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PHOTO: A pier stretching into the turquoise waters of Cancun (Photo via Flickr/Sony Thomas)
Garnering more visitors annually than any other Mexico tourism destination, the Caribbean Sea retreat of Cancun in Quintana Roo State is lauded for its brilliant turquoise waters fringed by gorgeous beaches, inspiring beauty and engaging culture. It's also coveted for the broad range of ecosystems that beg adventure lovers to explore beyond their resort.
Luring outdoor enthusiasts to discover Quintana Roo's diversity are multiple product options that include Puerto Morelos, plus the "Treasures of the Caribbean" islands of Holbox, Isla Mujeres and Contoy.
Day 1 - Explore Your Resort
Naturally, Cancun's accommodations run the range, from boutique hotels and eco-friendly retreats to mega all-inclusive escapes with all the decadent bells and whistles. If you're into the latter, be sure to allow ample time to enjoy resort perks.
For example, Dreams Sands Cancun Resort & Spa is perched on a 650-foot stretch of pristine, white sand that demands beach strolls and water action via complimentary non-motorized sports activities.
To differentiate its all-inclusive privileges, Dreams has created Unlimited-Luxury where guests are privy to limitless gourmet à la carte dining options without reservations required, international and domestic top-shelf spirits, 24-hour room and concierge services, pool and beach wait service, daily refreshed mini-bar, daily maid service, endless daytime activities, live nightly entertainment, WiFi, and international calling to the U.S., Canada and local landlines.
Toss in one complimentary round of golf per person daily at Playa Mujeres Golf Course and it's easy to be content without leaving the "neighborhood."
Day 2 - Discover Holbox
If you're digging the beach magic but a different perspective, the fishing village of Isla Holbox is an ideal day getaway. This 26-mile long island northwest of Cancun is home to peaceful landscapes for swimming with whale sharks (between June and September), admiring exotic birds, cooling off in Yalahau Spring, feasting on a delicious lobster pizza in a local eatery and catching a beautiful sunset.
It's about a two-hour drive from Cancun or quicker by boat from Punta Sam. So wake up and take off early to maximize time for enjoying this mellow, eco-rich setting as long as possible.
Day 3 - Become One With Nature
Located near Holbox some 2.5 to 3 hours from Cancun and 15 minutes from the Port of Chiquila, the village of Solferino near the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the ecological preserve of El Corchal. While the journey is long, it's definitely worthwhile since this is considered one of the most astounding and less explored ecosystems in Mexico.
The Corchal is a unique wetland with beautiful cork trees, coastal marshes with red mangrove and seagrass, and lush jungle brimming with orchids and ferns. Visitors can explore by kayaking, walking the trails and climbing the observation tower to discover the nuances and forms of the Mayan jungle and its inhabitants.
This ecosystem is also home to several species including badgers, deer, foxes, pigs, pacas, raccoons, turtles, pit vipers, boas, plus an abundance of migratory and endemic songbirds.
Before departing Solferino, take time for a tour of the Orchid Farm and admire the Ceiba, the legendary sacred tree of the Mayas that is more than 100 years old.
Day 4 - Escape To Contoy Island
Located roughly one hour from the coast of Cancun where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico, Contoy Island is considered the most important nesting place of sea birds in all of the Mexican Caribbean. Void of human population, it has been protected by the Mexican government since 1961, and was declared a National Park in 1998.
Boat tours depart Isla Mujeres or Cancun, with the trip taking one to two hours, depending on conditions. Only a few tour operators have permission to bring guests to the island. And only 200 visitors are allowed daily so as to cause minimal disturbance to the wildlife. So when you visit, you'll experience true tranquility and nature at its finest - all free of crowds.
The nature reserve's diversions include snorkeling amid some 230 species of fish, swimming in the pristine waters off Contoy Beach, and spotting more than 150 species of migrating and resident birds, iguanas and brightly colored lizards. It's also a nesting site for sea turtles.
Day 5 - See The Cenotes
A great option is to follow the Route of the Cenotes that rolls out beginning near Puerto Morelos. These natural pools fed by underground currents are only found in the Yucatan Peninsula. One of the best known cenotes is located in Boca del Puma, a natural park that also engages with ziplining, horseback riding and driving 4x4 motorcycles.
Measuring 131 feet in diameter and 165 feet deep, Kin Ha is an underground cenote with crystal clear waters for swimming and diving. Other cenotes along the route are Las Mojarras, Siete Bocas, Verde Lucero and La Noria. Those interested in swimming in the cenotes should be able to visit five in a day. If wanting to take part in other adventure activities, count on visiting one or two.
"Closing out a successful year, we are very confidant about 2017 and the continued growth of the destination," says Lizzie Cole, CEO of the Cancun CVB. "With the rise in flights from the U.S. and Canada, it will be easier than ever for tourists to visit Cancun and take advantage of the new hotels, and top-notch activities and events that are scheduled for 2017."
Cancun resort fans have much to look forward to, with several new properties adding inventory during the next two years. Among these are Hotel Punta del Mar (2017), an integrated hotel at Cancun International Airport (2017), Hotel Ushuaia Cancun (end of 2017) and Riu Costa Mujeres (2018). Kukulcan Plaza (shopping center), Beach Club Me by Melia and Temptation Resort & Spa Cancun are slated for upgrades, with the adult-centric latter reopening during fall 2017.
Dawna L. Robertson is an award-winning freelance writer who has dived into a diverse pool of topics ranging from farm-to-table...
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