Finding local colour and culture in Cancun

With spring break over for the season, the party’s just getting started for Cancun’s more sophisticated visitors, writes local Andrew Colon

Chill with a Michelada

For a truly authentic and safe fiesta experience, hop on a bus (the R1 or R2) down to El Centro, the old part of Cancun. The streets to visit are Tulum (too-loom), Yaxchilan (yock-she-lawn) and Bonampak (bone-am-pack) Avenues, all within a two-mile radius of each other. Tulum and Yaxchilan Avenues border Cancun’s Central Park, the Parque de Palapas, and the whole area teems with small restaurants, bars and places to get mementoes of your trip at prices half of those in the Hotel Zone.

The Cancun Bullring, the Plaza de Toros, turns into a bustling scene of cantinas, small bars and clubs with plenty of cerveza and tequila. Beer bars like Las de Guanatos feature over 20 varieties of ‘Micheladas’, a Mexican beer cocktail made with beer, lime juice, and assorted sauces and spices, served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Extras can include peppers, fruit and even oysters. Small live music venues also abound.

Across from the bullring you have Plaza Solare, with places to enjoy wines and beers from all over the world at Wing’s Army, Japanese food at Chowa, and even a proper English pint at the Black PubMcCarthy’s Irish Pub in the same plaza has an excellent live band belting out covers of your favourite rock ‘n’ roll classics.

Steal a little Mayan magic

You are staying in a place so close to one of the world’s most vibrant and mysterious cultures it would be a sin not to experience a taste of it.  A visit to sites like Cobá (with the peninsula’s highest climbable pyramid), Chichen Itza (one of the new Wonders of the World) or Tulum (ruins and cliffs by the sea) will be unforgettable. Trips to archaeological sites are also the time to do some shopping, as buses will stop in neighbouring towns with amazing deals on local arts and crafts.

Go south…

If you really, truly want to get away from it all, take a trip to Playa del Carmen or Puerto Morelos. Better yet, reserve your hotel in either of these magical places. Puerto Morelos is just fifteen minutes from the airport, and has the absolute best snorkelling in the area. The quaint central square has tiny little restaurants and bars, many owned by expatriates from the US, UK and Europe. The beaches are pristine, and the beginning of the Mesoamerican Reef is just offshore.

In Playa del Carmen, the three words you’ll need to remember are La Quinta Avenida. Fifth Avenue in Playa (as the locals call it) is a 35-block long pedestrian promenade filled with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, art galleries, small hotels and bars. Think of it as the clean version of Bourbon Street, a couple of blocks in from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Playa Mamitas, at the north end, is a fabulous beach club with food, drinks, king-sized beach beds and live DJ music. You may just have more fun than the kids here on break.

Photo © Blaine Harrington III/Alamy

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