Adventure Travel in Riviera Maya and Cancun, Mexico

When you think of vacationing in Cancun or the Riviera Maya, relaxing pleasures such as playing golf, sunbathing and snorkeling typically come to mind. As it turns out, this tourist sweet spot on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has much more to offer. Here's a fun fact: the asteroid that struck the Earth and killed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago actually hit 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 countless ziplines. Sound amazing? Here's an in-depth glimpse of everything else a vacation holds here.


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    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 in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. It is 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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    Rio Secreto Underground River Riviera Maya, Mexico
    Rio Secreto

    Touring Rio Secreto is a highlight of any trip to the Riviera Maya. You don a helmet complete with a 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'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. You'll swim behind a boat toward the end of a day that includes kayaking among mangroves, motoring past 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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    Xplor: An Underground Playground for Soft Adventures

    Ziplining through Xplor

    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 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 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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    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 zip line 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.