Riviera Maya, Mexico
Attractions in Riviera Maya
The attractions in the Riviera Maya range from horseback riding to a fabulous tour through the jungle and around the archeological sites, as well as an incredible variety of exciting water sports. What was once the heart of one of the most ancient civilizations, today has become Mexico's stunning Riviera Maya, a place that provides adventure, culture, relaxation and entertainment. The sheer number of tourist attractions on offer in Riviera Maya will easily keep you occupied for your entire vacation.
Playa del Carmen
Just 42 miles from Cancun you will find the heart and capital of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen. This town has evolved from originally a small group of Mayan pilgrims into a lively, cosmopolitan city with the highest urban growth in the country. Its natural beauty and miles of white sandy beaches, its enviable geographical location, and its blend of sea and jungle, make this destination in the Mexican Caribbean a magnet for both Mexicans and visitors from all over the world.
Playa del Carmen is a fantastic place to spend your vacation, with its fantastic variety of hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and golf courses, as well as water sports, such as snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, sailing and boat trips.
Tulum is the largest Maya construction built on the coast and it is now the most visited archeological site in Mexico. Tulum is a particularly impressive site, perched high atop limestone cliffs that reach far down beneath the turquoise waters of the Caribbean below.
Tulum used to be a very important center of commerce and a place of pilgrimage. Only 78 miles south of Cancun, the walled city of Tulum was the first Mayan community sighted by the Spanish in the 16th century.
There are a number of structures in Tulum, but El Castillo is the most important. At one time it functioned as a lighthouse, guiding ships through the treacherous reefs that lie offshore. Another interesting structure at Tulum is the Temple of the Frescoes with its wall paintings, on which the original pigment used to stain the carved figures can still be seen. Tulum is the only walled archeological site discovered on the coast to date and is a must see attraction in the Riviera Maya.
Just over 19 miles south of Cancun, this small fishing village is mainly frequented for its car ferry service to Cozumel Island. So far Puerto Morelos has escaped the coastal development that continues elsewhere along the Cancun-Tulum corridor (the old name for the Riviera Maya) and retains a low-key, relaxed atmosphere with seafood restaurants, limited accommodation, and an enticing offshore reef for snorkelers and divers. The beautiful, tranquil beaches with pristine waters and white sand of Puerto Morelos, in the northern region of the state of Quintana Roo, are the beginning of the majestic length of the Riviera Maya's beach that are ideal for travelers looking for tranquility.
One of the places ideal to go diving and explore the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, is without a doubt, Puerto Aventuras. This town has a modern marina called San Carlos, where numerous boats arrive and where it is possible to organize trips lasting between an hour and a full day of deep sea fishing or sailing.
This beautiful bay was the first resort to be developed in the Riviera Maya. It has grown considerably since its beginnings in the 1950's as an exclusive resort for scuba divers, yet continues to maintain an unhurried, relaxed atmosphere. There are no sunsets more stunning in the Mexican Caribbean than the ones offered onAkumal beaches, located 22 miles south of Playa del Carmen. Akumal means ''place of turtles'' in Mayan and it is here where annually, during the summer months, hundreds of green and loggerhead turtles arrive to lay their eggs on the beach. This heavenly bay is protected by exotic offshore reefs, ideal for diving. If you continue walking one mile north, you will find another magnificent bay named Media Luna (Half Moon) and a little bit farther north there is the gorgeous Yalku Bay. If you are looking for the perfect place for your next dream vacation then look no further, come to Akumal.
This bay has its own coral reef with thousands of colorful fish and direct access to a pier. Kantenah Bay has 2.5 miles of white beaches, ideal for a relaxing siesta in a hammock under the shade of the palm trees. Enjoy the sea breeze while walking on the quiet and always cool beaches. If you continue walking south, approximately one mile, you will find a small but extraordinary bay named Xcaac, with its crystal clear calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. There are also small restaurants available in this area.
Surrounded by luxury hotels and charming beaches, Xpu-Ha is nestled in amongst the exuberant jungle, beside white sand beaches like talc and shallow turquoise waters that allow you to enjoy a wide variety of waters sports. Xpu-Ha also has a bay, a lagoon and a crystal clear cenote, all of them located in the north of the area.
This ancient archeological site was constructed between two lakes, spanning more than 50 square miles of structures and history. The main pyramid, Nohoch Muul, is the tallest in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, standing 138 feet tall and overlooking the tropical jungle.
There are hundreds of cenotes (freshwater sinkholes) all over the Yucatan Peninsula, especially in the Riviera Maya. In this stunning natural region the cenotes, a word derived from the Mayan language, have to be mentioned because of their special characteristics and for the fact that they are great fun to swim or dive in. Some of the best cenotes are Taj Majal, Ponderosa, Dos Ojos, Calavera, Cristal, Escondido and the Gran Cenote, as well as the still unexplored Ruta de los Cenotes (Route of the Cenotes), Definitely, one of the best natural attractions in the Riviera Maya.
This eco-park is considered the biggest natural aquarium in the world. Shaped by a huge estuary and featuring charming scenery with hundreds of tropical fish, it is also known for its small Mayan vestiges and its many cenotes and caverns. Restaurants, showers and locker rooms are available.
The most important eco-archeological park in Mexico is in the Riviera Maya, just 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen. Xcaret is a park with a myriad of attractions that exhibits the richness of Mexico, but especially the Mayan culture. Exuberant vegetation and exotic native fauna, archeological tours, water activities such as swimming and snorkeling in its attractive inlet, underground rivers and refreshing lagoons, as well as the opportunity to have the unique experience of swimming with the dolphins, are just some of the fantastic activities on offer. In the evening, the entertainment continues with the magical ''Night Show'', featuring the best selection of culture, music and regional dances of Mexico.
Just 33 miles south of Playa del Carmen and 10 miles before Tulum, you will find the underground paradise of Aktun Chen, which roughly translates to ''cavern with a cenote inside''. It is a natural park spanning 988 acres of virgin jungle. The main attractions of the park are a 1968 feet deep cavern full of amazing formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites, and a fascinating 39 ft deep cenote with pristine fresh water.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Heading south, travelers arrive at the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Natural Reserve, also known as "the place where the sky begins". It is an area of 1,309,659 acres comprised of rain forest, lakes, swamps, coastal ponds, bays and reefs; all of which are home to the natural habitat of thousands of animal species, such as jaguars and pumas, white-tail deer, crocodiles, howler and spider monkeys and an astonishing 345 species of birds. The roughly 1,000 inhabitants, who live in the reserve, still make their living from fishing. There are tours to the natural reserve every day, which include a three hour boat-trip.
One of the favorite activities for visitors is scuba diving on the Great Maya Reef, the second-largest in the world. Stretching almost the entire length of theRiviera Maya, it features more than seventy places to view the wide variety of reef formations. The spectacular tropical marine life here is unique and unforgettable. Also in this area, there is the exclusive and captivating fascination of the Mexican Caribbean in itself, along with the subterranean aquatic world of this Mayan territory, where underground rivers wind gently beneath the surface thus creating thousands of cenotes, making this one of the most popular places for cavern diving.
In recent years golf has become one of the main attractions in the Riviera Maya, due to its wide variety of exquisite golf courses along the 75 miles of coastline. Great golfers and designers have constructed golf courses in the Riviera Maya, such as Jack Nicklaus with his Moon Spa & Golf Club and The Mayan Resort; Greg Norman with El Camaleon Mayakoba, Robert von Hagge with Bahia Principe Golf Resort, Robert Trent Jones Jr. with Playacar Spa & Golf Club and Thomas Leman with Puerto Aventuras Golf Resort.
Fishing in the Rivera Maya is simply spectacular. In the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean there exists two types of fishing, deep sea fishing and fishing in shallow waters. The main species that you can catch in deep waters, year round, are snapper, wahoos, mackerel, sharks and barracudas, and March through June, sailfish, marlins, tuna and dorados are in abundance. During the months of April and May the possibilities of catching sailfish become even greater.
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