An afternoon relaxing by the beach is fun … but doesn’t leave you with many tales to tell. Don’t get me wrong, I love soaking up rays while being served tropical drinks poolside as much as the next traveler, but there’s something about coming back home with a handful of heart-pounding adventures that really makes a vacation unforgettable. One place to find such excitement? Cancun, of course!
Traveling to Cancun to attend a friend’s wedding, I saw the perfect opportunity to not only experience the all-inclusive lifestyle amid fabulous luxury at the Secrets The Vine Cancun Resort, but also to appease my love for adventure. Hoping to return from your Cancun vacation with more than just a great tan? Adrenaline junkies rejoice, there are plenty of ways to take a walk on the wild side—while still enjoying the perks of a luxe hotel—in this Mexican paradise. Here are a few ideas to ensure you’ll come back with enough great stories to make even the most well-traveled of your friends a bit envious:
Take a Speedboat Tour
Have the need for speed? Me too. Which is why I couldn’t resist driving a speedboat through the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean on a Jungle Speedboat and Snorkeling tour. This was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life, zipping and zooming through the ocean as our guide led the way through native mangroves on about a 30-minute drive, ending at a beautiful snorkeling spot to cool off and enjoy the area’s colorful fish, coral formations and exotic marine life. And then it’s back to the boat for another 30-minute adventure to shore! Just remember, when you return to the resort and see your friends hanging out by the pool (again), try not to brag TOO much about your adventures at sea.
Hang Out With Sea Turtles
There are few things more majestic than the peaceful sea turtle. And in Cancun, you might have the opportunity to spot your fair share! Stay on the lookout for them during a scuba diving or snorkeling excursion, especially during the mating season of May, June and July, when they’re frequently found around the South Point of the nearby island of Isla Mujeres.
Also during May, and through October, you may get lucky enough to watch as female turtles come ashore at dusk to lay their eggs in the sand on beaches, many times right outside your resort during nesting season! Crowds of resort-stayers will gather to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder, but be respectful of her space—too close and she may become frightened and head back to sea. Once her eggs are laid, conservation specialists will relocate them to keep them safe during their pre-hatching state (about 50-60 days). Many hotels allow visitors to take part in the release of the turtles in the fall, or you can visit the Tortugranja Zoo & Aquarium just a short ferry ride away on Isla Mujeres for an up-close-and-personal experience with sea turtles big and small.
Explore an Island
Speaking of Isla Mujeres, another way to get your kicks in Cancun is to hop on over to this 4.3 mile island of beauty—just about 8 miles (or a 30-minute ferry boat ride) from Quintana Roo. Once you arrive, you’ll be surprised to find how busy the small island is, but don’t be discouraged, you’ll still find that island vibe you’re looking for.
Whether you stay for just a day trip, or plan to extend your experience for a few days, a golf cart rental is a must to fully take in everything Isla Mujeres has to offer. I decided on an all-inclusive 3-night stay at the Privilege Aluxes hotel, which felt like the perfect amount of time to fit in the activities I had planned for, while still taking a moment to “live like a local” by kicking back on the beach and simply enjoying my surroundings.
Swim with Sharks
Yes, I said sharks. But these aren’t great whites, but rather the much more tame whale sharks that thankfully prefer to chow down on plankton than humans. (Whew!) Having swum alongside nurse sharks during a trip to Ambergris Caye, Belize, I thought I was an old-pro at this whole thing. That is, until I found out that whale sharks are the largest, I repeat, LARGEST fish in the sea, reaching lengths of 40 feet or more and up to 47,000 pounds! Never one to back down from a challenge, I of course booked a tour, grabbed my snorkel gear and pushed any fears I had aside.
After about a 45-minute boat ride from Isla Mujeres to reach the joining point of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, where these creaturs gather during the months of June – September, we could spot handfuls of them from our boat! It was an unforgettable experience to get out into the ocean and swim alongside these enormous sea-dwellers, and something I would recommend everyone add to their bucket list. Come late July, and you might even have the chance to participate in the Whale Shark Festival!
Uncover Mayan Ruins
Sometimes the most exhilarating adventures are ones that give you a glimpse into the past. Which is why a visit to Mexico isn’t complete without at least exploring one of these ancient grounds built by the Mayans. Even if you aren’t a history buff, the scenery alone is enough reason to take your golf cart down to the Ixchel Temple at the southern-most point of Isla Mujeres called Punta Sur. Park and plan to stay awhile, as you discover walkways that lead down to the most crystal-clear turquoise water you’ve even seen. Keep your camera ready, because this is the type of view you have to see to believe—though you’ll want to look back on those photos to reminisce about it (and to share its awe-inspiring beauty with your friends!)
If you have time for a full-day tour, check out the infamous ruins of Tulum and Xel-Ha Park. It includes a guided archaeological tour of Tulum, which is one of the last cities constructed by the Mayans, along with the chance to snorkel at the picturesque Xel-Ha Park, where you’ll find more than 90 marine species, hundreds of species of plants and trees and more than 100 species of birds. Looking for something a little more daring? Book the Tulum Xtreme Tour, where you’ll have the chance to not only explore the ruins, but also to soar over the jungle on a zip line, rappel down into a cenote (a natural water hole believed to have been used the ancient Maya people for sacrificial offerings to their gods), and swim among the stalactites and stalagmites found in the underground river. How’s that for an adventure?
Witness a Sunset in Playa Norte
It might not sound like much of an adrenaline rush to watch the sun set, but this isn’t just any ordinary sunset. After a day of exploration, head to the north end of Isla Mujeres to witness the sky transform into a kaleidoscope of oranges, reds, yellow and blues. Snap a picture, then put phones and cameras away, so you can sink into the white sand beach and simply enjoy the view.
Where have you found adventure in Cancun and Isla Mujeres? Share your favorites with us!
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