When people think of the Caribbean their mind automatically turns to emerald green islands in a glistening pool of blue with shimmering sandy beaches and swaying palms, cocktails to the sound of steel drums and a unique laid back atmosphere. Relevant and true this may be but it excludes some of the other delights of the Caribbean that aren’t islands but are the coastlines of countries that all bring their own offering as diverse as cheddar is to mozzarella. One such special place is the Mayan Riviera of Mexico.
The Mayan Riviera is a great destination for both summer and winter holidays and its blindingly white sands and lapis lazuli waters rival any of the Caribbean islands. Stretching from Cancún to Tulum, resorts in Riviera Maya tend to be purpose built from meticulous plans and are complexes of large quality hotels, shopping malls, food villages and landscaped open and green spaces but this modernity sits comfortably in a country rich in ancient history with a proud heritage and beyond the resorts there is a world of wonder to be explored.
Here are ten top things to see and do on the Riviera Maya
Tulum Archaeological Site
Pre-Columbian walled city with an impressive cliff top Mayan Fortress known as El Castillo. There’s a large number of ruins, sites and items of archaeological significance in a compact area including temples and murals. The view across the Caribbean from the cliff top is breathtaking and there are also undersea caves for divers and snorkelers to explore.
Playa Del Carmen
One of the busiest resorts of Riviera Maya, Playa Del Carmen’s development has a distinct European atmosphere but if you head north of La Quinta Avenida, you’re back on the unpaved roads real Mexico. La Quinta shopping is not to be missed and there’s also the amazing El Alux restaurant and bar 25 feet down under in a massive limestone cave.
The Belize Reef is the second longest in the world and one of the prime locations for scuba diving is off Isla Cozumel. Palancar reef is a huge length of stunning coral formations with amazing 200 odd foot visibility. It’s a fantastic opportunity for deep-water diving and underwater photography as well as shallow caverns and a kaleidoscope of marine life.
Playa Lingua del Caribe
Does a better way exist to learn a language? At Playa Lingua del Carmen you can take a Spanish course over 20 hours a week or take a Mexican cooking class, salsa dancing lessons or even attend a lecture on aspects of Mayan culture and all just 5 minutes walk from a stunning beach.
Xcaret and Xel-Ha
Two Disney-esque eco theme parks offering nature based activities in a Mayan and
pseudo-Mayan setting. Attractions include swimming with dolphins, coral reef aquarium, animals such as manatees, jaguar, deer and turtles, a replica Mayan village as well as genuine ruins and there’s all the usual expectations of theme parks – spa, pools, restaurants and handicraft and souvenir shops. There are also plenty of demonstrations of Mexican life, ancient and modern.
Punta Molas Lighthouse
On Cozumel island hire a four wheel drive and head north. At the end of the gorgeously scenic road is Punta Molas Lighthouse. Not only are there the fantastic views from the lighthouse but on the way back stop off at Castillo Real, a ruined and unrestored Mayan temple. If you’ve remembered to pack your diving or snorkelling gear there’s a nice beach near the ruins for a refreshing dip.
Sites of archaeological interest lie along the entire length of Riviera Maya and really too many to mention here. The area is actually known as the Corredor Arqueológico because of the abundance of things to see including the truly magnificent megalithic Acrópolis at Kinich-Ná. Head inland to Cobá where the temples and pyramids rise majestically from their verdant carpet and where you can climb the 120 steps to the summit of Nohoch Mul for the most breathtaking views over the forest canopy and beyond.
Make time for the temple of the mind and body. There are plenty of luxurious spas throughout the Riviera Maya and most of them under the one family of Renova. There are some equally good independent ones like Spa Itzá IN Playa del Carmen or the Maya Spa at Tulum. Both offer treatments based on ancient Mayan healings.
Riviera Maya is a water sports playground and if there’s a water based activity you can think of you’ll find it here. From water ski-ing, paragliding, wind surfing, board sailing, kite surfing to pedaloes and banana boat rides, and even swimming with whale sharks, the choice in the larger resorts is endless.
Have you ever tried ziplining? Also known as the flying fox, this popular activity can be found on tours along the coast. There are also a multitude of fishing tours and boating trips including jungle tours and wave runners. There are also a number of high quality golf courses if you fancy a round or two.
Photo Credit: www.rivieramaya.com