The mere name Cancun conjures of images of Girls Gone Wild, wet-t-shirt contests and tequila shots. Those who haven’t visited Cancun—located on the Caribbean ocean in Mexico’s Riviera Maya—might be surprised to know that it’s actually a beautiful city with gorgeous blue water and soft, sandy beaches.
Still the number one international tourism destination for Americans, Cancun has matured beyond its bawdy teenage years into a clean, safe family-friendly location. Don’t worry: for those looking to do shots into the wee hours at Senor Frogs or Fat Tuesday, however, that side of Cancun still exists, too.
Mayan ruins abound on the Yucatan Peninsula, and eco-archaeological park XCaret highlights them to perfection: it’s equal parts Disneyland, outdoor museum, and water-park. XCaret’s nighttime “Mexico Spectacular” show, meanwhile, highlights the history of Mexico with costumes, lights, animals and more than 300 actors. For more can’t-miss ruins, visit Tulum, the only known archaeological site located by the sea, which faces the Caribbean.
Many of the resorts in Cancun are like mini-cities: so large that you barely need to leave the property. Good values are to be found at the family-friendly Marriott CasaMagna (from $175/night) and the Fiesta Americana (from $137/night).
Cancun is only 2.5 hours from Houston, 4 hours from New York and 5-hours from LA.