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These 3 Lesser Known Destinations Near Cancun Are Perfect For Escaping The Crowds

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Cancun is the number one resort destination for U.S. vacationers, and it's easy to see why:

Hotels are nothing short of spectacular, boasting top-notch amenities and offering world-class service.

The beaches are stunning, and they feel very Americanized and tourist-friendly for those who might feel some agitation about traveling to a foreign country.

Aerial View Of Lake Bacalar, Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico, Latin America

On the downside, with its infamous entertainment scene, with rows upon rows of beach clubs and night venues operating until the wee hours, and a main avenue that is always chock-a-block with visitors, it can get overwhelming at times, even if you're barricading yourself in a five-star.

Sometimes you just want to escape the bustling resort city and take in the tropical atmosphere of the Mexican Caribbean without having to share it with hundreds, if not thousands of fellow travelers, and as per usual, we've got you covered:

Here are 3 incredible lesser-known spots south of Cancun you can hit up for smaller crowds, if any at all, and both unspoiled beaches and culture:

woman in the Bacalar Lagoon

Lake Bacalar

We know the Mexican Caribbean is best known for its scenic, palm-lined beaches and highly-developed coastal cities, but what if we told you don't need to stay by the oceanfront to get those tropical vibes, nor swim in the purest, bluest of waters?

An elongated 18-mile-long lake separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land, Bacalar is a hidden gem that is growing increasingly popular on TikTok lately, thanks to its multiple shades of blue – it is officially known as the ‘lake of seven colors' – and serene nature.

Pier in Bacalar

Unless you're a fan of salt water, there is absolutely no reason to prefer a Caribbean beach over Bacalar.

The banks are also sandy, with plenty of ‘beaches' and swimming spots to pick from, there are no waves or marine creatures lurking beneath, and the teal hue on the water is similar, if not brighter.

From bathing in the natural shallow pools to kayaking adventures along the lake's extension or sailing tours to the deepest parts, there are plenty of water-based activities to choose from.

What's best, despite being more famous now, Bacalar is still remarkably peaceful.

Woman in a hammock in Bacalar

Mahahual

Alright, alright, we know the Caribbean is the main reason why you're going south of the border anyways, and lounging by the white sands as you bask in the sun is probably the number one priority on the list: well, how about doing just that on unruffled white sands?

The small town of Mahahual was once a quaint fishing village, though it is rapidly becoming a leisure destination for Cancun escapees like you.

The beaches are wilder, and insidious American-led gentrification has yet to seep into the community, and the native culture feels its strongest here.

Beach in Mahahual, Mexico

Relax by the palm shades at the municipal beach, sip a coconut, eat a traditional Mayan dish in a local restaurant, and spend your day at peace.

There are very few, if any, street vendors flogging their usual trinkets, less screaming from children, and no thumping music coming from beach bars nearby.

The town is best known for its quaintness, grass-thatched palapas, and fast-growing hospitality sector, with many hotels and restaurants having opened in the last decade.

It is also a short one-hour drive from Bacalar, which means you can definitely see them both in a day if you're coming in a car.

A Pier Stretching Out Onto The Sea In Mahahual, A Caribbean Beach In Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

Dzibanche and Kohulich

Who said Southern Quintana Roo didn't have its fair share of ancient Mayan sites?

Due to its proximity to Central America, where Mayan civilization was centered, it has an even higher concentration of historical ruins.

There's no denying the North is a more popular destination for archaeological zones, as it is home to Chichen Itza, the number one such attraction in Mexico, but if it's the overgrown, ‘unlisted' Mayan ruins that make your heart beat faster, then this is where you should be headed:

Mayan Coba Ruins Near Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Kohunlich and Dzibanché are located an hour south of Bacalar, and they're some of the most authentic and photogenic Mayan ruins you'll see, with pyramids that are surrounded by lush vegetation, pathways that have been left essentially as they were, and intricate carvings on walls.

The easiest way to get there is by booking a tour from Bacalar or Chetumal, the largest towns in the region, and it costs $85 and $70 Mexican pesos to enter Kohunlich and Dzibanché, respectively, or around $4.96 and $4 to enter.

Far cheaper than other overtouristed Mayan sites, but just as beautiful.

Male Tourist Swimming In Lake Bacalar, Southern Quintana Roo, Mexico

According to the Cancun Sun, the area around Bacalar is one of the best for avoiding the Mexican Caribbean crowds, as the region's 20+ million tourists typically stay within the resort zones in Cancun, or at best, take day trips out to hotspots in the immediate vicinity.

Soon enough, tourists landing in either Cancun or Tulum will be able to travel on the Mayan Train all the way down to Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo.

Hopping off there, they'll find plenty of bus connections, day tours, or private transfer options to Bacalar, Mahahual, and the Mayan ruins.

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