Adventure Travel in the Riviera Maya and Cancun, Mexico

When you think of vacationing in Cancun or the Riviera Maya, relaxing pleasures such as playing golf, sunbathing by the pool, and snorkeling in the Caribbean typically come to mind. As it turns out, this tourist sweet spot on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has much more to offer than just that. In fact, if you dig a little deeper, there are some impressive adventures to be found there. 

Here's a fun fact: the asteroid that struck the Earth and killed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago actually landed in the Yucatan, creating a compelling and unique landscape unlike any other. Essentially, the entire area is a mega-sized slab of limestone through which ground water seeps, creating the legendary cenotes that are found throughout the region. While vacationing in the Riviera Maya or Cancun, visitors can dive or snorkel in these underground chambers, swim or raft along subterranean rivers, ride ATVs or amphibious buggies in the jungle, and sail through the jungle canopy along numerous ziplines.

Sound amazing? Here's an even deeper look at everything else a vacation to the Riviera Maya offers.

 

  • 01 of 05
    Scuba diver inside cenote in Mexico
    Getty Images/Alastair Pollock Photography

    If you want to scuba dive or snorkel in a cenote while you are in Cancun or the Riviera Maya, without a doubt you'll have to go diving in Dos Ochos, an underground cave system located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is a truly remarkable opportunity that will rank high on any traveler's list of outstanding memories.

    The cenotes offer a peaceful respite from the warm temperatures that are common in the area and provide a brief escape from the world overhead. While swimming through the underground river system you'll discover an entirely new world located just beneath the surface. A world that was thought to be sacred and mysterious to the Mayan people that once populated the Yucatan. 

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    Rio Secreto Underground River Riviera Maya, Mexico
    Rio Secreto

    Touring Rio Secreto is a highlight of any trip to the Riviera Maya. Adventurous travelers simply don a helmet –– complete with headlamp –– and a guide takes them underground for a combination walk and swim tour. Such an excursion allows them to experience the wonders of Mexico's longest underground cave system, which remains in largely natural and untouched state. This subterranean adventure is unlike any other, and visitors to the underground soon find themselves hopelessly captivated by the beautiful chambers and passageways that they find themselves passing through. 

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    Sian'Kan, Mayan rivera
    Getty Images/Fabian Jurado's Photography

    While floating downstream in Sian Ka'an, a biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Mexico, you can't help but think about the Mayans who created these waterways centuries ago. This adventure provides travelers with the opportunity to kayak through lush mangrove trees, motor past dozing crocodiles, and photograph a seemingly endless list of bird species in their natural habitat. Other activities include snorkeling along a pristine reef and fly-fishing in hidden lagoons that are popular with local anglers. 

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    Xplor: An Underground Playground for Soft Adventures

    Ziplining through Xplor
    www.xplor.travel

    At Xplor there is an entire world of subterranean adventures to be discovered, including swimming and rafting in underground rivers. But if you're looking for some above ground adventures too, the place has you well covered. Above the earth's crust you'll find a network of zip lines that look like freeways in the sky and a three-mile track where you can drive an amphibious buggy through the jungle, into and out of caves, and across suspension bridges that hang high above the water.

    In other words, it is a manmade outdoor playground filled with all kinds of adrenaline inducing thrills. The entire thing is so much fun that you'll forget you aren't out exploring some remote section of the jungle. If you're looking to channel your inner Indiana Jones, this just might be the place for you. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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    Hidden World Cenotes, Mexico

    Jens Kuhfs;/Getty Images

    While riding an "Aero Cycle" through the treetops at Hidden Worlds you'll get the chance to stop and enjoy the scenery or simply sit back and listen to the birds call out all around you. The family-oriented Hidden Worlds adventure park is tucked away in the Mexican jungle, providing a place where travelers can experience any number of exciting adventures. Amongst the top attractions are a zip line ride through the jungle, rappelling into a cenote, and snorkeling through an underground cave system.

    The staff at Hidden Worlds is bilingual and the proceeds from this non-profit park go to benefit various causes in the developing world. Additionally, many of the people who work at the park are members of the local Mayan community too, providing a nice level of cultural exposure that you might not necessarily find anywhere else.

    This is a particular great place to take the kids who are looking for a little adventure of their own, as it will get the heart pumping, but in a safe and fun manner. 

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