Home & Leisure



A Reset in Cancun


By Athena Lucero

When I arrived in Cancun, Mexico's subtropical paradise on the Yucatan Peninsula, I thought my hotel looked familiar. Sure enough, near the glistening pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea was the very spot where I bought a cloisonne bracelet back in the 1990s while on a business trip with my husband. A lasting memory was the spell of Cancun's turquoise waters.

"Let's go snorkeling!" I remember saying, even though I had never snorkeled before. In his motorboat, our guide took us to deeper waters, where I bobbed gleefully in the buoyant saltwater. But when the guys dove down into the coral reef and left me alone, panic got the best of me. It took time to recover from that misadventure, but my recent visit to Cancun turned into a reacquainting in more ways than one.

In the 1960s Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo was a narrow 14-mile-long deserted island of white sand dunes. It is shaped like the figure 7, the symbol of perfection and eternal life. No wonder the Mexican government's search stopped here when they were looking for a magical place that would attract tourism.

By 1970 the building of the planned city of Cancun began, and 1974 welcomed the opening of its international airport. Cancun became the gateway to some of the most significant ruins in the Yucatan -- such as the ancient city of Chichen Itza -- and is today a major economic engine for the country.

This backstory explained the miles of high-rise resorts lining Kukulcan Boulevard, aka the Hotel Zone. On our way from the airport, my driver, Matteo, talked about the Yucatan's ancient Maya civilization and shared that he is Maya.


"The Mayan language is like Chinese," he said, and spoke a few words for me. Short tonal sounds were evidence of the two cultures that intersected some 5,000 years ago.

An off-season visit here was the antidote to life in the city that dispelled Cancun's "spring break" reputation. That's when college students descend on the Caribbean mecca, and the label seems to stick year-round.

Like deja vu, the mesmerizing Caribbean teased me as I looked out from the balcony of my seventh-floor guest room. In the distance was Isla Mujeres, or Island of Women, that was inhabited by the indigenous Maya long before the birth of Cancun.

I was staying at the point of "the 7," a prime (and quieter) location in the northern half of the Hotel Zone. Here waves are kind, and the softest sand cuddled my toes while I dined barefoot at Nah K'aax, the hotel's romantic Tulum-style restaurant on the beach. What was meant to be a quick dinner on my first day became a two-hour affair while I munched on Asian-fusion tapas, chatted with the friendly staff, and listened to relaxing tunes played by a DJ stationed on the sand between my table and the darkness of the sea.


swipe to next page

Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.




Andy Marlette Steve Breen Bart van Leeuwen Daryl Cagle 9 Chickweed Lane Bob Gorrell