Water Sports in Cancún

With the Caribbean on one side and the still waters of Laguna Nichupté on the other, it's no wonder that Cancún is one of the world’s water sports capitals. The top activities are snorkeling and diving along the coral reef just off the coast.

Kiteboarding and windsurfing are also popular, although the waves are not as constant as on Mexico's Pacific coast. For the beach-break surfer, the sandbars are best at Playa Gaviota Azul and Playa Delfines, but waves are generally choppy and created by wind swells. Thirty-two kilometers (20 miles) south of Cancún are several point breaks off the coast of Puerto Morelos and Punta Brava.

If you want to view the mysterious underwater world but don't want to get your feet wet, a glass-bottom boat or "submarine" is the ticket. You can also go fishing, parasailing, or try your balancing skills on a stand-up paddleboard. Paddleboats, kayaks, catamarans, and banana boats are readily available, too.

Because the beaches along the Zona Hotelera can have a strong undertow, always respect the flags posted in the area. A black flag means no swimming at all. A red flag means you can swim but only with extreme caution. Yellow means approach with caution, while green means water conditions are safe. You'll most likely always see a red or yellow flag, even when the water is calm.

Unfortunately, there's very little wildlife in the Laguna Nichupté, so most advertised jungle tours are glorified Jet Ski romps where you drive around fast, make a lot of noise, and don't see many animals. American crocodiles still reside in these waters though, so don’t stand or swim in the lagoon.

Although the coral reef in this area is not as spectacular as farther south, there's still marine life. It's quite common to spot angelfish, parrotfish, blue tang, sea turtles, and the occasional moray eel. To be a good world citizen, follow the six golden rules for snorkeling or scuba diving:

1. Don't throw any garbage into the sea, as the marine life will assume it's food, an often lethal mistake.

2. Never stand on the coral.

3. Secure all cameras and gear onto your body so you don't drop anything onto the fragile reef.

4. Never take anything from the sea.

5. Don't feed any of the marine animals.

6. Avoid applying sunblock, tanning lotion, or mosquito repellent just before you visit the reef.

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