Cancun isn’t just for Spring Breakers hoping to escape Mom’s and Dad’s watchful eyes. Though high schoolers and college students descend upon Cancun for one party-hardy week each spring, the rest of the year tends to be much more mellow. But maybe you don’t know what Cancun has to offer beyond the ubiquitous souvenir t-shirt from Senor Frogs. If that’s the case, here are six things to do in Cancun this summer.
1. Swim With Whale Sharks
Whale sharks, the largest animal in the seas, spend four months of the year (May-September) off the coast of Cancun, and visitors can see them—and even swim with them—by taking an excursion with a licensed tour operator. The whale sharks are gentle giants, gliding slowly through the water as they feed. You can watch them from your tour boat or swim alongside them with a guide; this activity is recommended for travelers ages 10 and up.
2. Swim With Dolphins
If whale sharks seem too overwhelming or if you’re prone to seasickness, you can stay on land and swim with dolphins in the Cancun Interactive Aquarium’s pool. You’ll be introduced to the animals by a professional trainer, who will stay with you in the pool throughout your session. During your time with the dolphins, you’ll see how they’re trained and watch the commands they can fulfill. This option is also better for younger children, as there is no minimum age limit to participate. Before or after your swim, you can also visit the aquarium’s museum, which features touch tanks and other displays.
3. Go to the Zoo
Cancun isn’t just about marine animals; at CrocoCun Zoo, you can also have one-on-one encounters with land mammals and reptiles, including parrots, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, and more. A professional guide leads you on an hour-long tour through the well-kept, humane zoo; during the tour, you are invited to touch, hold, or feed most of the animals.
4. Explore Mayan History
2012 is a particularly important year in Mayan history, as the Mayans’ long-calendar reaches its end. Travelers with a particular interest in archaeology and indigenous history have been visiting Cancun’s and the Riviera Maya’s Mayan sites in large numbers this year; why not join them? You can take a day trip drive to the most-renowned site, Chichen Itza, which is 60 miles from Cancun proper, or you can stay closer to the city and visit El Rey, a 47-structure site in Cancun. Other sites within 60-80 miles’ driving distance include Tulum, Xcaret, Xel-Ha, and Ek-Balam.
5. Take a Day Trip to an Isla
Cancun has several islands—Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, and Isla Contoy—off its coast that are increasingly gaining the attention of visitors. Mujeres and Holbox are known for their laid-back, takin’-it-easy pace, while Contoy is a national park that invites supervised eco-tourism visits limited to 200 people per day. Ferries run from Cancun’s Puerto Morelos to the islands; though you could easily do a day trip to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy, it’s recommended that you stay at least overnight to have time to enjoy Isla Holbox, which requires a longer trip from Cancun. Once there, you can relax on the beach, snorkel, fish, or kiteboard.