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South of the Riviera Maya
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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Riviera Maya (from Puerto Aventuras to Punta Allen)

The Riviera Maya stretches on 200 km (124 miles) of beaches along the most beautiful ocean in the world. It is a true paradise for the amateurs of farniente : blue sky, turquoise water, fine white sand beaches and golden sun. In addition to these essential four elements, the shore has other unsuspected interests to discover and enjoy : the Mayan world first: You can discover many vestiges, hidden in the tropical jungle. Their origin dates from the distant past, one or two thousand years ago. From these old stones polished by the millenniums, emerge the soul of the Mayas. The descendants of these people, at the origin of the whole Meso-America civilization, are still living there.
The Mayan World is also the world of the jungle, their natural habitat, thick tropical vegetation with a surprising variety of animal species. There is also the Sian Ka'an reserve the largest natural reserve in Mexico with an area of 530 000 ha. It is hard to get in but fascinating when you get there.
And there is also the miracle of the "cenotes". These small and big lakes, shimmering under the opulent foliage of the jungle, supplied by a large underground river net, are the hot spots for diving in caves. All level divers can enjoy the ocean, particularly the Arrecife Maya, the divers’ El Dorado. There is a long band of beaches and coves between the ocean and the jungle.
Finally, you will be surprised to know that you can find all conveniences in the hotels, from the most luxurious to the smallest and charming one, the cabins and the cheapest palm roof "palapas". This still wonderful region was named Riviera Maya because of the still living memory of the Mayas. There is a subtropical climate inland, with an average temperature of 26°C to 35°C (79 to 95°F) all year long. May and August are the hottest months with 35°C (95°F). You might experience strong rains and cyclones from August to October. The second class bus company Mayab runs between Cancun and Chetumal. You can stop anywhere on the route. Just ask the driver.

The hotels Association of the Riviera Maya (AHRM) releases a list of the hotels and resorts :

Diving in the "cenotes" of the region

Nice four minutes video


Puerto Aventuras

Built for demanding tourists, Puerto Aventuras is a top end hotel zone in a quiet place, with all conveniences. A marina accommodates many yachts. There are a lot of boutiques and restaurants with terraces offering wonderful views. You can access the nice fine sand beach, lined with coconut trees, through the vacation resort built a few years ago.
There, the waters are turquoise. You can take a boat ride for diving and taking under water pictures or sailing. It is possible to charter a boat by the hour or the day.
In a pool, especially created, you can swim and play with dolphins and manatees.
The museum CEDAM will delight the amateurs of maritime history. It houses a collection of objects and souvenirs from boats grounded on the big coral reef.
The ocean bristles with fish, so sport fishing is very popular. An international fishing tournament is organized every spring. The fan of sailing can participate in regattas in May and June. There is a magnificent golf course in Puerto Aventuras.
2 km (1.2 mile) from the main road, you can swim and snorkel in the cenotes of Kantún Chi, open daily from 9AM to 5PM. The entrance fee is quite expensive: MXN$ 227 per adult and 50% discount for children under 12. The setting is quite nice :

The list of the hotels of this town is in the process of updating !


The sky, the ocean and the sand as far as the eye can see: Kantenah exudes serenity. You come here for resting, and relaxing. The Arrecife Maya, the big Mayan Reef is close; the beaches are among the best in the world, with huge unforgettable marine horizons.

Aktun Chen

The Yucatán Peninsula was the most occupied part of the Meso-American Maya territory. It explicates why the Riviera Maya is full of history. You can find Mayan sacred ruins all along the coast as well as inland. We called them Sacred because the stone constructions were exclusively reserved to the religious buildings. These stone constructions were surrounded by houses made with perishable material and farming lands.
The city was the fundamental entity of the Mayan territorial organization. They were very populated. Cobá had about 50,000 inhabitants. This society was very well organized and mastered, among others, the astronomy, arithmetic, maritime navigation, architecture, and writing. They were also very religious. The polytheistic Mayan religion needed specific places to put in contact the sacred and underground space with the terrestrial world of the living. They used pyramidal temples and sacred tees to contact the celestial gods.
The cenotes were used to communicate with the divinities of "Xibalba", the underground world. In the whole Mayan territory, there is an underground river net that feeds many lakes called "cenotes". This underground universe is usually accessible only to expert divers.
In Aktun Chen, you can take a guided tour to satisfy your curiosity.
Aktun Chen means "underground waters" in Mayan language. It is located inland 16 km (10 miles) from Tulum and 4 km (2.5 miles) from Akumal.
The main cave is 600m (1968 feet) long. When entering it, you discover a profusion of natural marvels, sculpted by the waters during millions years. Thousands of stalagmites and stalactites are slightly lighted by a light filtering the limestone. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with this mystical world to better understand why the Mayas picked this place to make offerings in order to protect themselves against the evil spells. Discoveries in the whole region attested that these places have been used since ever.
Aktun Chen is also an ecological site of 400 ha (9988 acres) where you can see spider monkeys, white tail deer and badgers. The park also houses a snake farm where you can observe cobras and five mouth vipers. The area was discovered while exploiting the “chicle” tree. The Mayas extracted the "chicle", latex produce used to link the stones. Nowadays, the chicle is used to produce chewing gum :

Open daily 9AM-5PM and in June, July and August : 9AM-7PM.


It is not surprising that this group of wonderful bays closed by a coral reef is a favorite destination of fans of the marvels of nature. Akumal means “land of turtles” in Maya. Actually, during nesting time, some parts of the beaches are reserved to these specific priority renters, the sea turtles which come and dig nests in the warm sands. They picked these quiet beaches a long time ago, long before us ; so, please respect them and observe them from a distance.
Respect the nature !
Another marvel in this astonishing place is the hidden world of the underground rivers, whose crystal clear waters gush out in the ocean making strange mixes of fresh and salt water. The clear waters can also be found in numerous cenotes scattered along the coast. They are about two hundred in Akumal ; some of them are 150m (492 feet) deep. Experienced divers can explore the underground waters of the cenotes. These cenotes became a hot spot for diving.
Not far from there, 2 km (1.2 miles) north of Akumal, the Yalkú lagoon offers happy experiences to snorkelers. Here, mask and snorkel are enough to admire the extreme variety of underwater fauna and flora.
You can practice all kinds of water sports ; this is the dream place for kayaking.
Akumal is also a picturesque village, 37 km (23 miles) from Playa del Carmen where there are all kinds of lodging (hotels, villas, condos) and restaurants.


The beaches of Chemuyil are nested in a nice bay. The green foliage of the jungle pours over the blond fine sand caressed by the immutably turquoise Sea of Antilles. The water is shallow here and very children friendly. They can enjoy swimming and beach games. The adults can relax.
There are, in Chemuyil, a top end hotel, a very good seafood restaurant and some camping sites.



XEL-HÁ is a natural aquatic park with Mayan vestiges located on both sides of Federal Road 307, 58 km (36 miles) from Playa del Carmen.
In Yucatec, the Mayan language of Yucatán, XEL-HÁ means "where the waters were born".
It is in a strange fascinating and beautiful region, where Chaac, Mayan divinity of the waters, is the unquestionable master of the place. The harbor of XEL-HÁ was set up during the first century. It was very well located, in a cove of the shore. It became, from 100 to 600 A.D, an important point in the huge Mayan maritime net. XEL-HÁ became a transit harbor for products such as salt, honey, dry fish, obsidian (volcanic glass) but also for slaves and prisoners of the wars which turned upside down the Mayan society.
Then the decline started and lasted until 1200 when the harbor got a new life and reinforced its defense with a bastioned wall.
When the Spanish invaded the area, the trade navigation stopped and the city was abandoned. The first documents mentioning "Salamanca de Xala", meaning XEL-HÁ in Spanish, date from this time.

XEL-HÁ preserves many tracks from its past. The archaeological site which houses the vestiges comprises several zones.
First, the Birds Zone, with very ancient frescos illustrating the astonish ornithological richness of the region; then the Zone of the harbor with constructions linked to the harbor activities and finally the Jaguar Zone, with a representation maybe consecrated to Kinieh-Ahau, God of Sun, who becomes a jaguar during the night.
There is also a "cenote", sacred lake inseparable from the Mayas’ life and contact place with the divinities. Many of the buildings and constructions are religious, even the "sacbé", 540m (1772 feet) long paved trail which attests a ceremonial use.
According to the legend, this aquatic paradise was created by the Mayan Gods, who conceived, with wisdom and love, the best place in the world with an iguana and a parrot-fish as guardians.

Open daily from 8AM to 5PM : MXN$42, (archaeological site).

The Ecological Park, XEL-HÁ

Xel-Há looks more natural than Xcaret; it is organized around a giant lagoon in which fresh and salt waters mix.
There are a 14 ha (35 acres) turquoise lagoon on 84 ha (208 acres) site, populated with many multicolored fish and a slow clear water river delimiting an enchanting setting in the middle of the jungle with a fascinating fauna. In this jungle, gushing out, here and there, underground rivers constituting mystical cenotes, very close to the Ocean... XEL-HÁ, where the waters were born, is the place where nature mixes up reality and magic.
A snorkel and a mask will allow you to enter an unforgettable aquatic world, a true celebration of colors. XEL-HÁ houses the largest lagoon in the Yucatán Peninsula and brings together, as in a nice giant natural aquarium, numerous and interesting species of the tropical aquatic fauna.

Aquatic park of Xel-Há This large lagoon is lined with a tropical forest populated with wonderful birds and butterflies. Several cenotes, emerald water sinkholes, shimmer under the thick vegetation and often offer the opportunity of swimming in refreshing water.
You can experience walking or biking excursions in the surroundings. There is also a mini-train for the less brave.
XEL-HÁ is also an ecological park created by a group of men willing to favor the preservation and the studies of the regional nature. There is also a turtle reserve, a dolphin aquarium, a wonderful butterfly glass house, an orchid green house and colorful parrots. This is worth a visit. XEL-HÁ, where the waters were born, is an enchanting place containing archaeological and natural richness and offering a sublime show by night, helping you to understand Mayan history.

      Picture above : Aquatic park of Xel-Há

NOT TO BE MISSED ! It is very touristic but the natural site kept its charm (picture above).
Open daily from 8:30AM to 6PM,
(998) 883 0524, (984) 803 4403 or 01 800 00 XELHA (93542) -  Bring swimming suits, mask and snorkel.

fishes in Xel-Há Price : USD$ 79 per adult and 50% discount for children between 40'' and 55" high. This includes the entrance, swim with dolphins and a meal. Log on to the website to look at the different packages depending on your personal choice and your departure place :
10% discount for on line reservations. You can pay with a credit card on the premises if you wish.
Swimming with the dolphins is a much supervised activity, which make it less charming !

     Right picture : fishes in Xel-Há

You will find inside the park, a delphinarium to swim, dive and play with the dolphins. Great ! Contact : 1-888-526-2230 USA/Canada, outside Cancun from Mexico : 01 800 DELFIN1 (3353461) or from Cancun (998) 206 33 04, www.delphinusworld.com, customerservice@delphinus.com.mx.
15% for discount on line.

Tulum and Cobá

See the chapter consecrated to Tulum and Cobá

Cobá is located inland and Tulum by the ocean.

Open daily, 7AM-5PM; MXN$57 for Tulum and Cobá

  Sian Ka'an Reserve

The braver will take a long drive to discover the wonderful Sian Ka'an biosphere. This site of the World Heritage of UNESCO extends over a surface of 530,000 ha (1.5 million acres) and comprises coral reefs, beaches, lagoons, caves and low tropical forests.

This region was named by the Mayas Sian Ka'an, "where the sun was born", probably to recall the wonderful lighted horizon at sunrise: This daily show is breathtaking. More than half a million hectares have been preserved and protected since 1986 by Presidential decree and then, they were included on the “MAB’ program of Unesco.
The fauna of this natural reserve comprises every animal of the area: the five felines of Mexico, jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarondi; there are also howler monkeys, tapirs, several species of snakes, crocodiles, manatees, turtles and 345 species of birds. All these different animals live here in the wild, in their natural environment. This reserve comprises one third tropical forest, one third Ocean coasts and one third marsh. Boat rides allow you to enter the thick jungle through the net of canals built by the Mayas.
In this giant luxuriant wave full of animals, the botanists also find a profusion of species of surprising plants such as giant palm trees (called "chit" in Yucatec), "chechen", very poisonous plant almost always by the side of "chakah" which produce the antidote. This place is the animal kingdom : on an area of 530 000 ha, there are only 2000 people, living mainly in Punta Allen and Punta Herrero.
There are only five accesses to enter this magic world, embodying the splendor of the Yucatán ecosystem: Pulticub, Santa Teresa, Chumpón, Chunyaché and Chacmool.
Guided visits allow a favored discovery of the place : the intervention of the men is reduced to minimum; the basic trails are barely marked.
About twenty archaeological ruins, hidden in the thick vegetation and barely explored, attest to the ancient presence of Mayas. The oldest vestiges date from about 300 B.C.
There is maybe a project of road through the marsh and lagoons, in the northern part of the region, to link Tulum and Muyil.
Along the coast, a 50 km (31 miles) part of the Big Maya Reef belongs to the natural reserve. You can admire an amazing range of coral and marine fauna and flora. To be ready to visit Sian Ka'an, don’t forget insect repellent and binoculars to better observe the countless species of the Meso-American fauna :

The reserve is part of the Unesco World Heritage since 1987 :

The Yucatán Peninsula has been home of the Mayan civilization since the third century. This video is dedicated to the archaeological sites and the Mayan craft, customs and traditions.


Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Close to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, you can find this small village, departure and meeting point of all the Mayan communities of the region. It is, in fact, a zone scattered with small communities which have been guarding the customs, traditions and life style for two centuries. Discovering Felipe Carrillo Puerto, it is discovering Mayan culture.
Founded in 1850 under the name of Chan Santa Cruz, meaning "Small Holy Cross", Felipe Carrillo Puerto was the capital and the sanctuary of the des Cruzobs (the followers of the Cross) during the Caste War of Yucatán. The "Talking Cross" appeared there, as a sign of God, to encourage the pursuit of the war.
During more than half a century, this region was the scene of the main fights of the Mayas against the government. When the Mayas finally lost the war, in1901, the city was well organized with stone constructions, a big plaza, wide streets and a church that seems to be built by the indigenous. You can still visit this temple downtown.
In 1932, Chan Santa Cruz took the name of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, to honor one of the governors of Yucatán, a martyr of the Mexican revolution. In Felipe Carrillo Puerto, you can visit the Sanctuary of the Cross and attend ceremonies organized by Mayan priests at certain dates to honor the talking Cross. The people, proud of its Mayan roots, warmly welcome the visitors with a smile on their face and wish them to come back for another cultural experience :

¿ ki'imak-k-óol uuchik a taaa ! Welcome !


Located 25km (16 miles) south of Tulum, the ruins of Muyil, also called Chunyaxché, stand on a rocky promontory by the Muyil Lagoon. The first polls indicate a continuous occupation since the beginning of our era until the arrival of the Spanish. A sacbé (road) links the ceremonial center to the lagoon, located 5 km (3 miles) further. Six constructions remain along the sacbé. The Castillo, a 57 foot high building, has a unique feature in Mayan architecture : a circular turret ($31).

Boca Paila

A peninsula at the very southern end of the Riviera Maya, away from the tourist currents.....a universe where the nature is barely touched by the men...this is the wild setting of two small villages: Boca Paila and a little bit further, Punta Allen.
The peninsula is part of the 530,000 ha (1.5 million acre) Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, huge protected land. Practically surrounded by the waters, this long band of luxuriant vegetation attracts the fans of nature and particularly the fishermen. In Boca Paila you can find accommodations and lodging. Be aware that, here, nature is first, so lodging is basic and limited. Electricity is obtained by electric generator or solar panels.

Punta Allen

This city was not named after the Mayas but after a European pirate, Barbe Noire (Black Beard) or indeed his boat, the "Allen", which was often around. Nowadays, Punta Allen is a small fishing village (specialized in seafood) and the antechamber of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere. From here, you can travel the bays, by boat, and discover mangroves, coves, underground river mouths, marsh and lagoons. The region is inhabited by crocodiles, manatees, many species of fish and overall many birds. Punta Allen is also a quiet small seaport with less than 750 inhabitants, nested at the end of the peninsula, among giant palm trees and dunes.
You can reach it from the hotel zone of Tulum, via Boca Paila. The peninsula offers wonderful beaches on the shore of Sea of Antilles. Off shore stretches the Big Mayan Reef with one part included in the Natural reserve. Punta Allen has a small clinic, several stores and friendly family managed seafood restaurants. There are several "guest houses" for staying. You can try several water sports, the best experience being kayaking.

Website in spanish and in english about the Riviera Maya :

Map of the state :



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