In the Riviera Maya, there are many different types of touristic activities that suit many different needs; some people just want to relax on the beach in an all-inclusive resort with no desire to venture out, some want to explore the vast array of natural beauty, and others are more interested in cultural immersion and nightlife. Planning a trip outside of an all-inclusive resort takes research, and while simply gazing at pictures of white sandy beaches, pastel-colored waters, delicious food, and ancient Mayan pyramids is entertaining and titillating, trying to fit everything onto a do-it-yourself itinerary can be overwhelming and often times unrealistic. While getting lost or veering off course can lead to spectacular discoveries and hidden gems, it is more likely to culminate in frustration and wasted time. That’s where organized tours come in.
This article describes the most amazing tour imaginable on the Yucatan peninsula, a tour that will convert any skeptic on the matters of guided touristic activities into a true believer. Carey Tours Riviera Maya took me, an incredulous local who has for years doubted the merits of guided tours, on the tour of a lifetime. A full-day private tour of natural and cultural sites through the state of Yucatan with Carey Tours Riviera Maya left me reeling and utterly in love with Mexico as if it were the first time I arrived. Needless to say, I am now a believer.
Carey Tours Riviera Maya is family owned and run by Mexican local and certified guide, Fernando Landero who named the company after his daughter. His website careytoursrivieramaya.com offers a variety of tour packages including visits to archeological ruin sites, deep-sea fishing, and many more, all of them sure to be equally as magical as the Yucatan tour. His tours are private, small, and intimate as he generally takes guests in his own 4-door sedan. The Yucatan tour, like most tours, began in the early hours of the morning. It included visits to 4 cenotes and a stop for lunch and a stroll through the quaint town of Valladolid, Yucatan.
The tour was masterfully planned and executed, as he took us to the furthest and most touristic cenotes first to avoid the crowds, arriving in Valladolid mid-afternoon in time to see regional dancers and a lively town square. There was never a dull moment ;even the transit times between cenotes flew by as Fernando’s expertise in the geography, culture, and demographics of Yucatan provided fascinating discourses and conversations. He and his partner Joss Medrano speak Spanish, English, and French fluently between the two. They can also manage in the Mayan language which gives them an even more authentic connection to the region and enriches their tour. Additionally, they are both excellent photographers, snapping shots throughout the tour and sending us the photographs we liked the most as a priceless souvenir, and of course to boast on social media.
Cenotes in the state of Quintana Roo are closer to the coast and thus more exposed, taking on an open-spring like appearance. In Yucatan, cenotes are much further underground and usually at least partially covered by rock formations. Furthermore, a good many of them are found on Haciendas, beautiful old ranches with an impressive ranch house and pristinely manicured fields and forests; the whole cenote experience starts with a picturesque walk through the magnificent grounds that surround them.
Such was the case with the first two cenotes we explored: Cenote Suytun and Cenote Oxman. Cenote Suytun is a completely closed four-story cave replete with a stone carved walkway to the center of spring and amphitheater-like seating on one side of the cave. The inside of the cave is cool, dark, and full of hauntingly dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. The stone walkway leads to a round stone platform that receives a ray of light from the small opening at the top of the cave, a perfect spot to take a picture. The grounds surrounding Suytun are beautiful and contain a cafe, gift shop and traditional outdoor kitchen that offers delicious hand made tortillas and other local delicacies.
Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman is absolutely incredible and perhaps the most famous of the cenotes visited on this tour. The grounds are impeccable, with flowered trees, a giant colonial style ranch house, and a large swimming pool. The cenote is four stories underground and looks like a giant well, that upon gazing into its depths, you will see lush vines like chandeliers adorning the textured stone sides of the cave, deep blue water, wood diving platforms, and an epic rope swing. An unforgettable site to stumble upon.
Cenote Xux-Ha was our final destination before the drive home. It is the least known cenote we visited, and we had it all to ourselves. The grounds were rustic yet beautifully kept with changing rooms, restrooms, and wooden swings. The cenote itself, like all the others in this region, is deep underground and nearly fully closed. The water is deliciously clear, blue, and refreshing; perfect for swimming. There is a large wooden platform in the middle to put belongings and to rest between swimming sessions.
Valladolid is another “pueblo mágico” and the second-largest city in Yucatan. The town center is colonial style, with cobblestone roads, a beautiful Spanish church, and brightly colored buildings. The most amazing and magical attribute is the massive open cenote Zaci located in the very center of town and with a mere 30 peso entrance fee, is accessible to tourists and locals alike. This cenote was my favorite of the four I visited because not only is it great for swimming, snorkeling and floating under the gentle waterfall that flows from its half-dome top, but also because it is surrounded by local artisan vendors, a lovely restaurant with regional music and dance performances, and of course the town of Valladolid itself which is a great place to stroll while digesting your lunch.
The tour ended in the early evening, and although I was sad it was over, I could not have been more satisfied, more enchanted, and more inspired to learn and explore more deeply the region in which I live. Carey Tours Riviera Maya is the ultimate company for the most thorough, awe-inspiring tours in the riviera. Not only will satisfaction be guaranteed, but unforgettable and unique experiences will leave guests dazzled for days to follow.
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