Cancun is famous for its all-inclusive hotels and raucous nightlife. However, if you look beyond the obvious, there are lots of hidden spots that you can enjoy within easy reach of the city. Here are some of the best.
MUSA Underwater Museum
One of the main reasons to go to Isla Mujeres is to visit this unique underwater museum of more than 400 statues. It was designed as a spot for divers and snorkelers to visit in order to take some pressure off of the coral reef nearby.
Instead of going to Isla Mujeres like everyone else, head 30 miles north to the protected Isla Contoy. It’s known as the most important nesting site for sea birds in the Caribbean, and only 200 visitors are allowed onto the island per day.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Located a few hours drive from Cancun, this spectacular limestone sinkhole is a favourite among cave divers and snorkelers. There are two pools to explore, and divers can swim between the two via a cavern.
The Secret River is the largest non-submerged cave in the Yucatan peninsula, and you can swim through the underground river on a guided tour. There are thousands of stalactites and stalagmites, and the tour is a great introduction to the complex geography of the area.
Hacienda El Mortero
Cancun’s Hotel Zone is packed with bars and restaurants, but Hacienda El Mortero is worth a visit if you want to get a taste of old world charm without travelling too far. No one will argue that it’s the most authentic Mexican dining experience, but the restaurant does have its charm.
Grand Mambo Café
Get down with the locals at this salsa, merengue and bachata club in Cancun. Practice your steps, or just enjoy the live music that is on Wednesday through Saturday.
If you have the time, take a charter plane to Isla Holbox, which is far quicker than the four-hour drive. This island paradise is home to thousands of birds, including flamingos, and it’s largely unspoilt white sands are amazing.
While many people head to the pyramids of Chichen Itza, the ruins at Coba are quieter and more adventurous. Set in lush jungle, a trip here feels more like you’re off the beaten path than following the herd.
If you want to get out of the high-rise city of Cancun, take a cab 20 miles down the coast to the quiet fishing village of Puerto Morelos. There are great beaches, snorkelling tours, and amazing food.
Take a day trip down the coast to see the turtles at the bay of Akumal. You don’t need to go on a tour, simply take a snorkel and mask. You will be able to see turtles most days within easy reach of the shore. Remember to treat them respectfully.
The charming town of Valladolid is only a couple of hours from Cancun, and provides a window into small town life. Check out the colonial centre of town, take a dip in the cenote that is just a few blocks from the main square, and have a bite to eat before the drive back to your hotel.