Welcome to Cancun! Most tourists are interested in spending their time in Cancun beach side with their toes in clear blue waters, margarita in hand. All that’s well and good — why not rejuvenate? But Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula proffers a wealth of things to do for even the most intrepid of explorers.
There’s no better place to get riotously drunk than at one of Cancun’s delightfully seedy nightclubs, no better place to build a mile-high bonfire than on its pristine white beaches, no better place to sip a corona than in a hammock under the shade of a towering palm. There’s a whole lot of coast to discover.
Snorkeling at the underwater museum
Diving is death knell for already deteriorating coral reefs — Jason deCaires Taylor striking sculptures were constructed to draw divers away. There are over 500 permanent monuments, each of them made of pH-neutral marine concrete in order to foster coral, seaweed and algae and aid in the preservation and restoration of the reefs themselves. Whilst only snorkeling is allowed at the 4m-deep artificial reef at Cancún’s Punta Nizuc gallery, the deeper Isla Mujeres’ gallery is the a great option for first-time divers looking to get up close and personal with the artificial reefs. The museum’s open to everyone all year round, but you’ll need to make the trip using a private diving contractor, because it’s a protected area.
Spy on the wildlife at Isla Contoy
Marvelous Isla Contoy is every ecotourist’s dream come true. A breezy 30 KM from Isla Mujeres lies pocket-sized Isla Contoy, a federally protected national park and sanctuary that’s home to more than 170 species of birds, like the frigate bird, brown pelican, and double-crested cormorant. It’s also a great place to spot elusive white herons, and the iconic red flamingo! Four sorts of turtles nest safely away from the relative hubbub of the rest of the peninsula on the island’s white beaches, each of them endangered: the loggerhead, green, Hawksbill, and the leather back turtle. Only 200 visitors are permitted access every day, so be sure to plan ahead in order to avoid missing out. And remember to pack binoculars, insect repellent and lots of sunscreen.
Go Cenote swimming
When the overwhelming flashiness of Cancun’s beaches become overwhelming, escape to the turquoise tranquility for its hidden, underworld Cenotes. A Cenote, meaning sacred well, is a natural swimming hole resulting from the collapse of porous limestone bedrock to reveal the water underneath. They were venerated by the Mayans, who used them to communicate with the gods and built settlements around them. It isn’t hard to understand why: taking a dip into one of these crystalline pools feels a lot like traversing the fragile border between worlds.