Cancun has long been known for beaches and a lively party scene. Now, the destination is also becoming known for unique eco adventures. Both the government and area businesses are committed to nurturing a sustainable tourism sector, by offering a variety of responsible tourism experiences that allow visitors to give back to the community and the environment while having a fantastic time on vacation. Here are five of the most popular.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Don’t let the word “shark” scare you off. The biggest fish in the sea only eats really tiny things like plankton. And when these oversized filter feeders show up in the nutrient-rich ocean waters near Cancun each summer, they provide a unique opportunity for humans to don mask and snorkel and swim alongside. The swim season lasts from mid-May to September, and several operators in Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox offer excursions.
The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art is the world’s largest underwater sculpture garden. Created by renowned artist Jason deCaires Taylor, the exhibit sits in calm, clear water near Isla Mujers, and can be visited by scuba or seen from the surface with mask and snorkel. There are currently more than 500 individual pieces in the collection, and new statues are constantly being designed and submerged every year, adding to a collection of underwater galleries of more than 500 statues.
A Visit to Xibalba
The jungles around Cancun hide hundreds of pools of sparkling fresh water, which flow up from underground rivers. The ancient Mayans considered these to be sacred portals to the underworld of Xibalba. Visitors can experience these mystical waters on the Ruta de los Cenotes, a trail featuring eight subterranean freshwater pools that connect with each other through underground streams. These natural subterranean sinkholes are ideal for diving, snorkeling and swimming.
See Sea Turtles
Between May and November, hundreds of sea turtles make their way to Cancun to build nests in the soft sand and lay thousands of eggs. Most hotels participate in turtle egg preservation programs that give the species the best chance to survive and make it out to sea. Beach patrols build nest barriers to keep the eggs safe from predators, and hotels offer guests the chance to help release the baby turtles back out to sea once hatched—a memorable activity for kids and families.
What a Croc
The native creatures of the Cancun area are alive and well at the Crococun Zoo. Don’t let the name fool you; this place isn’t about viewing caged animals. This crocodile farm is part of a broader program that protects the conservation of local species. It’s not advised to pet the crocodiles, but guests can interact with a wide variety of native species from butterflies, to monkeys, parrots, snakes, wild cats, deer, and the Mexican hairless dog known as a Xolo.