It’s Friday Night and You’re in Cancún

It might be the most popular vacation destination on the Yucatán Peninsula, but Cancún was not a place that Jürgen and I were slobbering all over ourselves to visit. It’s Cancún. We already knew exactly what awaited us there… massive hotels lining the beach, drunken college students, trashy theme bars and American-style restaurants. We decided to stay for a single day, just to be fair to Cancún. To give it a shot. Maybe, just maybe, the city’s reputation was overblown.

Nope. Cancún’s reputation is spot-on. Spread out for 22 kilometers along a narrow spit of land between a lagoon and the Caribbean, the city’s Zona Hotelera is just one American-oriented establishment after the other. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Coco Bongo’s. The Playboy Casino. Hooter’s. And we got to see all of it, since our hotel (the Westin Resort and Spa) was on the far southern end of the strip. The taxi ride from the bus station took ages, and by the time we had checked into our room, we were already disillusioned with Cancún.

We went down to the hotel pool, ordered some lunch, pulled out our guidebook, and began to make plans for the day. But there was a drunken redneck at the bar loudly bragging about his gun collection, and it was hard to concentrate. He ordered a shot of tequila, and then continued into a rant about how he wouldn’t want to be in San Francisco during Armageddon because, you know. I grumbled and returned to my book.

But what was this stress? Why was I leafing through a guidebook? It was Friday afternoon and we were in Cancún! The yahoo at the bar was obnoxious, yes, but he was laughing and enjoying himself… experiencing Cancún the way one is meant to. I looked over at him again, this time with something bordering on admiration. “You, my sloshy friend, are wiser than you know”.

Fifteen minutes later, Jürgen and I were on stools in Margaritaville. An hour after that, Señor Frog’s.

Our day in Cancún turned into one of those long, hazy affairs which you wake up from the next morning feeling something between disgust and satisfaction. At one point during the never-ending night, we had fallen into a deep discussion, bordering on an argument, about why Jimmy Buffet is completely unknown in Germany… our voices raising until we started getting weird looks from other people at the bar. Now we were the drunken idiots! High-five!

Cancún is a strange beast. I don’t think we’ll be booking a return trip, but I can’t say we hated it. It is what it is, absolutely unashamed of itself, and I can appreciate that. The beaches are lovely, and the hotels aren’t as expensive as I’d feared (tip: Hotwire’s Hot Rates seem to work well for Cancún). Yes, it’s cheesy and inauthentic, but you knew that already. So stop worrying, order a shot, and enjoy yourself. That’s all Cancún asks.

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