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If you haven’t taken a vacation yet to Cancun or the Riviera Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, you’re in for a few fun and fascinating surprises. Surrounded by soft, white sand beaches, the breathtaking turquoise-blue Caribbean Sea, a sparkling lagoon bordered by mangroves, and lush green rainforests with colorful tropical plants and flowers, this travel destination will inspire you.

Cancun BeachBesides being inspired by this natural paradise, you may also be inspired by the Spanish culture that influenced Mexico with its haciendas and bullfighting, and by the ancient Mayan culture that influenced the Yucatan Peninsula with its archaeological ruins and native traditions. Once part of the Mayan empire, the Yucatan Peninsula includes the Mexico states of Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo, where Cancun and the Riviera Maya are located.

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Brief Mayan History

A little history about the Maya people of the region: The Maya are a Mesoamerican civilization that flourished in the Classic period (250 AD to 900 AD). The ancient Mayans were a powerful and intelligent people, making advanced contributions in architecture, written language, mathematics, and astronomy. They left a rich cultural legacy, which is evident in the archaeological sites of ancient Mayan ruins, some of which are Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba.

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Spanish & Mayan Languages

As a result of the Spanish and Mayan influence, use of their native languages naturally follows. You’ll hear Spanish everywhere (of course; it’s Mexico), although many Mexicans speak English well enough to communicate with you if you need something. A less common but customary language, Yucatec Maya – the regional Mayan language – is also used here. You’ll sometimes see Mayan words written and hear Mayan words spoken in this region too.

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Words & Phrases

Here is a variety of different Spanish and Mayan words, which you may encounter on your vacation in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, some of which may be helpful or simply just fascinating. You can even show off and use some of these Spanish words on your Cancun vacation, but we promise that you won’t have to speak Mayan!

Spanish English
Hola Hello
Buenos dias Good day
Buenas tardes Good afternoon
Buenas noches Good night
Muchas gracias Thank you very much
No gracias No thank you
¿Dónde está el baño? Where is the restroom?
¿Dónde está el autobus? Where is the bus?
¿Cuál autobús debo tomar? Which bus do I take?
¿Me regalas la cuenta por favor? May I please have the bill?
Hoy Today
Mañana Tomorrow
Ayer Yesterday
Adios / Ciao Good-bye / Bye
Hasta luego See you later
Mayan English
Áak Turtle
Ba’ax What
Behla’e’ Today
Ch’en Pool
Chi’iich’ Bird
Dyos bo’otik Thank you
Ha’ Water
Ho’oleh Yesterday
Ka’a xi’itech Good-bye
Kay Fish
Kukulkan / Kukulcan Feathered serpent, snake
Maasima’ ? Isn’t that right?
Muul Hill, pyramid
Nic te’ Flower
Nohoch Important, large
Sáamal Tomorrow
Tu’ux Where

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