Cancun has become something of a taboo among travelers because of its reputation as one big tourist trap full of Americans with floral shirts making absolutely no attempt to experience the local culture. The resulting avoidance leaves a gap in experiencing all that the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer; and while this caution towards the resort areas can be warranted for those seeking an authentic thrill, avoiding the entire city is an unnecessary restriction.
The city of Cancun is broken up into two parts: the Hotel Zone and Downtown. While it’s true that you’ll find tourists aplenty and the accompanying cheesy attractions in the Hotel Zone, downtown Cancun is ripe with fun things to do and opportunities to experience the local culture without an umbrella-clad margarita being jammed in your face every ten minutes. There are also plenty of places to stay within the downtown limits with easy beach transportation for when you do want to hit the sand.
Downtown Cancun has a wealth of restaurants for both hearty local fare and fine dining options, which can be found mostly along the city’s main street: Avenida Tulum. To get a taste of the real Mexico, be sure to stop by Parque de las Palapas, a local hangout with small shops ranging from clothing stores to barber shops where vendors dishing out tasty local dishes are anything but a rare sight. When you need to stretch your legs and escape from the busy Downtown streets, you can head to one of the countless attractions nearby, like the numerous cenotes (underground craters popular for snorkeling and diving) and ancient cities.
Although Downtown is mostly inhabited by locals, tourism is increasing due to both travelers seeking more authenticity and the resort area simply having a very fixed capacity, especially during the busy months in the spring and summer. Cancun is just a short flight away, and if you were steering clear of it for sake of tourist traps and the sea of selfie sticks, maybe it’s time to reconsider and head Downtown.
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