Take Your Pick
Campechen, Mexico
Kayak with Manatees
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve - The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve boasts the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, holding over 1.3 million acres. This mostly undeveloped land can be used by visitors for bird watching, kayaking, fly fishing, swimming, hiking and sightseeing. There are over 300 bird species, over 100 mammal species (including manatees), Maya archeological sites, cenotes, and much more. The reserve has a tranquil and relaxing feel to it, and is a great escape from the tourist clogged attractions. It is located just south of Tulum, past a hippie encampment that looks kind of fun.
Cancun, Mexico
Snorkel MUSA
MUSA - MUSA is the Museo Subacuatico de Arte (underwater art museum) located in the clear blue waters between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. The artificial reef/art installation was created in 2009 as a way to attract tourists away from the heavily visited Cancun Marine Park located nearby. MUSA is a collection of over 400 life-sized sculptures on the ocean floor depicting everyday activities including a fellow watching TV and a girl curled up on a Volkswagen Beetle. There are snorkeling and scuba tours available through AquaWorld - a place where you can also rent jet skis, go parasailing, charter a fishing boat and do almost any water activity you can think of.
Cancun, Mexico
El Rey (Iguana Farm)
El Rey - El Rey, Spanish for "The King", is an ancient Maya archeological site located right in the Hotel Zone of Cancun. Constructed between 1300 and 1550 AD, this ancient city served as a trading post and fishing village. Visitors will not find enormous pyramids at El Rey, but instead they will find several dozen smaller structures crawling with hundreds of iguanas. To be honest, this is as much an iguana sanctuary as it is an archeological site. Bring the kids and a bag of fruit and you will all be entertained for hours.
Cancun, Mexico
Party Like a Rock Star
Clubs and Nightlife - Cancun is consistently ranked the number one Spring Break destination for party animal college students. Here they find inexpensive hotel rooms, cheap booze, fabulous beaches, party till dawn clubs and well tolerated debauchery. The super night clubs, such as Coco Bongo, Dady O and Dady Rock fill with thousands of thirsty students who are well entertained with wet t-shirt contests and circus performances. The smaller venues like Senor Frogs, Carlos and Charlie's, and the Lucky Monkey are also a fun time, but don't stay open quite as late.
Cancun, Mexico
Wet and Wild
Wet and Wild - If the kiddos are along with you in Cancun, one of the best places to take them where you don't have to hear the words "I'm bored" is Wet and Wild. The 18 acre water park features thrill rides like the Kamikaze, Twister and Double Space Bowl (picture a giant toilet bowl that you shoot through at 30 mph). For the more timid, take an inner tube ride down the quarter mile long Lazy River or a dip in the 8 foot wave pool. Wet and Wild is also home to Dolphinaris Dolphin Swims, where you can swim with the dolphins.
Cancun, Mexico
Beach in the Hotel Zone
Beaches and Hotel Zone - When you come to Cancun there is only one area where you should stay, the 15 mile long beach filled with high rises, restaurants, tourist attractions and shopping, known as the Hotel Zone. Nearly every hotel is located ocean-front, with a white sand beach that merges with the powder-blue Caribbean. There is almost no need to ever leave your hotel, but you will want to. With snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, jet skiing, water skiing, parasailing, dinner cruises, and shopping all nearby, you won't be able to help yourself. The best area, in this monkey's opinion, is near the elbow of the isthmus on the north end.
Coba, Mexico
Tallest Pyramid in the Yucatan
Coba - The Maya archeological site of Coba is a vast network of stone structures and temples spread out over 80 square kilometers. Connecting this network is a series of mysterious ceremonial roads called Sacbes. The ancient city of Coba dates back to around 100 BC and reached its population peak (50,000 residents) between 200 AD and 600 AD. It is believed that control over a large part of the Yucatan was held by this Maya city. Visiting the site today requires some good walking shoes or you can rent a bicycle on location (this monkey highly recommends a bicycle). It is over a mile one way to the Nohoch Mul pyramid and you don't want to miss that. Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan, standing 138 feet tall, and unlike the 98 foot tall El Castillo at Chichen Itza, visitors are welcome to climb this massive structure.
Cozumel, Mexico
Fero Celarain with Socko
Punta Sur - There are several interesting attractions at the Punta Sur Ecological Park that will pry you off the beach in Cozumel. The main attraction is the towering 1934 Fero Celarain (Celarain Lighthouse), with its 130 winding steps up to one of the greatest views on the island. At the base of the lighthouse is the Marine Navigation Museum featuring a Maya sea vessel and lighthouse keeper's room. And don't miss the crocodile lagoon filled with, yes sunbathing crocodiles. Last but not least is the small ancient Maya structure called El Caracol which was built around 1200 AD.
Cozumel, Mexico
History of Cozumel
Museum of Cozumel - Four halls in the Museum of Cozumel (Museo de la Isla de Cozumel) are filled with dioramas, sculptures, Maya artifacts, and special exhibits. The works and exhibits detail the history of the island including Maya, pre-Columbian, and Colonial periods. The two-story museum holds over 100 photos detailing the transformation of the island from a wild jungle to the tourist port it is today.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Check Out the Waters
Attractions - Just a stone's throw from Cancun (a 20 minute ferry ride over turquoise waters) and easily visible from the mainland, is the island gem of Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is Spanish for "Island of Women", a term given to it after the Spanish found hundreds of female shaped idols representing the goddess Ixchel in 1517. On the tiny island are the Dolphin Discovery, Turtle Sanctuary, Garrafon National Park & Punta Sur Sculpture Garden and North Beach. All surrounded by powdery white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling. The easiest way to get around the island is by moped or golf cart, but being only 5 miles long, a bicycle isn't bad either.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Sculpture Monkey
Punta Sur Sculpture Garden - Located on the far south end of Isla Mujeres is the delightful Punta Sur Sculpture Garden. Created in 2001 by 23 artists from Mexico and around the world, the works of art are a tribute to the indigenous Maya civilization. A sandy path winds around the sculptures and down along the crashing waters of the Caribbean. At the farthest southern point is the small Maya temple Ixchel (named for the goddess of the moon) and at the entrance is the two-story Punta Sur Lighthouse (with an observation deck).
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Beach Beds - Woo Woo
North Beach - The north end of Isla Mujeres, within easy walking distance of the ferry terminal, is the best beach on the Island, Playa Norte (North Beach). Here sugary white sands gently slope into warm and tranquil turquoise water. This tropical paradise is lined with umbrella shaded lounge chairs and beach beds draped with wind ruffled curtains. And within a one minute walk in any direction is a bar or restaurant that is ready to trade pesos for anything to satiate your appetite.
Merida, Mexico
Oldest Cathedral in Mexico
Cathedral of San Ildefonso - Built between 1561 and 1598, the Cathedral of San Ildefonso is the oldest Cathedral in Mexico. The imposing structure is located on the Plaza Mayor and built on top of the ancient Maya city of Tiho. In fact many of the stones used in its construction were "borrowed" from the Maya Temples of Tiho. Inside San Ildefonso is a huge vaulted ceiling supported by Tuscan columns and at the front of the church a large crucifix (Cristo de la Unidad). Along with the Cathedral, Merida's Plaza Mayor features colorful buildings and manicured gardens, giving it a very welcoming feel.
Piste, Mexico
El Castillo
Chichen Itza - The number one archeological site in the Yucatan and one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World", Chichen Itza is a spectacular gem. Founded around 500 AD, Chichen Itza ascended to become the largest and most powerful ceremonial, political, and military cities in the region. At the center of this 200 acre ancient city is El Castillo (or the Temple of Kukulkan), a 98 foot tall pyramid with 365 stairs, 52 panels and 18 platforms, with serpents sculptures running the entire structure. During the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes the serpents appear to "wriggle down the staircase". Other impressive features of the site are the Great Ball Court, Temple of the Warriors, and the Observatory. If possible, get to the site right as it opens to beat the packed tour buses, and to catch the sunrise over El Castillo.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Shops of Fifth Avenue
Beach and Quinta Avenue - Playa del Carmen, often called "Playa" by the locals, was originally named Xaman-Ha meaning "Waters of the North". No matter how you reference her though, she is a great little town to spend some carefree time in. Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), a pedestrian only road, is a highway of people shopping and darting in and out of bars and restaurants. Running parallel to Fifth Avenue are the powdery sands of the town beach, inviting weary shoppers to relax near the azure waters of the Caribbean. The toughest decisions faced in Playa are; do I play volleyball or go swimming?; should I get a frozen margarita or a cerveza?;and is it time to roll over yet?
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Lady of Carmen Chapel
Lady of Carmen Chapel, Cuban Cigars, and Ferries - There are a lot of reasons to visit Playa del Carmen, and if for no other reason than to catch a ferry to Cozumel. The ferry leaves from the public beach every hour and will have you to Senor Frogs in no time. While waiting for the next ship, be sure to check out the Lady of Carmen Chapel just up the walkway on Fifth Avenue (which is even more beautiful at night). This small chapel is a favorite wedding spot for locals and turistas alike. Finally, because they are illegal in the USA, purchase a Cuban Cohiba Cigar and puff like you are on the cover of Cigar Aficionado.
Progreso, Mexico
Stow-Away on Progreso Beach
Progreso Beach - Most visitors to Progreso arrive on a cruise ship at the end of a four mile long pier (one of the longest piers in the world) and hop aboard a shuttle into town. But Progreso is also a favorite beach for the neighboring city of Merida. This cute little beach town has its roots as a sleepy fishing village and only till recently has it become a booming tourist port. The white sand ocean-front of Progreso Beach is lined with seafood restaurants, local shops, and plenty of drinking establishments. The one thing I liked the most were the massage tents - you can get a full one hour massage for half what you pay on the ship. Yes travel monkeys get stressed too.
Progreso, Mexico
El Faro
Progreso Lighthouse - The Progreso Beach Lighthouse (El Faro) rises dramatically over the tourist laden streets of this tiny town. Built in 1893, the 100 foot tall beacon still warns ships that land is near. If you have a chance to climb El Faro, don't miss it. You will be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view which includes the pier anchored with miniature cruise ships and a ribbon of beach sand stretching infinitely in both directions.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Ice Cold Cenotes
Cenotes - There are over 6,000 Cenotes (sink holes and underground wells) located throughout the Yucatan. These naturally occurring formations are created when the limestone bedrock over the pools of water collapse, and expose them. The Maya used the wells as a water supply, and in the case of Chichen Itza's Sacred Cenote, for human sacrifices. Two of the area's best cenotes are the Sacred Blue Cenote and the Cenote Dzitnup. Cenote Dzitnup is a spectacular swimmable pool of water in an enormous limestone cathedral. I also spent a few hours swimming underground at Cenote Kantun-Chi - and can tell you it is beautiful and really really cold.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The X Factor
XCaret, Xel-Ha and Xplor - There are three enormous eco-tourist parks in the Riviera Maya and they all start with an "X". XCaret, Xel-Ha and Xplor all combine outdoor activities with adventure and family fun. XCaret is built on the Maya archeological site of XCaret and integrates the history of the Maya with dozens of water activities. Xel-Ha also features water activites including snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming with dolphins. The newest park is Xplore, which features zip lines, cave tours, amphibious vehicles, and a stalactite river swim. Tickets are sold at discounted prices if you purchase admission to all three parks.
Tulum, Mexico
Tulum's El Castillo
Tulum - Situated on a 40 foot bluff overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean are the nearly pristine ancient Maya ruins of Tulum. Tulum which means "wall" received its name for the wall that nearly surrounds the city. The walled city was one of the last built by the Maya and was constructed between the 12th and 15th centuries. This well protected community played an important role in the Maya trade network. The most impressive structure is El Castillo, the large pyramid perched on the cliff's edge, while the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God are also impressive. The site is relatively small and can be covered in an hour or two, but visitors are welcome to put on a swimsuit and spend time splashing around in the warm gulf waters.
Valladolid, Mexico
Blue Agave of the Mayapan Distillery
Tequila - Rum is made from sugarcane, vodka is made from potatoes, gin is made from juniper berries and tequila (or as it is affectionately known - ta-kill-ya) is made from agave. In fact, only agave distilled in the town of Tequila, Mexico (north of Guadalajara) can be legally be called tequila, everything else is distilled agave. The Mayapan Distillery near Valladolid offers free tours of their agave distillery. The tour starts in the enormous Agave Azul plantation and works its way through the potent distillery process, to a complimentary tasting room and finally to the gift shop.
Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid Auto Museum
Attractions - Admittedly, Valladolid isn't a place where you will be spending your entire two week vacation, but it does have a few attractions worth visiting while on your way to Chichen Itza. The town itself is a colorful combination of colonial architecture brought to life with townspeople dressed in traditional Maya clothing. On the south side of town is the historic Catedral de San Gervasio and at the town's center is a huge cenote which supplies the residents with all of their water. Nearby is a swimmable cenote called Cenote Dzitnup, a beautiful limestone water-filled cavern.