Riviera Maya

The Yucatan Peninsula is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, making it a paradise for beach lovers.  The Riviera Maya is a developed area on the Caribbean coast boasting hundreds of hotels and condos, plenty of nightlife, shopping, entertainment, water sports, and ecology parks.  Besides those amenities catering to tourists, you will find superb examples of the ancient Mayan culture in well preserved ruins at Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Xel-Ha.

Traveling to the Yucatan you will most likely fly to Cancun, a prime example of a spring break mecca.  Reasonably priced, all-inclusive hotels appeal to the college crowd and things can get a bit rowdy during this period of time.  You can avoid the mayhem by traveling a bit further to Tulum (about 2 hours south of Cancun), a much more relaxed area that has recently been developed and now boasts a number of luxury boutique beachfront hotels that have made environmental concerns a priority.

The Coba ruins are fun to explore and close to Tulum – you can rent bikes to see the ruins or if that seems like too much work or your kids are too young, you can hire a bike taxi and guide.  It is one of the few places where you can actually climb among the ruins to admire the spectacular view over the surrounding jungle as other sites are off limits to climbers due to concerns about the preservation of the structures. Another option is a day trip to the theme park Xcaret.  Cultural performances and exhibits are authentic glimpses into the Mayan way of life.  You can swim in an underground river through caves, and hike nature trails surrounded by native plants and animals.

Paddleboarding and kayaking on one of the Yucatan’s many cenotes (giant freshwater sinkholes) is a popular activity.  The Casa Cenote is close to Tulum and is loved for its brilliant blue water and surrounding mangrove forest.

If you want to see turtles in their natural environment you’ll want to visit the preserve at Akumal Bay, about 30 minutes north of Tulum.  If you hire a guide you’ll be allowed to swim with the turtles!

The largest protected area in the Yucatan, Sian Ka’an, is still almost undiscovered by the tourist crowd and is an amazing area of undeveloped natural beauty, home to thousands of species of plants and animals.  You can explore this amazing area by kayak.

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