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This article was written on 30 May 2012, and is filled under To: Mexico.

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Beyond the Walls of the Resorts: Discover Riviera Maya

For many, vacationing in an all-inclusive resort is synonym of relaxation conjugated with days of pure laziness. In these resorts where the only worries are to enjoy the beach and the sun, try every possible cocktail and not miss any of the all-you-can-eat meals, it can be tempting to spend the whole trip inside the walls of the resort. But sometimes, it’s good to get out of your cocoon and take the time to explore what the region has to offer. This is especially true if your sun destination if Riviera Maya.


With its rich history and an abundance in exotic animals and plant, it would be a shame not to explore at least some of Riviera Maya’s main attractions.

A simple trip to Tulúm in the Yucatán Peninsula, located 40 miles south of Playa Del Carmen, will allow you to discover the relics of the Mayan civilization Although it was built in earlier times, this historic site reached its peak between 900 and 1200 AD. Located up a cliff, Tulúm overlooks brilliant turquoise waters and Cozumel island, a few hundreds meters away.

Mayan Riviera - Home of the Mayans

Riviera Maya – Home of the Mayans

Inside the walled city of Tulúm, protected by four towers, the king and his kingdom lived in several dozens of palaces or wood and stone houses. This major city also served as a commercial port, and was the center of religious events and ceremonies.

Hike between the ruins and the green space that used to be the market. Some of the ruins still show the stunning sculptures and even signs of red and blue stains that used to color the Mayan monuments.

On the seaside, a castle, which also served as a lighthouse, was cleverly built on the only route that allowed ships to go trade with Cozumel island dwellers. With its yellow sand beach, the scenery is simply stunning.

Before heading back to Playa del Carmen or to your resort, a stop at Aktun Chen natural park is a must. Here, in the middle of the forest, you will find an incredible cave and several cenotes (deep natural pits). These rivers and water networks create amazing labyrinths, typically found on the peninsula. You can visit the cave or even snorkel in the very clear waters.

With thousands of stalactites, stalagmites, calcareous columns and many weirdly shaped trees, these caves provide a very eerie look. You may notice, on the ceiling of the cave,  thousands of roots. These roots actually come from the trees above the surface, that are dying to get more water. These roots hang from the ceiling of the caves and can sometimes cover the entire floor. Interwined, they often provide a strange view.

If you are looking for another day of fun outside the resort, check out one of the two eco-themed parks, Xel-Hà and Xcaret. Located a few minutes drive from Tulúm, Xel-Hà is home to one of the world’s most beautiful natural aquarium. Don’t miss the opportunity to swim with giant parrotfishes or snorkel between the colorful fishes.

turtles at xcaretBeing more accessible from Playa del Carmen using public transportation, Xcaret tends to attract bigger crowds of tourists. After a quick tour there, you’ll understand why so many tourists flock to Xcaret every day : an 8.6 millions square feet park with many treasures such as an aquarium, a reconstructed Mayan cimetery, a butterfly pavillion, many wild animals (monkeys, parrots, etc), a beautiful beach, a lagoon and daily shows.

So next time your in Riviera Maya and need to take a break from the beach, make sure to check out these attractions!

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