The Mexican Caribbean , known for its pristine beaches and tropical weather, is the destination of choice for millions of travelers each year. From the big city of Cancun and the cosmopolitan streets of Playa del Carmen to the laid back vibes of Tulum and Akumal, the Riviera Maya attracts visitors from around the world seeking relaxation and adventure. For those who know the region well, it’s easy to see why: it offers all the elements necessary for the journey of your dreams.
The element of fire. Of course, with the heat of the sun beating down, one might think that an afternoon in a hammock with a spicy michelada in hand is hot enough. For those looking to raise the temperatures and embark on a spiritual journey, the ancient practice of temazcal is just the thing. Much like the Native American and Canadian sweat lodge, the temazcal has a long history in Mesoamerica, used for centuries as a healing ritual for the body and soul. A dome-like structure is built from stone and cement, and volcanic rocks are heated to provide a sauna-like atmosphere inside. An elder is present to assist in the rituals, introducing various herbs and chanting prayers. Temazcals are found throughout the Mexican Caribbean, from luxury spa resorts to small pueblos, visitors are invited to discover this ancient ritual, cleanse the body and soul and go one step beyond the typical beach vacation.
The element of water. This is the element for which the region is best known. The Caribbean Sea with its unbelievable turquoise colours is the backdrop of many a travelers’ dreams. Water adventures abound as divers and snorkelers flock to Cozumel and the Riviera Maya to visit the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. A whole world of multi-coloured fish, coral formations, sharks, turtles, rays and dolphins await the underwater enthusiast. Sailing, deep-sea fishing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, wake boarding, boogie boarding, windsurfing or just floating on a blow-up raft, the ocean is THE place to be in the Mexican Caribbean. Aside from the sea, the element of water presents itself in the sacred fresh-water cenotes that abound in the Yucatan Peninsula. These natural “sinkholes” in the limestone offer a refreshing dip in the midst of the jungle, and spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations in ancient caves and underground rivers attract a special kind of diver and adventurer.
The element of earth. The jungles of the Riviera Maya are mostly unexplored and pristine; the dense foliage is home to exotic birds and wildlife, a nature lover’s paradise. Take an ATV ride down a jungle trail, a slow horseback journey under the canopy or a daring rappel into a hidden cave. Bring your binoculars to seek out the brightly coloured birds, the chattering monkeys and if you are really lucky, you may even spot a jaguar, an endangered species that still prowls through the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. History and culture enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Mayan archaeological sites scattered throughout the region, many of which are still buried under a millennia of jungle overgrowth.
The element of air. Sea breezes blowing through your hair are fabulous, but thrill seekers can take to the air and get their adrenaline flowing and hearts racing away from beach clubs and swim up bars. Seriously extreme adventurers can take a leap from above in a skydiving adventure over Playa del Carmen, free-falling from a height of 10,000 feet over the waters of the Caribbean Sea. Zip-line adventure parks take guests on fast-moving flights over the jungle canopy, racing down thin cables in a harness with the wind whistling in your ears. The hottest new “air” sport is kiteboarding, combining water and wind in a race over the waves, a colourful kite driving “kiters” to high-speed flips and tricks, an incredible sight to see up and down the coast of the Riviera Maya. Kiteboarding schools are popping up everywhere; Tulum is a hot destination for the sport, and even if you do not strap on the kite and board yourself, watching these athletes and their airborne acrobatics is a great way to spend the day.
Add to these elements your own sense of adventure and a desire to live outside the box, cross off some of your bucket list items and embrace the idea of “YOLO” (you only live once). Get up off your lounge chair and explore the Mexican Caribbean , with an adventure waiting for everyone. From the relaxed to the extreme, all the elements are aligned for the experience of a lifetime.