Secret Places of the Riviera Maya Mexico
In the shadows of Cancún and Cozumel, a whole universe of new beaches and little-known places is waiting to be discovered. This is where you’ll find the best off-the-beaten-track spots on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
It’s all very well going to Mexico for a bit of sun, sand, and shopping. But you know what they say about all work and no play… With that in mind here are the best little-known places to visit on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, which should keep you entertained during those long lazy days by the sea.
Hire a boat and head out to this island, which lies just 40km off the coast of Cancún. There are no facilities here so you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself…which is what most travelers come for anyway. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 330 recorded species and you’ll also see turtles, dolphins, and stingrays.
This little village in Quintana Roo is best known among birders and two-wheel enthusiasts. It’s a great place to watch birds, but it’s also perfect for cycling, kayaking and windsurfing. And if you do want to explore further afield from this tiny fishing community, there are plenty of trails in the area.
The Cenotes of Ik Kil
You’ll find a series of cenotes around this ancient Mayan city, a few hours’ drive from Chichen Itza. One is called The Cathedral and it really lives up to its name with high vaulted ceilings and light streaming in through an opening in the roof. It’s a great place to get away from it all, especially on Sundays when there are no tourists allowed here. There are also a couple of natural pools here, so you can cool off as well as marvel at the architecture.
The Mangroves of Xcalak
Perhaps not as exciting as some of the other places on this list but certainly worth a day trip from Playa del Carmen or Akumal. They may be small but there are plenty of interesting things to see here, like crocodiles and turtles. You can also go snorkeling or kayaking through the mangroves, which should be great fun if you’ve never done it before.
Xel-Ha Lagoon Park
This natural park is famous for its colorful waters and array of activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, jet skiing, and parasailing. But if you don’t feel like getting too wet or adventurous here are some lesser-known things to do at the park: cycling through the jungle, spotting crocodiles and iguanas on a nature trail, or learning to cook Mexican dishes.
Hidden Beaches of Quintana Roo
There are dozens of white sand beaches along this coast but if you don’t have weeks to spend hanging out on the sand, these are worth heading to:
- Caleta Tankah Tres – south of Xpu-Ha
- Playa Paraiso – west of Puerto Morelos
- Caletilla – north of Puerto Vallarta
The Ruins at Ek Balam
These impressive structures date back to around 120-140 BC and can be found on the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s an easy day trip from Playa del Carmen or Cancún and you’ll get to see some really interesting stuff like a beautifully restored ball court which is even older than the Mayan pyramids, so it’s a great place to get a sense of how old this civilization was.