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Shop, Dine, Dance, and be Merry: More than Just Golf in Cancun and Cozumel

By Diana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

For women, shoShop, Dine, Dance, and be Merry: More than Just Golf in Cancun and Cozumelpping in Cancun and Cozumel is a heavenly experience, with their purchasing guilt worries chased away in duty free shopping. For men, hold onto your wallets, or your wife, and be prepared for the ride of your life. Maybe even buy yourself a Cuban cigar. But remember to enjoy it here, because it's illegal to take it home with you.

Handicrafts are a time-honored trade in Mexico and artisans are deeply respected for their skill. You'll find some of the world's finest silver jewelry and you can't miss the brightly colored embroidered items, hand woven hammocks and handpainted talavera (pottery).

From hotel boutiques, to impressive mall storefronts and theme restaurants, to the craft bazaars and downtown open air markets, there's more shopping choices here than even a shopaholic can wade through.

Bring several different sizes of golf shorts to outfit your week here because you are going to love the food. After an exhausting and sometimes exhilarating day on the golf course, unlimited dining adventures await you in Mexico, and the fine eating establishments of Cancun and Cozumel will more than live up to your expectations and fill your belly to overflowing.

More than 400 restaurants are in the resort and downtown area and feature seafood specialties, traditional Mexican and Yucatan traditional dishes from spicy chocolate mole, to fresh seafood straight from the Gulf and Caribbean Sea, Italian cuisine and other international favorites.

If you want to enjoy a panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea or the Nichupte Lagoon's waterfront, then the Hotel Zone is the place to be.

You'll never go hungry at the Hilton with Executive Chef Hans Gruber and his mouth-watering menus. How about dinner at the Hilton's beachside La Sirenita for seafood and oriental specialties? The ocean provides the background music to your romantic dinner. Inside the hotel, Spices Restaurant offers buffet or a la cart breakfast and three kitchens serving menus for dinner: Mexican, Italian and fine meat cuts.

Ask your waiter to serve up a traditional Mexican after dinner drink. Made in Mexico, D'Aristi is a sweet liquor, similar to anise candy. D'Aristi can be sipped as a side liquor, mixed in a drink such as "Sex on the Beach" with vodka and juices, or in your coffee, but it is definitely worth a sample.

Or go to the waterfront at Lorenzillo's, opposite the Continental Plaza hotel. Walk several yards down the wharf to the restaurant entrance, set back from Kukulcan Boulevard. Live lobsters and softshell crabs are brought in daily. Take a look at the salvaged shipwrecked items in cases and the ship-like décor throughout. For seafood specialties eaten to the tune of water gently washing against the wharf, this is "have-to"-special night out.

How about a stroll through the La Destileria Restaurante & Museo del Tequila? Did somebody say tequila? You bet you'll find tequila of every flavor, size and design here at La Destileria's first tequila museum. Developed by historians and museum specialists, the museum serves up the history of tequila, how it's produced and the way the "agave" plant is cultivated.

Lucky for you, you can purchase your tequila in their gift shop, and then hunker down in the restaurant and enjoy a meal prepared in their Mexican kitchens, featuring regional specialties during some months of the year. Have a "Tequila Sampler", or maybe chose several shots from their list of over 150 different brands.

Or if your preference is a little shopping before eating, visit the Hotel Zone's La Isla Shopping Village. Check out the open-air shopping mall, along with the usual shops where artisans display and sell their goods along the way. In the center of this mall, a small theatre group gets together and presents shows, from the traveling magic of the circus, to a mad man running away from his keeper, all free for the mall's customers.

Here's your chance to give the kids a quick activity at the new Mayan Adventure (mayaventura.com.mx), a labyrinth adventure which offers high tech technology fun, and serving up some Mayan educational to all ages. Or take a look at the aquarium.

After all this mad shopping craze, sit down at La Isla's restaurant La Casa de les Margaritas. This colorful theme restaurant tells the guest all about Mexico. The menu's cuisine features modern Mexican recipes like baked chicken marinated in tequila, brown sugar and chipolte chili. Three musical group provide entertainment, including an 11-member mariachi band.

The Mexican culture is featured in their brightly covered artisan displays throughout the restaurant. Oh, and be sure to stop by the bar and take a look at the bartender's balancing act--service with a smile while balancing the drinks on his head. For those that like margaritas, La Casa de les Margaritas serves up some table-dancing margaritas that'll keep you dancing the night away.

To experience the more Mexican side of Cancun, the smaller downtown restaurants are ideal. For those with decidedly tender appetites, how about McDonalds or other fast food restaurants, or sticking with more traditional tourist restaurants like Hard Rock or Rainforest Café? You can't possibly eat at all the restaurants here in Cancun.

After a little shopping and a lot of food, sit back and let your food settle while enjoying the best two evening shows in town at the Teatro de Cancun. Overlooking the Mexican Caribbean on Kukulcan Boulevard in the Hotel Zone, the theater presents two evening shows Monday through Friday.

The first show begins at 7:00 pm with more than 70 artists among musicians, singers and dancers in their Voces y Danzas de Mexico presentation. In Tradicion del Caribe, their 9:00 pm show features more than 80 artists on show and is a celebration of the magic and rhythms of the Caribbean.

Or for those more adventurous types, the nightlife has all types of rhythms to dance to. Mixed with a dash of Salsa music and a shooter of tequila, once the sun sets, the Hotel District comes alive with discos, bars and nightclubs. Nightlife includes Cuban bands and lively clubs.

Cancun's nightlife is expanding along with the rest of the island. There are far too many choices here to dance the night away. Most of the hotels offer some sort of disco or bar for those that don't want to venture too far from home. La Isla's shopping mall is home to two new discotheques, Ma'ax'O and Albebrije, The Myth.

There is always the traditional tourist stops such as Senor Frog's or Hard Rock Café. Or check out Coco Bongo or Dady'O for top 40 tunes, or Dady Rock, a restaurant bar with tiered seating overlooking the dance floor with a laser show.

No matter your nightlife choice, you're guaranteed to have a good and safe time enjoying Cancun's nightlife. Bars don't get hopping until close to midnight and you can drink and dance until dawn here. And if you have that good of time at night, well, there goes your golf game.

Images courtesy of the author and the Cancun Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

Diana Rowe MartinezDiana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

A Denver-based freelance writer, Diana Rowe Martinez is a member of Colorado Travel Writers and writes for other publications, both print and online, in the industries of travel, nonfiction, and business. She writes a monthly column for a Denver based newspaper, Singles Entertainment.

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