Secret Spots in the Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya is the name given to the pristine stretch of Caribbean coastline between Cancun and Tulum. Playa del Carmen lies at the center of this amazing part of the world which is home to pristine beaches, crystal clear cenotes, ancient ruins and dense tropical jungle.

The Riviera Maya is a special part of the world. Just ask anyone who comes here and they will tell you that there is a unique energy in this natural, cultural and historic paradise that is unrivaled by any other destination.

We want to take it a step further and introduce you to some secret spots in the area, places only discovered by the intrepid and the adventurous.

1. Secret Snorkeling Spot in Puerto Morelos

About 30 minutes north of Playa del Carmen is the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Not many people know it, but just off the shore in front of the Ojo del Agua restaurant, is a secret snorkeling spot which includes a reef and an underwater cenote.

Pueto Morelos snorkeling photo - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Swim right off the beach toward the white market buoys and discover a magical underwater world. It’s one of the area’s best kept secrets!

2. The Secret Cenote of Xcacel Beach

Forty minutes south of Playa del Carmen is Xcacel Beach, the most underdeveloped and ruggedly beautiful beach in all the Riviera Maya. It is also home to a turtle sanctuary which protects this precious species.

The beach itself is delightful. Iguanas roam the shore and there are no resorts or beach clubs in sight. Just miles of white sand flanked by verdant jungle, which makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time.

A well kept secret of this natural paradise is the cenote which is located in a mangrove forest. Follow the small sign which leads you down a sandy path, emerging at a fresh water sinkhole surrounded by jungle.

Xcacel Beach cenote photo - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

Birds flit from branch to branch and fish dart between rocks in the crystal clear water. Don your snorkel to discover another well kept secret of the Riviera Maya!

 3. The Secret Ruins of Muyil

While most of the tourists flock to the well known Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Coba, why not explore the lesser known ancient city of Muyil, just south of Tulum.

Forget the tour groups and large crowds, this gem of an ancient site is set in a dense jungle and opens out onto a lagoon and canal system which was used as a trade route for the Maya.

You can also access the ruins on a boat tour in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a protected nature reserve containing exceptional biodiversity and historic significance just one hour south of Playa del Carmen.

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve photo - Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen

4. The Secret Tacos of Playa del Carmen

Ssh! Don’t tell anyone about this local gem, located on the corner of 30th Avenue and 20th street. This small stand has been serving up delicious cochinita (marinated pork) tacos to hungry locals for many years, with no signs of stopping. You only need see the crowds of happy customers who line up every day from 7am till 12pm for this delicacy unique to the Yucatan.

We hope you enjoy these secret spots of the Riviera Maya and discover many more of your own!

Getting Back to Nature at Xcacel Beach

The thing I love about Playa del Carmen is its magnificent location on the Caribbean sea. Playa is a lively town filled with all the modern conveniences of stores, restaurants, cinemas, and fantastic accommodation options. There are a myriad of activities on offer from diving to paddle boarding, sailing, snorkeling and many more. With so much to do, it’s impossible to be bored in Playa del Carmen!

‘Playa’ is also perfectly located for exploring the surrounding Caribbean coastline, a pristine stretch of white sand and clear, turquoise water. I recently visited the nearby beach of Xcacel, about a 30 minute drive south of town.

Although not very far, Xcacel feels like a world away from civilization. There were no beach clubs or hotels to be seen as we made our way over the dunes and onto the shore. The wind whipped through my hair as I took in the rugged beauty of the scene, thundering waves crashing onto the sand.

Xcacel Beach

‘This is wild,’ I thought to myself, reminded of the power and beauty of mother nature when she is left untouched. I sat on the sand and dug my feet into its cool embrace, watching as my friends took to the water to body surf the ferocious waves.

Xcacel beach

A few people set up on the beach for the day with chairs and umbrellas, whilst two inquisitive local residents waddled past. A little girl ran over to feed the iguanas some of her lunch as I watched them tentatively, ready to make a run for it if necessary!

Xcacel beach

My friends had enough of being whipped around by the sea and collapsed onto the sand, panting. After basking in the sun for a while, we decided to check out the nearby cenote (natural fresh water pool). We made our way over the dunes and into a clearing dotted with palm trees, where a colorful sign pointed in the direction of a jungle path.

Xcacel beach

Surrounded on both sides by a wall of lush green foliage, we made our way along the sandy pathway, occasionally catching a glimpse of the azure sea over the dunes to our left.

Xcacel beach

The path curved inland, taking us through a mangrove filled with cool, shallow water.

Suddenly, the cenote appeared at the end of the path. It was unlike any I had seen before, smaller and surrounded on all sides by tangled foliage which seemed to rise out from the water. I donned my snorkel and observed the many fish living in the natural pool, some of them coming over to nibble on my feet, giving me a natural (but very ticklish!) foot spa.

Xcacel beach cenote

Sitting on a rocky ledge, I observed the scene; people swimming and laughing, the trees swaying in the breeze, fish darting through the clear water and birds perching on overhanging branches. It was hard to believe we were just a 30 minute drive from the luxury of our condo hotel in Playa del Carmen.

I was looking forward to getting back to civilization, but grateful to have experienced the rugged natural beauty of Xcacel beach and its ‘secret cenote’, an experience I won’t forget any time soon.

*Xcacel beach is about a 30 min drive south of Playa del Carmen, before Tulum, and can be reached by taxi, van or car. There is a small charge of 10 pesos (less than $1) per person at the gate.