Ocean Excursions and Subterranean AdventuresHere's something different to post to your social feed: spent the day paddling a raft through the Mayan underworld. The ancients considered the flooded caverns of the Yucatan to be gateways to Xibalba, the subterranean realm of the gods. Whether you favor mythology or geology, a float trip through these stalagmite-festooned caverns is certainly a bucket-list activity. Perhaps less brag-worthy, but no less enjoyable are paddling excursion in the clear coastal waters of the Caribbean. The Riviera Maya offers miles of bays and beaches to explore, with sheltered nearshore waters for novices, and coral reefs washed by blue water for the adventurous.
- Best for: Everyone, from budget to luxury travellers, spa enthusiasts, to soft and rugged adventureres
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Tropical, with winter temperatures in the mid70s, and summer highs reaching into the 90s. East trade winds cool beachside locations. May to December sees passing rain showers, while February to early May tends to be drier
Riviera Maya Information
Paddle Sports in Riviera Maya Overview
Many beach resorts in the Riviera Maya provide kayaks for the use of guests, and there are miles of coastline to explore. A favorite day trip is Akumal Bay, where paddlers may encounter turtles, and can often play in small breaking surf. A very different type of rafting adventure awaits at inland sites where freshwater streams flow through underground passages.
Paddle Sports in Riviera Maya Tips
You don't need to be an intrepid explorer to experience the underground rivers of the Yucatan. Raft trips follow a well-marked route, and caverns are subtlety illuminated to allow safe navigation without spoiling the ambiance. As a bonus, after finishing the paddle, participants can also swim and wade through additional underground chambers.
Best Places for Paddle Sports in Riviera Maya
In the jungles, south of Playa del Carmen, paddlers can explore an underground river that passes through caves decorated with thousands of intricate stalagmite formations. Nearby, another channel leads kayakers along a waterway that cuts between tall limestone bluffs. Beachfront hotels along the Riviera Maya are just a short paddle away from coral reefs.
What to Pack for Paddle Sports in Riviera Maya
When dressing for a cave rafting trip, wear things that can get wet, and are quick-drying. Hiking sandals with heel straps are a good footwear option. For coastal paddles, bring a brimmed hat for sun protection, a dry bag or case for keys and cameras, and sunglasses secured with a floating lanyard.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: All U.S. citizens are required to present a valid, undamaged passport. Visas are not required for stays less than 180 days. One blank page is required in your passport for the entry stamp.
Exit Requirements: All persons leaving the Riviera Maya, pay a Government Departure Tax of approximately USD $30, which should be included in your International ticket.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Mexico. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
From ancient Mayan cities to strobe-lit dance clubs, and jungle-clad swimming holes to five-star beach resorts, the attractions of the Riviera Maya run the full gamut. Cancun is one of the western hemisphere's most celebrated vacation destinations, with dazzling beaches flanked by luxury resorts, clubs and upscale eateries. A half-hour to the south, the lively avenues and beach clubs of Playa del Carmen are a favorite with both backpackers and jet setters. Along a 50-mile stretch of the coast, roadside entrance gates lead through coastal greenery to exclusive golf and beach resorts, while farther on, the eclectic seaside village of Akumal remains old-school Caribbean. At the southern end of the resort corridor, the village of Tulum and its namesake beach are a favorite winter haunt of East Coast sophisticates, but savvy budget travelers can still find hostels and campgrounds that cater to the wanderers of the world. English, French, Dutch and German are often heard along the beaches, but areas to the left of Highway 307 are pure Mexico, where tacos or a helado treat can still be purchased from a street vendor for a few pesos, and life proceeds at a more relaxed and accommodating pace.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Mexico is 120 volts, 60 cycle, so no adapter will be needed for U.S. visitors. The country code for the Yucatan is 52. Check with your service provider for long distance plans. Internet service is available at many hotels, restaurants, bars and shops.
Most restaurants and bars in tourist locations use purified water. Outside of resorts, be cautious with ice in drinks or vegetables which may have been washed in tap water. Bottled water is available for purchase and is recommended for drinking and brushing teeth.
Language & Currency
Spanish is the official language of Mexico, although English is widely spoken. The local currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Due to new regulations, merchants and business can no longer exchange U.S. Dollars for Pesos. That must be done at a currency exchange office. U.S. credit cards are widely accepted. Check the current exchange rate here.
Mexico spans four different time zones. February 15, 2015, the state of Quintana Roo, which includes the Riviera Maya changed to Eastern Standard Time Zone (Zona Sureste). Riviera Maya does not observe Daylight Savings Time which puts it 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 GMT),
Location, Size and Population
The Riviera Maya is one of the fastest growing areas in Mexico, located in the state of Quintana Roo. Situated north of Cancun, on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, this area includes the areas north of Cancun City including Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Morelos, and Felipe Carrillo Puerto which is 40 kilometers to the south of Tulum. This region is approximately 86 miles long.
The Riviera Maya encompasses a large area with a population estimated around 150,000, with cities like Playa del Carmen with a population of 118,570 and Tulum with a population of 18,370.