Mayan archeological site, but the area has much more to offer visitors. Good starting points for your research are and

We booked a recent Cancun visit through American Express Vacations. Our family’s hectic schedule made their unique Travel Protection Plan compelling. That plan reimburses any cancellation penalties if you must cancel your trip for any reason prior to flight departure. Knowledge agents, flexible packages and ongoing support made it a pleasure working with them. Call (800) 941-2639 or visit

Publication: The Express-Times, tba, 2005



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