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Mexico's Mayan Riviera has something for everyone   by Jolana Klobouk


Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera have an exceptional array of attractions and activities from the Mayan ruins at Tulum to the Playa del Carmen nightlife, you will love your Mexico vacation. Here is a listing of some of the popular ones:

Beaches and sport activities

This area has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most of the beaches have been manicured and have fine white sand. The water is a turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea.

Scuba diving and snorkelling

Just off the coast is the world's fifth-longest barrier reef. The reef, home to hundreds of species of marine life, is perfect for snorkelling. Scuba dive and snorkel in the magnificent Caribbean waters. Scuba lessons for beginners and diving tours for the pros are available. Most resorts offer scuba/snorkel tours and/or lessons. Most of the ecological parks have great areas for snorkelling. For more information: www.sealifedivers.com

Cozumel

Only 45 mins from Playa del Carmen by ferry, this diver's haven is well worth the trip across the ocean. Considered among the best snorkelling and diving spots in the world, Cozumel offers magnificent coral reefs, underwater caves, and shipwrecks sites to explore. There are over 30 kilometres of coral reef, including the world's second largest reef called the Gama Reef.

Golf Courses

Playacar Golf Club - This is an 18 hole, par 72 championship golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge. This course is carved through the lush Mayan jungle where it awaits any golfer to come and tame it. Driving range and putting green. Playacar, Playa del Carmen, Q. Roo. Tel.: +52(984)873-0624

Puerto Aventuras - Marina, Tennis / Golf Club. Features a par 36, 9 hole course designed by Thomas Leeman. Maximum length 3,236 yards. Also features a putting green. Rental clubs / carts are available. - Located on the Cancun to Chetumal highway at km. 90 Puerto Aventuras, Playa del Carmen, Q.ROO. Tel.: 52-(987) 3-5109. Puerto Aventuras also has swimming with dolphins, relax and watch the dolphin show while having lunch. Puerto Aventuras also has a marina and restaurants. For more information: www.dolphindiscovery.com

Mayan Jungle

Take a trip out of time and trek through the wild exotic jungles of the Mexican Riviera, ATV Explorer Jungle Tours is the original Playa del Carmen jungle tour. Ride an ATV through jungle paths, swim in a clear 60 foot deep cenote, explore caves, climb ancient Mayan ruins on this 2 hour tour. Right next to Playa del Carmen and Playacar, Mexico, just an hour south of Cancun. For more information: www.atvexplorer.com

Mayan Ruins

Tulum

The smallest Mayan ruin site among the three, Tulum only needs a ? day. These ruins overlook the ocean and are right on a beautiful beach. This is a perfect spot for a picnic, a short swim and sun bathing. Take lots of pictures.

Coba

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes and prepare for an hour and a half drive into the jungle before reaching these ruins. Well worth the drive as there are beautiful temples and pyramids to see.

Chichen Itza This is the most famous and grandiose pyramid of them all. Bring plenty of film and marvel at the beautifully kept grounds and the new restoration work on the pyramid. A must see Mayan ruin for culture enthusiasts. Restaurants, small museum, and tourist shops abound.

Eco-Parks

Xcaret

An eco-Mayan theme park for the whole family. A must see if you visit the Mayan Riviera. Prepare to spend your entire day at Xcaret as there are a million and one things to do and see. An excellent light and sound show, swim with the dolphins, snorkelling, underground river runs, sea trekking, butterfly park, a Mayan village, and much more. For more information: www.xcaret.net

Xel-Ha

Xel Ha is a eco-park with a large lagoon for snorkelling. It is a great place for first time snorkellers. Inner tubes and life vests are free, and you can rent snorkel gear or bring your own. Amazing cave system, cenotes, lagoon and snorkelling with thousands of tropical fish. For more information: www.xel-ha.com

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, one of Mexico's largest parks, covers more than 1 million acres of coastal jungle or about 20 percent of the state of Quintana Roo's land. This virgin wilderness is home and sanctuary to innumerable species of tropical flora and fauna, of which, the jaguar found here is counted as one of the many protected species. Offers eco-trekking through mangroves, lagoons and rivers. Get a close-up look of the wildlife in the reserve in their natural habitat.

Aktun Chen Witness spectacular geological formations and swim in crystal clear fresh water in the underground caves. Spider monkeys and a serpentarium (snakes) can be seen. For more information: www.aktunchen.com

Xaman-Ha Aviary Located in Playacar, this exotic bird sanctuary is a wonderful natural habitat for some 60 species of tropical birds that populate the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. Scarlet macaws, flamingos, herons and may other beautiful feathered creatures can be found here.

Jardin Botanico del Dr. Alfredo Barrera

Beautiful botanical gardens sprawling with exotic species of tropical fauna in the lush Mayan rainforest. The gardens sit on 60 hectares of jungle and mangrove. A groomed loop trail provides easy walking to various collections of plants, all beautifully displayed in their natural environment. A scenic lookout tower is a bit of a challenge to climb but rewards the brave with a panoramic view from the mangrove to the sea, and out over the jungle.

Shopping

Playa del Carmen Shopping

The pedestrian street 5th Avenida in the heart of Playa del Carmen is lined with boutiques filled with goods from all over Mexico and the world. With handicrafts such as fine silver jewellery to hammocks there are shops that cater to every budget.

The stores that cater to tourists typically carry items such as carved wood and stone, hammocks, leather goods, paintings and sculptures. However, there are also high-end galleries featuring artworks from San Cristobal and Oaxaca for the serious Mexican art collector.

If you'd prefer to venture off the main strip, there are funky little treasures to be found in the small plaza between 6th and 8th ave.

About the Author

Jolana Klobouk is the webmaster of www.best-family-beach-vacations.com. A parent and former travel agent, she has travelled extensively for work and vacations with her family.

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