Riviera Maya Mexico
Magellan Missed Out on the True Peaceful Sea
History tells us when Magellan began his search across the Atlantic Ocean for a trade route to the Spice Islands by going around South America, he became impressed with the large, peaceful body of water he encountered on the other side, naming it the Pacific. With Portuguese Brazil his first landing point, Magellan didn’t really know the Riviera Maya Mexico on the Caribbean.
The impression you receive when gazing at the Caribbean for the first time is that this incredible sea is like blue glass. The warm waves barely nibble at the shore making it seem more like an unbounded lake than an ocean body.
The Caribbean’s Natural Shelter
The Caribbean owes its placid nature to the Great Mesoamerican Reef, which shelters the mainland coasts from most storms. This reef system begins at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, and extends down to the Bay Islands of Honduras. The Great Mesoamerican Reef is the home to more than 65 species of stony coral, as well as over 500 species of fish and 350 species of mollusk. The vigorous bio-diversity includes the world’s largest group of manatees, as well as a number of endangered or protected species.
About the Riviera Maya Mexico
Originally called the Cancun-Tulum corridor, the Riviera Maya Mexico snuggles along the coastline of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan Peninsula, where it basks in the uninterrupted miles of glittering white sand beaches, an amazing bio-diversity, and exposure to an ancient, technically advanced civilization.
The Riviera Maya Mexico has something for everyone. It is a favorite area for scuba diving, jet skiing, and snorkeling. For the adventurer, there are more serious pursuits.
Natural Wonders of Aktun Chen
Deep in the rain forest of the Riviera Maya Mexico, close to Tulum, is the incredible natural park, “Aktun Chen”. The Mayan name means cave with an underground river inside. There are three cenote caves at the park, with million year old stalagmites and stalactites and crystal clear water pools. For wildlife lovers, there are spider monkeys, white tail deer, wild boars, iguanas and flocks of brightly colored birds.
Cenotes, which are naturally forming sink holes, sometimes containing water, sometimes not, are found throughout the Riviera Maya Mexico. The Yucatan Peninsula is flat; so flat, it sometimes appears the only separation between land and water is the color and the towering palm trees. This creates an absence in surface rivers. They sink underground, revealing their presence only in the swirling holes dotting the landscape. Cavers have discovered a thrilling adventure in descending into the dry cenotes, that usually contain a sparkling pool of water at the bottom, delicious for swimming and for examining further underground pieces of paradise in the tunnels cut by the rivers.
While sun-bathing on the beach is delicious, the biggest tourist attraction in the Riviera Maya Mexico is the Mayan ruins. Its ancient architecture rivals the best in Mediterranean history, stunning the viewer with its mastery of building and design, its astonishing understanding of hydraulics, its exquisite art and the massiveness of its enterprise.
Although a huge number of the Mayan ruins are still covered with growth, making it difficult to comprehend the full system of canals, roads, observatories, business and social establishments, an appreciation of their elaborate civilization can be found at Chichen Itza.
The Temple of the Jaguar
Located close to Merida, but within a day’s drive of Cancun, Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist destinations. The excavation site measures a mile from west to east, and approximately a mile and a half from north to south, revealing a number of buildings, some pyramids, temples, and an observatory.
Reaching the flattened summit of The Castle, a pyramid 75 feet tall, is a labor of love. At the top is a temple. In the middle of the temple is a jaguar, painted red and gleaming with inlaid jade and turquoise. Perhaps it’s just the cool shade from the sun, but you feel suddenly transformed to another dimension. The little jaguar, staring brightly, seems real, and his quizzical look seems to ask why you entered his domain.
The Highly Advanced City of Coba
The tallest pyramid in Riviera Maya Mexico resides in Coba. Reaching over 125 feet in height, a hike to the top reveals dozens of structures still moldering under jungle growth and the accumulation of sand and earth brought by the winds of time.
The most remarkable aspect about the area, however, is the remnants of a road system that had once covered the entire Yucatan Peninsula. The roads were raised, ran in a straight line, and included ramps and intersections.
The Castle by the Sea
A visit to the Riviera Maya Mexico ruins really isn’t complete without dropping into Tulum. Completed in 1,200 A.D., Tulum was a busy port and trading center during the Post Classic period. The greatest appreciation lies in the beauty of the architecture. Set precisely on the coastline, with the sea rolling close to its walls, it creates both a romantic and strategic setting. The Castillo, built on the highest point of the site, is believed to have been a lighthouse or a marker for seafarers. It has a watch tower vantage point, with views in every direction.
Life at Its Fullest
The traveler to the Riviera Maya Mexico is as versatile as the many natural wonders and modern services the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer. You’ll find anthropologists and biologists rubbing shoulders with adventure seekers, naturalists, cavers and scuba divers. For the more social, there are dazzling night spots, cozy beach clubs, and broad avenues filled with shops and restaurants.
A final touch to add to the Riviera Maya Mexico experience is visiting a spa. Located throughout the region, the Mayan spa has become a favorite destination among travelers. As much a cultural experience as a treatment, the temazcal – or house of steam – incorporates a shaman, ritual chanting and herbal remedies. The treatment may involve covering yourself with mud to help draw out the toxins. The benefits are said to include ridding toxins, cleaning the nervous system, relaxing muscles, reducing fat and stimulating the digestive and respiratory systems.
The Unforgettable Appeal
With a coastline like no other and an egg-shell sea in front of it, those features alone are enough to set up lawn chairs all over the Yucatan Peninsula. The wild bio-diversity that includes rain forest and cenotes, the open plain feeling, are the bonus features, adding dimension and versatility to the region. The ruins give silent testimony to the fact that at least two thousand years ago, a people saw the potential of this equatorial zone. They built a civilization with technologies we are only just now beginning to understand and appreciate for their precision and functional applications. Although remnants of this civilization are scattered throughout Central America, none so far have been found quite as spectacular as the giant pyramids and elaborate city hubs on the Riviera Maya Mexico.