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
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 :
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
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
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.
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)
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
You can practice all kinds of water sports ; this is the dream place
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
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$42, (archaeological site).
Ecological Park, XEL-HÁ
Xel-Há looks more natural than Xcaret; it is organized around
a giant lagoon in which fresh and salt waters mix.
There are a 14 ha (35 acres) turquoise lagoon on 84 ha (208 acres)
site, populated with many multicolored fish and a slow clear water
river delimiting an enchanting setting in the middle of the jungle
with a fascinating fauna. In this jungle, gushing out, here and
there, underground rivers constituting mystical cenotes, very close
to the Ocean... XEL-HÁ, where the waters were born, is the
place where nature mixes up reality and magic.
A snorkel and a mask will allow you to enter an unforgettable aquatic
world, a true celebration of colors. XEL-HÁ houses the largest
lagoon in the Yucatán Peninsula and brings together, as in
a nice giant natural aquarium, numerous and interesting species
of the tropical aquatic fauna.
This large lagoon is lined with a tropical forest populated with
wonderful birds and butterflies. Several cenotes, emerald water
sinkholes, shimmer under the thick vegetation and often offer the
opportunity of swimming in refreshing water.
You can experience walking or biking excursions in the surroundings.
There is also a mini-train for the less brave.
XEL-HÁ is also an ecological park created by a group of men
willing to favor the preservation and the studies of the regional
nature. There is also a turtle reserve, a dolphin aquarium, a wonderful
butterfly glass house, an orchid green house and colorful parrots.
This is worth a visit. XEL-HÁ, where the waters were born,
is an enchanting place containing archaeological and natural richness
and offering a sublime show by night, helping you to understand
NOT TO BE MISSED ! It is very touristic but the natural site kept
its charm (picture above).
Open daily from 8:30AM to 6PM,
(998) 883 0524, (984) 803 4403 or 01 800 00 XELHA (93542) -
Bring swimming suits, mask and snorkel.
Price : USD$ 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 !
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
15% for discount on line.
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
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
Guided visits allow a favored discovery of the place : the intervention
of the men is reduced to minimum; the basic trails are barely
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 :
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
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
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
¿ 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).
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,
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.
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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