Sunset at Piedra Escondida in Mexico's Riviera Maya

7 Awesome Cancun Ecotourism Attractions to See at TBEX

 

Tomorrow morning Mary & I leave for our appearance in the Opening Keynote Session at TBEX (a.k.a. Travel Bloggers Exchange), in Cancun, Mexico. It’ll be our first-ever travel blogging conference, but our third time visiting the Riviera Maya in the last five years.

 

I’ll admit to being both nervous and excited about it: Though I’ve attended major events such as SXSW and the Toronto Film Festival numerous times as a journalist, speaking on stage is a different story. Fortunately I’ll be getting to interview one of my personal heroes, Ecotourism pioneer Dr. Martha Honey, founder of the Center for Responsible Travel and Travelers Philanthropy, a non-profit founded to help travelers give back to community conservation and sustainable development projects.

 

None of this would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for the huge controversy over the Cancun CVB offering Swim With Dolphin Tours to visiting bloggers as part of the official TBEX Fam Tours. When the most popular blogger in the world, Nomadic Matt, suggested bloggers boycott TBEX unless they canceled the tour of the dolphinarium– which many of us eco-friendly folks think are cruel and inhumane- there was a standoff, with neither side seemingly willing to budge. Fortunately, having worked with the CVB Cancun before, we were able to work diplomatically to get the tours cancelled.

 

The irony that the all-inclusive hotel the conference is in and the location of the Opening Night Party both offer captive cetacean tours is not lost on Dr. Honey or I. But we’ve agreed that the Big Picture– getting to talk about the importance of responsible ecotourism, and of bloggers covering these types of issues in their work– allows us to educate and inform the key travel industry influence in a way that could help make a difference. I mean, just imagine if even half of the bloggers attending TBEX started writing about Sustainable Travel issues regularly?

 

So in that spirit of focusing on the positive and encouraging people to celebrate the beauty of nature and cultural conservation, we thought it’d be fun to share seven of our favorite Cancun ecotourism attractions. Check out the videos!

 

 

AKUMAL

Located 60 miles south of Cancun between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, this tiny resort community’s name means “place of the turtles” in the Mayan language. To understand how Akumal earned its moniker, hit the secluded white-sand beach at Half Moon Bay, which offers exceptional swimming with sea turtles and rays in crystal-clear waters right offshore. For a nominal fee, you can visit the privately owned Yal-ku Lagoon, where fresh water and salt water combine to create a nutrient-rich habitat for a colorful array of marine life. Protected from the ocean by limestone rocks, it’s a tranquil paradise for snorkelers.

 

 

CANCUN UNDERWATER MUSEUM

Part art exhibit, part marine conservation initiative, this innovative attraction was conceived by artist Jason deCaires Taylor as a way to allay damage caused by the 150,000 people who swim Mexico’s Mesoamerican Reef (the second-largest reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier) every year. Taylor makes lifelike statues of local people from marine-grade materials, sinks them at depths of 15 to 30 feet, and then grafts coral nubbins on them to create gorgeous artificial reef art. There are nearly 500 statues in two sections now, with plans to install thousands more in years to come. We’re looking forward to Scuba diving the Isla Mujeres section on Thursday!

 

Snorkeling in Cenotes in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Snorkeling in the World’s Longest Underground River (photo courtesy AllTourNative)

CENOTES

Cenotes are subterranean sinkholes that were considered sacred by the Mayan people, who used them for sacrificial offerings and believed them to be passageways to the afterlife. Many of the Yucatan Peninsula’s ancient civilizations were built around these natural freshwater pools, which continue to be the region’s primary source for drinking water. Cenotes such as Dos Ojos (in Tulum), Ik Kil (near Pisté) and the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza are also popular swimming spots, while cave divers are attracted to the Sac Actun river system, which stretches over a hundred miles underground.

 

Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Coba, Mexico

Mary (in Purple) at Cobá’s Nohoch Mul Pyramid

COBÁ 

Want to immerse yourself in Mayan history but avoid the crowds at Tulum and Chichen Itza? Head to this lesser-known pre-Columbian site two hours southwest of Cancun, which is estimated to have been home to 50,000 people by the seventh century. The ancient city is expansive enough to make renting bikes a good idea, and archaeologists estimate that 80 percent of it remains to be excavated. Cobá‘s highlights include two pok-ta-pok ball courts and several pyramids, the most impressive of which — Ixmoja — is the tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula, at 138 feet. Climbing its 130 steep steps is a pulse-pounding adventure that reveals stunning views.

 

Spider Monkeys in Punta Laguna, Mexico

Spider Monkeys in the Treetops at Punta Laguna

PUNTA LAGUNA NATURE RESERVE

Founded by Mayan brothers Domingo, Ignacio, and Marco Canul back in the 1950s, this community-run ecotourism attraction near Coba was declared a national protected area in 2002. Its official Mayan name, Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh (the home of the spider monkey and the puma), offers a taste of the wildlife that can be found on its 5,367 hectares, along with howler monkeys, white-tailed deer, the raccoon-like coatis, and numerous tropical bird species. Punta Laguna also has hiking trails, ziplines, rappelling, canoeing, and a small archaeological site whose ruins date back to the Late Preclassic period (300 BC-250 AD).

 

Stalactites & Stalagmites at Rio Secreto

Surrounded by Stalactites & Stalagmites at Rio Secreto

RIO SECRETO 

This nature reserve, located three miles from Playa del Carmen, is a remarkable system of caves carved out over the centuries by an underground river. Stretching about eight miles, with 15 natural outlets, it’s the longest partially flooded cave on the Yucatan Peninsula. But what makes Rio Secreto special is the fact that it’s semisunken, which means you can hike or float through most of it. The guided eco-tours are kept small, with different tours going to different sections of the caves. But if you’re afraid of the dark, beware: A highlight includes floating in a pitch-black cave, savoring the sounds of the underground.

 

 

SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS

The waters off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula were the site of the largest gathering of whale sharks ever recorded. More than 400 of them were spotted feeding on spawn from the little tunny (a type of tuna) off the coast of Isla Mujeres in 2011. There are now around 200 boats in the Cancun area licensed to lead whale shark tours. With each boat carrying two to 10 passengers at a time, that means hundreds of tourists descending on the afuera daily during peak months, from June through September. Swimming with these 35-foot, 20,000-pound mammoths is a humbling experience that ultimately provides perspective on the fragile balance between humanity and nature, and ensures you’ll become passionate about preserving these majestic creatures for the generations of travelers to come.  –Bret Love; photos & videos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, unless otherwise noted

 

RIVIERA MAYA- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery

RIVIERA MAYA Photo Gallery

RIVIERA MAYA- Exploring Rio Secreto

ISLA MUJERES- Swimming With Whale Sharks

VIDEO: Snorkeling Cenotes in Riviera Maya, Mexico 

VIDEO: Preserving Mayan Pottery 

VIDEO: Snorkeling with Stingrays in Riviera Maya

VIDEO: Swim with Sea Turtles Riviera Maya

VIDEO: Traditional Mayan Music

24 Responses to MEXICO: 7 Awesome Cancun Ecotourism Attractions to See at TBEX

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Check out our NEW Fair Trade Boutique!

Fair Trade Boutique
Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

Help Support Green Global Travel!

Each time you make a purchase on Amazon.com using the link below, we'll earn a small percentage, at no extra cost to you.


Amazon

Follow Us

As Seen In:

Destinations We’ve Covered:

• AFRICA
Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Madagascar- Ring-tailed Lemurs at Anja Reserve
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

 
• ANTARCTICA
How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
 
• ASIA
Borneo- Sabah Ecotourism Attractions
India- Ranthambhore National Park
India- Tibetan Culture In Ladakh
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
 
• AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
Australia-Maria Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities

 

• NORTH AMERICA
CANADA
Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

UNITED STATES
America’s Best Volcanoes
AL- Fishing Mobile Bay
AL- Mobile Carnival Museum
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
FL- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Lafayette Cajun Food Tour
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
LA- Voodoo Museum
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Asheville's Top Ecotourism Attractions
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
TX- Sea Turtle Rescue, South Padre Island
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

MEXICO
Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba
 
• CARIBBEAN