When we think of the Mexico border, perhaps Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, or even Matamoros come to mind.
However, this Mexican border city tucked away hours south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo is thriving with tourists.
The difference is this border town is Belize’s neighbor rather than the U.S. and is still relatively unknown to the average traveler.
Mexico is always a vacation hotspot for U.S. tourists, but many go for the more mainstream destinations such as Cabo, Cancun, or even Mexico City.
But the small city of Chetumal will surprise you with its charm, history and natural wonders that stand up to or maybe even surpass other Mexico hotspots.
Easy Access To The Bacalar Lagoon
Those who venture off to Chetumal will be just over a half hour away from one of Mexico’s most beautiful sites.
It’s not called The Maldives of Mexico for nothing! This trendy destination has become super popular as of late, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Its eye-popping blue waters are a must-see whether it’s by boat tour, going for a swim, or a relaxing day spent along its shores.
Surrounded by forests and hidden coves, this is an excellent place to spend the day near Chetumal.
Discover Wildlife And Vibrant Coral Reefs
The region of Mexico is home to a plethora of opportunities to experience wildlife up close. Laguna Guerrero, for example, is a sanctuary for manatees.
These gentle giants are easy to spot and may come up to say hello from time to time as they are used to human interaction, especially if local favorite, Danny the Manatee, spots you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of Chetumal’s most famous residents is Larry the Crocodile. While he might make an appearance in Chetumal Bay, it’s best to enjoy Larry’s presence from a distance.
Those who seek adventure will love the diving options Chetumal offers. The top place to experience marine life and vibrant coral reefs would be Banco Chinchorro.
Here, visitors may find sea turtles, tropical fish and might even come across a shipwreck.
Swim In Breathtaking Cenotes
As the sargassum invasion has been an issue across many popular beach destinations from Florida to Mexico, finding a wondrous cenote may be the next best thing.
Cenotes are basically swimmable sinkholes filled with stunningly clear water. Within a short drive from Chetumal, the Taj Mahal cenote is one of the best in the world.
Full of underwater tunnels, amazing stalactite formations and colorful fish, this cenote is a must-see when in the area.
Avoid Big Crowds In These Tranquil Small Beach Towns
Toward Belize are the scenic small beach towns of Xcalak and Mahahual. While certain areas, like popular bars, may get packed with people, a majority of this region is the perfect place to enjoy peace.
The turquoise waters and golden sand surrounded by lush green land are for anyone to enjoy a nice escape.
Reaching these beach towns is roughly 2 to 2.5 hours by car from Chetumal’s city center.
Visit Mayan Archeological Sites
Those who want to step back in time and see what’s left of a fascinating civilization before us can do so by visiting a couple of Mayan archeological ruins.
Kohunlich is known for its architecture and the Temple of the Masks. But the main draw is the Ruins of Oxtankah.
Visitors will be enthralled by the massive pyramids, carvings of a past life, and sacred temples that showcase what life was like during this civilization’s heyday.
Experience The City Itself
Chetumal has improved its airport facilities so travelers can fly direct. There are amazing sites to experience outside this small city, but the city itself is worth exploring too.
Beyond the constantly honking taxis trying to lure you for a ride, the city streets are walkable and easy to navigate. Especially the malecón along the scenic bay.
Chetumal has various markets to check out, as well as a Mayan Museum. At night, the boardwalk comes alive with multi-level bars and restaurants, such as Ámbar del Mar, overlooking the bay and lively Parque Renacimiento.
There are many great restaurants in the city of Chetumal, but one of the main areas to truly get a taste of the region is the town of Calderitas.
Being near vast bodies of water, it’s only natural to have endless options of mouthwatering seafood at hand.
Approximately a 15-minute drive from Chetumal, Calderitas is worth the short trip for a foodie day.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com