Cancun may still conjure images of late-night parties, but there’s much more to the Mexican beach destination than spring break and frozen margaritas. Here’s how to get off-the-beaten path in Cancun.
Located two hours west of Cancun, the town of Valladolid boasts historic architecture and a colonial center that’s dominated by San Servacio church. Plus, just a few blocks from the main square, you’ll find the Zaci cenote, perfect for a refreshing dip.
In addition to its white-sand beaches and palm trees, Isla Contoy is home to sea turtles and more than 150 migrating and resident bird species, including frigates, brown pelicans, and double-crested cormorants. There’s a cap on the number of visitors allowed on the island per day, so arrange a tour from Cancun ahead of time and be sure to bring biodegradable sunscreen.
El Rey Ruins
As the most popular Mayan site near Cancun, Chichen Itza is also the most crowded. To avoid the crowds, head to El Rey instead; the archaeological site is home to a small temple and ceremonial platforms. Plus, it’s conveniently located in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
Garrafon Natural Reef Park
Located 25 minutes away by boat, the family-friendly Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers snorkeling in a coral reef, kayaking, and ziplining. Alternatively, relax in a hammock with a fruity cocktail.
Some travelers consider Isla Holbox to be Cancun’s best-kept secret, thanks to its lack of cars and paved roads. The quiet spot, located northwest of Cancun, boasts pink flamingos, pelicans, manta rays, and whale sharks, which make it a prime destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Mayan Museum of Cancun
In addition to visiting local archaeological sites, delve deeper into ancient Mayan civilization at this museum in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Inside, permanent and temporary exhibits explore Mayan culture within Quintana Roo, as well as its reach through the rest of Mexico and Central America. Plus, there’s the archaeological site of San Miguelito on the museum’s grounds.