The Caribbean coastline of Isla Cancún — which makes up the vertical north-south expanse of this bent, 7-shaped island — is the Cancún of postcards and travel brochures: sparkling white sand, bright turquoise sea, upscale restaurants, resorts, and kid-friendly attractions.
It's not hard to see why the island has been given the less-than-creative nickname of "Zona Hotelera" (or Hotel Zone), as this stretch contains the bulk of the town's resorts. But the real stars of the show here are the beaches, which recently underwent a $71-million makeover to replenish the seashore with over 1 billion gallons of new sand. Cancún's Caribbean coast is blessed with not one but two waterfronts. To the east, the clear Caribbean serves up steady waves perfect for bodysurfing and water sports.
To the west, the emerald-green Laguna Nichupté is a calmer contrast, full of mangrove forests and wildlife-watching opportunities. You may even catch a glimpse of crocodiles basking in the lagoon — and with warm sunny days throughout the year, who can blame them for wanting to join in on the fun?
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If the beaches get too clogged with rowdy spring breakers, take a little break from the sand yourself and explore the other side of Cancún's coast, bordering the emerald-green Laguna Nichupté. On Aquaworld's Jungle Tour, you can pilot your own speedboat through Nichupté's mangrove-swamp channels — watch for crocodiles! — and out to the Caribbean Sea, where you have the chance to cool off and snorkel before speeding back through the lagoon.
In the middle of Cancún's modern hotel strip lies the small cluster of ancient Mayan ruins, known as El Rey. The 47 stone columns, temples, and platforms — believed to be used as early as A.D. 900 — are the main draw, but your kids will likely be more interested in the present-day inhabitants: El Rey is home to hundreds of iguanas who usually seem happy to pose for pictures as they lounge out in the sun.
If the weather turns wet during Cancún's rainy season, experience the ocean inside at the popular Interactive Aquarium. Kids can pet sea urchins and watch dolphins and seals play, while the truly brave can feed sharks from within an underwater cage!
If your teens are tired of lounging on the beach and want to wrestle with some waves, the strong surf off white-sand Playa Marlin is the place to be. This ain't no kiddie pool! The Caribbean waters here can be rough, so inexperienced swimmers should stick to the sand. But if you're fit and at home in the waves, this is a perfect spot for bodysurfing, especially during the winter surf season.