• Top 10 Picks or Must do Activities while in the Riviera Maya and Tulum!

    Greetings Vacationers!

    We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to contribute the happenings in the Riviera Maya through this site and through other travel sites! What better way to give readers a taste of the Riviera Maya than to publish our 1st installment of "Maria’s picks." I am sure many of you will relate to the chosen if you have visited our little slice of paradise! If not, you’ll need to add some exciting activities to your bucket list on your next visit!

    A few suggestions while searching for that perfect vacation destination:

    A vacation destination should be more than just a place to hang your swim suit! It should be an experience!

    A vacation destination should include a great accommodation that is interesting with character and space that is enjoyed by all its guests. It should have the amenities needed to ensure a pleasurable visit. The perfect vacation destination should have ideal weather, sun, great beaches, and a variety of activities for all ages. The ideal vacation should also provide important culture; art, music, food, language and important historic events to educate its visitors. Throw in some palm trees, antique Mayan ruins, amazing cenotes, (natural sinkholes) and a personal concierge, and you have the recipe for the perfect vacation experience!

    Playa del Carmen, Tulum, the Riviera Maya and the Yucatán peninsula are perfectly safe and exciting areas to enjoy a luxurious and valued vacation! Whether you plan to soak up some rays on one of the many pristine beaches or take in some sites, you’ll never run out of things to do! So, take note in these activities and the next time you are in the Riviera Maya remember “Maria’s favorite’s," because “Maria knows México!”

    1. Cobá Ruins, If you can’t get to the ruins at Uxmal, Ek’ Balam or Chichen Itzá in the Yucatán, while visiting the Riviera Maya, you won’t be disappointed seeing the ruins in Cobá. Why? These ruins are traveled way less than the ruins of Tulum, yet they are amazing! There are multiple, impressive structures, including a pyramid called Nohuch Mul, at 42 meters or 138 feet high, taller than the grand pyramid, “El Castillo,” in Chichen Itzá! Best of all, you can currently climb the Cobá pyramid, something you cannot do any longer at the pyramid structures in Chichen Itzá or Tulum. The area is very natural, jungle like. You can rent bikes or be biked around the ruins for a small fee. For added adventure, see the ruins at Cobá on a zip liner to experience the ruins and the jungle from a different angle. There is a natural lake near the site and one of the most amazing cenotes, 20 minutes from the ruins, which is a favorite pick of mine! The cenote is called Tamcach Ha. This cenote is not to be missed! Once you reach the cenote, you will need to walk down a couple of flights of stone steps to experience this breathtaking natural sink hole, emerald in color, mysterious, cool and refreshing. Dare to jump off one of the two diving platforms and experience the magic of Tamcach Ha that the Mayans relished for centuries! The ruins are located approximately 1’25 minutes from Playa del Carmen. Get there early and you might see wild monkeys. Spectacular! Entrance fee to the park is around $4 USD. They have numerous guides that can be hired for the tour and translation, around $25 USD per 2-4 guests. Cenote fees in the area are between $3-5 USD.

    2. Tulum Ruins, Yes, it is the most traveled Mayan archaeological tourist site in Mexico, but it is picturesque and the only Mayan structure built on the Sea! It has an incredible beach that you can take a swim in after, during or before your adventure. The site is also a haven for professional and amateur photographers! We suggest a full day tour of the Tulum ruins on the return from Cobá, and a stop at one of the amazing cenotes, making it a fun-filled, adventurous day! Or, customize your tour with a stop at one of Tulum’s amazing beaches and a stop for lunch or dinner at one of Tulum’s hottest restaurants. Easily, different variations can be planned such as Cobá, Tulum and a stop at a cenote or Cobá, Tulum, and Akumal!

    3. Rio Secreto, is regarded as the greatest expression of the underground world in México! It is an amazing, natural, underground maze of endless and ageless geological formations through corridors of a delicate ecosystem, frozen in time. The guided tour is approximately 2-2 1/2 hours in length, by appointment only, and includes a healthy lunch. The professional guides speak English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and many other languages as convenience. It is one of my favorite picks for kids as it not only is an amazing adventure, but also an educational experience! Please allow us to make your appointment when appropriate. Rio Secreto is located 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Entrance fee is $69 USD per person.

    4. Akumal, is one of my favorite locations to swim and snorkel. Why? Because it is very calm to swim far and easily as it is protected by the 2nd largest natural coral reef system in the world! The amazing system invites an abundance of sea life that includes giant sea turtles that feed on the grassy sea bottom and near the reef. One very special guest is Mexico’s Loggerhead, and Giant sea turtles, that represent 30% of the world’s population! We are delighted that many of them make their home in Akumal, which means “Place of the turtles.” During your visit, there are some cozy, small restaurants and interesting shops that line the beach and around the area. While you don’t have to be a strong swimmer to swim out to the point where the giant turtles feed you can easily apt to hire a fisherman and a small boat to take you there, or you can go as part of a larger group. There are some diving shops on the beach that rent snorkeling equipment. The beach or bay area is lovely, tropical with powdery soft sand. It is a tourist attraction but the turtles are always seen daily in this area. Akumal Beach is located 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 15 minutes north of Tulum. After swimming with the turtles, head on down the main street to the Ya kul Lagoon, to snorkel in an exquisite, natural area which iis also a great place to snorkel and swim with an abundance of tropical and colorful fish.

    5. Xcaret, 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, while a heavily tourist attraction for the Riviera Maya, is perhaps the best activity for kids, offering a wide assortment of attractions and activities. Considered the “Disneyland of México,” the entrance fee to the park includes a swim, snorkel in the underground river, different activities and shows throughout the park, beach, lagoon, along with the “Xpectacular” 2 hour show in an amphitheater, featuring a Spanish-Mayan history lesson, a famous re-enactment of a Mayan pastime or a game played on a ball court with balls made out of fire, horses, animals, music and dance from various states of México, played out perfectly and professionally, 365 days a year! I have visited at least 5 times, and for me the show is “Spectacular!” Some of the activities for kids include: a zoo, interactive aquarium, butterfly farm, bat cave, Mayan village, as well as different performances around the park by mexican cowboys, aerial trapeze artists from the state of Veracruz, México, and much, much, more . . . There are numerous things to see and you could spend 2 or more days trying to capture it all! Entrance fees start at $79 USD per person and up, based on added extras.

    6. Yacht or Catamaran to Cozumel, when you see the Riviera Maya, Tulum, Akumal bay areas, and Cozumel by a yacht or catamaran, there is nothing else like it! Take a 40’ yacht or 50’luxury catamaran for 4,6, 8 or 12 hours out to sail, swim, snorkel, lounge, sun, and fish on the beautiful Caribbean. With an 8 hour trip, you can sail to Cozumel, noted for its world class diving and snorkeling! Snorkel and swim in some of the best snorkeling areas in the world! Stop at a private beach, dock for some great shopping, stop at a museum and sail back, enjoying a cocktail while you sail off into the sunset. Prices start at $350 USD per hour. Food, drink, and itineraries can be customized.

    7. Punta Venado, is a great eco-destination for many activities, such as revving up ATV vehicles through jungles and alongside the beach, horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking, exploring caverns and cenotes, and boating. The area is a natural, vast piece of land, approx. 400 acres with amazing bird life, and 2.5 miles of a breathtaking coastline and pristine beaches. The activities are by appointment only. Please allow us to arrange your reservations. It is 10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. Fee is based on activity. More than 1 activity can be combined.

    8. Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras, While I am not a fan of caged dolphins, I also know that many visitors and families enjoy interacting with dolphins. This location is perhaps one of the best sites to interact with dolphins. It is also an important site for the raising or caring of the dolphins through an educational program. The small, private community is just 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, which boasts several marinas. The dolphins are located in the central area where they are surrounded by some small shops and restaurants. What is interesting is that unlike many dolphin facilities, these areas are open to the public. Many visitors can simply stroll by, stop to see the dolphins, or visit the aquarium which are both free to the public. It is only with the interaction program that visitors need to pay, depending on the activity. It is a great place to spend part of the day, as kid’s attention are often short or they tire easily, at very little or no expense, as the walk and small aquarium are free! You can also sit and enjoy a beverage or snack, shop and walk around this charming community.

    9. Cenotes, while this happens to be #9 on my list, it should be one of the top activities on every visitor’s list! Why? Because you will only find these incredible, natural, sinkholes, savored and sacred by Mayans in the Yucatán Peninsula! All cenotes are not created equal! Just as they are natural, their sizes, shapes, and whether you have to decline 100 stairs or 3 stairs, will make a difference. Just as these amazing waterholes were savored by the Mayans, they are a magical place for dive aficionados! If you are an amateur diver, master diver or cave diver, you’ll find a variety of cenotes to choose from in the Riviera Maya! Some cenotes are open while others are covered or feed into the open ocean through rivers and caves. There are many cenotes all along the Mayan Riviera coast for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and diving. This is a must do while visiting the Mayan Riviera paradise!

    10. “La Quinta Avenida,” or Playa del Carmen’s world famous 5th Avenue is a must see while in the Riviera Maya! The 40+ blocks consist of swank eateries, boutiques, quaint coffee shops, art galleries, jewelry shops, Mexican artisans, night clubs, and martini bars, while you are able to take in glimpses of the beautiful Caribbean from virtually every street, during your stroll! After hours, the 12th street, between the 5th and 1st Avenue’s, or the entertainment section, heats up with heavy sounds of dance, club, Latin, salsa and eclectic music, where you can dance the night away into the morning hours!

    It would not be appropriate to omit from this list the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, which is in the Tulum area, as part of the list, although it requires an article of its own. It is one of Mexico’s largest, protected Bio Reserve system, covering vast acreage, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. You can swim at one of the amazing, uninhibited beaches, snorkel, kayak, fish, see crocodiles, amazing bird and marine life, and relax in one of the most tranquil settings. There are more than 20 arquelogical sites of the Mayan civilization recorded in this protected area. If you travel to Punta Allen or to the tip of the reserve, hire a fisherman to take you out to the reef, you’ll be amazed to see wild dolphins frolicking in the clear waters of the Caribbean!

    The Riviera Maya and Tulum areas are endless when it comes to things to do and see, offering numerous adventures for those who want to live a dream or for those who simply want to relax and dream . . .

    Hope to see you soon in our little slice of Paradise!

    Safe Travels! Maria Roncarati,

    Your Personal Concierge in the Mayan Riviera



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