Cancun’s surroundings and the Mexican Caribbean are home to some of the widest range of flora and fauna in Mexico. From dense jungles to colorful coral reefs, visitors can immerse themselves in unique natural habitats full of species including tropical birds, whale sharks, and spectacular coral reefs. Here are the top 4 national parks near Cancun, as well as everything you need to know to reach them.
Isla Contoy National Park
This stunning national park is located just 25 miles from Cancun on a remote, yet accessible, Caribbean island. Founded some 60 years ago to protect the area’s rich marine and bird wildlife, visitors can find reefs, sea turtles, and colorful Caribbean fish species in the crystal-clear waters of this national park
Isla Contoy is best reached by ferry or boat from Cancun. Guided tours are highly recommended, and provide visitors with all necessary equipment as well as professional guides. We recommend this Viator tour, which combines the best of Isla Contoy with its unparalleled snorkeling scene, and Isla Mujeres, one of the top resort locations in the Mexican Caribbean. Starting at $150 per person, the tour includes pick-up from select hotels around the region and takes around 8 hours.
Tulum National Park
One of Quintana Roo’s most diverse national parks, Tulum National Park is an eco-archeological site featuring ancient Maya ruins, dense vegetation, and dramatic views of the Mexican Caribbean coastline. If you’re staying in Cancun, you’ll have to take a bus (the journey takes around 2 and a half hours) or shuttle to Tulum first, but the trip is worth it – just for the national park itself.
Once you reach the park, you can begin exploring. Here, you’ll find everything from natural wonders such as cenotes – a great alternative to sargassum-filled beaches – to some of the most visited archaeological sites in all of Mexico. The area is easy to explore on foot, but plenty of guided tours are also available.
Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park
Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park is located off the coast of Cozumel, a popular beach and resort destination located south of Cancun. A mecca for divers, snorkelers, and beach-goers, the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park makes up the second largest coral reef system in the world. Due to the marine park’s delicate ecosystem, a guided tour is a good option to navigate the beautiful national park.
Safe Tours Cozumel offers a 2-hour tour of the popular Paradise reef, known for its colorful reefs and abundant marine life. The tour is recommended by 96% of all guests, so it’s sure to satisfy any traveler, especially first-timers or those who just want to get a glimpse of the area’s marine species. The tour departs from Cozumel, so tourists staying on the mainland have to reach the island first by ferry from Playa del Carmen.
Arrecife de Puerto Morelos National Park
This expansive national park located off of Puerto Morelos is a great choice for tourists in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya. Just 18 kilometers from Cancun International Airport, Puerto Morelos is one of the most popular locations to discover the Mexican Caribbean, including some of the top diving sites found in the nearby national park.
Visitors can spot some unique species in the protected area, including the rare white sea turtle and elkhorn coral. With an average depth of just two meters, visitors can comfortably snorkel in the shallow reefs found in the area. For just $45 per person, this 2-hour tour departs from Puerto Morelos and is done in small groups, taking tourists right into the heart of the national park.
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