If you enjoy Cancun’s white sand beaches, gorgeous Caribbean snorkelling and intriguing ancient history but want to avoid the huge hard-partying crowd, keep heading south or west on the peninsula. Patronizing the region’s smaller towns with their local inns, tour operations and regional events is a great way to support cultural tourism.
Why Now: This area was battered by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Dean in 2007 but has since bounced back. When word gets out it’s business as usual, the lovely area will be more popular than ever.
Don’t Miss: The ruined cities of the Mayan, Toltec and Itzan cultures. While Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba might be the best known of the ruined cities, there is no lack of other sites to explore. Biosfera Sian Ka’an contains Mayan temples (as well as howler monkeys, ocelots and tapirs) while the semi-wild Dzibanche and pretty Kohulnich ruins are large enough to let you explore on your own.
Be Sure to Try: Snorkelling or diving in a cenote. For a good introduction to the underground cave system stop by Hidden Worlds or Cenote Dos Ojos for a guided snorkelling tour of their well-protected caves. If you want to skip the tour, and have your own gear, and are familiar with cave diving and snorkelling, several other limestone cenotes are found throughout the region-look for signs to places like Gran Cenote or Cristalino Cenote.
Keep an Eye Out for: Regional Festivals. From national holidays to religious festivals and local fiestas, there’s almost always a party happening somewhere in Mexico.
Check the calendar before your visit to see if it matches up with any of the major celebrations: Independence Day (September 16), Day of the Dead (November 2), Carnaval (late February or early March), Semana Santa (Easter), or regional events including the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival (November) and the Festival de Trova (March).
The Mazatlan Post