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Other than visits to border towns like Matamoros our experience is quite limited in Mexico but we can shed some light on Cancun and Cozumel.
Weve been to Cancun twice and would HIGHLY recommend it to you and your family.
Cancun is right on the Caribbean and is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (pronounced kintana-row) and its on the Yucatan peninsula.
There are probably more five star resorts on this Caribbean island (and Cancun is an island) than youll find anywhere else in the Caribbean. And there are plenty of affordable hotels for everybody as well.
Among the fascinations down there is the ancient Mayan city of Tulum (too-loom'). Its the only ruins located right on the Caribbean coast and is an interesting day trip about fifty miles south of Cancun.
Xel-ha (shell-ha) is an interesting snorkeling lagoon about mid-way between Cancun and Tulum and offers some great snorkeling. They have a web site here although sometimes only the Spanish language section works. If you don't speak Spanish, you can still enjoy the pictures! Another great snorkeling area is a ferry ride away from Cancun--Isla Mujeres (The Island of Women). They've got a web site here. There you will find wonderful snorkeling at El Garrafon beach. Click here for their web site!
The water is safe to drink at the hotels although some will suggest that you drink bottled water, which is provided. However if youre going to be down there for a week or more theres probably a 50-50 chance that youll come down with Montezumas revenge over something youve eaten. So DO pack some Imodium-AD or something similar. As I said weve been there twice. My wife got a mild case of the touristas each time---I have never had a problem. One tip---avoid fresh fruits and veggies at restaurants in Cancun City on the mainland. And you should avoid ice cubes because freezing water does not kill the bad little bugs.
A tip for the ladies----always swirl up some toilet paper from your hotel room and keep it in your purse when youre touring and eating at restaurants outside your hotel. For some reason they just dont stock the restrooms with toilet paper at many restaurants and especially the family owned places in Cancun City.
The water around Cancun is some of the prettiest weve ever seen anywhere in the world and the sand is very fine and white. Beautiful beaches but watch out for the undertow. Several unsuspecting tourists have been washed out to sea never to return. A tip if you feel yourself being dragged out---DONT FIGHT IT!!! Most people make the mistake of trying to swim DIRECTLY back into shore fighting the current all the way. Its not beatable, folks, and some people get so tired they drown or have a heart attack. What you should do is swim parallel to the shore until the current lets up and THEN start paddling back in. I dont want to scare you, the current isnt always bad and at some hotels the water is gentle. But do pay attention to the warning flags on the beach---red is a warning, dont go in. Yellow means swim with caution. And of course Green means have a good time!
During a summer trip to Cancun in our kids did some shopping while we loafed on the beach and we agreed to meet them in Cancun City on the mainland at El Pescador restaurant, a fish place. They were there when our little green taxi (found everywhere in Cancun) dropped us off. I ordered a Corona beer and my daughter (sitting next to me) said: Look Dad, how do you like my necklace? I looked over and it was pretty plain and I complimented her. She asked me several more times if I liked it and THEN I noticed what she really wanted me to see. She had a LIVE bug with a fake ruby glued onto its back held on her shirt by a fake gold chain. She had paid 20 bucks for the live bug jewelry in town.
Christie immediately started begging me to let her take it home. Are you kidding? Christie explained that the bug slept in a little match carton (it was about the size of a jumbo cockroach on steroids) and it ate moist pieces of wood!!! I told her what if we get the thing home and its harboring eggs and lays eggs and the babies chew our house down?!! So at the airport I made her take it off and run out and stick it on a tree. Wonder if it lived or got caught up with his chain? I felt bad for the little guy.
COZUMEL is an island not far off the coast of Cancun. You can head for Playa del Carmen (south of Tulum) and catch a ferry boat if youd like. We spent one night in Cozumel and liked it but it was a little more run down and less luxurious than Cancun. I know others who much prefer Cozumel over Cancun so its a personal choice thing, I guess.
Youll see LOTS of iguanas down there and the lagoon-side of Cancun is the home of many crocodiles, which you can feed at night from restaurants right on the water. South of Cancun they have all sorts of exotic stuff like jaguars and wild boar.
Cancun is a great place to visit. I just hope the violence which has rocked other parts of Mexico stays away and so far it has. Cancun is unique that it was entirely conceived as a resort and it has been done right. And if you plan it right, its one of the more affordable places in the Caribbean.
Currency is the Mexican Peso. Driving is all over the road! (It should be on the right but sometimes they go wild down there! In some cases Mexicans drive at night without their headlights on so be careful!) Actually in Cancun proper they drive pretty well. But get out into the country side and it can be wild.
IMPORTANT: All Americans flying to Mexico now need a valid passport.