Riviera Maya Bucket List Part 1 – Discovering Small Pieces of Heaven!

Xpu-Ha - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenThe Riviera Maya is a special place that is meant to be experienced and explored rather than just merely seen. The very thing that keeps so many people coming back year after year is the fact that it is a vacation that can always offer a different experience.

There are so many secret places and what I believe to be hidden wonders. If you have visited Playa del Carmen, Cancun or even Tulum you may think that is where it all ends. But in reality that is just where it starts.

In between these well-known landmarks you can find small pieces of heaven! What used to be secret little treasures are now becoming more talked about – but none the less are still must sees while on vacation anywhere in the Riviera Maya.

If you are calling Playa del Carmen your home base for the week and are looking to switch up the scenery a bit (which I highly recommend you do, for your own good!) there are a few of my favorite little wonders heading southward that I always recommend. You can even visit more than one place in one day – offering a more fulfilling experience.

Magical Cenotes

Start your day trip adventure with a stop at one of the Riviera Maya’s most beautiful cenotes which are about 15 minutes south from Playa del Carmen! This is a perfect activity to start in the morning on a really hot day! I always love cenotes on hot days because the water is a bit chillier than the ocean or pool water, and is an absolutely amazingly refreshing way to cool off!

A cenote is literally a natural fresh clear water pool which, on sunny days mirrors like crystal. It’s beautiful and quite an invigorating experience. Some cenotes even have underground cave entrances for those who love to dive and explore.

Two of my favorite nearby cenotes on this south route toward Tulum are Centoe Azul and Jardin of Eden. Both have great cliff jump off points if you like a little extra adventure. This is a great activity for a nice quick swim or to spend the entire day! Bring your towels, bathing suit and your smile! The entrance is about 50 pesos per person depending on the cenote.

If you have the time you may want to wander off to a brilliant new beach! The summer time hours give you plenty of beach time, so even if you arrive in the afternoon you still have plenty of time to enjoy!

The secret place everyone is talking about – Xpu-ha

Only right around the corner from the cenotes, on the other side of the highway you can find one of the most magical places I have encountered in the Riviera Maya – Xpu-ha! My goodness, what a wonderful place! I discovered Xpu-ha after having lived here already for almost 1.5 years! The first time I saw it I thought – “I can’t believe I have been missing out on this heaven all this time”. Well now I am very thankful that this paradisaical place is a regular part of my life!

Xpu-ha Beach is a paradise with soft white sand and crystal clear waters. It is also home to some of the most precious coral reefs! If you like to swim or snorkel this is a fantastic place to discover! You can also enjoy select water sports at a fraction of the cost of what you would spend in Playa! The entrance is 40 pesos per person but if you consume at the beach club, you will get a refund for your entrance upon leaving. The beach club is also highly recommendable with great food and cocktails!

The place of the Sea Turtles in Akumal

Akumal is another paradise not to be missed. It’s about 10 more minutes from the cenotes, still heading south! I have been to Akumal time and time again for relaxing days on the beach and to swim with the very large and exceptionally amazing Sea Turtles! You can bring your own snorkel gear or you can rent for a fee.

Swimming with the turtles can be done as a tour or you are free to go on your own! Aside from the sea turtles you can also swim amongst other well-known sea creatures such as stingrays and an array of colorful fish! It is truly an experience you will be glad you’ve discovered! Entrance to Akumal is absolutely free!

I recommend you try one of the most famous restaurants on the Riviera Maya called – La Buena Vida! It is such a charming restaurant with great food overlooking the beautiful Half Moon Bay of Akumal!

The serenity of Tulum

Tulum - Condo Hotels Playa del CarmenNow I bring you to a place where my heart forever lives – in Tulum! About a 45 minute drive away from Playa, Tulum is a place that makes you feel free as soon as you arrive! Its relaxed bohemian vibe puts even the most anxious at tranquility! Here the waves are bigger and the water bright and blue! If you love boogie boarding or riding the waves I highly suggest a day in Tulum!

There is a very pretty jungle road with a string of beach clubs and small hotels – each offering loungers and food and drink service! When I go I tend to always find myself at a place called “Om Tulum”! The stretch of beach is amazing and I always enjoy the service and the great food!

If you happen to be traveling with your dog – Tulum is one of the few places in the Riviera Maya that is animal friendly! You can end your day in Tulum by walking through the little town, shopping and having dinner at one of the many charming restaurants in the town center.

If you are planning a trip to the Riviera Maya use these helpful bucket list items to create your own agenda tailored to your interests. Keep follow us for more must-see beaches and little paradises!

Making a Splash at Cenote Azul

One of the things I love about coming to Playa del Carmen is visiting one of the many the cenotes (natural fresh water pools) along the Mayan Riviera. It is a special experience unique to Mexico and I believe you never forget your first time.

The first cenote I visited was near the Chichen Itza ruins last year, which was fantastic. Swimming in a natural lagoon caused by a geological phenomena is a special experience that stays with you for a while.

Returning to Playa del Carmen this year, I knew I had to experience another cenote, and chose Cenote Azul, about 20 minutes drive away. Each natural pool is completely unique, formed by thousands of years of geological activity. Azul is rather small, but that doesn’t detract from its beauty. The water is completely clear, revealing many interesting limestone formations, caverns and life below the surface.

Cenote Azul

I was glad I remembered my snorkel, as Cenote Azul is filled with fish of all shapes and sizes. Once I entered the cool water and adjusted to the refreshing temperature (cenotes are generally quite cold, which adds to their rejuvenating qualities!) I donned my mask and began to explore the waters.

The clarity truly blew my mind! At first it was a little disconcerting – I just wasn’t used to water so clear. The fish darted around me and into dark caverns in the distance. Part of me wanted to explore them too, whilst another was a little bit afraid of what I might find!

The good thing about Cenote Azul is that it is completely open to the sunlight, which makes it easier to see all the fish and interesting underwater rock formations.

A wooden platform was erected over the water for people to sit on, and as I made my way towards it, I discovered a large school of catfish living underneath. There must have been at least fifty pairs of dark eyes hovering under the platform staring at me!

I left them to it and hoisted myself up onto the deck to warm myself in the sun, watching as some adventurous souls jumped into the water from the elevated ledge opposite.

Cenote Azul

After watching for a while, I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go. The ledge didn’t look all that high from where I was sitting, but when I got to the top, it seemed much higher! I hesitated a little before taking a deep breath and muttering, “here goes!” before launching myself off the edge and into the refreshing water with a splash!

“Woohoo, I did it!” I thought to myself, high on the adrenalin rush of the jump.

I’m no daredevil by any means, and wouldn’t feel safe jumping from anything higher, but the jump at Cenote Azul was the perfect compromise on fun and safety. I was glad that I hadn’t just stayed on the sidelines and watched everyone else have all the fun.

Tip: Cenote Azul is about a 20 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen, and can be easily reached by van, taxi or car, as it is on the right hand side of the highway heading south. Parking is available, though it’s advisable to bring water and a snack/lunch if going for the day. There is an entrance fee of about 70 Pesos ($6) per person.