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Exploring Cancún's Low-key Side

During peak season, photographer Brad Torchia finds that mega-resorts and local spots aren’t an ocean apart.

Cancun, Marine-life murals

A restaurant employee takes a break, leaning against a wall covered with colourful fish. Marine-life murals bring the deep sea to the surface all across Isla Mujeres.

Cancun, Gulf of Mexico fish

Aboard a chartered boat, our photographer explored Laguna Nichupté before heading into open waters in the Gulf of Mexico. He then brought the day’s catch to his hotel’s kitchen on ice, where it was turned into tacos for dinner.

Cancun, Isla Mujeres hotels

On Isla Mujeres, 13 kilometres off the coast of Cancún, hotels on side streets offer an alternative to all-inclusive resorts.

Cancun, Isla Mujeres population

Just seven kilometres long and 650 metres wide, the island has a population of 15,000 – nearly 50 times smaller than that of Cancún.

Cancun, Isla Mujeres shopkeeper

As golf carts whiz by, an Isla Mujeres shopkeeper rearranges his display of Mayan weaving in the midday sun.

Cancun, pastel colour-blocked walls pay homage to the Virgin Mary

In the 16th century, when Spanish explorers encountered a spot of land northeast of Cancún, they called it the “Island of Women” after its abundant iconography of the moon and fertility goddess Ixchel. Nowadays, pastel colour-blocked walls pay homage to the Virgin Mary.

Cancun, hotel employee rakes seaweed

As the tide ebbs, a hotel employee rakes seaweed from the powdery white sand of Cancún’s Playa Ballenas in the Zona Hotelera, a sandy strip separated from the mainland by Laguna Nichupté.

Cancun, Grand Oasis Palm Hotel

On the 15-minute ferry ride back from Isla Mujeres, the Grand Oasis Palm Hotel stands out on the shore of Playa Langosta.

Cancun, Zona Hotelera’s 22-kilometre coastline

Life’s a day at the beach on the Zona Hotelera’s 22-kilometre coastline.

Cancun, Isla Mujeres’ calm waters cover the Manchones Reef

Isla Mujeres’ calm waters cover the Manchones Reef. Part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, it is home to 500 species of fish, including the largest in the world, the whale shark.

Cancun, Playa Ballenas

While many visitors come to glide along clear waters, mid-morning is a time to catch up on some reading between renting jet skis and parasails on a tranquil strip of Playa Ballenas.



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