When you think of Cancun, you likely think about all-inclusive resorts, tequila shots and the Spring Breaks of your past. But there is more to the Yucatán Peninsula than sunburn and Senor Frogg’s! Today I’m sharing two, not necessarily hidden but perhaps underexplored, gems in this region.
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Living in cold Ohio, we typically try to plan a mid-winter getaway to recharge with a little surf and sunshine. After several years visiting Cozumel, this year we decided to check out Cancun! While we enjoy some time at the beach and/or pool, we also like to explore. Come check out two less traditional tourist sites that we really enjoyed below!
Isla Mujeres is a small island just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It’s much different from the Vegas-like feel of Cancun’s hotel zone and you can get there via a 20-minute ferry ride from several Ultramar departure points in Cancun.
When you arrive, you’ll be right in the heart of town where you can easily rent a golf cart for the day. Unless you are planning on spending all day at the beach, head south first to see the sights in that direction then stop at the beaches before returning to the ferry terminal.
- Guadalupe Chapel is a small church on your way out of town with a stunning view beyond the altar and out over the sea.
- Tortugranja or the Turtle Farm is a tiny indoor/outdoor aquarium site with the mission of safeguarding turtles and their breeding grounds.
- Parque Garrafon is a natural reef park with a variety of activities: snorkeling, kayaking, zip-lines, as well as a pool and hammocks if relaxing is more your thing!
- Punta Sur is on the southernmost point of Isla Mujeres and boasts breathtaking views of the cliffs and ocean. It was quite windy when we visited which made the crashing surf feel particularly dramatic!
- Playa Centro and Playa Norte are large beaches on the North end of the island near the ferry terminal. They’re great places to stop for a drink before turning in your golf cart and heading back to the mainland.
We stopped for a yummy and super-fresh seafood lunch at Maria’s Kin Kan on the recommendation of friends and really enjoyed it. They also have several guest rooms on-site if you are visiting Isla Mujeres for longer than just a day!
Natty Guy is an avid scuba diver and we often work in some time for a few dives when we are on trips. While the wind led to the cancellation of his reef dives out of Cancun, he was still able to have the unique experience of cenote (or cavern) diving.
Cavern dives differ from cave dives in that caves offer only one way in/out whereas caverns have two (or more) potential entry/exit points. To do independently, they require special certification as divers have no way of surfacing for hundreds of yards or more.
Diving into these interconnected networks of sinkholes is a main scuba diving attraction in the Yucatán Peninsula. They offer the unreplicated opportunity to see stunning stalagmites and stalactites highlighted by light rays breaking through from above, creating a truly magical experience.
Natty Guy shared a few of the things that make cenote diving stand out from traditional open-water diving, as well as a video of the experience at Cenote Tajma Ha with Coconut Divers!
- It can get pitch black in places! Without a dive light or guideline, you’d have no sense of up/down or where you are.
- As you are traversing through natural rock formations, it can get very tight in places. This is not for people with claustrophobia.
- The water is a mix of salt and sea and is crystal clear near the surface. Where the two types of water meet, things get a little blurry. It’s 77 degrees and requires a wetsuit!
- Dive guides must carry an extra tank of oxygen in case someone gets in trouble and is unable to surface. And divers must start their returns with more oxygen in their tanks than on a traditional open water dive.
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