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Out in Mexico

Cancún Crash Course

Cancún Crash Course


24 hours in the crown jewel of the Yucatán

Above: Clockwise from top left: a Cancun beach (photo by Dr Luis de la Maza); molecular gastronomy at Benazuza (photo by Julien Sauville); a whale shark (photo by Tom Meyer); El Rey Ruins

While there is no doubt that Cancun is a party town, it's much more than tequila shots. The sun-soaked city has a vibrant culinary scene, a rich history, and natural features of breathtaking beauty. You could spend a lifetime exploring Cancun, but if you've only got a day, here's how to make the most of it.

5 a.m.
It may be early, but missing a few hours of beauty sleep is the price of a life-changing experience. Though the beaches in Cancun are gorgeous, for a truly awe-inspiring experience, delve beneath the surf to swim with the whale sharks ( that migrate through the waters in droves. Between June and mid-September, snorkeling in a shoal of these 30-foot gentle giants is a revelatory experience. And don't worry: Whale sharks eat plankton, not homos.

Towel off and visit the Museo Maya de Cancun (Insurgentes Sur 421; to catch up on some history. The museum has not only a well-curated collection of artifacts, but an archeological site complete with a 26-foot step pyramid. For more history, see nearby El Rey Ruins (Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 17), which has been taken over by friendly iguanas you are welcome to feed.

3 p.m.
You didn't travel all the way to Cancun to skip the beach. The Oasis Sens (, an adults-only, LGBT-friendly resort, is nestled on some of the best coastline on the Atlantic. The waters are crystal blue, the sands are alabaster white, and the men are totally ripped. Reapply your sunscreen and enjoy the guy candy.


6 p.m.
While you may have worked your ass off to get that perfect beach body, we'd recommend that you throw away all that hard work in Cancun. Gorge yourself on haute cuisine at the Oasis Sens's Benazuza (Blvd. Kukulcan Km 19.5), chef Rafael Zafra's molecular gastronomy restaurant, or sample contemporary Basque flavors at chef Martin Berasategui's Tempo (Blvd. Kukulcan Km 16.5).

11 p.m.
To experience authentic gay nightlife in Cancun, leave the hotel zone and head downtown to the Avenida Tulum. Start your night with a bucket of beers al fresco at Taboo (Costero Miguel Aleman s/n), a relaxed little bar with an affable crowd. For a more hands-on experience, go to Sexy's Club (Av. Tulum Plaza Safa Planta Alta); after paying the cover, they'll give you a colored wristband -- red means partnered, orange means straight, and green means the obvious.

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Alex Panisch