Where To Go and What To See In Mexico's Party Capital: Cancun
Every year, come April and May, the teen populace of the US descends on the sunny shores of Mexico’s Cancun to soak up the spring break sunshine. Perhaps it's the opulent Mexican beaches that draw in the crowds or maybe it's the Native American history the city has to offer. I suspect that neither are the winning factors. The copious amounts of tequila and 24-hour party scene is the most likely pull.
Travelling to Cancun, purely for research into this university rite of passage - one that the UK is sorely lacking - I discovered why so many tweens keep returning to the city of summer, for spring break or otherwise.
With cheap accommodation you can enjoy a lengthy stay for next to nothing. We’re talking a few pesos a night for a comfy room in downtown Cancun with complimentary brekkie. Of course the presence of those spangly 5 star resorts are always tempting but, on a backpacker budget, it is manual fans and noisy neighbours all the way.
However, if you’re lucky, your budget suite may come complete with a tourist information man. Very quickly becoming our new best friend, Sebastian located all the city’s dine out deals for us as well as providing the local bus routes to save even more pennies.
These local bus rides also happen to be adventures unto themselves. Sharing tight spaces and whiffy body odours is certainly one way of sampling Mexican culture. Add on the collective attempt to stay standing as the driver swerves the deadly corners at an unbelievable speed, and by the time you stagger off the bus you’ve made ten new friends and they'll all want to invite you for dinner.
Accompanying the deathly rollercoaster ride is also a merry Mexican soundtrack performed by a chancing guitarist or ballsy accordion player. After performing ten minutes of sweet tunes above the roar of the engine, the hounding for pennies and pesos begins and so avoidance is also added to your list of bus time obstacles. This is the stuff that backpacking dreams are made of.
Reward for survival of the Cancun death bus is the arrival at the city’s main beach, just off the Kukulcan Boulevard. In the heart of the tourist hub lies the whitest sands you only thought existed in movies and the clearest waters imaginable.
Relaxing on this stretch of paradise a stream of funky house beats can be heard blasting from the promenade’s bars just to keep the party vibe going strong.
But, for a more serene beach session, there are many others nearby that have opted out of blaring the twerk-inducing tunes. Playa Chac Mool and Playa Delfines are in the midst of the hotel zone but offer a more secluded spot and quieter waters.
Night time antics
Taking the fiesta through until evening, there’s a wild variety of fluorescent bands available that can be on your wrist for a small fee. These promise free drinks, 'VIP access' and the inevitable sounds of Pitbull.
Any of the discotecas lining the Kukulcan Boulevard offer a good night but the famous Coco Bongo tops the list. Acrobats, projected mvoies and live bands hype up the Bongo crowd until dawn and, once you step outside the party continues. There's throngs of foam covered party-go-ers, rose-selling locals, free-loving Americans and the tipsy tourists all shaking their stuff on Cancun's busiest street before it slowly seeps out onto the sands.
Being a female also seems to have its perks. While I am of course one for equality, I’m afraid that when it comes to female-only freebies all principles go out of the window. If you’re happy to cash in on the free entries and complimentary shots all in exchange for lining the clubs with a bit of womanly swag then you can enjoy endless nights of Cancun compliments.
History and culture
When the tequila slammers and Enrique remixes gets too much though, there is a bit of culture munching to be had. Not too far away from the centre lies the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. As one of the seven wonders of the world it is worth a visit just to ward off the siteseeing guilt. The ruins of the walled city of Tulum are also quite close for those seeking a little more Mexican insight.
While many backpackers opt out of visiting the Mexican party capital because of its spring break rep, it can be worth a drop in if only to sample some of the world’s finest tequila.