Cancún has an endless variety of effervescent cocktails, dreamy beach landscapes and sun-kissed tourists. But what makes this coastal town even more intriguing is the region in which it stands. Rich culture, distinctive food, Mayan origins and outstanding tropical landscapes make the area around Quintana Roo and the Yucatán Peninsula a phenomenal spot for any traveler. Hop over to these sites for another view of the tropical eastern region of Mexico.
This eco-archaeological park along the Riviera Maya is jam-packed with attractions, natural sites and heritage experiences that fully submerge travelers in the lush jungle backdrops. Nature enthusiasts can delight in bird aviaries, jungle trails and even delightful, yet intimidating, confrontations with America’s largest cat, the jaguar. With water slides, interactive animal exhibits and aquatic adventures, this park truly offers something special for any type of traveler. Spend a few days in this park and soak up the thrilling ambiance that directly contrasts the relaxed vibe on Cancún’s beaches.
Leaving behind its reputation as Cancún’s sleepy, hipster sibling, Tulum is quickly becoming a highly regarded destination in the region. Look up and down the shoreline of Tulum and there’s not a mega-resort in sight. Boutique hotels and shops line the narrow roads of Tulum, giving the entire town a quaint and cozy feel. Restaurants serve patrons delicious fare ranging from perfect al dente pasta to traditional street tacos. Though the town may go to sleep at an hour much earlier than Cancún, the hippie vibes, beachfront Mayan ruins and gorgeous jungle skyline keeps a lively profusion of tourists around for Instagram photo-ops.
Playa Del Carmen
Only an hour away from Cancún, Playa Del Carmen has become a home away from home for hordes of Europeans and Americans fleeing the cold and planting their roots along the Caribbean Sea. The beaches here are beautiful, the water is aquamarine and the opportunities for snorkeling and diving are amazing. Playa Del Carmen is quickly surpassing Cancún as travelers aim to leave behind the mega-resorts and vacation in more tranquil settings. La Quinta Avenida cannot be missed while in Playa Del Carmen. During the day the street is alive with bicyclists, the sound of flip-flops and eager pedestrians. At night, the pulse starts to rush as vacationers head to the hottest party spot.
Mérida is a colonial city located in the heart of Yucatán. Often missed by Cancún’s party crowd, Mérida is the perfect destination for any traveler who wants to see more than Top 40 DJs along the Caribbean Sea’s bustling beach bars. Downtown Mérida is concentrated with buses and smog. Pedestrians squeeze down tight avenues adorned with buildings pasted in brightly colored, chipped and tattered paint. Colonial structures stand perfectly preserved, as if presenting a true snapshot to another time. In Northern Mérida, planned communities and golf courses are frequented by the citizens of this capital city.
Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenotes are essentially natural sinkholes. Since Mexico is home to three of the longest underwater systems, it makes the Yucatán Peninsula region a haven for adventurists who want to swim, dive or play in the local cenotes. Cenote Dos Ojos offers a short jungle hike before emerging into the clear underground waters. Snorkeling on the colorful coral reefs in Cancún is something special, but this offers a whole new experience. Divers looking for exciting thrills come here to brave the cool waters and gaze at the stunning stalactite and stalagmite formations.
This cruise ship port has become the ideal destination for scuba divers, nature advocates and travelers who are simply ready to leave the ultra-touristy areas behind them. This island boasts trails for off-roading, intriguing nature parks and, of course, unbelievable spots with crystal-clear visibility for divers and snorkelers. Only a short boat ride from Cancún, this island offers everything from romantic all-inclusive resorts to opportunities to witness sea turtle hatchings. As Mexico’s largest island, there is very little that is not offered on this pristine landscape.
Yucatán and Quintana Roo are brimming with ancient Mayan archaeological sites, museums and ruins. One of the most iconic of all the ruins is Chichen Itza. Meaning “At the mouth of the well of the Itza people,” the stories and history that surrounds these protected ruins are cherished by visitors and Mayans who still reside on this land. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the largest city in the Mayan civilization and as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza has planted itself as an iconic part of any trip to this rich area.