Cancun, Mexico, makes all the news. But just 20 minutes from the craziness of the Cancun International Airport hides the secluded enclave of Punta Nizuc. The area has earned recognition recently for two reasons: Nizuc Resort & Spa, which Condé Nast named one of the best new hotels in the world this year, and the emerging MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte, or Museum of Underwater Art), one of the largest and most ambitious underwater artificial art attractions in the world.
Both hotel and museum see the value of drawing attention to the beauty of the protected mangroves, lush foliage, white sands, and rich archeological sites in the Punta Nizuc area, as well as the environmental fragility of its greatest natural gift: the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef in the world.
The luxury Nizuc Resort & Spa, featuring 274 well-appointed suites and private villas on a 29-acre beachfront property, frames the best of this quietly and intentionally developed section of the Riviera Maya. In addition to a 30,000-square-foot spa, several pools, six restaurants, tennis courts, kids club, and a private jetty, Nizuc Resort & Spa is a snorkeling and scuba-driving dream site.
To get a taste of what's available at the innovative MUSA, an underwater art museum about a half-hour boat ride from the resort, visitors can access a private stash of 12 sculptures, submerged 30 feet below the surface, just beyond Nizuc Resort's swim buoy via snorkel and fins, standup paddleboard, or kayak.
But that's just the reception before the big unveiling of hundreds of reef-friendly works at the MUSA, located on a sandy substrate section within the boundaries of the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park. The ultimate intersection of art and environment, the underwater adventure museum offers guided scuba diving (and night diving), snorkeling, or glass-bottom boat tours to view 500 fixed, life-size sculptures—all made from materials designed to promote coral life. There are two submerged galleries: the 8-meter-deep Salon Manchones, suitable for snorkeling or diving, and Salon Nizuc, a 4-meter-deep, snorkel-only section.
The newest pieces by artist Jason deCaires Taylor contain coral reproduction and actually filter nutrients from the water column. The next big MUSA project in development is ZOE, a coral reef memorial sculpture cum science experiment. The welded steel structure of a dividing DNA molecule will serve as a public art exhibit, a coral conservation statement piece, if you will, shared through live streaming video. Ultimately, a low-voltage direct current will be applied to the sculpture, protecting the metal from rusting. Slowly, limestone rock will grow over the steel, creating a custom, coral-like shell.
Outside of beauty and biology, MUSA's permanent art exhibit is serving another purpose: lessening environmental impact. Lightening the load on one of the most visited stretches of water in the world, the strategic location of the sculptures is intended to lure away a portion of some 750,000 visitors to an alternative site, easing pressure on a precious natural habitat. And for that, the reefs can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
For a more affordable way to play at Nizuc Resort & Spa, check out the “third night free” deal.
Learn more about MUSA's amazing underwater sculpture artists.
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