Must see and do near Cancun, Mexico.

Deciding what to do in the Yucatan Peninsula is no easy task. Not only are there hundreds of resorts to choose from, but there are also many things to do and see. If you’re not an adventurous wanderer, and prefer to stay at the resort, there are normally plenty of activities offered by the hotel (even if it isn’t an all-inclusive hotel). But if you’re like me, you’ll want to get out of the hotel and explore as much as possible. Renting a car is best, if you’re looking to get around. Keep in mind that Mexico is a jungle. Everything is pretty spread out. Here are a list of things that are worth visiting when vacationing in Mayan Rivera, also known as Quintana Roo.


Whale Shark Dive: If you love the water, and want to experience something unique, then you should seriously consider diving with Whale Sharks. Just off the coast of Mexico is an island called Holbox. Holbox is world renown for their Whale Shark Dives. If you’re looking for an adventure, I recommend taking a boat ride from Cancun to Holbox for a chance to swim with these gentle giants. When I flew into Cancun from Las Vegas in May, we booked our tour with the Whale Shark Daddy. We all met at Marina Las Jaibas early in the morning to get our briefing, as well as the rules and safety of our tour. This company is very reputable, and I would highly recommend anyone to book their tours through the Whale Shark Daddy website. Because safety is their number 1 priority, everyone is mandated to wearing a safety vest. Also, since it is against the law, for any guides to lead more than 2 people in the water at one time, your captain will never allow for more than 2 people per guide. Everyone will get plenty of time swimming with the whale sharks, and the tour even includes a meal. Whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet long, and mainly feed on plankton. So you don’t have to worry about these friendly sharks swallowing you whole. This was an exhilarating experience that everyone should try this at least once in their lifetime.

Whale Shark Dive

Mayan Ruins: If you’re a history buff and love learning about ancient history, then you would love visiting all the Mayan Ruins. The most famous of them all is, of course, Chichen Itza. Only 120 miles from Cancun, this famous archaeology site is visited by over 1.2 million tourist from all over the world. The most impressive structure in Chichen Itza is the El Castillo. The El Castillo is situated in the center of Chichen Itza , and is named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. That impressive title alone is worth the visit, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the El Castillo is closed off to the public. While you can walk around the blocked off structure, you are no longer allowed to climb to the top of the pyramid since 2006. I could probably go on and on about what makes Chichen Itza so amazing, but that will left for another post. Now, if you’re looking to climb to the top of a pyramid, consider visiting Ek Balam or Coba instead. Ek Balam is only 30 minutes North of Chichen Itza. So if you’re planning on seeing Chichen Itza, I recommend taking a quick detour to Ek Balam as well. Both Ek Balam and Coba are still opened to the public for climbing. At 138 feet, the climb at Coba is a bit higher, and more impressive than the one in Ek Balam. But if you’re looking for intricate details, Ek Balam is the way to go. Because a king was buried on the side of the largest pyramid in Ek Balam, the tomb is plastered with amazing details along the side of Acropolis.

El Castillo
Chichen Itza
Ek Balam

Cenote Heaven: Your trip won’t be complete without taking a dip in a few cenotes in the Yucatan. There areĀ  literally thousands of cenotes (sinkholes) in Mexico, and some of the best ones are found near the peninsula. I’ll start with the most famous of them all: Ik Kil Cenote. You may remember this cenote from a Red Bull commercial, where base jumpers dive off a cliff into, what looks like, paradise. This cenote is only minutes from Chichen Itza. Again, if you’re already planning a day trip to Chichen Itza, plan to stop by Ik Kil Cenote as well. If you’re looking for a thrill and love to cliff jump, this is available for all levels, from baby jumps up to 20 feet. This cenote is beyond stunning, and is definitely worth a stop. Because this cenote has been highly commercialized, there are restaurants, hotels, and lockers available for your convenience. However, if you’re not a cliff diver, but an experienced scuba diver instead, we highly recommend taking your scuba gear to Gran Cenote. Near Tulum and Coba, Gran Cenote is recommend, not just for divers, but for families of all ages. With over 300 miles of interconnected underwater caves, this cenote has been featured on many documentaries. For snorkelers, you can watch divers, as they descend to the deep dark depths of the underwater caves. You will notice the diver’s light, getting dimmer and dimmer, further and further, until they have completely disappeared into the darkness. There is a little section of the cenote, where snorkelers can experience a little bit of the caving themselves. A rope tied to the end of an open cave, allows snorkelers and swimmers to hold onto as they reach the end of the cave. Be aware that bats, turtles, and fish are common here, but it is completely safe. Bonus Tip: Bring a waterproof flashlight. This will come in handy.

Ik Kil Cenote

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Gran Cenote

Beaches: If you’re a beach goer, but want to beat the crowds, stay away from Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Instead, head south to Playa Paraiso. This secluded white sand beach will remind you of a Corona commercial. With reefs right off the edge of the beach, you can hire a tour guide to get a double feature: 1.) Snorkeling and 2.) Stunning views of Tulum. I must admit, Looking at Tulum from the seaside is much more impressive than the land side. Playa Paraiso even has its own little bar and grill. where you can grab a beer and bite. If, on the other hand, you’re not looking for seclusion, but sea turtles instead, I highly recommend Akumal beach. This beach can get a little crowded, but the rewards of swimming with a sea turtle is well worth it. Although the visibility on this beach is not the greatest, you areĀ  almost guaranteed to see and swim with sea turtles. Look for the crowds of snorkelers, and you’ll know where the turtles are at. When we went, we saw about 8 sea turtles, all ranging in difference sizes. They come to the area to feed on the seagrass.

Playa Paraiso
Akumal Beach

Adventure Parks: If you’re anything like me, you’re probably always looking for a good adventure. Well, look no further. The three main parks are all located within miles from one another. Of the three parks, Xplor was by far our favorite. The ziplining alone is well worth the price of the admission ticket. There are 14 ziplines in Xplore, all of which you can go tandem, or alone. Initially, I was a bit hesitant in going ziplining in Mexico, but after watching a quick video and seeing the precautions they take to promote safety, I was at ease. Throughout the 14 ziplines, I felt extremely safe, and I felt as though each employee (at every stop) was very well trained. In addition to amazing canopy ziplines, Xplor also offers an amphibian driving tour through the swamp, jungles, and caves of Mexico. Explor has many things to offer, from rafting through an underwater cave systems to swimming through ten thousand year old stalactites, I really recommend this gem to anyone who visits Cancun.

Explor – Zipling. Photo Credit: Ashley Renee Chau
Explor: Underwater Cave

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