With its ten municipalities and capital city of Chetumal, the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is situated on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It borders the Mexican states of Yucatan and Campeche as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Central American nation of Belize. Quintana Roo covers about 16,300 miles (some area that borders Guatemala is disputed and claimed by both Quintana Roo and the state of Campeche), but its most famous real estate is represented by the celebrated city of Cancun and various vacation islands like Cozumel.
Quintana Roo boasts a population of 1,386,473, but this figure is expected to grow as more people move into tourist areas like Cancun where workers are needed for the construction of new hotels. Cancun is also the state’s largest city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Mexico’s youngest state, Quintana Roo was granted statehood in 1974. The state’s major international airports are located in Cancun and on Cozumel.
Quintana Roo’s history is, of course, part of the long and ancient history of the Yucatan Peninsula. Although Quintana Roo became a federal territory of Mexico in 1902, it has long been home to people of Mayan and Mestizo descent. Historians believe that the first humans in the area arrived between ten and twelve thousand years ago. The Mayans, however, moved north from Guatemala into the region around the year 250 A.D. By the tenth century, the Toltecs moved into the Yucatan and the Mayan’s influence began to deteriorate. When the Spanish arrived in 1540, they capitalized on the feuding tribes to take control for themselves. The region remained under control of the landowners until the 1847 War of the Castes. The region finally came under official Mexican control in the twentieth century, but there remain groups of Mayans who refuse, even today, to recognize Mexico’s sovereignty.
Landscape & Environment
Notably one of the nation’s most beautiful and exotic landscapes, Quintana Roo is famous for its ecosystems that include coral reefs, jungle, mangrove forests, savanna lands, and tropical forests. The beaches draw many tourists to the region, but the state’s interior lands also lure many eco-tourists, history lovers, and adventurers. While exploring the lands of the state, visitors are likely to come across rare and brilliant birds as well as monkeys, snakes, deer, and alligators. Quintana Roo’s waters are famous for their manatees.
Tourism is the state’s biggest industry; the major tourist draws of the state are Cancun and Cozumel, which attract travelers from all over the world. Sugarcane is grown in the region as well as beans, corn, and rice. Raising cattle and other forms of livestock is integral to the state along with beekeeping. Lobster and shrimp are essential to the fishing industry of the area.
Most tourists visiting Quintana Roo head for the coastal resort town of Cancun or the exotic island of Cozumel. The sites and towns of the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya also draw many tourists. These destinations are famous for their resorts, luxury hotels, spas, vibrant nightlife, and plethora of recreational activities. Snorkeling, scuba, swimming, and all manner of water sports are popular among vacationers. Eco-tourism, exploring the natural wonders of the regions, is also popular around Cancun and Cozumel. The capital draws visitors with its various cultural attractions as well. The seaside town of Playa del Carmen is renowned for its beaches; once a simple fishing village that ferried travelers to Cozumel, Playa del Carmen now boasts luxury and boutique hotels and well-known restaurants like Hard Rock Café and Cheesecake Factory. Moreover, Playa del Carmen is also home to the first international House of Blues.
Recent digs around the Riviera Maya have produced evidence that this remote area was once quite important to the Mayans for connecting coastal and inland regions. Many vacationers often devote at least part of their time in Quintana Roo to visiting notable Mayan sites such as Punta Sure, Coba, Muyil, Chacchoben, and Tulum. Mayan pre-Columbian ruins of San Gervasio were an important Mayan pilgrimage site that continues to draw many visitors today. Cancun’s Archaeological Museum is a great venue to view the relics and artifactsof the region’s bygone eras.
While the major tourist towns are rich with cultural attractions, venues that celebrate arts, crafts, and culture can be found in many towns around the state. The capital city of Chetmutal is famous for its Museum of Mayan Culture. Cancun’s National Institute of Anthropology and History is one of the nation’s most notable museums. The city of Cancun also has an exciting underwater museum in the works that will be situated in the waters of the Yucatan’s National Marine Park; the underwater museum will feature sculptural installations located within the reefs. Shopping is extremely popular in both Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Puerto Morelos: This coastal town is one of the gems of the Riviera Maya. Located just twenty minutes to the south of Cancun, Puerto Morelos offers a more serene experience away from the crowds of the more popular destinations.
Akumal: A bit further south from Puerto Morelos, the seaside town of Akumal is revered for its crystal waters. Growing in popularity among tourists, this beautiful town is a great place to swim and snorkel.
Isla Mujeres: This island is just a quick boat ride from Cancun. It’s renowned for its fine snorkeling at Garrafon National Park.
Xcaret: An eco-tourist and archaeological theme park, Xcaret is located on the Riviera Maya and is the perfect place for families to swim with dolphins and celebrate Mayan culture.
Costa Maya: The Maya Riviera is known for its tourism developments, but for vacationers searching for a less-developed and less crowded beach holiday, the Costa Maya is filled with serene beaches and stunning wilderness eco-tours and activities.
Reefs of Cozumel: Cozumel’s reefs are world famous; Columbia and Palancar are famous for their diving, snorkeling, and wildlife-viewing opportunities.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve: This nature and wildlife region contains 780,000 acres and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fuerte San Felipe Bacalar: Located on Laguna Bacalar, this fort is home to a small town museum that features exhibits on the Caste War, historic regional piracy, and other relevant local history.
Ascension Bay: An important area of protected ocean flats and mangrove forests, this is a famous area for bird watching.