The Caribbean coast is renowned for its golden sandy beaches, vibrant blue waters and year round sunshine. But Mexico is so much more than just a beach destination; after all it was voted in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Destinations to Visit in 2014. Sure the Riviera Maya, located on Mexico’s Yutacan Peninsula, offers more than 30 kilometres of coastline to relax on, but there are plenty of things to see and do for those who don’t want to lie on the beach all day.
The second most visited archaeological site in Mexico after Teotihuacan, the Chichen Itza amazes more than a million visitors a year. The Yucatan Mayan wonder has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World making it unmissable. The El Castillo (or Temple of Kukulkan) is a pyramid which holds precise information regarding the Mayan calendar, solstices and equinoxes. Elsewhere on the vast site you’ll come across several ball courts, Tzompantil (Temple of Skulls) and the El Caracol (an ancient observatory).
Image courtesy of Sovereign Luxury Travel
Another incredible Mayan city, the walled ancient site of Tulum gives more evidence to the fascinating civilisation and culture of the Mayans. As the only Mayan city to be built near the sea, Tulum was an important seaport used for trading. As the last city to be built and protected by walls on three sides, the ruins remain well preserved. Using a clever lighting system, El Castillo guided canoes safely to land much like a modern day lighthouse. The Temple of the Descending God features an unusual looking figure of a diving god with wings and bird’s tail while the Temple of Frescoes showcases beautiful artworks where colours are just visible through the ages of time and depict life.
Swim with dolphins
Of course, if history isn’t your thing there are other activities on offer. The warm and clean water of the Caribbean coast make it perfect for swimming. Why not make it more interesting by swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat! These incredible and intelligent animals will greet you with handshakes and kisses on the cheek before you attempt the dorsal tow and the foot push!
Snorkelling or diving
Although the ocean is a bright blue on the surface, the water is crystal clear when you’re in it meaning its ideal for snorkelling or diving too. As the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Riviera Maya is home to more than 400 types of fish. The calm waters and variety of fish mean it will be an experience you’ll never forget whether it’s your first or 51st time! For a unique experience, look out for cavern or cenote diving which is only available in Mexico due to its unique landscape. These natural pits or sinkholes act like a gateway to an underwater world.
If you’re short on time but would like a little taste of all the above, visit Xcaret Park. This ecological park is built on 81 hectares of Mayan archaeological site, it allows you to see and experience all that the Riviera Maya has to offer in one fun filled packed day. As well as swimming or snorkelling the underground rivers, swimming with dolphins and discovering archaeological ruins, the park also offers a butterfly pavilion, a Mexican cemetery and viewing native animals. There’s even a beach for those who still crave the feeling of sand between their toes!