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Mexico
 
Trivia question – in which country is California? Smart-alec answer - in Mexico, if you’re talking about Baja California. That’s the 600m peninsula that runs south of the border from the American state and which boasts some of the best beaches in the Pacific. Beloved by surfers, by schools of gambolling dolphins and, from January to April, by migratory grey whales. Traverse the country, and you’re across the continent at a whole new ocean. The Gulf of Mexico gives on to the Caribbean and has a climate to match. Cancun is the justly popular resort area but it’s easy to go a little further to avoid the crowds. Easier still to delve into fascinating pre-Columbian history – the modern metropolis of Mexico City still contains Aztec ruins. Part of the beautiful Gulf coast on the Yucatan peninsula is known as the Mayan Riviera for the plentiful sites, including sacred pyramids that rival those of the pharaohs, which are linked to the great Mayan Empire that pre-dated the Aztecs by centuries.
 
Cancun
 
Quite what the original Mayan inhabitants of the region would have made of today’s tourists is an interesting thought – though they did practice human sacrifice. Although there are some nearby relics of that civilisation, Cancún on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is a thoroughly modern city, constructed in the 1970’s as a vacation resort. With some 4 million visitors a year, the site selection was clearly successful – a terrific climate, gorgeous sea, and a made-for-pleasure infrastructure. Sport-fishing, diving on to the many reefs, sailing in all types of vessel including an observation submarine, and every form of assisted ski-surfing (boat, kite, para, probably fast donkey) plus organised swimming with dolphins, mean that days are spent in, on, or by the water, and nights in the even hotter nightlife or wide range of excellent restaurants.
 
Cozumel
 
The island’s name is ancient Mayan for Isle of Swallows (birdlife not tequila, though that has changed of late). In the 18th century it was a hideout for the real ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. An extremely flat island in the Gulf of Mexico, with a single town, San Miguel, it’s the brilliantly clear waters of the Caribbean that first drew Jacques Cousteau and countless aqua-lovers since. The coral reefs received some damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 but again now teem with myriads of colorful tropical fish – the currents provide for easy, safe ‘drift diving’ along the reefs. Scuba and snorkelling, of course, but also trips in glass-bottomed boats, swimming with dolphins, self-drive mini underwater ‘scooters’ are all on the marine agenda in a superb climate. Mexican food, especially fish, varies from OK to good.
 

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