The Segmental Info System

Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean's Nature Sites

Explore the natural and outdoor wonderland of Cancun

Photo credit: © John Anderson |

Visitors flock to Cancun for a variety of reasons, from festivals and sporting events to authentic cuisine and Mexican culture. While you may plan you trip to Cancun based on one of those reasons, the natural beauty of this Caribbean destination will keep you coming back for more.

A small sampling of the many ways to explore nature includes zip lining, horseback riding, hiking, cave rafting and kayaking. Adventurers of all lifestyles and budgets will be able to hone in on their ideal method of connecting with Cancun’s natural wonders.

If you're interested in visiting some of the Nature Preserves in the Mexican Caribbean, use the following chart to guide you.

Nature Preserves
Name Location
Chinchorro Bank Biosphere Reserve 39.3 mi. (63.3 km) Northeast of Xcalak
Cozumel Reef National Park 1.2 mi. (2.0 km) Northwest of Cozumel
Garrafon Reef Park 2.1 mi. (3.4 km) South-Southeast of Isla Mujeres
Isla Contoy National Park 20.1 mi. (32.3 km) North of Isla Mujeres
Jungle Place Western part of The Riviera Maya
Ocean Research Facility 2.1 mi. (3.3 km) Northeast of Puerto Morelos
Pez Maya Research Center 14.5 mi. (23.3 km) South of Tulum
Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve 27.1 mi. (43.6 km) Northwest of Akumal
Punta Nizuc National Park 4.3 mi. (6.9 km) South-Southwest of Cancun Beach Hotel Zone
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve 27.7 mi. (44.6 km) South-Southwest of Tulum
Taninah Jungle Retreat 5.9 mi. (9.5 km) North-Northeast of Akumal

The following chart might just help you to determine which trails you'll visit during your time in the Mexican Caribbean.

Hiking Trails
Name Location
Bluffs Trail 1.4 mi. (2.3 km) Southeast of Isla Mujeres
Hiking Trails 0.7 mi. (1.2 km) Northwest of Isla Mujeres

Outdoor Parks

Garrafon Reef Park

Situated in Isla Mujeres, the Garrafon Reef Park is accessible from Cancun by a quick boat ride, and promises to delight visitors with a natural spectacle of vegetation, wildlife and thrilling activities. Take a stroll through the artistic Sculpture Garden, or tour one of the multiple genuine Mayan temple ruins located on the park’s grounds. Those seeking a shot of adrenaline should consider partaking in either Garrafon’s scenic zip line ride or their skyscraping climbing tower.


...amphibious vehicle drives, underground rafting...


This unique underground park invites guests to gain a new perspective on Cancun’s nature by exploring the caverns and rock formations that have shaped the region’s landscape. Centrally located in Riviera Maya, this exciting park features activities like amphibious vehicle drives, underground rafting, zip lines and more. Equipped with the latest equipment and a qualified staff, Xplor guarantees to give travelers an unexpected and unforgettable glimpse at Cancun’s underground wonderland.

Underwater Parks

Cancun is home to a variety of protected land areas that are dedicated to offshore landscapes. Vacationers can pick from a wide selection of areas that illustrate the natural underwater beauty of Mexico. Belonging to the Mesoamerican Reef System, the Punta Nizuc National Park showcases ancient coral formations of many different varieties. Known as the birthplace of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the Isla Contoy National Park houses coral reefs within a protected inlet. At the Cozumel Reef National Park, visitors will find themselves immersed amongst 85% of the area’s top diving destinations. The Chinchorro Bank Biosphere Reserve is an interesting destination, which is home to the largest commercial populations of pink conch and Caribbean lobster, as well as being a popular sea turtle nesting ground.

One of the great things about the Mexican Caribbean is the abundance of attractions to keep visitors entertained.  This includes those that promote nature and wild life.  The following list alone indicates the importance of the outdoors in this region, with over a dozen parks, zoos, and botanical gardens readily available.

Name Location
Cenote X-Canche 31.6 mi. (50.9 km) East-Northeast of Chichen Itza
Cenote Zaci 24.0 mi. (38.7 km) East of Chichen Itza
Dzitnup Cenote 21.0 mi. (33.9 km) East of Chichen Itza
Francisco Canton Park 23.7 mi. (38.2 km) East of Chichen Itza
Ik Kil Cenote 1.8 mi. (2.9 km) Southeast of Chichen Itza
Kantun Chi Eco Park 7.7 mi. (12.3 km) Northeast of Akumal
Kids Park Benito Juarez 2.2 mi. (3.6 km) East of Cancun
Manati Cenote 5.8 mi. (9.4 km) Northeast of Tulum
Parque De Las Palapas 2.1 mi. (3.4 km) East of Cancun
Pirate Mundaca Park 0.9 mi. (1.5 km) South-Southeast of Isla Mujeres
Plaza 28 De Julio Park 0.8 mi. (1.3 km) South West of Playa del Carmen
Punta Allen Park 0.0 mi. (0.0 km) East of Punta Allen
Sac Muukal Cenote 21.1 mi. (34.0 km) East of Chichen Itza
Selvaje Cenote 3.9 mi. (6.3 km) South of Tulum
Selvatica 11.7 mi. (18.9 km) West of Puerto Morelos
Tajmahal Cenote 6.7 mi. (10.7 km) North-Northeast of Akumal
Vaca Ha Tortugas Cenote 3.6 mi. (5.8 km) North of Tulum
Xunaan Ha Cenote Western part of The Riviera Maya
Yaxmul Cenote 7.2 mi. (11.6 km) Northeast of Tulum
Zoos and Aquariums
Name Type Location
Crococun Zoo Zoo 2.4 mi. (3.9 km) North of Puerto Morelos
Crocodile Visit Zoo 26.3 mi. (42.3 km) Northwest of Tulum
Dolphin Discovery Zoo 9.1 mi. (14.6 km) Northeast of Akumal
Interactive Aquarium Cancun Aquarium 7.3 mi. (11.8 km) Southeast of Cancun
Pepe's Tigres Zoo 6.1 mi. (9.8 km) East-Southeast of Cancun
X'Cacel Turtle Conservation Area Zoo 4.7 mi. (7.6 km) South-Southwest of Akumal
Xaman-Ha Aviary Zoo 1.6 mi. (2.5 km) South West of Playa del Carmen

There is much about the history of the Mexican Caribbean that remains a mystery, and naturally made caves retain an undeniable air of mystery -- however, they also tell us a lot about the area's geography. 

For those who have an interest in the mysterious caves of the region, consult the table below. 

Name Location
Aktun Chen Cave System 6.2 mi. (9.9 km) Northwest of Akumal
Caves And Arches 1.4 mi. (2.2 km) North-Northwest of Isla Mujeres
Chac Tun Cave Tour/ Paintball City Northern part of The Riviera Maya
Cristalino Maya Cenote 7.7 mi. (12.5 km) Northeast of Akumal
Hidden Worlds Cenotes 7.6 mi. (12.3 km) Northeast of Tulum
Jardin Del Eden Cenote 7.8 mi. (12.5 km) Northeast of Akumal

Combining Activities


For the serious adventurer, EcoColors offers multi-day trips jam-packed with outdoorsy activities and attractions. Packages can last for durations of anywhere between one day and over a week. Striving to connect nature-related education with fantastic experiences, EcoColors combines ancient cultural heritage with beautiful wildlife and native plants.


Selvatica is a self-proclaimed “adventure kingdom” located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Sitting on more than 330 acres of wild Mexican jungle, this facility features a selection of unique activities to please visitors of all ages and lifestyles. Choose from ventures like high-rope circuits with bicycles, army truck tours to natural landmarks, horseback riding, exploring sinkholes and more.

Puerta Verde

Along with the standard attractions of kayaking and hiking, Puerta Verde offers visitors 23 different activities that can be enjoyed while soaking in Cancun’s stunning nature. Leisurely wander through the property’s butterfly sanctuary, or dare yourself to swim alongside whale sharks. Guests may stop by for one day, or book a multi-day getaway to experience everything that Puerta Verde has to offer.

It might just be more convenient to contact one of the following guides for your nature tour:

And still, there are many more natural attractions in the Mexican Caribbean just waiting to be explored.  Use the following chart as a guide to help you decide what you want to do during your trip to the area.

Other Natural Attractions
Name Type Location
Chikin Ha Cenote Pond The vicinity of La Gloria
Crocodile Swamp Swamp Puerto Morelos
Laguna Makax Lagoon 0.3 mi. (0.5 km) West-Southwest of Isla Mujeres
Muyil Lagoon Lagoon 13.1 mi. (21.1 km) South West of Tulum
Yal-Ku Lagoon Lagoon 1.1 mi. (1.8 km) Northeast of Akumal

From government-protected sanctuaries to zip line, Cancun has collected a wide range of activities and attractions designed to showcase the wonders of nature. Whether you’re exploring the avian-filled ecosystems of the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve or riding horseback as your animal tour guide trots towards the beach, Cancun’s natural paradise is sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation for the outdoors. With such a large buffet of nature-based adventure at your fingertips, the hardest decision will be picking which activities to enjoy.


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