Cancun has countless fun attractions but a conventional zoo, where one can see lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), is not among the many offerings. There are several places to view wildlife while vacationing in Cancun, however. Here is a list of zoos, or wildlife refuges, near Cancun:
- Croco Cun Zoo: Here, you can take a guided tour of the grounds, see deer, spider monkeys, macaws, snakes, and of course, crocodiles. You can also feed and pet some of the animals. This is a small facility and it can be seen in a short time, but it is a big hit with children of all ages. Croco Cun Zoo is located approximately 20 minutes south of Cancun (just north of the town of Puerto Morelos). Open daily, from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
- Tortugranja (Turtle Farm): Located on the island of Isla Mujeres, a small island a few miles off the north shore of Cancun (just a 30-minute ferry ride away), you will find this hidden gem. The Turtle Farm is a program dedicated to protecting sea turtles. During sea turtle nesting season (May-September), turtle eggs are guarded to protect them from wildlife that will eat the eggs, from poachers, or from anyone that could possibly harm the eggs. Once the tiny turtles break out of their shells, the staff of the turtle farm releases the babies into the sea. Sometimes, volunteers are recruited to assist with the turtle releases. You can see baby turtles in tanks, awaiting their release into the ocean, as well as a small aquarium with seahorses and other marine life found in the region. The Turtle Farm is very small and can be seen in less than one hour, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Admission is just a few dollars (around $35 pesos, per person). This establishment relies heavily on donations so stop by and support this great cause while you are on Isla Mujeres. Open daily, from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
- Xcaret: This is a large eco-park, located about 90 minutes south of Cancun. Xcaret has so many attractions, exhibitions, and activities that you can’t possibly see and do everything in one visit. Included in the park’s many attractions are several wildlife refuges. Among the attractions featuring animals are the Butterfly Pavilion, Jaguar Island, Spider Monkey Island, Manatee Lagoon, Xcaret’s Regional Wildlife Breeding Farm, a sea turtle area, and a space containing flamingos. You can also swim with dolphins, at Xcaret. The Butterfly Pavilion is a 38,000 square feet enclosed area where over 5,000 butterflies, native to the Yucatan Peninsula, can be found. Jaguars, sacred animals in the Mayan culture, and pumas can be seen on Jaguar Island. Spider monkeys and howler monkeys, both of which are endangered species, can be found on Spider Monkey Island, where they are protected from predators. Manatees, another endangered species, are protected in Manatee Lagoon. Flamingos and sea turtles are also protected at Xcaret. Both can be seen at the park, in their respective breeding and conservation areas. The Regional Wildlife Breeding Farm is home to over 24 species of Mexican birds. Macaws, flamingos, and parrots are just some of the beautiful exotic birds that can be seen at the breeding farm.
- Isla Contoy is a tiny island near Cancun that is a wildlife refuge. Sea turtles nest on the island each Summer and thousands of birds also live on Isla Contoy. The only human inhabitants of Isla Contoy are scientists that study the island’s wildlife & plant life and give tours to the tourists that visit the island. The number of visitors to the island is limited to only 200 people per day. There are hiking trails, unspoiled white-sand beaches, and a small museum on Isla Contoy. Most tours to Isla Contoy include a stop to snorkel on the way to the island. During the Summer months, whale sharks migrate to the area near Isla Contoy and may be spotted as you sail to and from the island.