7 Things To Keep You Busy While Visiting the Riviera Maya

One of Jonaliza D. Ceklic‘s favorite places to visit is the Riviera Maya. Not only because it’s affordable and only a 3-hour flight from New York, but there are so many things you can get into, perfect for a fitness adventurer like here.

I don’t mind the blistering cold because it gives me the chance to stay indoors and catch up on reading, practice my instruments, and sign up for a few MOOCs. But like most people who live in the Northeast, it’s only a matter of time, typically only a few weeks into winter, when I begin to fantasize about burying my feet in the warm white sands of a tropical beach as I prepare to jump into the refreshing waters of the blue-green, coral reef-filled sea.

That’s when my mind wanders off to the multiple times I visited the magical Riviera Maya. Located along the Caribbean shoreline in the northeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula, this coastal paradise is best known for its pristine beaches and crystal clear waters. But there is so much more to do than lounge on the beach while you are there! Here are my 7 faves that you must add to your bucket list:

 

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Get Lost In the Jungle

During my first visit, we stayed in La Calma — now fully upgraded and rebranded as Tulili — an eco-friendly yoga retreat and holistic healing center located in “the mystical Mayan jungle alongside the finest cenotes on Earth” just outside of Tulum. This place provides basic amenities, perfect for those looking to fully disconnect from the outside world and be one with nature. They also offer healthy organic meals with fresh vegetables and tropical fruits you can’t get enough of.

They offer other services like massage treatments, Shamanic healing/cleansing, and Temezcal ceremonies, but our favorite is a private morning yoga session in their outdoor yoga shala. The soothing sounds of the jungle surrounding you throughout the practice bring a certain level of inner peace that help cleanse your soul. You feel like a brand new person as soon as you step out of the hut!

 

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Snorkel in the Cenotes

The Riviera Maya is also known for its cenotes, “a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath”. Back in the day, cenotes were used for sacrificial offerings. Now they are mostly used as swimming holes.

Only 5 minutes walk from Tulili are some of the most alluring cenotes in the world including Dos Ojos. Scuba divers from all over the world come to Quintana Roo to explore the underwater caves of this popular natural swimming spot. You can also appreciate Dos Ojos without going deep; just take a snorkel with you.

Other cenotes in and around the Riviera Maya worth exploring include Gran Cenote, Casa Cenote, Cenote Ik Kil, and Cenote Sac Actun. I promise you, on a beautiful, sunny day, none of them will disappoint.

 

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Explore the Mayan Ruins

You can’t go to the Riviera Maya without exploring some of the Mayan Ruins. The ancient Mayan civilization was ahead of its time, inventing many things (like the concept of zero, football/basketball, and chocolate) that we still use today. They also developed an advanced language and writing system, and created the sophisticated Mayan calendar. You can’t help but wonder what caused their demise.

The Mayan ruins to definitely check out that will blow your socks off? Tulum Ruins situated near the coast, the Ruins of Muyil in Sian Ka’an, Coba with its climbable pyramid, Ek Balam, and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza.

 

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Paddle Sian Ka’an

Take a tour of Sian Ka’an.. on a paddleboard! Located on the southern end of Tulum, Sian Ka’an is a biosphere reserve that was established in 1986 and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. But what does that all mean? It’s a well-protected natural area with “coastal wetlands and shimmering lagoons, spectacular wildlife, and awe-inspiring Mayan ruins” (Muyil) that is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna.

You can do a private eco-tour to appreciate the natural beauty of the place, but we opted to explore it on a paddleboard. Sian of SUP Yoga Tulum was our personal tour guide who, after our 60-minute exploratory paddle, took us to nearby cenotes that locals frequented for a quick dip.

Prefer to do something a little more adventurous? How about paddling the Caribbean Sea off the beaches of Playa Del Carmen? Aloha Paddle Club can take you on a tour you’ll always remember.

 

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Swim with the Tropical Fishes

The Caribbean Sea, home to some of the most color tropical wildlife, is all around you, so you there is no question about it (unless you can’t swim)– you MUST take a dip! There are many local companies that offer half-to-full day snorkeling tours everywhere you go in the Riviera Maya.

We opted to do it off the island of Cozumel because we were promised to get close to the fishes. And it didn’t disappoint! If you are lucky, you may come across a handful of sea turtles. Just do your research and make sure you go with a reputable guide who knows what they are doing and will keep you safe.

 

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Zipline Over the Caribbean Sea

We don’t usually do parks as we prefer authentic cultural experiences (not to mention trying to avoid the crowds), but we made an exception for Garrafon Reef Park in Isla Muejeres for one reason: ziplining over the Caribbean Sea.

You start off at the top of the 42-foot tower, the highest part of the park almost 100 feet above sea level, and make your way down past the cliff and people playing in the waves. The ziplining itself only lasts a few minutes, but the exhilarating memory stays with you for a lifetime.  The only other downside is it costs about $90 USD to do, but if that is not a big deal to you, the bird’s eye view of the Caribbean is well worth it.

 

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Take In the Vitamin Sea

Because, regardless of what I may have said in the beginning of this story, you don’t always have to be on the move while in the Riviera Maya. Whether in Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, or Cancun–okay, maybe not Cancun so much–the Riviera Maya is a place where you can escape to when you need to unwind.

Make sure you take enough downtime to be able to take in the Vitamin Sea, reflect on life, and do all the things that refresh your mind, body, and soul. You will be happy that you did when you return back to the real world.

Jonaliza D. Ceklic, Fitness Adventurer

Author: Jonaliza D. Ceklic, Fitness Adventurer

Jonaliza is an adventure storyteller who enjoys exploring the great outdoors and sharing stories about these experiences to inspire, give hope and remind people about the magic. When not at play, she works as Community Affairs Manager for NY-based solar developer, Eden Renewables. Her favorite activities include standup paddling, trail running and hiking, hot yoga, playing the djembe drum, and cozying up to a good book, astrophysics being her subject matter of choice.

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