A SMART WAY TO TRAVEL
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The Yucatan Peninsula is filled with extraordinary natural wonders, such as Mayan ruins hidden in tropical jungles, white sand beaches, clear blue seas, enchanting cenotes, underground river and cave systems, and endangered plant and animal species. Beyond the resort towns where the Maya Indians once flourished, a tropical world of hidden natural attractions and cultural sites is waiting to be explored. While many are difficult to find, these three hidden treasures of the Yucatan Peninsula are more accessible and worth a visit.
Isla Blanca Beach, Cancun
A delightful escape from the tourist zone, Isla Blanca's section of white sand beach and turquoise blue Caribbean Sea is a hidden getaway on the outskirts of Cancun city. If a natural beach without tourist shops and commercial eateries sounds appealing, then Isla Blanca is the perfect getaway. A narrow peninsula with long, white beaches bordering the big blue ocean extends between the Caribbean Sea on one side and Chakmochuk Lagoon on the other.
Although frequented on Sundays, this beach is quite remote and can only be reached by car or taxi. Since no stores or services are available except for a snack shack, bringing a picnic basket with food and drinks is recommended. Located 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) north of Cancun Centro and south of Holbox Island, Isla Blanca beach has ideal wind conditions for kiteboarding and is a favorite place to go boat fishing or fly fishing for Barracuda, Tarpon, Bonefish, Snook, and Permit.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Tulum
The Riviera Maya has many nature parks, eco parks, and nature reserves, such as Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 after being established in 1986, it is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and the largest protected coastal area in Mexico at 1.3 million acres (or 652,000 hectares). This remote jungle area consists primarily of tropical rainforests, wetlands, the Caribbean Sea, and coral reefs, which make it ideal for fly fishing, snorkeling, and nature tours.
Sian Ka'an is overflowing with biodiversity, including 1,200 plant species, 230 tree species, 345 bird species, 318 butterfly species; and puma, jaguar, manatee, crocodiles, tapir, spider and howler monkeys; hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles; and even 23 Mayan archaeological sites. Located 230 kilometers (143 miles) south of Cancun in the Mayan Zone (Zona Maya) of Tulum, Sian Ka'an is a 2-3 hour drive from Cancun along coastal Highway 307 through the Costa Maya and the jungle.
Cenote Yokdzonot, Yucatan
Thousands of cenotes (natural sinkholes or cavernous wells) exist in the Yucatan Peninsula, containing fascinating stalactites, stalagmites, and crystalline or clear blue water. Once part of underground rivers and caves whose roofs collapsed, cenotes evolved after thousands of years of geological changes in the earth and are one of four different types: (1) completely below ground, (2) partially below ground, (3) at ground level, or (4) open but below ground level. Ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, most cenotes reach depths of 5 to 15 meters (16-20 feet).
Yokdzonot Mayan village contains a cenote said to reach depths of 35 meters (115 feet) at its edges, possibly connecting to an underground network of caves and rivers, and is estimated to reach depths of 45 meters (148 feet) at its center. As a sustainable tourism project, Yokdzonot cenote and ecological park were opened by local Mayan women in 2007. Located 300 meters off of old Highway 181, Yokdzonot is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Merida, 220 kilometers (137 miles) west of Cancun, and 18 kilometers (11 miles) west of Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.
About the Author
Christina Famiglietti is a professional writer and editor and with experience in various industries. Her most recent passion is the Mexican Caribbean, where she lives and is inspired to write about her beloved Mexico — its nature, culture, travel, and tourism.