Things to Do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan
Cozumel welcomes you to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for peerless scuba diving and snorkeling, and Caribbean beach resorts. The idyllic island drifts 20km (12 miles) from the Mexican mainland, just south of Cancun off the peninsula’s east coast. Cruise liners tie up at several piers on the island’s western side, near the main town of San Miguel for Mexican feasting and Cozumel’s best beaches.
Depending on the liner, you might dock right downtown in San Miguel at Punta Langosta (Norwegian, Disney, Seven Seas). San Miguel is a quick taxi ride or 35-minute walk from the International Pier (Royal Caribbean and Celebrity). From Puerta Maya dock (Carnival), just south of the International Pier, it’s a 10-minute taxi ride to San Miguel. Always agree on a price before setting off when you hire a taxi; it should cost around US$6 to reach downtown.
Sayil is a distinguished Mayan ruins site in the Puuc Hills of the Yucatan, located a short drive from the larger ruins of Uxmal. Sayil is a part of the same UNESCO World Heritage site as Uxmal and is a prominent Mayan ruin due to its royal origins. It is believed that Sayil was once ruled by a royal dynasty, and the palace ruins on its grounds are still impressive to behold today. Visitors can wander through the ruins and also make a stop at the observatory, another of Sayil's top sites.
It is estimated that Sayil was settled around 800 AD and at one point had a population that reached upwards of 10,000. Visitors to Sayil can soak up this ancient history and get a feel for what life was like during the time of the Mayans while steering clear of the larger crowds at some of the other more popular Mayan sites. The site's jungle location also adds to the exotic, off-the-beaten-path allure.
Mexico’s Costa Maya port sits on the country’s Caribbean side, just north of the border with Belize. Built specifically for cruisers, the port facilities include pools, a beach club, shopping, restaurants and bars. It’s a bit theme-park-esque, so unless you’ve already been to the surrounding attractions, head outside the port to see more of the Yucatan than another swim-up bar. Most popular are the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben; alternatively, stay closer to the port in the fishing village of Mahahual, a five-minute cab ride away.
The ruins are located 45 miles (75 km) northwest of Costa Maya (don’t confuse the ruins with the town of the same name, 9 miles (14 km) to the north). A shore excursion with port pickup is the most convenient way to get there; it’s about a one-hour ride.
Garrafon Natural Reef Park is a nature amusement park near Cancun, Mexico, that offers a variety of activities which take full advantage of the gorgeous landscape it’s on. Located on the island of Isla Mujeres, Garrafon Natural Reef Park is surrounded by tropical hills and rugged cliffs on land and colorful reefs in the sea. Visitors can partake in over twenty activities both in and out of the water.
On land, strap yourself into a harness and glide through the air via Garrafon Natural Reef Park’s exhilarating zipline, explore the island on a fun bike ride or hike through an ancient Mayan temple. You can also simply relax while at Garrafon Natural Reef Park on one of its beachside chairs or hammocks.
While relaxing, you can also go for a swim in the clear water off the coast of Isla Mujeres, although Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers many other ways to experience the sea, including kayaking, snorkeling and even swimming with dolphins.
The Cancun International Airport is the second-largest in the country and handles a majority of international flights coming in and out of Mexico. The VIP Lounges — located in both terminals 2 and 3 — give travelers a quiet, comfortable place to relax away from the bustle of the main terminal while waiting for a flight.
Admission to the lounge includes an open bar, snacks, coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices. Lounge guests enjoy free WiFi, TVs showing news and sports channels, a variety of newspapers and magazines and a kids area.
Think you have to fly all the way to Australia to experience one of the world’s great reefs? Think again. Off the shore of the Riviera Maya region of Mexico is a portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere and the second largest reef in the world. It is also commonly referred to as the Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef stretches from Mexico all the way down to Honduras and though it’s half the length of the Great Barrier Reef (the world’s largest), that doesn’t take away from its beauty and it’s a must-see while visiting the Riviera Maya if you love the ocean. For visitors to the Riviera Maya, which includes popular resort cities like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, you can easily arrange a snorkel or scuba diving excursion to experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. You’ll have the chance to see the colorful, live reef and the many sea creatures living among it, including tropical fish and sea turtles.
More Things to Do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan
The newest Eco-park in Cancun, Xpu-Ha is all-inclusive with snorkel gear, catamaran rides, and kayaking near some of the best beaches and lagoons for snorkeling.
The park's 10 acres (4 hectares) of tropical forest and wetlands also features over 20 ruins and an exceptional collection of rare bird species. Spot monkeys, coatimundis, flamingos, and turtles as the layout of the park allows visitors to see the array of wildlife up close.
If you’re looking for guaranteed pink flamingo sightings, a trip out to Celustun is your best bet. There’s a pleasant enough beach where you can spread out a blanket, look for shells, or go swimming, but the main reason to visit is to hire a boat captain to take your party out on a flamingo tour. You head into a lagoon area where the big pink birds hang out each day, flying around and settling down in shallow areas in large groups to look for food. It’s rare to come here and not see a few dozen flamingoes in bunches as you troll around on the boat.
The tour also usually includes a “petrified forest” with mangrove stumps sticking out of the mud and a visit to a swimming hole on land filled by cool, clear spring water. It’s a great place to cool off from the viewing time in the hot sun. Afterwards there are a variety of inexpensive seafood restaurants near the beach and town square, all serving shrimp ceviche, and fresh-caught fish from the Gulf of Mexico.
Things to do near Riviera Maya & the Yucatan
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