Mundo Maya...Big and Small
No matter where your clients choose to base in the Mexican Caribbean, odds are good that fascinating Mayan ruins are nearby, sometimes even just minutes away. While the major ruins can be a deciding factor in the choice to visit the Mexican Caribbean, even smaller ruins can whet clients’ appetites for return visits to explore more.
That’s the case for visitors staying in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, where a couple of ruins are just a short walk away and an easy introduction to the wonders of the Mayan world. The El Rey ruins are right in Cancun’s Hotel Zone with 47 structures, some still adorned with murals. Exploring takes one to two hours, costs less than US$3 and is appropriate for visitors of all ages—the iguanas are a big hit with the kids! The Cancun Mayan Museum is also in the Hotel Zone, along with the entrance to the San Miguelito ruins, in the heart of the lush jungle.
Tulum, on the Riviera Maya, is home of some of the most iconic Mayan ruins in Mexico. An easy daytrip from both Cancun and other parts of the Riviera Maya, the Castillo (castle) is a highlight, perched atop a cliff overlooking the coast. Visitors often take time to enjoy the beach below after exploring the ruins.
A popular daytrip option, whether by tour or independently, combines Tulum with the nearby ruins of Coba, sprawling over 30 miles. Much of it is not yet excavated, but visitors can explore three main areas and even climb the 120 steps of the Nohoch Mul pyramid, the tallest on the Yucatan Peninsula. Getting around is easy with bike rentals or chauffeured tricycles. Between Tulum and Coba is the Grand Cenote, a perfect opportunity for visitors to cool off in its clear waters.
San Gervasio, Cozumel
A handful of other sites are scattered in a variety of settings, such as San Gervasio on Cozumel, with several temples dedicated to Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, and Xel-Ha, opposite the Xel-Ha eco-park in Riviera Maya, with small temples and two cenotes.
Near Bacalar, two large but lesser known sites allow visitors to put their explorer hats on. Kohunlich, in the middle of the jungle, features about 21 acres of largely unexcavated buildings with some jewels that visitors can enter, including the Temple of the Masks and residential buildings, while Dzibanche, about 30 minutes away, features several temples that can be explored.
Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a whole different world, a tiny island (just five miles long) where visitors get away from it all to enjoy sun-kissed beaches, swaying palms and natural wonders. And for those who don’t want to wander too far off the beaten path, a brightly colored downtown serves up a delicious menu of food and souvenirs.
From sunrise to sunset, visitors enjoy the Island of Women (named for the numerous goddess statues discovered), including Garrafon Park and Punta Sur, at the southern tip, where the sun first touches Mexico, and Playa Norte, on the north side, one of the best beaches in all of Mexico, with the rare opportunity to watch the sun set over the ocean.
Other highlights include a Turtle Farm, with hatching turtles from August to October, golf cart rentals for leisurely exploring, ziplines over the ocean, and yoga and other mindful activities along the peaceful beaches.
El Camaleon Mayakoba
It might be getting too cold to play golf through much of the United States, but the game’s heating up throughout the Mexican Caribbean as golfers flock to more than a dozen top-notch courses designed by a who’s who of top golf designers, including Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jack Nicklaus, P.B. Dye and more. Perfectly manicured greens, spectacular settings and dramatic features are a given at courses designed for a range of skill levels.
Playa Mujeres Golf Club
In addition to the convenience of courses located near resorts, several courses are standouts, such as El Camaleon Mayakoba, designed by Greg Norman to feature three diverse ecosystems—tropical jungle, mangrove wetlands and the beach. The course made golf history in 2007 when it became the host of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the first PGA Tour event outside of the U.S. and Canada. The course is the PGA Tour site of the OHL Classic in November and home to the Jim McClean Golf School.
Hard Rock Golf Club Riviera Maya
North of Cancun, another Greg Norman design, the Playa Mujeres Golf Club, is also making waves and has been ranked as one of the top 10 courses in Mexico. Daily trade winds challenge the most accomplished players at nine ocean holes and nine lagoon holes. And for a true test of golf skill, golfers head to Hard Rock Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, where the narrow fairways and difficult greens make it one of the most challenging courses in the region.
Moon Palace Cancun Golf Course
In Cancun, Moon Palace Cancun is home to three Jack Nicklaus nines, making it ideal for frequent shorter play, while the Cancun Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok, the oldest golf course in Cancun, incorporates ancient Mayan ruins into its design. Click here for more courses and information about golf throughout the region.
For more information about what's on in the Mexican Caribbean, check out the websites for Cancun and Riviera Maya. And keep your eyes open for ongoing updates, news, promotions and more in Travel Weekly and TravelAge West digital and print.
Riviera Maya: RivieraMaya.com/en