Beyond The Beach - Daytrips In & Around Cancun
Published: Jun 28, 2010
Renowned for its gorgeous white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and year-round sunny climate, Cancun is on everyone’s radar as a beach destination. Water sports like snorkelling, scuba diving, parachuting, even riding a waverunner, abound and the hotel strip, more than 30 kilometres long, offers everything from villas and five-star hotels to exclusive resorts and spas. There are modern shopping malls, more than 500 restaurants offering the best in national and international cuisine, and numerous bars and discos where the parties rage all night long.
But there is so much more to discover, beyond the beach. Near Cancun, clients can tour the Mayan Riviera and check out Playa del Carmen, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, ancient Mayan ports that have been converted into modern-day paradises. Tulum, a fascinating archaeological zone by the sea is nearby. It was the only walled city built by the Mayans. And then there are Isla Mujeres and Cozumel offering unforgettable coral reef snorkelling and scuba diving.
Cancun is also the gateway to the fascinating Mayan world. On daytrips and excursions clients can visit interesting archaeological zones and islands and various theme parks with a wide variety of attractions like sinkholes, underground rivers, and bird sanctuaries surrounded by the region’s lush vegetation.
• Isla Mujeres: Once a refuge for shipwrecked sailors and a hideout for pirates, Isla Mujeres, 14 kilometres off Cancun’s coast, boasts white sand beaches and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Clients can shop for souvenirs downtown and enjoy local delicacies at the cafes and restaurants. On the southern part of the island, there is Parque Natural Garrafon, with snorkeling, hiking, even Tyrolean rappelling. The island also houses the ruins of an ancient temple built to pay homage to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility.
• Cozumel: Parque Nacional de Arrecifes is considered a great destination for scuba diving. The island also has ancient Mayan temples located in the island’s northern region, a sanctuary built to honour Mayan goddess Ixchel; Mesoamerican sites, including El Cedral in the Yucatan Puuc style and San Gervasio, a contemporary of Tulum and Chichen Itza; the Cozumel Island Museum, the botanical garden of Chankanaab and ecological reserve Punta Sur, where clients can see different plant and animal species that live in mangroves and lagoons.
• Playa del Carmen: 52 kilometres south of Cancun, with traditional water sports, exceptional diving and access to the ecological sites of Tulum or Coba.
• Xcaret: A popular ecological park with an underground river system, an aquarium, a dolphinarium, a butterfly pavilion, an orchid greenhouse, and a bee farm, as well as an archaeological zone and a recreation of a Mayan village. At night, there are a Mayan ball game, a dance show and traditional Mexican music.
• Akumal: Known for its white-sand beaches and clear waters. Divers explore grottoes and the Aktun Chen Ecological Park protects many species.
• Xel-Ha Park: One of the best places to snorkel, particularly in its main lagoon and in the underground rivers. In early morning, late afternoon and low season clients can swim with tropical fish. There are also Mayan ruins.
• Tulum: Its beautiful structures that overlook the sea are sure to leave a lasting impression. Built during the decline of the Mayan culture, highlights include the temple of the frescoes, the temple of the descending god and the view of the site from the south door to the shore.
• Coba: 45 kilometres northwest of Tulum in the lush tropical jungle. The site includes Nohoch Mul, the tallest Mayan pyramid as well as a spectacular panorama from the top of the pyramids. A network of stone passageways puzzles archaeologists, who have not determined its purpose.