Don’t miss these blissful experiences on the Riviera Maya, from stunning archaeological ruins to the most luxurious of beach accommodations.
Play at Xcaret or Xel Ha
Where can you find underground rivers, cultural treasures of Mexico, Mayan ruins, local cuisine and more? The Xcaret and Xel Ha Riviera Maya theme parks. The Xcaret nature park in Playa del Carmen offers more than 50 natural and cultural attractions, from mystical subterranean pools to the Butterfly Pavilion, from ancient archaeological sites to the Coral Reef Aquarium. Commune with sea turtles, hang out with dolphins, swim with stingrays and sharks, then watch a stunning evening performance that delves into the area’s Mayan history.
At Xel Ha in Tulum, you’ll snorkel, float and swim in a huge natural water park. Sure, there are waterslides, but you can also swim in sacred, crystal-clear cenotes, observe vividly hued tropical fish in their natural habitat, trek into the jungle, take in the views from a lighthouse, go zip-lining over the sea and more. Both Xel-Ha and Xcaret offer an immersive, all-in-one experience that will immerse you in the natural splendor of the Riviera Maya.
Swim in a Cenote
No vacation along the Riviera Maya is complete without a dip, or two, in an ancient cenote. These underground limestone pools are full of refreshingly cool groundwater, home to colorful fish, and brimming with stalagmites, stalactites (and the bat colonies that come along with this ilk of geological features). Among the best natural swimming hotels in the Yucatan Peninsula are:
- Cenote Ik Kil: Close to Chicken Itza and part of the Ik Kil Archeological Park, this cenote is approximately 130 feet deep. Natural light brightens up the water despite its depth. It’s a great place for a refreshing dip after exploring nearby ruins.
- Cenote X’Canche: Close to the Ek Balam archaeological site, this sacred cenote is deep in the jungle. A steep wooden staircase leads visitors deep down into the swimming hole. It’s popular, so it’s best to get there before noon.
- Cenote Dos Ojos: Featured in IMAX films, on the Discovery Channel and on the BBC, these two connected cenotes are north of Tulum. While it’s great for swimming, it’s equally enticing to divers, who come for the immaculately clear water and year-round 77-degree Fahrenheit temps.
Check Out Mayan Ruins at Tulum or Chichen Itza
Just as iconic – and perhaps more so – than cenotes, the Mayan ruins of the Riviera Maya are a must-see. Tulum is a favorite for its coastal location, cave and cavern diving and, of course, fantastic Mayan ruins. The ancient walled city sits atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, so you can easily combine your archaeological visit with a dip in the ocean. The Playa Ruinas, dating back to the 13th century, is Tulum’s most iconic attraction. Don’t miss the impressive Castillo watchtower.
Add on Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders, for a complete Riviera Maya archaeological experience. Wander through this well-preserved Mayan city, which served as a sacred site for more than 700 years, noting the many temples, ball game courts, Pyramid of Kukulkán and sacred cenote. It’s certainly one of the top things to do in the Riviera Maya. From the famous Chacmool statues to the magnificent Temple of the Warriors, it’s easy to see why this is one of the top destinations in Mexico.
Take a Gondola Ride Through the Mayan Jungle
At Xoximilco Park, you can take a festive gondola ride through the jungle, complete with food and beverages. You’ll feel the essence of Mexico aboard your colorful vessel, which glides through various natural scenes paying tribute to the traditions, culture and folklore of Xoximilco, one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s like riding a gondola through a huge Mexican festival, with celebrations, dancing and singing going on all around you. You’ll enjoy a dinner with the distinctive flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine and an open bar of tequila, vodka, rum, beer, soft drinks and more.
Stay in an Overwater Bungalow
Not just the purview of the South Pacific, you can escape the everyday in a romantic overwater bungalow on the Riviera Maya. Your exclusive accommodations are perched over turquoise waters, giving you an incredibly private and indulgent tropical experience. Your ocean views will be second to none. Amenities run the gamut from private plunge pools to private outdoor showers to indoor hot tubs for two. You’ll have a direct ladder into the ocean so take a dip whenever you please. Just as with a traditional resort room, it’s easy to call upon your personal butler, who can come out to your bungalow with room service, beach picnics, sunscreen and reading material, packing and unpacking services – really anything your heart desires.