Much ado about new in ever-expanding Cancun

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CANCUN -- Not content to rest on its laurels, Cancun is in the midst of a tourism expansion that includes new hotels, a larger airport and an expanded range of attractions and tours.

The following is a rundown of some of the bigger developments:

New hotels

• The 402-room Sofitel Cancun is scheduled to open next spring. The resort will feature a private beach, eight swimming pools, a fitness center, tennis courts and function space for 800 people. For more information, visit www.sofitel.com.

• The 714-room Hotel Riu Cancun opened last month in the hotel zone across from the La Isla Shopping Mall and the Cancun Convention Center.

The all-inclusive resort features 24 suites, four restaurants, a pool with a swim-up bar, a fitness center, a children's club and conference facilities for up to 250 people. For information or reservations, call (888) 666-8816 or visit www.riu.com.

• One of Cancun's "newest" resorts is the 150-room Ambiance Villas. Ambiance is the former Kin-Ha Hotel, which was rebranded earlier this year after a $5 million renovation.

Ambiance features a main building and a series of three-story buildings in a garden setting. They house a combination of single rooms, studios with kitchenettes and one- to three-bedroom suites.

All rooms were renovated with new furniture made from natural woods; upholstery and window treatments feature bright, tropical colors. The main restaurant was redecorated in a traditional Mexican style.

For more information or reservations, call (866) 340-9082 or visit www.ambiancevillas.com.

• Hilton Hotels now is managing the 426-room Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort following the acquisition of the property by RLJ Development for $31.5 million. The resort formerly was a Hilton-franchised hotel.

The Hilton Cancun includes Beach Club villas that offer concierge service; a private lounge for guest registration and departure; complimentary continental breakfast along with beverages and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon; and daily newspaper delivery.

The resort also features an 18-hole golf course; a business center and 28,000 square feet of meetings space; and a fitness center. For information or reservations, call (888) 594-2483 or visit www.hiltoncancun.com.

Outdoor adventures

• Alltournative Tours is a new local company offering day trips for active travelers.

The Chi-Much and Coba itinerary features rappelling from the side of a cave, zip-lining across a sinkhole and canoeing through the jungle before sitting down to a traditional Mayan lunch made by the local villagers.

After lunch, it's off to the ruins of Coba, home to the second-tallest pyramid in the Mayan world. Prices start at $85 for adults and $66 for children under age 12. Commission is 10%.

For more information or reservations, visit www.alltournative.com.

• Only 35 minutes south of Cancun, the popular Tres Rios ecopark has been given a face-lift to accommodate corporate retreats. It now offers team-building activities such as paintball, canoeing down the freshwater mangroves and a "sensorama" garden, where team members are blindfolded and guided through stations relying on other senses to identify objects.

• Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park 45 minutes south of Cancun, offers Xcaret by Night, a musical representation of Mexico throughout different eras with interpretations of the ancient Mayan ball and fireball games.

Airport expansion

The first phase of a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation of Cancun Airport is complete, including an expanded international cargo area and renovated shops in the international terminals.

The entire project is set to be completed by January. The Cancun facility ranks as the second-busiest airport in Mexico and third in all of Latin America.

Meanwhile, the airport opened a new VIP lounge on the second floor featuring a number of business services and amenities, including Internet access, computer stations with laptop and cellular phone hookups, massage chairs and a flat-screen TV with cable and flight information.

For business travelers and groups, secretarial services, meetings rooms, audiovisual equipment and fax, photocopying and printing services are available. There's also a multilingual concierge staff, hors d'oeuvres, beverages and an open bar.

The lounge is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Access to the lounge costs $25 per person and can be arranged through a hotel's concierge.

For the kids

Kids can entertain themselves while the grown-ups go shopping at the La Isla Shopping Center, which created the Mayan Labyrinth, an interactive game in which kids can accumulate clues and points while they make their way through a Mayan maze and learn about Mayan culture.

Kids also will like the new sea creatures on display at the center's La Isla Aquarium, where they can learn about indigenous life forms and pet sharks and rays.

For more information about Cancun, visit the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau's Web site at www.cancun.info.

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