Mexico; the home of tequila, tacos, nachos, Coronas and those little annoying yappy bitey dogs, but also the home of some of the best holiday destinations this earth has to provide.
It may not come up as your first choice when it comes to choosing a relaxing holiday destination, as travelling to Mexico can sometimes come with risks. In recent months there have been a number of Australian tourists go missing in central and southern American countries, Zika virus being a health risk, and drug-related violence and crime however if you are aware and cautious in terms of where you go and what you do, then there shouldn’t be any problems. Crime rates are higher near borders and inland areas, but in the tourist hot spots, there are many great cities on the safe travel list that include places like Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, and Yucatan.
If you’re looking to stay close to the safe travel cities, but want to see some things that are a little off the beaten track, unadvertised on the standard holiday flyers then the below places are where you need to be visiting.
SWIM WITH THE WHALE SHARKS IN ISLA MUJERES
Isla Mujeres is a beautiful, peaceful paradise just across the Bahia de Mujeres (Bay of Women) from Cancun Mexico. Isla Mujeres is more laid-back and tranquil than Cancun, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do, it just means you can do nothing at all or fill your day with water sports, shopping, exploring and drinking in that special atmosphere that is Isla Mujeres.
Known for its beautiful white sand beaches, calm crystal clear turquoise waters and the friendliest locals in the Mexican Caribbean, Isla’s diversity, from the fisherman, artists and musicians to divers, chefs and ex-pats, make up a community unlike any other. With the beauty of the Caribbean, the heritage of the Mayans, and the easy going charm of the people, Isla Mujeres has become a haven for people from all over the world.
During the summer months (June – September) hundreds of Whale Sharks gather just north of Isla Mujeres in a seven mile radius to take advantage of the plankton rich waters created by the joining of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. A quick, but breathtakingly beautiful, one hour boat ride from the docks on Isla Mujeres will put you right within the territory where you can search out and swim within an arm’s reach of the Whale Sharks.
You’re going to love Playa del Carmen… everyone does. It’s a beautiful, quiet vacation paradise 45 minutes up the coast from the crowded and overgrown Cancun Mexico.
DUNE BUGGY THROUGH THE MAYAN JUNGLE
Playa Del Carmen is known mainly for white sand beaches, turquoise waters and a laid back vibe. Not too long ago it was a small fishing village, but it has now become the #1 destination in Mexico. There are plenty of tourists here, but there’s a load of off the beaten track adventures to be had in the surrounding areas.
In one of these adventures, you get to drive your own dune buggy through the streets of Playa del Carmen towards the entrance, and into the paths of the Mayan Jungle. Delve into the Mexican country-side, surrounded by lush jungle and Mayan villages, stop for a swim in a gorgeous fresh water private cenote and explore a part of an underground river. You will also visit a typical village where you will be able to see what life is like for many Mayan families.
The area is also famous for snorkelling and scuba diving, where you can also swim with whale sharks, sea turtles, manta rays and tropical fish. Cenotes, natural caves and sinkholes are one of the wonders of the Riviera Maya. A closed cenote will allow you to marvel at the stalactite and stalagmite rock formations, snorkel and swim in the waters. The open cenotes crystal clear waters are ideal for swimming, lounging and relaxing in the inner tubes. There is also one dry cenote to explore.
SNOWBOARD AT MONTERREAL
Yes…that’s right, snowboard in Mexico. You might not think it possible to snow in a country located on the equator, but about 90 minutes from the city of Monterrey(in Mexico’s Coahuila state), lays a small ski resort that has good conditions with natural snow falling regularly in the middle of winter (December and January).
It is a modest destination by world standards, however, the onsite cabins and the amazing views of the surrounding Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains, known for their scenic pine and oak forests make Monterreal a good option for people seeking a mountain adventure that isn’t limited to skiing.
VISIT THE CAVE OF CRYSTALS “GIANT CRYSTAL CAVE” AT NAICA, MEXICO (Cueva de los Cristales)
The Naica Mine of the Mexican state of Chihuahua is a working lead, zinc and silver mine but is best known for its extraordinary selenite crystals. Caverns discovered during mining operations contain crystals of selenite (gypsum) as large as 1.2 m in diameter and 15 m long.
Naica lies on an ancient fault and there is an underground magma chamber below the cave. The magma heated the ground water and it became saturated with minerals, including large quantities of gypsum. The hollow space of the cave was filled with this mineral-rich hot water and remained filled for about 500,000 years. This perfectly stable space created these monsters of beauty, and if you want to visit them, you can only book through local tour guides. It’s almost impossible to find tours online to visit the mines. March and April are great months for a trip to the crystal caves.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN MAYAN RUINS ON THE YUCUTAN PENINSULA
No matter who you are, or where you come from, visiting the Mayan Ruins in Mexico will take your breath away.
There are hundreds of Mayan ruins throughout Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala, but the Yucatan Peninsula (where Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are) have some of the most impressive ruins you will ever witness.
If you are staying in the Tulum area, visiting the Tulum ruins will be easily done by taxi or even by bicycle. If you do want to combine the Tulum ruins with other activities and make a day of it, you do have a few choices. The Tulum ruins are the only ones built by the sea, so wear your swimsuit and head down to the beach afterwards.
Coba is about a 30 minute ride north-west of Tulum and about 1.5 hours from Playa del Carmen and well worth the visit. Unlike most archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, Coba is in the middle of the jungle and a totally different experience, and you can climb the main pyramid, Nohoch Mul, the highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Chichen Itza is best known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The round trip is about 6 hours from Playa Del Carmen but well worth it for this incredible site.
A lesser known (but equally breathtaking) site of ruins not far from Chichen Itza is a temple that you can climb called Ek Balam. The wall paintings in the Acropolis building are phenomenal. Only the centre of this site has been excavated so far, so new discoveries are still being made.
DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY AT COCO BONGO CANCUN & PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Coco Bongo is not really a well-kept secret, but as far as entertainment goes, we just couldn’t leave this place out, because, well, it’s an adventure in itself. It is more than just your average nightclub – it is a Las Vegas style show in a disco-like environment. It showcases ultimate aspects of audio and visual elements, that incorporates giant screens, the latest music as well as the favourites from the 60’s, 70’s and more.
The club is centrally located in Playa del Carmen and has capacity of 1800 party goers. In this experience, you will encounter flying acrobats, congo dancers, Beetlejuice, Spiderman and acts including music from The Beatles, Beyonce, Madonna, Guns N Roses, Phantom of the Opera and more. Confetti bubbles and balloons also add to the incredible ambiance. You really have to see it to believe it. Oh, and it’s owned by Jim Carey.