Located on the Mexican Caribbean, the Riviera Maya is a destination that is best known for its beautiful sandy beaches, lavish resorts, and tropical weather. Visitors to this region often fill their days with sun and surf, while in the evening they enjoy fine dining and an active nightlife. But those looking for a more active and adventurous escape will find the region more than accommodating to their needs too. Whether you're looking to get a bit of an adrenaline rush or simply want to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Mayans, you'll find plenty to see and do in Riviera Maya. These are our picks for the best adventures the destination has to offer.
Climb an Ancient Pyramid
The Riviera Maya was once home to the Mayan people and remnants of that civilization can be found throughout the region to this day. One of the more famous of those ancient sites is found at Chichen Itza, which was once a massive, heavily populated city. Today, several pyramids and temples still exist at the sprawling site, but in order to preserve them for future generations travelers are now forbidden from climbing on those structures. That isn't the case at Coba however, where you can still scramble to the top of a steep pyramid to take in the surrounding landscape. Ropes have been put into place to help you navigate the stairs, as the climb can be a bit daunting in the heat and humidity. But the view from the top is more than worth it.
Swim in a Cenote
Once thought to be the entrance to the Mayan underworld, cenotes are underground caverns that are filled with water. Visitors to the Riviera Maya will find numerous opportunities to take a dip in those waters, whether it's just to escape the heat for a little while or to learn more about these amazing places.
Those looking to simply go for a swim and have a fun experience should check out Cenote Maya. But if you want a deeper dive into the local history and culture, the experience at Chaak Tun is more for you.
Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
Considering its location along the Caribbean Coast, it should come as no surprise that the Riviera Maya is a great destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Just off the coast of Cozumel for instance, you'll find the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is home to hundreds of species of colorful fish and is famous for its crystal clear waters. Head over to Cancun however, and you'll get the chance to swim through the legendary Underwater Museum where you'll discover more than 500 underwater sculptures. But for something truly special book a snorkeling or diving trip in Akumal, which is not far from Playa del Carmen. The sleepy little beach town is home to the feeding ground for the giant green sea turtle and swimming with those creatures is a magnificent experience. If you're up for it, you can even go swimming with whale sharks, as the region offers some of the best opportunities to see those creatures in the wild too. Just be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen before your swim.
Ride an ATV Through the Jungle
An all-terrain vehicle is the perfect way to get fully immersed into the jungle and possibly even visit a remote local village along the way. There are a number of tour operators in Cancun and Playa del Carmen that lead these excursions into the wilderness, along trails that provide up close and personal encounters with the local flora and fauna. Of course, those trails can be a lot of fun to ride on as well, bringing a healthy dose of adrenaline for those looking for a motorized adventure through the rainforest.
Zip Line Through the Rainforest
Zip lining has become one of the most popular adventure activities around the world and the Riviera Maya has no shortage of options for those looking to give it a go. One of the best places to do this at Xplor, where you'll find two distinct zip line courses to navigate, with seven different lines each. The highest of those lines stands nearly 150 feet high and moves along at a brisk enough pace to get even the most jaded traveler's heart pumping. After you've finished up on the zip lines, you'll find a cenote and water slide on the premises to help you cool off.
Mountain Bike Through the Mayan Underworld
For a completely unique experience, why not try mountain biking through the Mayan Underworld? The cave systems that contain the cenotes can sometimes be explored on foot or even by bike. For instance, at Rio Secreto mountain bikers will not only get the chance to ride through the jungle, but straight into a local cave system too. Once inside, they'll get the opportunity to explore this subterranean labyrinth on two wheels, riding through a sprawling network of caverns and tunnels, many of which were sacred sights for Mayans hundreds of years ago.
Sail the Caribbean
The Caribbean has always been a great place for travelers to go sailing and the Riviera Maya offers great access to those waters. Whether you're an experienced sailor looking to charter your own boat, or a complete novice who just wants to go for a ride, you'll find plenty of options for setting up a sailing adventure. The warm ocean breezes, crystal clear waters, and beautiful sunsets look and feel completely different from the deck of a boat. Chances are, you might even spot some amazing sea creatures along the way.
Reel in a Really Big Fish
Deep sea fishing is popular along the Mexican Caribbean and the Riviera Maya you'll find some great guides that can help you catch a really, really big fish. Tarpon, bonefish, marlin, sailfish, and black fin tuna are all common throughout the area and are popular sport fish for visiting anglers to chase. It is easy to charter a fishing boat in Cancun, Cozumel, or Playa del Carmen, and there is great fishing to be had not far from shore. Be prepared for a fight though, because these monsters aren't going to be brought in easily.
Take Part in a Mayan Temazcal Ceremony
The concept of using a sweat lodge not only as a place of healing, but also as a place of introspection and learning about oneself, is common amongst the indigenous people of North America. As it turns out, this stems from an ancient Mayan ceremony known as the Temazcal, which roughly translates as the "house of heat." Visitors to the Riviera Maya can still take part in this ceremony today, giving them a chance to not only experience a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years, but also tap into their own spiritual side as well. The Temazcal is led by local men and women who are well versed in the ceremony, which is said to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. Be prepared however, as inside the sweat lodge it is hot, dark, and claustrophobic—the perfect environment for facing your fears. Various hotels in the Riviera have temazcals in their spas such as the Westin Cancun or the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.