Cancun and the Riviera Maya are not places to just look beautiful, lounging on the sand or chilling out, floating in the ocean. No, these sweet destinations boast lots of excursions that will plunk you right down in the middle of the luscious natural beauty and rich history of the Yucatan Peninsula. Take a look at all these insanely fun excursions in Cancun and Riviera Maya that are total must-dos!
1. Take a jump in the cenotes
Cenotes (say-NOH-tays) or “sacred wells” were once revered by the Mayans because they were a water source in dry times. They also believed they were portals to speak with the gods. For modern people who want to worship with a little R&R, floating in a secluded space of refreshing water, then this is one of coolest excursions in Cancun and Riviera Maya you can experience.
These mysterious, hidden havens are natural swimming pools formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which have created a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools. Some of these cenotes are surrounded by tons of tropical trees and vines that form large, looming walls and make you feel like you’ve stepped into the land before time. Some of the best include Chaak Tun Cenote in Playa del Carmen, Grand Cenote in Tulum and Dos Ojos, also in Tulum.
2. Float on the Rio Secreto
Talk about a fascinating, blow-you-away excursion! This mysterious, evocative locale near Playa del Carmen is an underground river where you can swim amid thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. You can walk (or swim) through mineral-rich waters, learn about the nature reserve’s geology and the history that dates back millions of years. Enjoy the silence of the surreal formations and relax.
3. Swim with turtles in Akumal Bay
Okay, if you want to commune with nature, then this is one of the best excursions in Cancun and Riviera Maya to dive into. Check it out: Akumal is just 22 miles south of Playa del Carmen or 66 miles from Cancun, which is just a short hop away, but well worth it. Here, you can swim with green sea turtles and watch these gentle-shelled creatures in calm waters as they munch on the sea grass that covers the ocean floor. Snorkeling equipment can be rented at the Akumal Dive Center.
4. Frolic with dolphins in Playa del Carmen
Some of the interactions with these smiley darlings includes a kiss and hug, shaking their hand (er, fin) and a ride with a dorsal tow–hang on! This is a bucket list-worthy activity and there are several excellent places in and around Playa del Carmen, as well as Cozumel and and Akumal to find this. When you’re thinking about what kind of Riviera Maya and Cancun excursions you want to take, you can’t beat this magical experience.
5. Explore the Mayan Ruins
While there are several ruins that inhabit this area, there are two that are particularly alluring–the Chichen Itza Pyramids and Tulum. When you decide on this activity, be sure to bring your hiking or walking shoes because you’ll be on the move. Chichen Itza, considered one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World,’ is dazzling. However, Tulum is set upon a dramatic cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean and there’s even a beach below that you can check out. But the view alone is worth the trip.
6. Zip Line in the Mayan Jungle
In addition to sailing on a wire through the verdant canopy in the exotic, wild jungles of this part of the world, you can also rent ATVs to explore these labyrinths of tropical greenery, traverse hanging bridges and end up jumping into a cenote. When it comes to these kinds of active excursions, there are tons of tour companies to choose from all over Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya. Here’s to living the high life down ‘n dirty in the sand or way above the treetops.
7. Set sail on sunset cruises
If you’re up for some romance or just meeting new friends, this is one of the most relaxing excursions to put on your itinerary. There are scads of ports to sail from, up and down the Yucatan Peninsula: Cancun and the calm waters of the Nichupte Lagoon, Riviera Maya, Tulum and Puerto Morelos. You can cruise on catamarans, luxury yachts or even pirate ships–the choice is yours! You can even choose what type of cruise you’re in the mood for: dinner, cocktail, private, lobster BBQ, anything. In all of the aforementioned categories, the list goes on. When you’re looking for a super fun, relaxing excursion in Cancun and Riviera Maya, don’t miss this–it’s oceans of fun.
8. Take a dip with the whale sharks
Now before you start shaking your head at this exhilarating excursion, these gentle giants–actually the world’s largest fish–feed on plankton and algae only. But be forewarned: they can still measure up to 30-40 feet long, with a gaping mouth the size of a Smart car. Yes, it does sound a bit unnerving, but how could you not want to witness such natural beauty? For this activity, you are taken to the spot (in a boat with a guide) where whale sharks are known to congregate off the coast of Cancun. When the guide tells you to jump in, jump! They swim away quickly. You’ll want to take your cameras, but rentals are also available. Again, don’t feed these big babies. They’ve got a steady diet of watery organism goodness.
9. Snorkel at Isla Mujeres
This tropical island, the ‘Island of the Women,” is a gem of the Caribbean and one of the most accessible excursions in Cancun and Riviera Maya you can take. It’s eight miles off the Yucatan coast, and on a clear day, you can see the skyline of Cancun. The best part is that it’s right along the northern border of the Great Mayan reef, the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere. If you’re a beginner and want to snorkel in shallow water, El Farito on Isla Mujeres is a place to see some beautiful fish. If you’re more experienced, hit Los Manchones, where the depths span 35-40 feet and you’ll see some stunning coral.
10. Golf on world-class greens
The number of lush golf courses in Cancun and Riviera Maya is nearly dizzying. Here are just a few places to consider. At the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, you have a choice of two: Golf Club Playacar and the Hard Rock Golf Club. The Grand Bahia Principe Tulum offers access to the Riviera Maya Golf Club designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the number one name in golf course architecture around the world. Iberostar Playa Paraiso has a gorgeous green. And Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun provides a complimentary round at Grand Riviera Maya. Schwing. No matter what excursion in Cancun or Riviera Maya you’re thinking about, know that the golf courses are epic.
Special note: when you are planning your Cancun and Riviera Maya excursions, trust Amstar for all your transfers. These friendly, super knowledgeable guides are who you want guiding you around during your Riviera Maya and Cancun excursions a.k.a. your tour of paradise. They know their stuff.