Mexico has been on Kelly Landry's wish list for a long time. She wanted to experience its colour and culture, and where better to have her first taste than the tourist area of Cancún!
Until four decades ago not many people knew about it, but in the 1970s ambitious planners decided to outdo Acapulco and transformed the little fishing village into one of the most magnetic holiday destinations on earth.
The town is made up of two areas: Ciudad, which is downtown, and the hotel zone. Downtown has lots of shopping, restaurants and bars. It attracts young tourists and its party zone throbs with salsa, strobe-lit dance clubs, quiet cigar bars and romantic hideaways. It's where the locals live and the ambience is very Latin. Prices are lower, so downtown has a lot to offer.
Now known as the Mexican Riviera, the hotel zone is a 27km stretch of beach lapped by the Caribbean Sea. It attracts 4 million visitors a year.
It's not for everyone among the ritzy hotels and resorts you will find plenty of tacky shops and lots of kitsch. As you walk along the beach you will notice that hotels compete for size and flashiness. Kelly reckons it's like Queensland's Gold Coast on steroids!
Boulevard Kukulcan is the only thoroughfare and it's always busy. Laguna Nichupté on the west side is a vast lagoon. It's home to hundreds of marinas, waterfront restaurants, malls and golf courses.
As with most resorts in the hotel zone, Cancún Palace is all-inclusive. That includes meals and drinks at its five restaurants, mini bar and selected day trips.
The 12-storey building faces the Caribbean Sea on one side and the gentle Nichupté Lagoon on the other. Recently renovated, it offers beachfront luxury, endless spa services and entertainment every night. It has 601 guestrooms, each with a balcony and oversized jacuzzi.
There's a spa, tennis court and fitness centre and pools to choose from if you don't fancy sand between your toes.
Kids & Teens Club has supervised activities for all ages if parents fancy a break. The club has a dining room, videos, theatre and pool with flumes and slides. Eat and drink at the pool bar or enjoy Mexican, oriental, Italian or international flavours at the five restaurants.
For some local history and culture, these ancient Mayan ruins are well worth seeing. They are the best preserved Mayan ruins in the world and come in as the third most visited historical site in Mexico after Teotihuacán and Chichen Itza.
Tulum's location alone could put it in first place. It's on a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea and has stood there since the Mayan settlement flourished in 1200 AD until the Spanish conquest of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Just an hour away, you will know the trip was worthwhile when you see the crystal water, white sand, lush deep green vegetation and the imposing walled Mayan city. It housed the palaces and temples of the ruling class. It was abandoned by the end of the 16th century and parts have been restored for tourism purposes.
Twenty minutes from Tulum, Xel-Ha ecological park is the world's largest natural aquarium. It is formed by a large lagoon with currents ebbing from the Caribbean Sea. It has nine hectares of caves, coves, inlets and lagoons of salt and fresh water.
There is every water-based activity imaginable and you share the lagoon with more than 70 species of brightly coloured fish. One of the most popular activities is to free float or use an inner tube to wind your way through the lush jungle. If you cross the bridge at the end of the river you will see Xel-Ha's two sink holes.
At almost every pier, there are all-sized lifejackets available at no cost and there are six snorkel equipment centres located around the inlet.
If you try the rope crossing, Kelly recommends you wear something on your feet! You can also take a 5m drop from Courage Cliff into the ocean if you're feeling adventurous. Maybe after all the activity and partying in Cancún you fancy just relaxing in a hammock on the fine, sandy beach and enjoy a professional massage.
Back in Cancún and ready for some night action, Club Bongo is probably the most popular place for tourists. It has a capacity of around 3000 and offers a mix of music and live shows. It blends Cirque de Soleil-style acts, impersonators, crazy waiters and lots of tequila. You could see Michael Jackson, Robbie Williams or Madonna look-alikes amongst a stream of bubbles, balloons and tickertape falling from the ceiling.
A series of escalators take you to the top of the club where there's a huge main stage and central bar which serves drinks and doubles as a platform for scantily clad dancers.
Doors open at 10.30pm and it's a good idea to be there early as the club fills quickly and good vantage points become scarce.
Coco Bongo isn't just for adults. On Wednesday afternoons they have a children's show. The bar opens and they serve soft drinks and juices.
Cancún on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Cancún Palace has five-night packages starting at $978 per person twin share. Up to two children stay and eat free. All meals, drinks, 24-hour room service, tours and live entertainment are included.
They are offering Getaway viewers a fantastic offer. Stay five nights and receive US$1500 credit to use for spa treatments, golfing or room upgrade. If you stay three or four nights you will receive US$750 credit.
V Australia has flights to Los Angeles with connections available to Cancún.
Airfares to Los Angeles start from:
- Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane $1129
- Adelaide $1429
- Perth $1729
Sales and validity dates apply.
Prices correct at June 24, 2010.
For further information
Ph: +52 998 881 3600
Condominio Villas de Pescadores
Ph: +52 998 884 9422
Plaza Forum by the Sea
Ph: +52 998 883 5061
Visas: Australians do not require a visa to enter Mexico.
Electricity: 120V at 60Hz.
Time zone: GMT -6.
Currency: The peso.
International dialling code: +52.
It is recommended travellers to Mexico see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended for Mexico. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au.