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Senior Citizen's Guide

Destination: Cancun

As I peered out my airplane window, I was able to catch a glimpse of Cancun, Mexico's famous turquoise ocean water and white sand beaches. I knew then that the next six days were going to be heaven.

My day began quite early here in Pittsburgh. I left Pittsburgh International Airport at 6:30 a.m. for Houston, Texas where there is a non-stop flight to Cancun. Cancun is located in the state of Quintana Roo, off the northeastern end of the Yucatan peninsula, directly south of New Orleans. After a short two-hour flight from Houston I was ready to stretch out and begin my tropical adventure.

Cancun's airport was smaller than I expected, yet it was very clean. It didn't take long for my family and me to get through immigration, claim our luggage, and pass through customs. As we approached the airport exit, five or six locals tried to hustle us to a taxi, a hotel or to exchange currency with them. I already had reservations so I simply ignored them and called a cab for my family. The 15-minute ride to the hotel cost me $40, but strangely the return fare was $16. The only explanation I got for this discrepancy was that one taxi company had a monopoly at the airport and was charging these "standard" rates to maintain "quality" taxis.

When I arrived at the Moon Palace, an all-inclusive resort, I stood in awe of its splendor and its sprawling layout. Moon Palace Resort sits a few miles away from the hotel zone that lines the oceanfront with over thirty hotels. Standing directly across the lagoon from the Old City, I took a deep breath of the crisp, clean air. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was close to 80 degrees, the average temperature for this semi-tropical zone. The ideal vacation time in Cancun is from late September to mid-April. The summer months may be too hot for Pittsburghers. Cancun's weather was absolutely refreshing.

Because I had purchased an all-inclusive package, I could put my wallet away for the next six days-or at least until I hit the shops. Upon arrival, I received a band to wear around my wrist identifying me as a guest. This all-inclusive package was very convenient. It included the hotel room, food at the hotel's various restaurants, unlimited drinks (alcoholic and other exotic soft drinks), and all taxes and tips. With my mind at rest about money, I could concentrate on my six-day agenda that included shopping, sightseeing and, of course, relaxing!

Plaza Kukulcan, Plaza Flamingo and Plaza Carocal are a few of the shopping malls in the hotel zone with a department store-like atmosphere. Most stores are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the hotel zone, which gives you enough time to find the perfect souvenirs to remind you of your trip. However, if you have a knack for bargaining, you must visit the shops on Tulum Avenue, the main street in the Old City. Here, you can negotiate the price of everything from silver items to handicrafts that have been brought in from all of Mexico.

Just around the corner from all of Cancun's modern day resorts are ancient Mayan temples. The Mayan culture is considered one of the most advanced ancient civilizations. Their legacy and culture still thrives today through and can be witnessed at their elaborate and highly decorated temples. If possible, include a day trip to Chichen Itza, the largest site of the most impressive Mayan ruins. The two-hour drive from Cancun is worth it. Xcaret is another must-see location. It is a nature preserve that allows you to swim with dolphins, snorkel in the lagoon, and walk through botanical gardens-a perfect place for any nature lover. There are many other interesting eco-parks and historic sites and ruins for those who visit the Cancun area for a longer time.

In 1970, the entire population of Cancun consisted of about 1,000 people. Today, the population of 350,000 is primarily supported by tourism mainly from the Unites States, Japan and the Far East. I found Cancun to be safe, the people very polite, and the weather beyond enjoyable. Cancun's entire atmosphere provided me with six days of pure rest and relaxation. As my plane took off and I waved goodbye to this tropical heaven, I made a promise to myself to plan another vacation in Cancun, Mexico.

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