4 Things to See and Do in the Yucatán | Activities Close to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen

The Yucatán peninsula is known for lush resorts and crystal clear waters. Once you’re done with lounging beachside make a plan to venture and see some of the cultural and geographic attractions of southern Mexico.

Planning a trip soon? Take time to see some of the highlights that are within just a few hours of Cancun!

1. Cenotes:

Cenotes are sinkholes where crystal clear fresh water has surfaced. These freshwater swimming holes can be open air, or comprised of a series of caves only accessible through small openings. Some are deep and require one to jump in, others have stairs and railings to assist with entrance and exit.

There are several ways to get to see cenotes. One of the most comfortable ways to see the cenotes is to hire a snorkeling tour, where life vests, snorkels and flashlights are provided during a guided tour. ($50-$100usd per person)

It is also possible to rent a car and drive to see cenotes, since there are many around or close to Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Valladolid.

Many dive operators also offer scuba diving packages to explore the cenotes from below, a once in a lifetime opportunity and great photographic experience.

Whichever you choose, the natural formations inside of the cenotes and cool waters have magical properties, and are not to be missed.

2. Tulum:

Tulum is a walled-city that served as the Mayan port for Coba, built somewhere in the 13th-15th century. Now a highly-visited archaeological site, the well-preserved ruins at Tulum give a peek at the civilization that inhabited the area centuries ago.

It is possible to drive to Tulum, and it is also possible to take a tour in a group with a tour guide who will give you archaeological facts. (Price may vary) Either way you choose, Tulum is unique in that it is built on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean waters. Pack plenty of water and a hat for shade. There is a small beach on the base of the cliffs, however my advise is to skip the beach and swim in a cenote after.

3. Holbox:

Holbox (pronounced Holl-Bosh) is a small Maya island north of the Yucatán peninsula. Home to birds such as flamingos and toucans, and marine life such as sea turtles and whale sharks, this quiet and quaint island offers both tranquility and relaxation.

During the season, there are daily ( early morning 7am) tours to snorkel with the whale sharks. If you arrive later to the island, you can charter a boat (around $20-$30usd per person) to take you to the various uninhabited and protected islands around, which are only accessible by boat. While the water is crystal clear, it is not the Caribbean blue of the waters around Cancun or Cozumel.

We accessed the island by taking the bus from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid and then the water ferry to Holbox.

4. Chichen Itza:

Another must-see Mayan archaeological site is Chichén Itzá, often recognized for the large pyramid temple (pictured below). Chichén Itzá gives a glimpse into the lives and values of the Maya. Along the grounds you will find a mix of religious temples, reliefs and carvings, and remnants of the daily lives that the Maya led – including a large sporting arena.

Chichén Itzá is accessible both by tour and by car, there is a small fee you pay at the entrance to see the site. If you are not on a tour that is limited in time, take you time to walk the entire grounds where you will find ruins tucked away along the tree-lined paths.

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