With nearly 120 km of white sandy beaches and clear blue-green waters, it’s no surprise that Riviera Maya is one of Mexico’s most popular vacation hot spots. Stretching from Puerto Morales to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, the Caribbean shoreline attracts crowds of travellers looking for fun in the sun. With the world’s second largest coral reef just offshore and thousands of freshwater caves to explore inland, the region is well known for its amazing array of water adventures. A visit to the Riviera Maya isn’t complete without dipping your toes into these unique aquatic activities. Just hold on tight!
Not Your Mama’s Water Park: Xcaret
Don’t expect plastic slides and cement swimming pools when it comes to Riviera Maya water parks. These parks are typically situated around sheltered coves along the beach, making them great places to practice snorkeling or learn how to scuba dive. Located on the south side of Playa del Carmen, the natural park of Xcaret features an underground river you tour while floating along on a giant inflated tire. Swim with curious dolphins, feed giant turtles, and check out the shark exhibit at the coral reef aquarium. Just remember your camera to take a picture posed in front of Jaws.
“Ooo, Barracuda!”: Diving Deep off the Great Mayan Reef
Beginning off the coast the Riviera Maya and extending as far south as Honduras, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in size. This underwater landmark is closest to the shore at Puerto Moleros, where you can join a guided boat tour for a day of snorkeling or scuba diving. For advanced scuba divers, explore shipwrecks near Puerto Moleros as well. The naval war ship C-56 Juan Escutia is covered with gorgeous coral and is home to a wide variety of sea life, including tuna, spotted eagle rays, lobsters, and barracuda.
Sprays and Stinging Rays: Cozumel‘s Thrills s
An island off the coast of the Riviera Maya, Cozumel has long enjoyed a reputation as a world-class diving site, and strong currents let experienced scuba divers explore the reefs at their leisure while using minimal effort (and air!). The aptly named Stingray Beach, on the other hand, offers a different kind of aquatic adventure even young children can enjoy. In a fenced-in shallow pool near the shore, you can wade among these graceful creatures, touch, and feed them. The barbs on the captive stingrays have been clipped for your protection, but they still look impressive to visitors of all ages.
If You Dare: Diving into Cenotes
The limestone landscapes that make up much of the Yucatan Peninsula are dotted with sinkholes formed by subterranean waters. There are more than 5,000 cenotes scattered over the peninsula, many of which are operated as freshwater diving attractions. One of the longest underwater cave systems is the Cenote Dos Ojos, located around 50 km south of Playa del Carmen. The cenote is notable for its many shallow dives, which allows plenty of sunlight to stream in so you can explore the huge stalactites hanging from the cave’s ceiling. The ancient Maya believed that cenotes were sacred places, and it’s easy to understand why when you spend time diving in these otherworldly underwater caves.
Whether diving among whale sharks in the Great Mayan Reef or splashing in the shallows of a forested grotto, Riviera Maya is a dream destination when you’re looking for extraordinary water adventures. Naturally, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy more familiar water sports like jet skiing, parasailing, and deep sea fishing too. Don’t put off a Mexican trip any longer. Grab on to a floating tire or a hanging ladder in a cenote and prepare for a world of adventure simply waiting for your visit.