At sunrise and sunset, there's no more breath-takingly beautiful place to be than this slender barrier island surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, Laguna Nichupté, and Bahía de Mujeres. Favored by Mayan kings for its unspoiled land and water, Cancun today continues to treat guests like visiting royalty.
A water enthusiast's paradise, Cancún entices honeymooners to try all kinds of aquatic sports. There are places to wind-surf, jet ski, scuba dive, sail, snorkel, and deep-sea fish off the powdery-soft coastline lined with sparkling luxury hotels. Xcaret waterpark, 40 miles south, features an underground river 1,700 feet long and the chance to swim with dolphins.
Favored by honeymooners, Cancún's grand hotels aim to please. Private beach fronts, swimming pools, tennis courts, and gym facilities are offered by most. Amenities such as daily buffet breakfasts, a welcome gift, and in-room bar are standard.
You can also play tennis, golf on 18-hole championship courses, and escape to the past with visits to the ruins of Chichen Itza and El Castillo pyramid. The walled city of Tulum, an hour and a half from Cancún, reveals thousand-year-old Mayan treasures.
Those who want to explore another side of Mexico can take the 45-minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres, dotted with small coast fishing villages.
The Ritz-Carlton Cancún adds an elegant presence and a private health club and spa to the island. Rooms are large, furnished luxuriously, and most provide glorious balcony views to ponder the future together. Couples planning a Mexican wedding can call the Mexican Consulate (312-855-1380, ext.218) for information.
The Fiesta Americana Condesa has a number of honeymoon suites that have a balcony with a built-in private Jacuzzi. Surrounded by water on three sides, the Camino Real Cancún offers honeymooners unparalleled views. The same goes for the Westin Regina, which stretches from lagoon to Caribbean. The intimate, 31-suite Casa Turquesa surrounds a swimming pool, and the beach is steps away.
There are more restaurants on this island than a pair of honeymooners could sample in a month-long stay. The new Mexico Magico theme park, filled with shops, theaters, and restaurants, adds more choices.
Several local places dish up Cajun-Creole-Caribbean fare. Traditional Mayan dishes are also available. Real Mexican food, unlike its spicy southwestern analogue, evokes a taste of Spain-so one can expect to find ceviche and flan on menus.
Market analysis: A shopper's paradise, Cancún is where to find authentic Mexican crafts as well as international treasures. The duty-free allowance is $600 per couple. Sombreros and serapes are sold; so are fragrances and designer clothing (both real and knock-offs). Plentiful and inexpensive Mexican silver will test your mettle; it's sold by weight and is price-negotiable. Look for the .925 stamp, which marks real sterling.
Many brides assemble an entire jewelry wardrobe on their honeymoon, arriving home with multiple pairs of silver earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and belt accents.
Air-conditioned malls accept American dollars and provide refuge from the midday heat. The Coral Negro market near the hotel strip features a good selection of folk arts and crafts; it's also a nice destination for an evening stroll. To carry home the spirits of the honeymoon, stock up on tequila, mescal, and liqueurs such as Kahlúa.
Late-night entertainment ranges from reggae and salsa bands to flashy discos. Dady-O and Christine's, Azucar and Batachá dance clubs are all likely to stimulate the heart rate. Cortijo Flamingo provides dinner along with a festive folklórico ballet performance, and Planet Hollywood has recently joined Cancun's constellation of evening stars.