By: Sojourner Walker
I love experiencing cultures. As a traveler, I am typically drawn to unusual corners of the globe to see, taste, hear, smell, and experience life from a unique vantage-point. There are times though, when I find myself in a well-trodden destination saturated with isolated resorts. What is a cultural traveler to do? Well, in the mornings I laid out on the pristine beach, swam laps in the perfectly manicured swimming pool, sampled the juices and smoothies at the complementary buffet, and when the afternoon came, set off to explore as many local nooks and crannies as I could navigate. Sometimes, it’s not so much the location but how you choose to experience your time.
Every region has a unique cultural fingerprint. Cancun, Mexico, despite its reputation as the ultimate Spring Break destination for debauchery, is rich in culture and local flair. Overflowing with historical, artistic and culinary might, Cancun can be a destination for serious travelers interested in more than a cheap margarita and a riotous party scene.
Five Reasons to Leave the Resort in Cancun:
Mercado 28 – Originally Cancun’s central market and cultural gathering place, the market has evolved into an impressive collective of local artisans. The enormous three story outdoor market is vibrant, colorful and full of warm smiles and interesting finds. From silver jewelry, handmade leather goods, traditional sombreros, and ceramics straight from Puebla, the market is full of local treasures. Several small restaurants form an eclectic food court. Patroned primarily by locals, you’ll find zesty regional flavors and offerings ranging from the local catch of the day to traditional Mexican fare.
- The local restaurants of Central Cancun. Cancun has a delectable culinary presence. Due to its location on the sea, local food is fresh and zesty. My favorite restaurant was La Parrilla. I recommend the fish tacos and the original margarita.
- Plaza 28-A small collective of local artisans, Plaza 28 is a great place to learn about Mexican culture and art. From fine woodcarvings, silver jewelry, and elaborate woven ponchos, plaza 28 has a varied assortment of Mexican goods. I was captivated by the large display of traditional Mayan toys. After getting demonstrations, I was able to try my hand at a few.
- Isla Mujeres– Hop on a ferry from central Cancun and make your way towards serenity and bliss. Isla Mujeres or the Island of Women, is a tiny island with a rich history. Once home to a temple honoring the Mayan goddess of fertility Ixchel, the island is now one of the best places to snorkel and encounter dolphins and whale sharks. Don’t forget to visit punta sur, where you can find the ruins of Ixchel’s temple.
- The Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. Cancun was once the home of the mighty Mayan empire. The region hosts a stunning collection of ruins and archaeological sites to be experienced and explored.
Embrace your adventurous spirit and enjoy the soul of Cancun. There are so many possibilities for fun beyond the resorts. Talk to locals, listen, live, learn, and follow your intuition.