Adventure Travel in Riviera Maya and Cancun, Mexico

Go Beyond the Beach in Mexico's Riviera Maya

Until recently, I thought vacationing in Cancun or the Riviera Maya on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was just playing golf, sunbathing and snorkeling. Not so. As it turns out, the astroid that struck the Earth and killed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago actually his 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 thats 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 countless ziplines. Here's an example what to expect there.

 

  • 01 of 06

    Xplor: An underground playground for soft adventures

    Rafting in an underground river at Xplor, Riviera Maya, Mexico
    ••• Rafting in an underground river at Xplor, in Riviera Maya, Mexico. © R Friedland

    At Xplor,  there's an entire world of underground adventures including swimming and rafting in underground rivers. Above the earth's crust, there's a network of ziplines that look like freeways in the sky, and a three-mile track where you can drive an amphibious buggy through the jungle, into caves and on suspension bridges over water. In other words, it is a manmade outdoor playground filled with all kinds of thrills. The entire thing is so much fun that you'll forget you aren't out exploring some remote section of the jungle. 

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    Rio Secreto Underground River Riviera Maya, Mexico
    ••• Rio Secreto's underground river in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Rio Secreto

    Touring Rio Secreto was a highlight during a trip to the Riviera Maya. You don a helmet complete with headlamp and a guide takes you on a combination walk and swim to experience the wonders of Mexico's longest underground cave system in a natural, untouched state. The entire experience is unlike any other, and you'll soon find yourself hopelessly captivated by the subterranean chambers that you're passing through. 

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    Sian Kaan, Mexico
    ••• Swimming in one of the waterways created by the Mayans, while visiting Sian Kaan, Mexico. © Dick Friedland

    While floating downstream in Sian Ka'an, a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Mexico , I couldn't help but think about the Mayans who created these waterways centuries ago. I was swimming behind a boat toward the end of a day that included kayaking among mangroves, motoring past a dozing crocodiles, and photographing more than a dozen different species of birds. Other activities nearby include snorkeling a pristine reef and fly-fishing in local lagoons. 

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    Diving in an underwater cave system near Cancun, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
    ••• Scuba divers are entering the cenote - an underwater cave system near Cancun, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. © R Friedland

    If you want to scuba dive or snorkel in a cenote while you are in Cancun or the Riviera Maya, read about our experience diving in Dos Ochos, an underground cave system in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. It was a truly remarkable opportunity that will rank high on any traveler's list of outstanding memories. The cenotes are a peaceful respite from the warm temperatures overhead and offer a brief escape from the world overhead. 

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  • 05 of 06

    Hidden Worlds: Ride a SkyCycle through the treetops

    Riding a SkyCycle at Hidden Worlds, Riviera Maya, Mexico
    ••• Riding a SkyCycle at Hidden Worlds, Riviera Maya, Mexico. © L Friedland

    While riding a SkyCycle through the treetops at Hidden Worlds you can stop to enjoy the scenery and listen to the birds sing. The family-oriented Hidden Worlds adventure park is tucked into the jungle, with places where you can ride a zipline or rappel into a cenote. The staff is bilingual at this non-profit park (proceeds go to benefit various causes in the developing world) and many of the people working at the park are members of the local Mayan community. This is a great place to take the kids who are looking for a little adventure of their own. 

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    An ATV tour at Punta Venado, Riviera Maya near Cancun, Mexico
    ••• An ATV tour at Punta Venado, Riviera Maya near Cancun, Mexico. © R Friedland

    If you want to escape from crowded beaches, go horseback riding along the shore, surf some fantastic waves, take an ATV ride through the jungle, or go kayaking and snorkeling off a private, pristine beach, plan at day at Punta Venado. The eco-park has something to offer everyone, including adrenaline-inducing thrills, relaxation on the beach, active adventures, and even good food. It is an ocean-front haven built just for thrill-seeking travelers.