What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Cancun, Mexico? Spring break, probably! The city has developed a reputation for being the Disneyland of debauchery: nearly-naked university kids fist-pumping and doing body shots off each other while clubbing into the wee hours of the morning.
For those of us who have realized that what happens in Cancun does not stay in Cancun (and will likely end up an internet meme), there is still a fun experience waiting for you in this city of the Yucatán Peninsula. Here are 6 things to do in Cancun you didn’t know you could do:
1. Freshwater Diving
The Mesoamerican Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world and you can find a piece of it off the coast of Cancun. But many divers come here for the freshwater diving in cenotes – huge caves and caverns underground. The most famous cave is Ox Bel Ha: at 134-miles in length, it’s the longest underground cave in the world.
2. Experience Mayan Culture
While many believe that the Mayans were wiped out by Spanish and American colonialism, they actually make up one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico and Guatemala. There isn’t one particular area with a Mayan community, but many of them live in Cancun and Tulum where you will even see signs posted in the Mayan language.
3. Visit an Underwater Museum
The Great Mayan Reef is one reason to put on a snorkel mask, but so are the underwater museums in Punta Nizuc and Machones reef. There are nearly 500 life-sized designed by Mexican sculptors. The MUSA is actually an eco-project: the sculptures allow for coral to grow, creating artificial reefs with the aim of increasing marine life in the region.
4. Visit Mayan Ruins in the Hotel Zone
The ancient Maya developed major cities with elaborate architecture and design spread throughout Central America. In the Cancun hotel zone alone, you can visit El Rey (a short bus ride away from theIberostar Hotel), San Miguelito (pyramid-shaped temples in the Maya Museum), and Yamil Lu’um.
5. See even more Mayan Ruins
A quick day trip to the ancient Mayan ruins are easy to do with any number of tour companies. A visit to Chichen Itza is a great place to explore, meanwhile Tulum offers ruins right on the beach. If you prefer a more relaxed area with fewer tourists, you’ll love Ek Balam or Coba. Tours out to these two ruins aren’t as common so you may have to venture out here independently.
6. Attend a festival
Cancun offers many festivals throughout the year, including the Cancun Jazz Festival and the Cancun Film Festival. For an event with more local flavour, getting to Cancun for one of the two annual equinox festivals won’t disappoint – the equinox is a sacred day to the Mayans. If you prefer something of a party, then Cinco de Mayo will be a lot of fun, while the Day of the Dead at the beginning of November will give you an insight into Mexican culture.