Eco-Parks, Archaeological Sites and Nature Reserves in Cancun and the Riviera Maya

The Cancun area is home to ecological parks, nature reserves and archaeological sites of Mayan ruins. All are unique, interesting, fun to visit and give travelers taste of the Yucatan Peninsula's natural wonders and ancient history.

The eco-parks of Xcaret and Xel-Ha wow thousands of visitors each year and are two of the region's most popular attractions. Visitors can learn about local flora and fauna and Mayan culture, and can snorkel, float down a lazy river or swim with dolphins. There are also areas created for relaxing, which feature hammocks and lounge chairs.

Isla Contoy and Sian Ka'an are both protected national parks. Isla Contoy is a small island that has been designated as a nature reserve. There are thousands of birds on the island, some of which live on the island year-round and others that migrate to the area year after year. Sea turtles nest on the island during the summer months. Visitation to the island is tightly controlled with only 200 guests allowed on the island each day.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve covers a massive 1.3 million acres and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Visitors to the reserve can kayak, go fly fishing, see Mayan ruins, or just relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. Off-the-gird eco lodging is available inside Sian Ka'an.

Tours to visit the various archaeological sites of Mayan ruins provide a glimpse into ancient Mayan culture and are a must when in the area.

Ventura Park is a water-adventure park which is ideal for families and kids at heart.

Hotel Zone


Formerly Wet 'n Wild, Ventura Park is the only adventure park in the Cancun Hotel Zone. The park has something for every member of the family and is made of of different "worlds", including Dolphinaris, Underworld, Grand Prix, Fun World,...  Read More

National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse


Running alongside the Yucatan Peninsula is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is the second-largest coral reef in the world. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the only reef that is larger. In Puerto Morelos, the reef is closer to...  Read More

Zona Hotelera
Isla Contoy
Photo courtesy of zhuzhu/iStock


To get away from it all, spend the day on Isla Contoy, an uninhabited island that is a nature preserve. The island is approximately 26.5 miles from Cancun and can easily be visited on a day trip. Isla Contoy is filled with various species of...  Read More



Community Tours Sian Kaan is an eco-tourism organization that provides tours in the pristine Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean (1.6 million acres). What makes this enterprise so special, is that...  Read More



Xplor is a natural eco adventure park located in the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa del Carmen, and is part of the Xcaret family. Activites include 14 zip lines, amphibious vehicles, and underground rivers that feature amazing stalactites and...  Read More

Photo courtesy of SL_Photography/iStock


Another popular Mayan ruin site, Tulum is located a bit closer to Cancun than Chichen Itza, roughly 2 hours south. This is a smaller site and can be seen in about an hour but it's worth the trip simply for the breathtaking views. The Mayans knew...  Read More



This eco-park is part of the Experiencias Xcaret family (Xcaret, Xplor, Xenotes, Xoximilco). Xel-Ha boasts the "largest, most beautiful natural aquarium in the world". You can swim in grottos & cenotes (natural sinkholes) and see local sea...  Read More



Chichen Itza is by far the largest and most impressive Mayan archaeological ruins site in the region. It was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. If you only have time to take one sightseeing excursion while on vacation,...  Read More



Pronounced "Sh-car-ret", this eco-archaeological park is filled with Mexican and Mayan flavor, color, music, nature and culture. Inside the park there is a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, an aquarium, as well as places where you can view...  Read More

Coba Archaeological Park
Photo courtesy of Susan R. Vincil


Ruins from ancient Mayan cities that once thrived on the Yucatan Peninsula can be found throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Of those archaeological sites, Coba, is one of the region's largest and most notable. Located approximately 2.5 hours...  Read More


Meet Kristin Busse

After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.

Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University....  More About Kristin