Getting away from Cancun by car is easy, with ancient Mayan ruins, underground cave snorkeling and adventure tourism all within a two-hour drive.
Many of the Yucatan Peninsula's activities are easily accessible from the region's main road, Highway 307, which begins in Cancun and travels south to Tulum and beyond.
During a week's stay, I rented a car and took three day trips, never needing more than a map and good directions. The highway's signage is clear, and there aren't many opportunities to go wrong. (View a slideshow from Johanna's recent trip to Cancun here or by clicking on the photos
For a day of adventure, I chose the Zip & ATV Jungle Expedition offered by Selvatica
, and was not disappointed.
The tour includes a 12-zipline circuit, several off very high treetop platforms. That was followed by an army truck ride to the ATV area where as a small group, six of us, we each had our own ATV to take along a dusty, muddy and rocky (i.e. thrilling) trail, that leaves you wanting for the fresh, clear water of the awaiting cenote, a groundwater sinkhole fed by the Yucatan's extensive system of underground rivers.
There, you meet up with other groups to enjoy a leisurely swim or a zipline dive into the natural pool, before eating a chicken (or vegetarian) fajita lunch at headquarters.
The tour is enhanced by the personality and professionalism of the local staff, all who speak great English and are clearly experienced.
The tour costs $129 per person, including roundtrip transportation from any hotel in Cancun. It's $115 if you arrive on your own.
Another must-do excursion while on the Yucatan is snorkeling (or scuba diving) in a cenote.
Snorkeling in these limestone sinkholes opens up what feels like another world, where instead of tropical fish and coral you swim through deep caves of underwater stalactites, stalagmites and limestone formations.
Some passages through the cave are narrow but the guides know the cenotes well. An added bonus is there are no sharks in these waters, or any predators at all -- only catfish, and bats sleeping on the ceiling above you. Divers can go deeper into the cave systems.
Cenotes are so common in the Yucatan that driving along Highway 307 there are several places that offer the experience. Some offer torus, while at others it may be only you and your guide. Hidden Worlds
is well-known and offers snorkeling and diving where part of the IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves" was shot. Snorkeling tours start at $25 per person.
Known for its abundance of Mayan ruins, the Yucatan Peninsula is a can't-miss experience for archaeology enthusiasts. While the largest and most well-known ruins, Chichen Itza (a Unesco World Heritage Site) are further inland off of Highway 307, the ruins at Tulum are perhaps the most scenic, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and a beach.
Tulum's ruins are a short drive from the town of Tulum's charming restaurants and soft-sand beaches. Entrance to the ruins is less than $5 per person. Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.