After the rise to touristy fame of Pacific hotspots like Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta in the 1960's, the Mexican government began to develop the sleepy Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea, resulting in Cancun's grandiose hotel zone and all that comes with it.
World-class all-inclusive resorts lie shoulder to shoulder on the 7-shaped strip and the many restaurants, bars and shopping plazas to accommodate the masses are all within a few minute's drive, creating a virtual playground for everyone from Spring Break partiers and well-to-do Mexicans to North American families, couples and snowbirds alike.
Granted, you won't find much resembling an authentic Mexican city here as most everything is designed with the tourist in mind but Cancun is also the gateway to the Mayan ruins scattered throughout the area as well as the quieter, more Mexican flavoured towns of Playa del Carmen and Tulum a little further south. Perhaps the most visited Mayan archeological site, Chichen Itza, is a popular day trip from the city, as are the ruins of Tulum and the old state capital of historic Merida.
But most of the crowds are here for the 14 miles of powdery-white sand beaches and their stunning turquoise surf. Jet-skis, parasailing, deep-see fishing and snorkeling are all the rage here and bountiful. For diving and better snorkeling, hop a ferry to Cozumel, Isla Mujeres or Isla Contoy where things slow down and the riches of the sea are better enjoyed.