Cancún has an endless variety of cocktails, beaches and sun-kissed tourists. But there’s plenty on offer outside the city – the Mayan ruins and tropical landscapes make Quintana Roo and the Yucatán Peninsula a phenomenal spot. Hop over to these sights for another view of this eastern region of Mexico.
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Leaving behind a reputation as the sleepy, hipster sibling of Cancún, Tulum is a highly regarded destination in the region. Boutique hotels and shops line the narrow roads here, giving the town a quaint and cozy feel. Restaurants serve patrons delicious fare, including traditional street tacos. And though the town may go to sleep earlier than Cancún, the hippie vibes, beachfront Mayan ruins and jungle skyline keeps a lively profusion of tourists around for Instagram photo ops.
Only an hour from Cancún, Playa del Carmen has become a home from home for hordes of Europeans and Americans fleeing the cold to be beside the Caribbean Sea. The beaches here are beautiful, the water is aquamarine and the opportunities for snorkeling and diving are amazing. Many travelers bypass the mega-resorts of Cancún to relax here in more tranquil settings and to shop on La Quinta Avenida. During the day the street is alive with cyclists, eager pedestrians and the sound of flip-flops. At night, the pulse starts as vacationers head to the hottest party spots.
Mérida, a colonial city in the heart of the Yucatán that’s often missed by the Cancún party crowd, is the perfect destination if you want to experience more than DJs in beach bars. In downtown Mérida, pedestrians squeeze down tight avenues, passing buildings with colored, chipped and tattered paint. Colonial structures stand perfectly preserved, presenting a true snapshot of another time. In northern Mérida, you’ll find planned communities and golf courses.
This popular cruise-ship stop has become the ideal destination for scuba divers, nature advocates and you, if you’re happy to leave the ultra-touristy areas behind. This island has trails for off-roading, intriguing nature parks and, of course, clear visibility for divers and snorkelers. Only a short boat ride from Cancún, it offers everything in the way of accommodation from romantic all-inclusive resorts to opportunities to witness sea turtle hatchings.