The Cancun that we know today only began in 1974. Before this time this area was pretty much unknown except by local fishermen. The resort zone has a reputation for white sandy beaches and sun, sun, sun. But, you will also see many of the rich past that this area once had.
The ancient and mystical Mayans once traveled this area and lived here thousands of years ago. While they enjoyed their time before the Spanish Conquistadors arrival, they erected many magnificent buildings that you can see today. Among them is the Chichen Itzá, the Snail, the Castle, the Warriors Temple, the Ball Game, the Tzompantli, the Eagles House, the Osario, the Temple of the Chac Mool plus many more. There are tour packages available that will take you back in time when you visit these ancient buildings.
After the Spanish took over this area it was pretty much forgotten until it finally was given an official territory name in 1902. It became known as the Quintana Roo after a famous army general Andreas Quintana Roo.
During the 1960's, the Mexican government took interest in this area of white beaches and Caribbean Sea. They decided to take this untamed jungle area along with its white sandy beaches and transform it into the resort of Isla Cancun. It took a long time to bridge the mainland to the island, tame the wild bush and create manicured tropical gardens. But, their vision became true and in 1974 the resort was open.
The people of Mexico and the locals around Cancun are very festive individuals. Many of their traditions and culture date back to the time of the Mayans. They have many celebrations throughout the year but the major National holidays include New Year's Day on January 1st, Constitution Day on February 5th, the birthday of Benito Juarez on March 21st, The Holy Week Celebrations which includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday varies between March and April each year, Labor Day on May 1st, Cinco de Mayo on May 5th (The Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in 1862), Mother's day on May 10th, Independence Day on September 16th, Dia de la Raza on October 12th (the day of the race, marking the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492), Presients State of the Nation Address on October 12th, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, where they honor those that have passed away) on November 2nd and 3rd, the Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution on November 20th, and Christmas week celebrations from December 25th to January 2nd.
If you are visiting Cancun during any of the above dates, you will love all the parades, decorations, and the atmosphere that abounds during these celebrations. To learn more about the major celebrations that you may enjoy being included in check out http://www.cancuncare.com/events/events.htm
The United States dollar is widely accepted in Cancun, but you may notice that sometimes there is a price also in the Mexican dollar or peso. They have new and old pesos floating around Cancun and you need to know how to tell them apart. If you receive a large bill such as 10,000 take off the last three zeros and that is what the bill is worth. On average the American dollar is equivalent to 8 pesos. The best place to get your moneys worth is at a bank in downtown Cancun. The exchange rate is usually closer than at any of the local shops. Currencies other than the US dollar may be a lot lower than you expect. The best place to learn about the universal currency rates is at http://www.xe.com/ucc/, where you can use their universal currency converter online. This should help you understand a little bit more about the conversion rate.
If you are planning on using your credit cards instead of cash check talk with your credit card company before you go on vacation. They can tell you their exchange rate for Mexican pesos. You may find that you can save money using your credit card because sometimes the exchange rate is better. When your credit card is charged more than likely it will be charged by Mexican pesos instead of the US dollar. You can find ATM machines in Cancun; you will also usually receive pesos instead of US dollars.
Tipping should be about 10% to 15% of your bill. There are no automatic tips included on any bills. The average tip for a porter at the airport is 1 US dollar and the same goes for housekeeping and gas station workers. You can also tip ushers, washroom attendants, and others change from your pocket. Most people do not tip taxi drivers but do in fact tip tour guides.
Bargaining and bartering can be fun, but most stores usually have fixed prices. But, if you enjoy negotiating the price then you will love the markets.