So you’ve been to Chichen Itza, you’ve sipped margaritas on the beach, and you’ve snorkeled through a cenote? Not to worry—there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path things to do in Cancun to keep even the most jaded traveler entertained and surprised. From ruins so remote you’ll feel like an explorer to freshwater ecosystems home to manatees and monkeys, the Yucatan has plenty of secrets up its jungle-blanked sleeve.
Ek’ Balam: Nestled deep in the Yucatan jungle, the ancient ruins of Ek’ Balam offer you the chance to discover one of the oldest Maya cities on the peninsula. Roam the well-preserved ruins with a guide to study intriguing carvings and stepped pyramids, including one that served as the tomb and mausoleum for an ancient king. With Chichen Itza Sightseeing, your day-long adventure takes you from the ruins to the refreshing blue waters of Hubiku Cenote, the perfect place to cool down after wandering the archaeological zone in the heat. The day ends in colorful, colonial Valladolid with lunch at a local restaurant.
Sian Ka’an: A UNESCO-listed biosphere and nature preserve, Sian Ka’an’s name means “Origin of the Sky” in the Mayan language. Set out for a day to explore its marshes and mangroves, tropical forests, and coral reef, cruising along natural freshwater canals and brackish lagoons to scope out the fascinating wildlife that calls this coastal habitat home. Hundreds of birds, endangered species like spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and tapirs, plus aquatic creatures like manatees, turtles, and crocodiles all thrive in this fragile wetlands ecosystem. With EcoColors Tours, you can hike around the reserve to see the ancient temple ruins at Muril, ride a boat through turquoise waterways, and take a dip in the aptly named Cenote Azul.
Isla Holbox: Flamingos, pelicans and turtles—oh my! Just across the Yalahau Lagoon from the mainland, in the midst of the Rum Balam Nature Reserve, laidback Isla Holbox is a nature lover’s dream. Get away from it all with Kaminos Travel, whose local guides will lead you around this enchanting isle to introduce you to its endless beach, golf cart-friendly town lanes, and colorful Caribbean architecture. Swim in the cenote at Ojo de Agua, boat out to Isla Pasion to see tropical birds, and have lunch in the town’s sandy plaza.
Bacalar: The name of both an ancient city and its iconic lagoon, Bacalar is a worthy day trip for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Uncover the mysteries of the Lake of Seven Colors, a multi-hued waterway fed by the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the crystalline streams of the Yucatan’s underwater river system. Delve into pre-Columbian history as you learn about the importance of the Maya civilization at this site, hear tales of Spanish Conquistadores as you study colonial architecture in the city, and see if you can spot shimmering treasure below the surface of the water—the city was sacked by pirates in the 17th century, and rumor holds that their loot is still hidden somewhere in this Pueblo Magico. Make your way there with Out&About Tours to stop by the coastal ruins of Muyil en route, arriving in Bacalar with time for a boat ride across the lagoon to the captivating stromatolitesd, rock-like living organisms that form unusual shapes along the water’s edge.
What unique outings are on your list for your trip to Cancun?