The Riviera Maya has an abundance of natural beauty to explore from cenotes to snorkeling, and there seem to be limitless possibilities of excellent outdoor spots. While you may be content to post up at the beach, you would be missing a lot of the natural beauty and phenomena that make the Riviera so unique. Furthermore, if you opt-out of an all-inclusive resort and decide instead to stay at a hostel, boutique hotel or Airbnb, then you will most certainly need to venture out of town to find and enjoy these natural treasures. This article will focus on three amazing day trips to archaeological sites and nature reserves around the Tulum area; however, even though they are closest to Tulum they are still accessible and doable to you if you are staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
Coba is an archeological Mayan ruin site located around thirty minutes outside of Tulum. Coba is considered one of the most important historical sites in Mayan history as it is said to include an intricate system of roads or “sacbeob” that unite unexcavated sites over an area of nearly 50 km with the longest road nearly 100 km long uniting Coba with Chichen Itza. All roads lead to the central pyramid Nohoch Mul that is also the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. Furthermore, the main site is surrounded by two large lagoons and contains two ball courts, numerous altars, and exposed Mayan glyphs. It is still possible to climb to the top of Nohoch Mul which is highly recommended as you will be rewarded with an incredible view of the lagoons, ruins and surrounding jungle from the summit.
There are public collective vans that you can catch if you do not have a rental car. Furthermore, when you arrive at the site, there are options to rent bicycles or a chauffeured tricycle ride through the site if walking is not for you, or if you would like to do multiple activities in one day. Regardless of how you tour Coba, it is a small site that will take a maximum of 2.5 hours to explore.
Kaan Luum is a freshwater lagoon with a giant cenote in the middle of it. It is located about fifteen minutes outside of Tulum headed south on the main highway from Tulum to Bacalar. This lagoon is absolutely stunning with a white sand bottom and light turquoise waters. The lagoon itself is privately owned thus there is an entrance fee of around 100 pesos.
Upon entry, you will arrive at a long wooden dock that leads some 100 meters into the lagoon with a few small palapas on the shore. The dock is perfect for sunbathing and the very end is a great point to jump off as the water in the lagoon is shallow for the most part. The giant cenote in the middle of the lagoon is marked by a drastic change in water color from light turquoise to deep blue, however, the cenote itself is netted off to swimmers. Kaan Luum is a wonderful place to spend the day sunbathing, wading, and swimming.
Muyil is a small pueblo or town that has an archeological Mayan ruin site as well as a lagoon that connects via the river to the biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an on the southern end of Tulum. To really take advantage of Muyil, I recommend a guided tour. Carey Tours does a really great Muyil tour. Generally, a tour of Muyil includes a walk through the ruins followed by a beautiful boat ride into the biosphere of Sian Ka’an through the river which is both crystal clear and surrounded by lush mangrove. It’s an enchanting and unique tour that combines history and archaeology with nature exploration. Book your tour in advance, you won’t regret it.
Beach vacations are about relaxation and enjoying the great outdoors. A whole week of just laying out at the beach is great, but if you want to really explore the Riviera’s natural and cultural gems, pencil in a few day trips. Beach days interspersed with a day at the lagoon or a magical river float through lush mangrove will leave you feeling refreshed and enriched.
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