The Nichupté Lagoon in Cancun is one of my favorite places to explore, home to a variety of wildlife to observe and a place with many outdoor activities away from the crowds.
I live in Cancun and I went kayaking and paddle boarding on the lagoon several times, and in this post, I will tell you everything you can do in the lagoon, and how to make the most of it too. I am sure that when you finish reading you will love this magical Cancun lagoon l as much as I do.
In the heart of Cancun, the impressive ecosystem of the Nichupte Lagoon is one of the region’s most stunning and most often underrated hidden gems. Read on to learn more.
The Nichupte’ Lagoon at a glance
While it’s one of Cancun’s most underrated natural resources, experiencing its raw natural beauty is a must when visiting Cancun.
The meeting point of seven bodies of water, the Nichupté is a blend of fresh and salt water. The North Basin, Central Basin, South Basin, Borjóquez Lagoon, English River, Mediterranean Lagoon, and Laguna del Amor all flow into the Nichupté.
In fact, it’s the only natural ecosystem that remains after the construction of Cancun’s Hotel Zone in the 1970s.
It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, especially bird watchers and marine biologists.
As a long-time resident of Cancun, I’m here to tell you what you can expect during a visit.
You’ll learn about the best eco-friendly water activities, and why this captivating nature reserve should be on your Cancun bucket list!
Activities in Laguna Nichuptè Cancun
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If you’re feeling adventurous, the Jungle Tour Adventure Cancun: Speedboat & Snorkel Tour is for you.
The adventure starts at the marina 30 minutes before departure time. Before boarding, you’ll receive safety instructions and quick training on how to drive your vessel.
You and a passenger will carefully and safely head out to the mangrove jungle canals.
Your mission? To coast through the waters within the lagoon to explore the stunning marine land and mangrove canals of the National Park of Punta Nizuc.
You’ll snorkel the shallow coral reefs and enjoy a refreshing 45-minute swim before heading back to the marina. Food and drinks as well as hotel pick up and drop off are available for an additional cost.
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This three-hour Kayak Tour in Laguna Nichupte Cancun starts in the Art Garden (the small strip of the lagoon).
Here, the kayak instructors will give brief training on how to navigate through the canals with your paddle. You’ll also learn about the lagoon’s delicate ecosystem and how to navigate it without disturbing the landscape.
You’ll gently cross through the channels of mangroves to discover birds, marine life, and mangrove caves.
It’s one of the best ways to enjoy a relaxing paddle through one of the Yucatan’s most pristine nature reserves.
The excursion is also the perfect activity to enjoy with family, friends, your partner, or solo. The tour company supplies all kayak and snorkel equipment, a life jacket, one bottle of water, and fruit.
3. Nichupté Lagoon wildlife tour
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This 3-hour boat tour will take you around the Lagoon Nichupte’. You will traverse the winding mangrove channels and observe the diverse range of migratory birds and crocodiles that call this place home, while a knowledgeable guide shares insights about the unique ecosystems of Cancun.
Relax and soak in the natural beauty as the sun sets over the horizon from the comfort of the boat.
Some snacks and transportation from and to your hotel are provided.
4. Nichupté Lagoon Kayak at Sunset
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Explore the natural landscapes and wildlife of the stunning Nichupté Lagoon on this relaxing Nichupte Lagoon Kayak tour! Your professional guides will first begin with a brief warm-up and training.
They will go over the basics of kayaking and demonstrate how to best navigate your vessel to minimize disruption to the ecosystem. After the training, you’re off to explore!
During the tour, there will be plenty of photo opportunities to capture your memories as you watch birds, fish, rays, crustaceans, crocodiles, and maybe even dolphins!
This tour is a great way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life in Cancun and truly connect with nature.
Bottled water kayaking equipment (double or single), life jackets/vests, and complimentary photos of your experience are included. Hotel pickup and drop-off and lunch are an additional cost.
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Are you a SUPper? This unique two-hour paddle board experience at sunrise is a great way to explore the lagoon! Not only is it a great way to start the day, but it’s also a great activity for people of any fitness level.
First, guides will show you how to properly paddle and navigate your board through the waters. You’ll enjoy stunning blue waters at sunrise and (hopefully) plenty of wildlife viewing.
If you want to embark on your journey later in the afternoon, you can alternatively take in a breathtaking Caribbean sunset.
Whether you paddle in the lagoon or take a walk through the mangroves, you’re sure to see Cancun from a new perspective after this tour.
Equipment and photos are complimentary, and all professional tour guides provide the best experience possible.
6. Take a walk on the Malecon Tajamar
If you want to do a local thing you should take a walk at the Malecon during sunset time or at sunrise. Here you will find people walking their dogs, exercising, skateboarding or just hanging out with their friends and family.
I used to go to the Malecon very often when I lived in Cancun permanently and I still find it a very safe and tranquil place. It’s especially beautiful at sunset and sunrise for the spectacular light.
It’s located right in front of the Shopping Center Plaza Las Americas, where you can continue your walk, shop, or grab something to eat in one of the many restaurants.
7. Watch the sunset from Plaza la Isla
Plaza La Isla is one of the most luxurious shopping centers in Cancun located right opposite the above-mentioned Malecon Tahamar.
It’s another great place to hang out at sunset and from the dock, you can watch the sun setting behind the Cancun skyscrapers and the lagoon of course.
In Plaza La Isla you can find some of the most popular Restaurants of the Cancun Hotel Zone. I especially love Thai Restaurant with its tables located below palapas right on the lagoon Nichupté.
Nichupté Lagoon Information
👉🏻 Where is Nichupté Lagoon located?
The Nichupté Lagoon covers the entire hotel zone of Cancun and a small part of downtown Cancun on the eastern coast of Cancun. In fact, you can even see the entire lagoon from the Tajamar boardwalk.
👉🏻 How deep is the Cancun Lagoon?
With mostly shallow water, the lagoon has an approximate depth of 1.5 meters to 2 meters (5 to 7 feet). There are some areas that are even more shallow, though these areas can only be reached by kayak or paddle boat to not disturb the ecosystems or wildlife.
👉🏻 How big is the Lagoon in Nichupté?
All seven of the lakes and lagoons that flow into Nichupté are connected to the Caribbean Sea. Two canals serve as mouths to the lagoon: the Siegfried Canal and the Nizuc Canal.
The surface area of the Nichupté exceeds 3,000 hectares or 1.1 square miles.
All that land that makes up the lagoon is publicly accessible. Nichupté splits Cancun’s hotel zone in half, separating it from downtown Cancun.
A fun fact is that the lagoon itself is actually heart-shaped!
There are many legends of love and romance associated with the waters.
The first claims that whoever swims in these waters will be transformed into a mermaid. The second claims he or she who swims in the waters will find their soulmate.
To be completely honest, I personally believe that whoever swims in that water will be eaten by a crocodile so don’t do that!
👉🏻 Can you swim in Nichupté Lagoon?
Swimming in the lagoon isn’t illegal, but it is highly recommended that those who visit be mindful of wildlife and the ecosystem.
Nichupté lagoon crocodiles are prevalent throughout the waters, though there are some areas where crocodile sightings are less frequent, so it’s considered safer to swim.
Aside from swimming, you can also enjoy other water activities such as fishing, wakeboarding, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, and flyboarding.
It’s best to book a guided tour with a professional to ensure whatever activities you partake in don’t disrupt the natural environment of the lagoon.
Many of these tours provide access to the Laguna Nichupté mangroves tunnels and allow close encounters with different varieties of fauna and flora in the lagoon’s lush jungle.
While kayaking in the Lagoon Nichupte’ in the night you may be able to see some bioluminescence in some parts.
👉🏻 Are there animals in lagoon Cancun?
The lagoon is surrounded by lush mangrove canals that serve as natural habitats for different species of plants and animals.
You may also find iguanas, turtles, leopard frogs, blue crabs, and the occasional dolphin. The lagoon is also home to nearly 160 different species of birds!
As most people are aware, there is also a very sizable population of crocodiles (and some alligators) that live in the Nichupté Lagoon.
While they have the capability to roam about the waters freely, the crocodiles usually stay close to a specific area where they can easily find food sources, can sun themselves, and feel protected without being disturbed.
The blend of saltwater and freshwater from the sea provides a prosperous environment for fish to reproduce and grow before going back out to the Caribbean Sea.
Conservation and protection of Nichupté Lagoon
An increase in visitors wanting to experience the lagoon in addition to many gas-powered water activities has led to a gradual decline in its ecosystem.
Things like jet-skiing, boating, and parasailing have all been shown to damage the mangrove forests, the reefs, and the overall water quality.
The loud sounds and vibrations from motors also disturb the wildlife that may be feeding or mating.
To reduce the impact on the environment, the Mexican Government continues to take action to preserve and protect the mangrove forests regularly.
They perform deep cleans of the water to remove trash and pollution, and the Mexican Courts even ruled against the further development of real estate projects in the mangrove forests.
A 2021 project bulldozed more than 120 acres of the mangroves, though environmentalists say the area can be revitalized and regrown.
Safety Precautions in Nichupté Lagoon
If you plan to participate in water activities, always wear a life vest when out on the water. This goes for kayaking, boating, and paddle boarding, too.
Even though the water is more shallow than most, the current can sometimes increase slightly in the area around the bridge leading out to the sea.
When you’re on a guided tour, be sure to listen and pay attention to the tour guide. This will ensure you have the most memorable and safe experience possible while also respecting the ecosystem and wildlife.
There are many species of marine and wildlife in the lagoon, some of which can be dangerous, so just be aware of your surroundings.
The great thing is that even beginners can enjoy most of the water activities, or at least learn how to do them almost instantly.
Since the sun is ruthless almost year-round, wear sunblock, (eco and reef-friendly), eco-friendly mosquito spray, and a dry bag for your clothes and camera.
Keep mosquitos away!
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Restaurants near the lagoon Nichupté
One of the great things about Nichupte is that it’s a natural paradise that feels like it’s a million miles away from civilization. However, it’s a few short miles from the center of Cancun, which means there are endless award-winning restaurants nearby!
Some of the most popular restaurants include Porfirio’s authentic traditional Mexican, El Fish Fritanga’s local seafood, and Ilios Greek Estiatorio’s Mediterranean dishes.
You can find more detailed information on the restaurants in the Hotel Zone in my dedicated post.
When to visit Nichupté Lagoon
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Cancun (and therefore the Nichupté Lagoon), is during the months of December through April.
During this period, the weather is usually clear and warm and not too hot. You can expect average daily temperatures to hover between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There will also be less humidity and fewer rain storms.
The only downside is that winter through early spring is the high season for Cancun, so you may experience more crowds and full group tours.
If you can tolerate the heat, humidity, and occasional rain, late summer through mid-fall is the best time to go to beat the crowds.
How to get to the Laguna Nichupte’ in Cancun
You can access the Laguna Nichupte’ from different areas, from the afore-mentioned Malecon, or along the Hotel Zone but the best way is with a guided tour. Many of these tours are led by local professionals who are experts in ecology and know the area well.
You can even book an eco-friendly tour. These tours allow you to explore the lagoon’s waters without disturbing the wildlife, coral reefs, and fragile mangrove forests.
As a bonus, many of these tours include complimentary pick-up and drop-off to your Cancun hotel. This saves time and money on walking or getting a taxi.
Nichuptè Lagoon Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Are there alligators in the lagoon in Cancun?
Nichupté Lagoon is only home to crocodiles, no American Alligators. You may catch a glimpse of the “Morelet,” known as the swamp crocodile.
It’s more common to see the crocodiles swimming in the body of the lagoon or sunning themselves on the shores of the mangroves.
Although you may be aware of previous crocodile attacks, they were situational. Most of these attacks were a result of tourists not taking necessary precautions or respecting the lagoon’s wildlife.
Are there crocodiles in Mexico Lagoon?
Yes, you will find swamp crocodiles in most bodies of water throughout Mexico, including the Nichupté Lagoon. These lagoons connect to the Caribbean Sea and make a comfortable natural habitat that crocodiles love.
The likelihood of a Crocodile attack in the lagoon is very rare. However, it’s still a good idea to heed warnings and any signage prior to jumping in.
In fact, environmentalists claim the crocodiles in Nichupté are harmless.
Apparently, they don’t want to be around us any more than we want to be around them. This may be true, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when enjoying water activities.
While the Nichupté is the most famous of the crocodile-inhabited bodies of water, it actually isn’t home to the largest population of them.
The mangrove forests of Cayo Centro in the Banco Chinchorro boast the largest population of crocodiles in the region.
If you think you can completely avoid the potential for seeing crocodiles, think again.
They can even be found twenty miles inland in the town of Puerto Vallarta. Crocs also live in bodies of saltwater throughout southern Mexico.
Clusters of them can be found in Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean waters as far South as Peru.
How big do crocodiles get in Cancun?
You can find two species of crocodiles in Mexico. First, the Morelet’s crocodile, also known as the Mexican or Belize crocodile, is a mid-size reptile found only in the fresh waters of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.
This species can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet) in length. Second, the Crocodylus Acutus (American Crocodile) can grow up to 5 meters.
However, male American crocodiles have been known to reach up to twenty feet in size.
Is the Cancun lagoon natural or manmade?
The lagoon is one of the most important natural resources in the region. It naturally separates downtown Cancun from the Cancun Hotel Zone.
The coastal strip along the lagoon was designed in the 1970s as a tourist corridor full of restaurants and beaches.
In recent years, however, the health of this natural ecosystem has declined due to pollution, gas-powered boats, and over-tourism.
Many efforts are being made to protect it as it’s home to hundreds of different species of marine and wildlife.
Does Nichupté Lagoon have fresh water?
Many different sources of water flow into Nichupté, so the water is a blend of salt and freshwater.
The Caribbean Sea, North Basin, Central Basin, South Basin, Borjóquez Lagoon, English River, Mediterranean Lagoon, and the Laguna del Amor all blend.
This is referred to as brackish water. The salinity of brackish water ranges from 0.5 to 35ppt but varies based on the body of water itself. These levels can also change daily depending on tides and the weather.
What are the nearest attractions to Nichupté Lagoon?
There’s plenty to do in and around the lagoon! You can spend a day at the beach, visit an ecological park, or explore nature parks and archaeological sites.
Popular activities to enjoy near the lagoon include the San Miguelito Archeological Site, Playa Delfines, Kabah Ecological Park, and of course Cancun Beach.
Final Thoughts: Things to do in Nichupté Lagoon
The Nichupte lagoon is undoubtedly one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s shining stars. Even though it’s a nature reserve, it’s different from a beach or jungle experience.
However, it’s still a place where visitors can deeply connect with nature and learn more about the delicate ecosystems of the Yucatan.
Here, you can enjoy numerous water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, fishing, diving, paddle boarding, or speed boating.
The water is calm and crystal clear which makes it the perfect place to admire the beauty of the mangrove forests, marine life, and the fauna of the Mexican Caribbean.
While a generally safe place to explore, it’s best to go with a tour guide. A guide can ensure you have the safest, most fun time possible.
Be aware of and respect wildlife, and be sure to obey the laws and the instruction of your guide while on the water.
Make sure to use eco-friendly and reef-safe mosquito repellent and biodegradable sunscreen. Refreshments are complimentary on most tours, but if you bring your own, keep your trash until you return to the marina.
Above all, be respectful of the ecosystem and leave the lagoon better than you found it. It’s essential to protect this unique ecosystem as much as possible so future generations can enjoy it.