Sandwiched between the high-rise glitz of Cancun and the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, sits the resplendent Riviera Maya.
Just a few years ago it was a constellation of sleepy fishing villages dotted along the Caribbean coast. Today, it’s come alive as an international vacation destination for scuba divers, sun lovers, naturalists, explorers, and those seeking authentic Mexican culture.
Beginning 18 miles south of the Cancun International Airport and extending south to Punta Allen, the region features 75 miles of white-sand beaches and the world’s second-largest barrier reef system. It holds many of Mexico’s most significant archaeological sites, which were once home to the ancient and mysterious Mayan people.
Today, Mayan descendants number about 6 million, making them the largest single block of indigenous peoples north of Peru. Some modern Mayans live much as their ancestors did centuries ago, working as farmers and craftsmen. And, interestingly enough, the Mayan language is still widely spoken throughout the Riviera Maya region.
In recent years the Riviera Maya has grown into somewhat of a hotspot for underwater geological wonders, locally known as cenotes. Deep under the Yucatan jungle lies a complex network of underground rivers, covered by a limestone “ceiling” thick with jungle growth. In some areas, as the jungle grew denser and the limestone became more porous, the ceiling collapsed, exposing the river below.
These cenotes make for some of the most enticing tours in the Riviera Maya today. Featuring incredible cavern and cave diving opportunities, and single-handedly serving up some of the best snorkeling in the country.
However, no matter which water you play in — salt or fresh — the best thing about coming to the surface is that you’re in Mexico, the land of beautiful beaches, wild dolphins, cold Coronas and lively Mariachi music. It’s also the land of options, which makes the Riviera Maya an excellent choice for anyone looking to take an unforgettable vacation.