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Mexico's Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean coast of Mexico is equally good for the admirers of passive beach leisure or water sports, divers, and for those who are attracted by the ancient history. It offers an excellent variety of luxury hotels; and you can experience here an urban environment and the bosom of nature while relaxing on the sea. With a mild climate and temperatures ranging from 25°-32° year-round, the cuisine listed by UNESCO, the friendliness of local residents, the recipe for an ideal holiday will now be ready.



The Caribbean sea washes Mexico from the South-East of the Yucatan Peninsula. The coastline stretches across the state of Quintana Roo. Cancun and Riviera Maya, the most famous and fashionable Mexican resorts, are there too. Both resort areas accommodate hotels designed to suit the needs of all travelers ranging from “goldy” classics and ethnics to the ultra-modern minimalist styles. 

Cancun is an urban resort in nature (this does not affect in any way the cleanliness of its beaches), with many entertainment options and widely popular with American tourists. This is a relatively young city: until the 1950s Cancun was a small fishing village. Tourism began to develop here in the early 1970s, one of the first in Mexico. Dozens of beaches, a lot of restaurants, bars, discos and shops are visited by millions of tourists every year. Beach hotels, likewise the most of the tourist facilities, are located in a special hotel zone (Zona hoteliera). It’s a tongue of land, an island resembling the figure seven. The island is separated from the continent by the Nichupte Lagoon and two bridges, so that water can be seen from every corner of the Hotel area with one street only – the Kukulkan Boulevard.

Riviera Maya is a favorite place among European travelers. There is also only one city here, Playa del Carmen, known for the neocolonial architecture and hundreds of restaurants and cafes. It’s a great place for those seeking relax and privacy: luxury hotels are located mostly in the countryside and masterfully blended with the natural landscape. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is resort development of Mayakoba built simply right in the middle of the jungle. It unites four beachfront five-star hotels of famous international chains, private villas and bungalows, a championship golf course (the fi rst in Latin America to host PGA competitions), a picturesque square with a chapel and a cooking school. Each of the hotels boasts a vast territory with almost untouched nature.

The Great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the major natural attraction of Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. This is a natural coral reef that stretches 100 km from the North of the Yucatan Peninsula across the entire Caribbean coast to Honduras. There are 65 species of corals growing on the reef, and more than 500 fi sh species are found there. Besides, it’s one of the world’s best diving spots.

In addition to the continental beach area, there are several islands near the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Cozumel is one of the most scenic of them. Its underwater beauty was unveiled to the world by the famous underwater explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau in 1961.

Since then Cozumel has been very popular with scuba divers. The island also has luxury resort hotels.

You can diversify your leisure time on the hotel beaches by walking to unique natural parks such as Xel Ha and Xcaret 44 and 6 km away from Playa del Carmen, respectively. Apart from swimming, both parks offer water sports, and in Xel Ha you can even take a walk on the seabed in special oxygen suits. In Xel you can watch, among other things, the Mayan bees (and these are not cartoon characters, but the realistic stingless Melipona bees that make exceptionally fragrant honey). Xcaret has a wine cellar where guests can learn a story about Mexican winemaking heritage and try local wine.



The Caribbean resorts of Mexico are convenient points of departure for excursions to archaeological sites. The most popular of them is Chichen Itza, an ancient Toltec and Mayan city located 185 km to the west of Cancun and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The city was fi rst mentioned in historical documents in 452. Its heyday occurred in the 18th-21st centuries – most of the surviving buildings belong to this period. The main attraction of Chichen Itza is the 24-meter nine-tier pyramid of Kukulkan dedicated to the feathered serpent, the main deity in the Mayan pantheon. At the top there is a temple accessible by the four stairs from the pyramid’s base. During the spring and autumn equinoxes you can observe a unique natural phenomenon here, which the ancient Maya considered a phenomenon of the Kukulkan feathered serpent: the shadows from the pyramid tiers form a chain of isosceles triangles reminiscent of the snake body “sliding” downwards as the sun moves. Thousands of travelers come to Chichen Itza in these days. Every night, the travelers can enjoy a light and music show on the pyramid tells to learn the story of the city and get to know the unique culture of the Mayan Indians.

One more noteworthy archaeological site is the coastal fortress city of Tulum, located 60 km away from Playa del Carmen. Its name is translated from the Mayan language as a “fence”: the city founded in the 13th century was located high on the rocks and served as an important trading hub of that time. Inside the fortress wall you can fi nd many architectural monuments which have been well-preserved there. One of them, the “Castle”, a 12-meter structure, so named by Europeans due to some resemblance to medieval European castles, has become a symbol of Tulum. Its facade also bears the image of the Kukulkan, and in the middle there is a dancing platform: the structure was used for various rituals. 

You can also get familiar with the culture of the ancient Mayans in Chetumal, the town that hosts one of the best museums of culture of this tribe on Yucatan. Chetumal is referred to as the “cradle of the mestizos”. The fi rst Spaniards came here before the Conquest, having been shipwrecked. One of them, Gonzalo Guerrero, married a Mayan woman and gave birth to the fi rst mestizos. 

Another noteworthy archaeological area of Yucatan, Koba, is situated 40 kilometers away from Tulum. You can climb 130 steps up to Nohoch Mul, its main pyramid, 42 meters high. From above, you can enjoy a magnifi cent view of the seemingly endless selva, as the Mexicans call the low wet jungle that covers the Yucatan Peninsula.



Mexico is famed for its careful attitude to nature and you can feel it in its entirety while in the Caribbean resorts. Don’t be surprised if you meet a funny South American coati with a long striped tail or an agouti hare called “sereke” in the local dialect. Animals live by themselves and do not interfere with tourists as they are frightened of humans. If you stay in a riverside villa, there is probably a hole nearby where you can spot a rare freshwater crab one day. Iguanas here also feel like kings. Impressive in size, they calmly pose for shooting. You can watch large sea turtles in the sea water of Akumal town on the Riviera Maya. You don’t even need to dive. Just swim with a mask to see these large marine animals very close by your side. 

If you are a bird lover, go to the uninhabited Isla Contoy 37 km away from Cancun. This is where the Caribbean sea merges into the Gulf of Mexico. You can get there through a guided tour on the ship rendered as an exact copy of the Christopher Columbus’s “La Pinta”. Contoy is a sanctuary for 152 species of seabirds; over 10,000 birds live here in their natural environment. Since the island was declared a nature reserve in 1998, you are not allowed to bring food as you enter the island, to use insecticides or sunscreens, thus avoiding any damage to the environment. The maximum number of tourists a day is 200 persons. The island has its own beach, a viewing tower, barbecue areas, and two walking paths where you can stroll with a biologist guide by your side.

Yucatan also has cenotes. They are the natural karst wells fi lled with fresh water. A couple of them are specially equipped for swimming. E.g. the Ik Kil cenote located not far away from Chichen Itza. The karst holes have formed many beautiful caves. You can see them in the Rio Secreto natural park. Its name is translated from Spanish as a “Secret River”. A 5-kilometer underground river fl ows through caves that are 72 million years old. Before the tour, tourists are equipped with wetsuits and fl ashlights. Even the most ardent speleology fans claim that this is the place with some of the world’s most stunning stalactites and stalagmites.

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