When you hear the word “Siberia,” what comes to mind? Frozen, barren wastelands covered in ice and snow?
Okay, let’s try another one: Cancun.
Aahh, that’s better. Now what are you thinking? Endless stretches of soft, white sand. Crystal-clear turquoise water that sparkles in the sun. Luxurious resorts and beach hotels, a comfy chair on the beach, a fruity tropical drink in your hand.
Yes, Cancun has all of that, but if your Mexican vacation plans are devoted simply to sunbathing 100 feet from the shore, you might be missing out. Break up your lazy beach days with some fascinating excursions. Here are some great ones that are easily accessible from Cancun.
This world-famous archeological site is a must-see, even if you’ll be in Cancun for just a few days. Chichen Itza was once a thriving Mayan city (from about 600 to 1200 AD) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The highlight of this Instagram-worthy trip is the massive 79-foot step pyramid of El Castillo. It’s about two hours from Cancun, and there are plenty of tours available with both guides and archeologists. Admission is about $5 (US).
Trade the beach for the jungle at Selvatica Eco-Park, about 50 minutes from Cancun. The Extreme Canopy Tour lets your race between trees through two miles of wild jungle on a 10-zipline circuit with three different types of ziplines. If that sounds blasé, you might want to choose the Upside Down Zipline. Yes, what’s upside down is YOU. Then jump on an ATV, make your way to a cenote for a refreshing swim, and choose your route back to the starting point. Give yourself at least five hours to enjoy this park.
About eight miles off the coast is Isla Mujeres, a tropical paradise if ever there was one. Beaches and the beautiful aquamarine sea are the star attractions on this island. Choose from several pristine, gorgeous beaches, considered among the best in all the Caribbean. Venture beneath the waves for snorkeling or scuba diving. Several reefs offer a breathtaking array of marine life, and the calm waters make it ideal for both the novice and experienced diver. In the summer months, you may even be able to swim with whale sharks! Back on land, you can rent a golf cart to explore the island at your leisure.
This privately owned theme park is just over an hour from Cancun. More than 50 attractions let you explore ancient Mayan culture, take a snorkeling tour, swim in underground rivers, visit both a bird and a butterfly pavilion, watch an equestrian show, cheer at a Mesoamerican ball game, and enjoy pre-Hispanic dances in an open-air theater. Xcaret (pronounced SHKA-ret) includes a spa, 11 restaurants, and many shops for those hunting for souvenirs and local handicrafts.
This ancient Mayan city located two hours south of Cancun is nothing short of spectacular. Perched on bluffs overlooking the beautiful Caribbean, Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian walled city that had its heyday 600 to 800 years ago. You can walk around freely among the ruins; it’s one of the best-preserved Mayan coastal cities, with many interesting structures. And at some point you can make your way down to the beach for a dip in the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean.