Cancun is often accused of not being the “real” Mexico. Although Cancun is only about 30 years old, it still has many of the same features that older more traditional Mexican towns have. For example, Mexican cities always have a main square, plaza principal or zócalo in Spanish, where citizens meet to eat, dance, do business and socialize. In Cancun, the main square is called Parque las Palapas, or Palapas Park, and it is well worth a visit in the late afternoon or evening, especially on the weekends.
Parque las Palapas, or Las Palapas as locals like to call it, is located in downtown Cancun between 4 main streets; Tulum, Yaxchilan, Uxmal and Coba Avenues. It was recently refurbished and the palapas, thatched roofs made from dried woven palm leaves, are gone and have been replaced with modern white tarps.
There are plenty of fun, inexpensive things to do in the park. There are vendors that sell Mexican handicrafts and traditional Mexican foodto enjoy while watching a dance performance or perhaps a live band. There is a playground for children, or electric cars for them to drive around the big open area in the middle of the park. For smaller children, cars with remote controls are available. There is also normally an area where children can paint, or have their faces painted. Stop by the church, Iglesia de Cristo Rey, the very first Catholic church in Cancun, and light a candle.
If you love the white sand beaches and Caribbean Sea in the Hotel Zone of Cancun but you also want a taste of the real Mexico, set aside an afternoon to make the short trip downtown to Parque las Palapas.