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When we think of the border with Mexico, perhaps Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez or even Matamoros come to mind.
Yet this Mexican border town tucked away hours south of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo is packed with tourists.
The difference is that this border town is a neighbor of Belize rather than the US and is still relatively unknown to the average traveler.
Mexico is always a vacation destination for American tourists, but many opt for the more popular destinations, such as Cabo, Cancun, or even Mexico City.
But the small town of Chetumal it will surprise you with its charm, history and natural wonders that stand out or even surpass other hot spots in Mexico.
Easy Access To The Bacalar Lagoon
Those who venture to Chetumal will be just over half an hour from one of the most beautiful sites in Mexico.
not called The Maldives of Mexico not at all! This trendy destination has become super popular lately, and it’s not hard to see why.
Its dazzling blue waters are a must-see whether on a boat trip, bathing or spending a relaxing day on 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.
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These gentle giants are easy to spot and may drop by to say hello from time to time as they are used to human interaction, especially if local favorite Danny the Manatee spots him.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of Chetumal’s most famous residents is Larry the Crocodile. While he could appear in Chetumal Bay, it’s best to enjoy Larry’s presence from a distance.
Adventure seekers will love the diving options that Chetumal offers. The best place to experience the marine life and the vibrant coral reefs would be Banco Chinchorro.
Here, visitors can find sea turtles, tropical fish, and may even come across a shipwreck.
Swim in impressive cenotes
As sargassum invasion has been a problem in many popular beach destinations from Florida to Mexico, finding a wonderful cenote may be the next best thing.
Cenotes are basically swimmable sinkholes filled with incredibly clear water. A short distance from Chetumal, the Taj Mahal cenote is one of the best in the world.
Filled with underwater tunnels, incredible stalactite formations, and colorful fish, this cenote is a must-see when in the area.
Avoid Big Crowds In These Sleepy Little Beach Towns
Towards Belize are the picturesque coastal towns of Xcalak and Mahahual. While certain areas, like the popular bars, can get crowded, most of this region is the perfect place to enjoy peace.
Turquoise waters and golden sands surrounded by lush green lands are for anyone to enjoy a pleasant getaway.
Getting to these coastal towns is about a 2 to 2.5 hour drive from Chetumal’s city center.
Visit Mayan Archaeological Sites
Those who want to go back in time and see what remains of a fascinating civilization before us can do so by visiting a couple of Mayan archaeological ruins.
Kohunlich is known for its architecture and the Temple of the Masks. But the main attraction is the Oxtankah Ruins.
Visitors will be captivated by the massive pyramids, carvings from a past life, and sacred temples that show what life was like during the heyday of this civilization.
Experience the city itself
Chetumal has improved its airport facilities so that travelers can fly direct. There are amazing places to experience outside of this small town, but the town itself is also worth exploring.
Aside from the constantly honking taxis trying to entice you for a ride, the city’s streets are walkable and easy to navigate. Especially the boardwalk along the picturesque bay.
Chetumal has several markets to visit, 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 excellent restaurants in the city of Chetumal, but one of the main areas to truly get to know the region is the town of Calderitas.
Being close to vast bodies of water, it’s only natural to have endless options of delicious seafood on hand.
About a 15-minute drive from Chetumal, it’s worth the short drive to Calderitas for a day of gastronomy.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com