Mayan Riviera Travel Guide
With silky white sands and ancient ruins that used to house the Mayans, which were one of the more prominent Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, the Mayan Riviera is one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.
From the party hardy city of Cancun, to the historic and hippie-friendly confines of Tulum, there are many places within this region that will suit any type of traveler. The one aspect that unites everyone though are the spectacular beaches that can be found everywhere in this area; while that isn’t all there is to do here, the beauty of the seaside in this part of Mexico will have you planning your next trip here on your flight back home.
Well the temptation to go to the beach will be irresistible during your time in the Mayan Riviera, there are plenty of Mayan ruins to explore as well. If you have time for only one, plan a day trip out to Chichen Itza, as it is the best known ruin complex of the Maya in all of the Yucatan Peninsula.
While getting there will take some time, the trip out there and back will be well worth it, as it was the largest Mayan city in the Empire during its heyday. This is abundantly clear by the diversity of architectural styles in the surviving buildings here, but the one structure you will want to go to first is El Castillo.
This massive pyramid stands almost a hundred feet tall, and it is aligned so that beams of sunlight enter the temple chambers in a decorative fashion during the spring and fall equinoxes.
If you do not wish to spend a large amount of time busing to and from Chichen Itza, there are a number of other ruins that are closer to the resort cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The most prominent of these is Tulum, which was a Mayan port city during the height of the Mayan Empire.
Tourist traffic is most intense during the mid day, so those wishing to explore this coastal temple complex will want to arrive early in the morning. Do not forget your camera back at the resort, as the views here are nothing short of remarkable.
Of particular note is the grand temple, which overlooks the Caribbean Sea, and one of Tulum’s most desirable beaches.
if the crowds at Tulum and Chichen Itza are too much for you, then heading inland to the Mayan town of Coba will provide you with an alternative that will allow you to walk among the ruins of a former civilization, all without tripping over too many tourists with fanny packs and over sized cameras.
Coba is well known for having the largest network of stone causeways in the ancient Mayan Empire, as well as having numerous decorative pillars known as stele.
Want to learn more about the Mayan Empire via the numerous artifacts recovered from the archaeological sites that you have just explored? If so, then a trip to the Museo Maya de Cancún will satisfy this desire.
Reopening in 2007 after being reinforced against hurricane force winds that tore it apart the previous year, this institution has exhibits that showcase over 400 pieces taken from the temples around the area. Headquartered in Cancun, it offers a nice cultural break in what is usually a city that dedicates itself towards hedonism and the pursuit of pleasure.
While official state cultural institutions are somewhat lacking in the Mayan Riviera, Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil has opened up a show at Vidanta Riviera Maya.
Joya by Cirque du Soleil Is the show that has been running since November 2014, and it offers patrons the chance to observe world class circus acrobatics and theater, while enjoying a dinner that stands equal with any offerings found at other all inclusive resorts in the region.
Those wishing to get in touch with the Mayan Riviera’s culture and nature in a tourist friendly environment will enjoy a day out at Xcaret. Located less than 5 minutes from the centre of Playa del Carmen, this so-called eco-theme park contains a living history Mayan village, and atmospheric grotto and a beach, where snorkeling and other aquatic activities can be undertaken.
One of the best known natural attractions that the Yucatan Peninsula is known for are cenotes. Most cenotes are exposed to the above ground world, as the limestone ceilings that used to enclose them have long since collapsed.
However, some of these caves still exist in their original form, one of which is Rio Secreto. This water-filled cavern was discovered in 2007, it has been found to be one of the world’s longest underground rivers.
Tour guides will take you through these caverns, which feature crystal clear water that has been filtered by passing through the porous limestone that looms above your head. The most profound experience on this tour is when all headlamps are turned off for a minute in silence in a pitch-black cavern; this enlivens the senses in ways that you cannot understand until you do this for yourself. On this count alone, this attraction is well worth the money and the time you will invest in it.
We couldn’t write an article on the Mayan Riviera without mentioning its many amazing beaches. From the sand bar beaches of the hotel zone in Cancun, to the well kept secret (oops, sorry!) of the sleepy sands of Punta Allen, there are plenty of amazing experiences just waiting to be had.
Of particular note is the opportunity to swim with sea turtles in Akumal, as the bay in this part of the Mayan Riviera is famous for nesting sea turtles in season.
If you are staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, be sure to spend a night or two exploring the nightlife that has made this part of the world famous. The scene in Cancun is particularly popular with young people, especially with Spring Breakers that comes down to this part of Mexico in March.
Playa del Carmen’s nightlife scene appeals more to those with more mature tastes, but if you are still looking for a lively party here, spending the night at Coco Bongo is a great way to have an electrifying night with friends.