For the independent traveller, though, it is expensive, and can be frustrating and unwelcoming. You may well be forced to spend the night here, but without pots of money the true pleasures of the place will elude you.
There are, in effect, two quite separate parts to Cancun: the zona commercial downtown - the shopping and residential centre which, as it gets older, is becoming genuinely earthy - and the zona hotelera , a string of hotels and tourist amenities around "Cancun island", actually a narrow strip of sandy land connected to the mainland at each end by causeways. It encloses a huge lagoon, so there's water on both sides.
There's little to see in downtown Cancun . Most visitors head straight for the zona hotelera and the beaches . Though you're free to go anywhere, and signposted public walkways lead down to the sea at regular intervals, some of the hotels do their best to make you feel like a trespasser, and staff will certainly move you off the beach furniture if you're not a guest.
To avoid being eyed suspiciously by hotel heavies, head for one of the dozen or so public beaches : all are free but you may have to pay a small charge for showers. Entertainment and expensive water sports are laid on all around the big hotels; if you venture further, where more sites await construction, you can find surprisingly empty sand and often small groups of nude sunbathers.
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