Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cenotes The Sacred Waters of the Riviera Maya

The natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula are countless, but some of the most unique to the area are the cenotes. Cenotes are created by an underground river system and are fresh water sink holes that the Maya considered to be sacred.

In addition they were an incredibly important resource as a fresh water source, and the Mayans also believed they were the entrance to the underworld. Cenote, (say-NOH-tay) called dzonot (ZO-note) by the ancient Maya were defined by the Motul dictionary, a dictionary of Mayan hieroglyphics, as "abysmal and deep" or "hole filled with water".

Millions of years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was covered by the ocean. Some 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the sea level descended approximately 250 feet.

For thousands of years, the porous land surface, formed by fossilized coral and limestone, has filtered rainwater, which dissolved parts of the subsoil. This process created a system formed by flooded underground rivers and caves. This phenomenon is truly unique, and makes up the largest network of caverns in the world.
Cenote Dzitnup, Valladolid, Yucatan
Cenotes are formed when the roof of a cavern collapses due to erosion. The level of the water also contributes to the creation of cenotes: if it is too low, it does not provide enough support, which causes the roof to weaken and cave in.

The depth of each cenote depends of the amount of natural debris that has accumulated through erosion in addition to the remains of the roof that collapsed. The water that gathers in these amazing natural wonders is a crystal clear turquoise color with a very pleasant temperature of 78°.

The stalactites and stalagmites that form inside the cenotes are true natural works of art. In many, holes in the ceiling allow the sunlight to filter into the cenotes, giving the scene a magical feeling. The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are a true natural gift that should be seen by all, but keep in mind that they should be protected so that they are here for generations to come. You can do your part in local conservation by not using any lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, or repellents prior to swimming in a cenote. Many cenotes provide showers that you can use to rinse off before going in.
There are four different types of cenotes - those that are completely underground, those that are semi-underground, those that are at land level like a lake or pond, and those that are open wells. Some of them are accessible for swimming and cave diving, some of them are not accessible at all, and some are actually dry cave systems that can be explored.

Sizes and shapes of the cenotes differ according to their location. Some cenotes have been found to hold quantities of ancient offerings and jewelry, apparently thrown in the depths by the Mayas who once inhabited the area.

Currently, an estimated six thousand cenotes have been found in the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo. In the Riviera Maya, many cenotes have become famous, for their individual features offer different types of amusement for their visitors.

And remember..."take only memories and pictures leave only bubbles"
In most cases, cenotes offer basic facilities such as bathrooms, dressing rooms and parking. Entrance can run anywhere from free to 100.00 pesos depending on where you go.

Some of them...
  • Tres Bocas
  • Cristalino
  • Cenote Azul
  • El Jardin de Eden
  • Chemuyil
  • Dos Ojos
  • Yax Mul
  • Casa Cenote
  • Gran Cenote

Monday, October 18, 2010


By Karen Rubin

Authentic. That pretty much sums up what distinguishes the Riviera Maya - this glorious 81-mile stretch of Mexico from the charming Playa del Carmen south to the archeological wonder of Tulum.

Yes, the region has stunning beaches, luxurious resorts with swim-up bars and opulent spas, and all the amenities and activities globe-trotting tourists expect - especially of any that conjures up the "Riviera". But the Riviera Maya has managed to preserve its heritage, character and identity in such a way as to add tremendous dimension and interest even to the most casual vacation getaway. That's the "Maya" part.

And for a family holiday, the Riviera Maya offers all the fun of a tropical paradise with the mind-expanding experience of a different culture and country.

In this respect, the Riviera Maya represents a triumph of ecotourism - using cultural heritage and natural environment to lure tourism that in turn sustains and preserves cultural heritage and natural environment - for the benefit of native peoples and visitors, alike.

We had come to the Riviera Maya to participate in what is becoming an annual re-creation of the ancient Sacred Mayan Journey -an extraordinary opportunity to take part in ancient rituals and traditions and interact with modern-day Mayan people.

We soon realize there are many different ways to appreciate on a daily basis the cultural treasures of the Mayan civilization - ancient and modern - as well as the natural splendors.

This becomes clear within moments of our arrival at the Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort.

You enter an open-air two-story reception building with a giant thatch roof, the Caribbean sea breezes wafting through, and immediately notice on the lower tier that a small river runs through it. And then you peer out toward the sea to see in the distance the ruins of a Mayan temple.

As you explore the sprawling property, you come upon other archeological sites - a Spanish Colonial church from the 1600s, for example - and realize this place is very, very special, and has been for centuries. You immediately feel the most powerful connection with people who lived centuries ago.

The Occidental Grand Xcaret has done an incredible job of retaining its natural landscape, as well. The resort is a sprawling place with three-story hacienda-like villas tucked into jungle. Small bridges cross over tiny rivers and waterways that flow through the property. A shuttle - an open-air carriage like at DisneyWorld - regularly circulates the property if you choose not to walk.

As you walk (or ride on the shuttle) to your own building, you get some sense of how special this place is - there are deer, flamingos, macaws, monkeys, and other animals living on the property. You can walk through the densest part of the woods on a fairly rustic nature trail and come upon these animals.

I was struck by the obvious effort to keep everything natural, true to the place and its heritage, and we subsequently learn this is by design - the property is actually owned by the same company that owns and built Xcaret, the phenomenal eco-archeological park just next door, and gave the developer strict criteria of how many trees could be cut down, and so forth.

The result is staggeringly beautiful and extremely pleasing - delightful "treasures" and surprises you discover.
Meanwhile, there is ever manner of activity and amenity to enhance a resort-style vacation - from gorgeous free-form swimming pools (the volley ball and water polo nets are popular, as is the in-pool bar) - to miniature golf, tennis courts, an indoor fitness center, a sand beach lagoon, and even a Mayan-style "sauna" (like a sweat lodge). There are also those stunning four-poster double beds dramatically perched on cliffs overlooking the sea, that are so wonderful for honeymooners and other romantics.

There is an open air theater where there is nightly entertainment, a teen center, a supervised children's program (for ages 4-12) and "fun house", a lovely dining room that looks like a piazza, plus several other restaurants sprinkled around the property.

The Occidental is an all-inclusive hotel - and I am amazed at all that entails - everything from fantastic dining in a choice of restaurants serving a marvelous array, beer or wine, to unlimited drinks at the pool, to activities including children's club, fitness center, archery, plus scheduled activities, to nightly shows in an outside theater and at the Disco, even tax and gratuities.

What is more, the Occidental includes a ticket for admission to Xcaret, a world-class attraction comparable to Busch Gardens Tampa, that is literally next door to the resort, which you can pick up at the tour desk right in the lobby (where you can also arrange for just about every manner of adventure).

In fact, in late afternoon, you may be amazed to see a wooden canoe with Mayans in full feathers and regalia, float right into the resort lobby.

So, when we arrive from Cancun airport, about an hour's drive, knowing I had a fairly tight schedule for our time in the Riviera Maya, I take advantage of the free ticket to spend the afternoon at Xcaret, but you can easily spend two or more full days there (in fact, you can purchase a second day at half-price and return any day within a week).

Wasting no time, I take the delightful 10-minute stroll along a small "river", beside lovely hotel shops (really, really nice), and enter Xcaret. In the mornings (9 a.m. to noon), you can actually take a small boat ride into the park from the hotel lobby.

Read more

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane Paula Glances Mexico, Eyes Cuba

Source: CBS News

Hurricane Paula roared off Mexico's top vacation resort of Cancun on Wednesday without immediate reports of major damage, and it was projected to veer into western Cuba's cigar-producing country.

The Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, swiped at the island of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres overnight on a northward advance and was about 60 miles southeast of Cancun early Wednesday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Paula was expected to shift to the northeast and weaken slightly on a course that would carry it into western Cuba by Wednesday night or early Thursday.

CBS News' Portia Siegelbaum reports that, as of Wednesday morning, no evactuations had been ordered in western Cuba. The top Communist Party official in the region was meeting with other authorities to discuss how to proceed. Siegelbaum reports that Cuba generally errs on the side of caution, evacuating all residents and livestock in the path of potentially damaging floods.

There were no immediate reports of major problems in Cancun or other resort areas. Quintana Roo state officials said they could guarantee the security of all 27,000 tourists currently in the state during the October off-season.

They ordered the evacuation of 1,500 residents of Isla Holbox and 60 fishermen from Isla Contoy. The evacuees were taken to the town of Kantunilkin on the mainland.

More than 1,800 tourists remained on Cozumel after authorities suspended all sea transportation. City officials said three shelters were available on the island but that only a family of six had arrived at one of them late Tuesday.

Quintana Roo state prosecutors said in a statement that a U.S. man drowned when he went swimming in heavy surf near his hotel. Mickey Goodwin, a 54-year-old Texas resident, ignored warnings and red flags alerting the dangerous waters, the statement said.

In Cancun, 15 flights were canceled Tuesday and seven international flights for Wednesday would be canceled, Cancun airport commander Jose Chavez said.

Dozens of boat owners in Cancun hauled yachts and other vessels to shore, while sea tour operators canceled reservations.

Armando Galmiche closed down his water-skiing tour business in Cancun and canceled 15 reservations he had for Tuesday afternoon.

"It's already low season for tourism and, with this hurricane, things are going to get worse," he said, lamenting the loss of revenue.

Along Cancun's popular strip of night clubs and discotheques, workers took down billboards and other large objects ahead of heavy winds.

Peter Bruin, a 25-year-old tourist from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was taking a stroll along the city's hotel zone, unaware that a hurricane was heading to Cancun.

"I hadn't heard anything but I'm not afraid," Bruin said. "It will be my first hurricane experience."

Early Tuesday, heavy rains and high winds destroyed 19 homes in northeastern Honduras, said Lisandro Rosales, head of Honduras' emergency agency. Officials closed schools along the country's Atlantic coast and some airports were reported closed.

Early Wednesday, the hurricane was centered about 60 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, and about 100 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba.

Paula earlier drenched Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula and was expected to bring heavy rains to western and central Cuba.

Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rio Secreto, a unique experience

The discovery, development and start of operations of Rio Secreto represents a watershed in the history of tourism in Quintana Roo.

This natural reserve is a system of caves and a large underground river located 5 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen, and is without a doubt the longest non-flooded cave in the Yucatan Peninsula. The length of this underground  river makes it unique , but possibly its main and most beautiful characteristic is that this is a semi-flooded cave that can be covered fully by waking or swimming, without the need of specialized training, which is usually the case for cave exploring.

Rio Secreto will soon become into a destination as important as Tulum, Coba, Chichen-Itza or Xel-Ha, because of its special characteristics, its natural beauty, diversity and its strict standards of sustainable tourism.
"We have ben asked why this new destination does not have a Mayan name, and we say that we baptized it Rio Secreto (Secret River) because it is a river and because for thousands of years it was a well-kept secret for Quintana Roo residents and the millions of tourists that visit this prodigious land each year": Francisco Cordoba.

Small groups of six people can access the routes available and the ones being opened, joined  by two specialized guides: the main guide and the photographer-guide. This way visitor's safety is guaranteed, as well as keeping the visits as personal, magical experiences and ensuring that the beauty of this natural wonder can be passed down to future generations.

Also, Rio Secreto complements perfectly a visit to Tulum or Coba. Either the Tulum-Rio Secreto or the Coba-Rio Secreto packages are the best combination for people visiting Cancun or the Mayan Riviera, as a way of mixing natural and cultural experiences.

Rio Secreto is directed by Francisco Cordoba Lira, who has been the promoter, partner, creator and general director of Xel-Ha, Garrafon, CaƱon del Sumidero, as well as partner and executive director of Xcaret. He is currently a partner at Delphinus and shareholder with Alltournative. Rio Secreto comes to complement the natural tourist offer in the Mexican Caribbean, offering one of the most magical, mystical, spiritual, cultural and adventurous experience that have been made in Quintana Roo.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Riviera Maya Activities, October 2010

If you need more information about these events, please feel free to write to

Fishing Season – All year
Barracuda, Wahoo, Tuna and Reef Fish

8th. Sea Turtle Festival - Whole month
From the eight type of sea turtles that exist in the world, seven nest in Mexican beaches and four of them are in Quintana Roo

Love Mexico,Wedding & Honeymoon Expo - Oct. 2nd.
Playa del Carmen

1st. International Art Festival - Oct. 7,8,9 &10th
This is a cultural party where international, national, regional, and local artists from more than 8 regions in the world will participate. You will enjoy a unique show, a varied and eclectic cultural proposal: theater, dancing, photography, music and clowns will be all over 5th. Avenue  / Playa del Carmen

5K Run“La 5ta. Avenida” - Oct. 10th.
Playa del Carmen

Riviera Maya Underground Film Festival - Oct. 13,14,15,16,17th. 
Meeting between audiovisual producers and filmmakers. At this international forum the creators will be able to exhibit their short films, the experts will emit their opinions and the assistants will learn important aspects of the cinematographic culture. / Playa del Carmen

Fishing Tournament “El Quintanarooense” - Oct. 15,16 & 17th.
Puerto Aventuras

Golf PARa Todos - Oct. 17th.
(Golf for everyone) Aims to create a fun-filled, diverse and educational program that teaches about the game of golf and its ideals.
/ Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen

Vitigourmet - Oct. 28,29 & 30th.
Meeting point between producers, distributors and professionals in the trade. / Cancun

Life and Death Traditions Festival - October 30&31, November 1&2
This year the festival the is a real treat…trick or treat that is! Artistic and cultural activities where the Dearly Departed, offerings, rituals and oral traditions, culinary treats, theater, music and visual arts, handcrafts, children`s workshops and much more. 
Xcaret Park / Playa del Carmen