The Riviera Maya is the east coast of the Yucatan Island. It was here that the Mayan Indians once lived, who gave the name to this tourist area: in the jungle, many evidence of their life has been preserved.
Here are the longest beaches with white sand and date palms, they are interspersed with entertainment areas and ecological parks. In these parks, you can see the untouched jungle: crocodiles, iguanas, flocks of flamingos, wander through the sacred caves or take a boat trip in the thickets of mangroves. And along the entire coastline there is a system of coral reefs, which makes diving and snorkeling in these places one of the most exciting on the planet.
Top 7 attractions of the Riviera Maya
Mayan cities: Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum
Yucatan is a territory in which from the 2nd millennium BC. NS. until the 16th century A. D. there was a unique and mysterious Mayan civilization. It is home to several Mayan cities that serve as the country's most attractive tourist attractions.
The best-preserved and most famous city is Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded in the 5th century, and by the time of the Spanish conquest it was in ruins. Here you can see a colorful temple complex consisting of temples-pyramids. The most famous temple is the Kukulkan temple. It is a nine-step pyramid with a height of 24 meters, a staircase of 91 steps is drawn along each of its edges, and at the top there is a small room in which sacrifices were performed. There was once a royal throne in the form of a jaguar figure. In addition, there are several more interesting buildings, as well as a huge stadium for the Mayan favorite ball game - the closest predecessor of modern volleyball.
There are two other cities very close to the coast: Coba and Tulum. Coba is one of the largest Mayan cities, it occupied almost 120 square meters. km. Its main attraction is the 42-meter step pyramid of El Castillo.
The city of Tulum served him as a fortified harbor and emerged later, around the 12th century. On the land side, Tulum was protected by a wall 8 m wide and 5 m high with watchtowers. Preserved temples in the form of pyramids, frescoes and a lighthouse opposite the only passage to the harbor through the reef. On one of the temples you can see the image of a winged deity, depicted upside down - it was conventionally called the "Descending God". The same image is on one of the frescoes in Tulum - apparently, this deity was worshiped here.
Cenotes and underground rivers
One of the main features of the Yucatan relief is cenotes, round karst sinkholes that accumulate fresh water. Such wells were considered sacred by the Maya - after all, their whole life depended on the availability of fresh water. Cenotes were considered the entrances to the underworld and often served as the center of settlements. On the Mayan Riviera, you can see both individual such cenotes and a whole system of underground caves filled with water. Only here you can swim in such caves.
In the northern part of the Riviera, there is the Aktun-Chen Park - its system of Sek-Aktun karst caves is considered one of the longest in the world. It stretches along the coast for 300 km. And only here real underground diving is available.
A little closer to Playa del Carmen there is an attraction called Rio Secreto, an underground river. It flows through karst caves for 15 kilometers, among unique beauties, stalactites, stalagmites and ancient marine sediments. This river was found by accident a few years ago and in 2007 turned into one of the most unusual sights of the Mayan Riviera. A plot of 600 meters is open for tourists. River travel does not take place by boat. No, you are given a wetsuit, a headlamp and offered to explore all the beauties on your own. The main part of the route is highlighted, but there are places where this flashlight will be the only opportunity to see something. There are also inhabitants in the cave - bats, cave fish and many crabs.
Parks Sian Kaan, Shel-Ha, Shkaret, Aktun-Chen
The nature of Yucatan is unique and diverse: a great variety of animals live here, birds nest, huge iguanas roam the streets. On a part of the coast, nature has created natural deep lagoons in which fresh water mixes with salt. Mangrove forests grow here, which serve as a habitat for many waterfowl, as well as for snakes, turtles and crocodiles, and right at the very shore you can see the most beautiful corals - the protected areas also include sea zones.
The national parks of the Riviera operate on an all-inclusive basis - having paid for a ticket, you can stay in them even all day. The price usually includes the rental of a mask with fins, snacks in the cafe and access to some attractions. In any of them you can take a boat and swim among the mangroves, all of them include archaeological sites, which are numerous in the local forests. Sian Kaan and Xcaret parks have breeding grounds for sea turtles, and there is also a tropical butterfly garden in Xcaret Park.
Each of these parks has an amusement area. Most of all here they love roller cable cars over lagoons, in which crocodiles are found, but there are also five-meter cliffs from which you can jump into the sea, cable car suspension bridges over abysses and much more.
In these parks, in the evenings, there are colorful performances telling about the history of Mexico, you can taste different varieties of tequila and go shopping.
Cozumel is the largest resort island in the area. You can stop here, or you can sail here for one or two days for an excursion.
Once Cozumel was the center of worship of the female goddess of fertility Ish-Chel and a kind of "Jerusalem" for the Maya Indians: crowds of pilgrims flocked to the sanctuary of the goddess. Here are the remains of the temple complex - San Gervasio, with the remains of temples and palaces of the XIII century.
The island is very close to the reefs, so there is excellent diving and snorkeling. Part of its coastline is occupied by the Chankanaab National Park, which houses one of the best Caribbean dolphinariums. On the roller-cable car, you can ride over the habitats of crocodiles. Another small park - Discover Mexico - presents in miniature all Mexican attractions.
In the very capital of the island, San Miguele, you can see the preserved buildings of the 19th century, the local history museum, the Church of San Miguele, and several unique monuments - for example, the Coral Reef Monument.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
The main natural attraction of the Mayan Riviera is the second largest barrier reef in the world. It stretches along the entire Yucatan coast, from Cancun to Belize, which is why it is often called Belize. Its length is about 900 km. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The reef system includes several coral atolls, many islets - large and small, and individual groups of corals. Some of them start almost from the coast itself, so the most popular activities in these places are diving and snorkeling.
The most popular diving center is located in Playa del Carmen - it's called Yucatek, but there are many others. The rental of snorkels and fins is included in the basic service of all national parks along the coast. In addition, everywhere there is an opportunity to take an excursion on a boat with a transparent bottom, from which it is also convenient to view the corals and their inhabitants.
More than a hundred species of corals of various colors, hard and soft, grow on the reef, more than 500 species of bright fish and countless beautiful invertebrates live: molluscs, anemones, crabs.
Dolphinariums of the Riviera Maya are something that will not leave indifferent any tourist. There are several dolphinariums here, in all major entertainment centers, and they are arranged in about the same way. These are outdoor pools on the shore, which are separated from the sea only by a lattice or a narrow partition. And here you can not only watch the traditional show with dolphins or sea lions, but swim with animals in these pools - this is the main service and main pleasure. Guides give detailed instructions on how to behave with dolphins, show commands - and you can play with them yourself, make them jump, or drive you on a fin, or nudge you.
In addition to dolphins, in some centers (for example, on the island of Cozumel) you can swim with huge manatees. Recently, stingrays have appeared in the Shkared Dolphinarium, and in some places there are also sharks.
In addition, in such centers you can walk on the seabed, even for those who do not have a diving certificate. This technology is called "Snuba diving": all the equipment is on land and oxygen is supplied through a thin hose - you can feel like a real diver, not knowing how to handle a complex scuba gear.
Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is the largest resort village on the coast. The main diving centers are concentrated in it, here you can take an excursion to any sight of the Riviera. Around the city there are six beaches with their own peculiarities: somewhere closer to the reefs, and somewhere a shallow sandy approach, convenient for children, somewhere quieter, and somewhere there is an abundance of sports water activities and continuous animation.
Playa Del Carmen has the most shops (including the most common supermarkets) and the best shopping. It has its own 5th Avenue with two huge shopping centers - PlazaLasAmerica and CentroMaya. Closer to the sea, there is a fish market, where fishermen sell their night catch in the morning, there is a grocery market where you can buy inexpensive exotic fruits, and, of course, a great variety of souvenirs are sold everywhere.