This fecund 161-acre jungle is one of Mexico’s largest botanical gardens and the last patch of protected forest between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. The Maya’s sacred Ceiba trees stand tall amid palms, bromeliads, ferns, orchids, and medicinal plants. In addition to protecting threatened native species, 4km/2.5mi of trails demonstrate the Maya’s use of natural resources. You’ll also see a small archaeological site, a reconstructed Maya home, and a chiclero camp. Biology students working here eagerly share details (it helps to know some Spanish). Spider monkeys, nearly extinct elsewhere on the coast, frolic along with abundant tropical birds. This is more a jungle trek than a stroll in the park; wear sturdy walking shoes—I recommend closed toes to avoid bug-bitten feet—and insect repellent.
- Maribeth Mellin