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Cancun Mayan Riviera Overview

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The Mayan Riviera is one of the most popular vacation destinations in North America.  Located south of the city of Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula between Punta Brava and Tulum, the Mayan Riviera is home to some of the most fabulous resorts, beaches, and sight seeing.  Outside the resorts, vacationers will be enthralled by the such destinations as the Mayan Ruins, the Great Mayan Reef, and eco theme parks such as Xcaret & Xel-Ha.  Two of the most popular tourist destination towns is Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.

What to do outside the resorts:

Aktun Chen – Aktun Chen is an eco-park containing almost 1,000 acres of rainforest.  The name means “cave with an underground river inside”.  There are three main caves to explore.  Inside the caves you can view stalactites and stalagmites and cenotes, while outside there are many different species of animals to see, including a serpentario (snake observatory).

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an – Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an was established in 1986 as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program.  It encompasses 1.3 million acres of protected habitat.  The center contains 23 known archaeological sites, and is home to 103 known mammal species, 336 known bird species and is an important nesting site for two species of sea turtle.

Cancun Mayan Riviera Overview

Chichen Itza – The world famous Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza are probably over 1500 years old.  The site is divided into two main areas, with the Maya-Toltec style (10th-13th century CE) represented in the north section, the central / south area being from the early period (7th-10th century CE)

Cobá - Cobá (“water stirred by wind”) is a Mayan archaeological site that may have been the largest city in the Mayan empire, and is the site of the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan peninsula.  Cobá is located 65 miles SW of Playa del Carmen.

El Eden Reserva Ecologica (El Eden) – El Eden is a 500,000 acre, privately owned, eco-park dedicated to conducting research in biological conservation of the Yucatan.  Visitors can experience the flora and fauna of the Yucatan peninsula first hand through on e of their many excursions.

Hidden Worlds Cenote Park – Hidden Worlds Cenote Park offers diving and snorkelling enthusiasts the opportunity to swim amongst the world’s best cenotes (freshwater sinkholes).  The park was featured in the 2002 IMAX movie “Journey into Amazing Caves”.

Isla Mujeres – Isla Mujeres (“Island of Women”) is an island off the coast of Cancun famed for its snorkelling, diving, and archaeological sites.  Visitors can catch one of several ferries that go to the island each day.

Ruinas del Rey – Located in the Cancun hotel zone, The Ruinas del Rey (Ruins of the King) dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century BCE, and was excavated in the 1950′s.  Many experts believe that the site was used as both an astronomical observatory and a royal burial site.

Tres Rios Eco Park – Tres Rios Eco Park is undergoing major renovations and will re-open in the Summer of 2007.

Tulum – Tulum was the former Maya site of Zama (“city of dawn”).  It  is also the Mayan word for fence, trench or wall and the walls surrounding the site allowed Tulum fort to serve as a defense against an invasion.  Today, Tulum is a popular tourist destination divided into 3 main areas: the town itself, the archaeological site, and the hotel zone.

Xcaret – Xcaret Eco Theme Park is located in Playa del Carmen, 45 minutes from Cancun.  Xcaret  (pronounced SHCA-ret or EESH-cah-ret) means “small inlet” and the park offers guests over 200 acres where you can explore Mayan ruins, visit an aquarium, aviary, and zoo. and maybe even swim with the dolphins

Xel-Ha – Xel-Ha (pronounced shell-ha) was once a part of an ancient Mayan sacred site, but has now been converted to a tropical water park with a series of connected natural pools, islands, and lagoons.