Cancun, Mexico: Is It Just For Girls Gone Wild?

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For a long time I equated Cancun with Spring Break and bikinis and not much more. All I had ever heard about this popular Mexican destination included lazy days lounging at infinity pools, nights blurred by one-too-many drinks at the all-inclusive resorts, and a heavy sprinkling of debauchery thrown in the middle. But when I finally visited Cancun for myself, I quickly discovered that there was much more to the region than hard-partying spring breakers previously led me to believe.

The key to finding culture and adventure around Cancun is to get out and explore. Here’s a quick guide to get you started. And don’t worry—all of these activities will have you back at your hotel in time for a few happy hour margaritas.

 

Visit a Cenote

There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A visit to these unique bodies of water is a must, both for their alluring beauty and the insight they offer to Mayan religious beliefs.

Cenotes are natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of porous limestone, which exposes groundwater underneath. Mayans have long considered cenotes to be sacred entrances to Xibalba (the underworld); the cenotes were a medium through which Mayans could communicate with the gods, offering sacrifices in hopes of courting favor. In addition to their spiritual significance, these underground river systems are also the main source of fresh water for the Mayan people.

A tour with Xenotes Oasis Maya takes visitors through four cenotes, each vastly different from the next. I zip-lined over still waters speckled with lily pads, rappelled into cool caverns, snorkeled past ancient fossils, and kayaked through winding ravines. At the end of an adrenaline-spiked day, I had a newfound appreciation for the cultural significance of these beautiful bodies of water.

 

Snorkel With 400 Life-Size Statues

The vision of artist Jason deCaires Taylor, MUSA is both an ascetically pleasing art venture as well as an eco-conservation project. It’s a little bit odd and a little bit creepy while also being extremely innovative and creative. The Museum aims ‘to demonstrate the interaction between art and environmental science and form part of a complex reef structure for marine life’. To achieve this project, artist Taylor created life-size casts of over 400 Mexicans, depicting different aspects of everyday life. Each sculpture tells a distinctive story. Some are stories of hope and rebirth; others are a critique on society.

Putting the statues into the water was just the beginning of the project. Taylor’s contemporary art display will keep evolving, attracting new coral and marine life and continuously changing the very nature of the statues. One day I would love to return to MUSA to see for myself how the art exhibit will have changed and evolved from my first encounter with it!

 

Discover the New Maya Museum

Cancun’s Maya Museum was only recently inaugurated in 2012. Though it is located in the center of the ‘Hotel Zone’, the museum feels worlds away from the surrounding towers of concrete. The museum is divided into three parts. The first exhibition room is dedicated to the Mayan population of Quintana Roo, the state of Mexico that Cancun and the Riviera Maya are a part of. The second exhibition room explains Mayan culture on a whole, featuring Mayan architecture, art, and other artifacts that made up Mayan’s everyday life. The final exhibition room is a temporary exhibit; my visit correlated with ‘The Concept of Beauty’.

Even if you’re not a ‘museum’ person, the Maya Museum is just too convenient and enlightening to pass up. Though you can spend as much time as you want navigating the premises, I got a good feeling for the museum in under two hours. Unfortunately there is not much English signage, so a bit of Spanish comprehension will go a long way.

 

I only got a glimpse of the culture and adventure surrounding Cancun, but it was enough to convince me that this hot-spot warrants a bit more time and exploration. You will have to leave the resort if you want to experience all that Cancun has to offer, but luckily you won’t have to go far.

 

A note about safety: Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula are, for the most part, very safe. Most incidents occur when tourists are under the influence and not in control of their decisions. If drinking alcoholic beverages, always make sure to keep a watchful eye on your drink.

I was a guest of the Cancun Tourism Board. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

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About Author

Casey Siemasko is a freelance writer, blogger, and avid traveler. She finds her life inspiration by exploring new places and meeting new people, and seeks to find magic in the most ordinary of places. When she's off the computer, she enjoys practicing yoga, training for marathons and scuba diving. Somewhere in there she also found time to write an eBook, 101 Tips to Living in Taiwan. She and her husband comprise the two lovebirds and digital nomads documenting their travel musings at http://acruisingcouple.com.