Adventure travelers can get up close and personal with crocodiles at Crococun Zoo. // © 2014 Crococun Zoo
Cancun has long been known as a party-oriented vacation destination. Over the last decade, however, tastes have clearly shifted, and today’s travelers are looking for more than a chaise lounge by the pool and a pastel colored drink sporting a paper umbrella — they are looking to connect with the destination and experience its local culture, cuisine and attractions. As Cancun prepares to host between 44,000 and 50,000 visitors this spring season, the destination is expanding its adventure offerings in the hopes of attracting new traveler demographics.
One of Cancun’s newest attractions is Xoximilco Cancun, which contains nearly five miles of canals cutting through 140 acres of jungle. Xoximilco hosts evening fiesta cruises through the canals, onboard boats called “trajineras” that are poled through the water by boatmen. Live mariachi music and local cuisine create an authentic Mexican atmosphere. Xoximilco Cancun operates from 6 p.m. through 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Families will enjoy Crococun Zoo, which — unlike most zoos — allows visitors to actually interact with coatis, spider monkeys, snakes, deer and crocodiles. In some cases kids can actually feed or hold the animals. About 20 miles away from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, the property is a great day excursion, and children under age 5 get in for free.
Cancun Underwater Museum
The Cancun Underwater Museum is an exciting addition to area’s attractions. The museum showcases more than 500 sculptures underwater off the coast of Cancun. The sculptures were designed by Jason de Caires Taylor, the artist behind Grenada’s world-famous underwater sculpture gallery. Visitors can dive, snorkel or take a glass-bottom boat to view the artwork. It is a moving experience, especially considering that the statues are designed to morph into a complex reef structure to provide protection for marine life.
Isla Mujeres is a small island off the Cancun coast that is only a 20-minute ferry ride away. Once on the island, most visitors get around by foot, scooter or bike. Isla Mujeres’ must-see attraction is Garrafon Natural Reef Park, where travelers can snorkel, zipline and kayak. The island makes for a great day trip option that adds a Caribbean island vibe to a Cancun vacation.
South of Cancun, soft adventure travelers will enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the underground rivers at Xcaret. The underground rivers are part of a large cave system that forms deep under the surface of the Yucatan peninsula. Guests can float along with a life vest or snorkel to view unique rock formations and marine fossils. This is an ultra-soft adventure — you don’t have to be a daredevil or spelunker to participate.
Xenotes Oasis Maya
The Xenotes Oasis Maya Tour takes participants to four different kinds of cenotes, where guests can kayak or go zip lining, tubing, rappelling and snorkeling. Tour guides who are experts in the history and legends of the region provide background information during the adventure.
Cancun has strengthened its ties to Mayan culture and heritage since the flurry of interest in the apocalyptic Mayan Calendar of 2012. History buffs can delve into the mysteries of the Maya by visiting the relatively new Mayan Museum of Cancun, which houses more than 350 archeological artifacts. Next to the museum is the recently opened San Miguelito archeological site, where visitors can walk among the trees and ruins. This location was inhabited more than 800 years ago until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors