Things to Do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan - page 3
Named after a Mayan word meaning “the place where the waters are born,” the Xel-Ha aquatic park encompasses 14 acres (5.7 hectares) of jungle and ocean just south of Playa del Carmen. Xel-Ha provides activities for the whole family and features cenotes, a lazy river, fish-filled lagoons, and other natural attractions.
Playa Palancar is a laid-back beach where you can swim, snorkel, or just relax in a hammock under the coconut-palm trees. It’s one of Cozumel’s most beautiful beaches, with fine white sand and access to an outstanding coral reef just offshore. For a relaxing beach day away from the crowded tourist spots, there’s no better place.
Xoxomilco, whose name means “garden of flowers” in the ancient Aztec language, is Cancun’s homage to the floating gardens and canals of Mexico City’s famous Xochimilco neighborhood. Here, visitors can experience a number of Central American traditions, including floating boats strung with flowers, live music, and regional food.
Facing Cozumel’s white sands and turquoise waters, Playa Uvas Beach Club sits directly on the coast and offers a variety of activities and amenities. Active visitors will enjoy snorkel tours, parasailing, and kayaking, and there are lounge chairs, beachside massages, and pool facilities for those who simply want to relax in the sun.
With miles of untamed jungle, the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve (Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh) is one of the best places to get up close to the Yucatan’s varied wildlife. The 12,355-acre (5,000-hectare) reserve is home to more than 600 spider and howler monkeys, as well as pumas, crocodiles, coatimundi, white-tailed deer, and a large variety of tropical birds.
Aboard a Cancun-based Captain Hook pirate ship, spend a family-friendly evening that includes a buffet dinner served by salty seamen, dancing on the deck, and imbibing at an open bar. The 18th-century Spanish galleon replicas cruise the Caribbean while “pirates” entertain the crowd with tales of past escapades and dramatic sword fights.
With grand historic buildings, majestic churches, and celebrated gastronomy, Valladolid is a beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city. Proximity to top sights like Chichen Itza, Cancun, and Río Lagartos makes it a popular base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula, but there’s plenty to see and do in this designatedPueblo Mágico (magic village).
Set along Nichupte Lagoon in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, La Isla Shopping Village is lined with boutique shops, waterfront dining, and luxury shopping. Stroll along the winding canals—which create a Venice-like atmosphere—sip cocktails in classy courtyards, and purchase souvenirs.
A must-see site for archaeology lovers and architectural buffs, Labna boasts Maya ruins built in the ancient Puuc style, marked by the use of concrete and decorative elements. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, near the larger Uxmal ruins, Labna is a compact structure hidden within the Puuc Hills.
Set against a popular, picturesque beach on the Caribbean Sea, the Cozumel cruise port serves as an all-in-one stop for Mexico vacationers seeking that perfect island getaway. Bursting with activities that embrace the island of Cozumel’s idyllic landscape both on-shore and off, this cruise destination off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula delivers for travelers seeking snorkeling and sunshine as part of a family vacation or a romantic getaway.
More Things to Do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan
Built around the cenotes and jungle of the Riviera Maya, the Kantun Chi Ecopark is a subterranean playground of cenotes, underground caves, and grottoes. Filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and ancient columns, it offers a unique way to explore the dramatic natural scenery and learn about the region’s long Maya history.
Dolphin Beach (Playa Delfines) is a welcome respite from the crowded beaches and bustling nightclubs for which Cancun has become known. Located just beyond the hotel zone at one of the city’s highest points, this quiet stretch of sand offers picture-perfect expansive views and an ideal setting for a leisurely stroll, catching waves, or simply relaxing.
Explore the life—and contextualize the legacy—of Mexican surrealist artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo at Playa del Carmen’s Frida Kahlo Museum (Museo Frida Kahlo). At one of the city’s first cultural spaces, learn about Kahlo’s work, illness, and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera by way of interactive and sensory exhibits.
Filled with crystal clear water and lined with limestone stalactites, Cenotes Sac Actun is the world’s largest known underwater cave system. The freshwater cave is home to colorful fish, bats, and animal fossils. Sac Actun is simultaneously one of the most impressive and least crowded cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Jump into the art at Playa del Carmen’s 3D Museum of Wonders. Created by a visionary American artist, this interactive museum is truly in a genre and mind-bending class of its own. It doesn’t take long for reality to blend with illusion, and pretty soon you’re splashing beneath a waterfall, surfing a wave, or trapped inside a bubble.
Long rated the top outdoor activity in Cancun, Selvatica adventure park gives visitors the chance to shake up their beach routine with ziplines, off-road tours, a cenote dive, and more. Selvatica provides the perfect action-packed day trip from Cancun, just an hour north, and offers customizable options for the whole family.
Located just off the ferry dock, Fundadores Park (El Zócalo) is the center of Playa del Carmen. This beachside park sits along Playa del Carmen’s famous Fifth Avenue, and it’s the main square from which the rest of the tourist area branches out. From El Zócalo you’ll have a gorgeous view of the ocean and easy access to the beaches.
Ría Lagartos, a little fishing village on the Mexican Riviera, is home to Parque Natural Ría Lagartos, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve best known for its flocks of flamingos. Situated alongside a long estuary, the park boasts more than 380 bird species, including tens of thousands of flamingos. The birds use Ría Lagartos as their breeding ground.
Dive into the depths of the Yucatan’s longest subterranean cave system at Nohoch Nah Chich outside Cancun. Exploring this enormous cenote studded with stalactites and stalagmites offers the experience of a lifetime for diving enthusiasts, while nondivers can swim and snorkel in its freshwater rivers and pools.
The Cozumel Museum (Museo de la Isla de Cozumel) sits on the waterfront in downtown San Miguel de Cozumel. Inside the historical building are a wealth of displays, all well signed in both Spanish and English. Its four permanent exhibit rooms offer an overview of the island’s geography, ecosystems, history, and culture.
Located on the Yucatan peninsula where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea, the Mexican port of Progreso is a jumping-off point for tours to the Mayan archaeological sites of Chichen Itza (100 miles/160 km away), Uxmal (70 miles/115 km) and Dzibilchaltun (18 miles/30 km). Book a shore excursion or make your own way to the site of your choice by taxi or rental car (both found at the port).
If you’re looking for a more cosmopolitan day in port, head to the city of Mérida, the capital of Yucatan both politically and culturally, where you can soak up the colonial atmosphere by walking along the square, admiring the European-style architecture or stumbling upon a free concert.
Set in dense jungle south of Playa del Carmen, Xenses Park offers outdoor adventure with a multisensory twist. As well as a zipline, lazy river, and waterslide, the park also uses optical illusions, natural exhibits, and interactive features to get your adrenaline going, making it a top choice for thrillseekers of any age.
Try street food, pick up souvenirs, and do some people-watching at Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas), which buzzes with locals, live music, food vendors, and shopping stalls. At this central plaza in downtown Cancun, you get an authentic look into Mexican culture that can’t be found at the nearby beaches and resorts.
Take a break from the beaches of Cancun to explore artifacts from Mexico’s ancient past at the Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancún), one of the largest created by the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Inside the museum, visitors can see incredible items recovered from sites like Chichen Itza and Tulum, including the Woman of the Palms, ancient skeletal remains found submerged in a water-filled cave near Tulum. Next to the museum is an ancient archaeological site called San Miguelito, where visitors can stroll among the ruins and gardens.
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