Area Attractions
SOUTH of
Puerto Aventuras

Visitor Info Guide to
Area Attractions on Riviera Maya
between Puerto Aventuras & Tulum Mexico
including Akumal, Tulum, Boca Paila & Punta Allen

  Heading South    Puerto Aventuras    Heading  North     Other Directions
    Mayan Ruins          Golf       Restaurants  

This information guide of Area Attractions along the Mayan Riviera - Riviera Maya starts at our home in Puerto Aventuras Mexico and steps out from there.  You can see what there is to see and do up and down the Mayan Riviera coast to the north and south by navigating on the buttons above.  Follow your progress and see how close you are to the various properties by opening up the Map pages.

Heading South on highway 307
•About Cenotes
•Chac Mool, Kantun Chi, Cenote Azul, Cenote 
el Jardin del Eden

•Xpu-Ha
•Taj Mah Hal Cenote
•Kantenah
•Akumal
•Aktun-Chen Cenote & Cave System

•Kuxi Kaax 'the Jungle Place' monkey sanctuary
•Xel-Ha Eco Park
•Dos Ojos & Hidden Worlds
•Bahia de Puntas Soliman
•Tankah
•Tulum
•Grand Cenote
•Sian Ka’an Ecological Reserve
•Boca Paila & Punta Allen


Cenotes (say-no-tays) 

Cenotes are openings to the underground caves and river systems common to this area. Besides being a source of fresh water, many of these were considered sacred to the ancient Mayans who believed that their gods lived within them. Xibalba (she-ball-ba) was the name the Mayans gave to their underworld and the entrance to it was through a cenote. Some Mayans still believe that their god Kukulcan will rise again from the depths of a great cenote. The word cenote is derived from the Mayan word 'Dzonot' which means sacred well. Perhaps the most well known cenote to non-Mayans is “The Sacrificial Well” at Chichen Itza where evidence of human sacrifice has captured our imagination.

You may note as you explore the Riviera Maya area of the Yucatan, that there are no surface rivers. All of the fresh water flows from inland to the sea through underground caves or rivers. To understand how this came about, you need to understand a little about the geologic history of the Yucatan. 

At one time the entire Yucatan was under the sea. There is evidence today of this everywhere in the form of dead coral and limestone outcrops. During the last Ice Age, water levels of the world's oceans were on average 100 meters or 330 feet lower than their present day levels. This receding of the oceans is what exposed the corals and limestone. 

Rain water, as it falls from the sky upon the limestone bedrock, mixes with carbon dioxide to form a weak solution called carbonic acid. As this mixture seeks the water table below the surface, it dissolves the limestone. Over the course of many thousands of years caves and passageways are formed. The same beautiful passageways and formations that one might encounter in a dry cave such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns and halactites, are all present here in the Yucatan Peninsula. The difference is, that most of them here are under water.

 With the passing of the Ice Age, the planet warmed up, rivers and lakes were created and the oceans eventually rose again until they reached their current level. Some of this additional water migrated beneath the surface and through the porous limestone rock raising the water table and flooding the caves and passageways. 

The actual cenotes are created when the limestone ceiling of the cave collapses, thereby exposing the cavern, or cave chamber to the world. The crystal clear water, stalactites and stalagmites make them beautiful to explore and easy to understand the Mayans respect of them. 

Please remember to help protect the fragile eco system by not wearing sunscreen lotion or mosquito repellent into the waters or touching the formations. You are not allowed, nor should you even contemplate entering a cenote with scuba equipment unless you are with a certified cave or cavern guide. 

 As you head south from Puerto Aventuras there are numerous cenotes scattered along the coast and into the jungle. All of these are interesting, some are beautiful to swim and snorkel in, while others are better suited to visit as a scuba diver on a guided cavern tour. There is even a very nice one at Aktun-Chen that is not under water. However you enjoy them, do not leave the area without visiting at least one of these natural marvels. 

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Chac Mool, Kantun Chi, Chikin-Ha, Cristalino, Cenote el Jardin del Eden, Cenote Azul:  
1.0 - 2.6 km. (.6 - 1.6 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
74 - 75.6 km. (46.2  - 47.2 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff   

Of this collection of cenotes, Kantun Chi has the best facilities with a restaurant, bicycle rentals, horseback riding and well maintained grounds. However, while the 4 cenotes here are quite interesting to look at, they are not very inviting for swimming. Cenote Azul and the unnamed cenote between Kantun Chi and Azul are much nicer for snorkeling. Cenote el Jardin del Eden or Ponderosa as the local divers refer to it, is a nice cavern dive and OK for snorkelers. Chac Mool has two cenotes that you can do a guided cavern dive between, which is quite spectacular. All of the cenotes are on private property so a small entrance fee is required. 

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Xpu-Ha (eesh-poo-ha) :  
4.5 km. (2.8 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
77.5 km. (48.4 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff 

Once a port and sacred place for the Mayan, more recently, a failed attempt at an eco park.
Today Xpu-Ha is under development with two all-inclusive hotels built. Although things are changing to development, you can still enjoy one of the nicest, longest, un-crowded, white sand beaches in the area. It is a great place to stroll, swim, snorkel or just lay in the sun. However you are going to have to pay to gain access.  There are 2 options.  Al Cielo restaurant and beach club or the more down market La Playa restaurant and beach club.  There are signs on the highway for both.  Al Cielo is north of the Catalonia Hotel and La Playa is a little further south. On XpuHa beach here is also 'Bonanza' which is a collection of small, very simple casitas and campground that quite often has someone providing kite boarding lessons.
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Taj Mah Hal Cenote:  
5.5 km. (3.4 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
78.5 km. (49 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

Very nice cavern dive site.  If you are there at the right time, you too will see this beam of light.  It is quite breath taking.

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Kantenah:  
10.9 km. (6.8 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
83.9 km. (52.4 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

Large handicraft market.  A good place to pick up a handicraft to take home.  Don't be afraid to barter and don't worry about taking advantage of the sales person.  They are a lot more skilled at this then you are.

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Akumal:  
15.3 km. (9.5 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
88.3 km. (55.2 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

 “Place of the Turtles” is so named because it is an important turtle nesting area. Established in the1950’s as a little known dive destination, Akumal has matured into an unhurried and relaxed family resort well known by the numerous American visitors who have been coming here for years, many of whom have chosen this area to build a vacation or retirement home. 

“Akumal” usually refers to the small residential, condo and all inclusive hotel communities of Akumal, Jade Beach, South Akumal and Aventuras Akumal, all of which are scattered along the beautiful shores of Half Moon, Akumal and Aventuras Bays. These segmented communities are physically joined together by 5 exits off of the highway and socially by the small commercial center and restaurants scattered along the road between Akumal and Half Moon Bays. To find the commercial center and restaurants, take the “Akumal” or “Playa Akumal” exit off of the highway. 

Just before the gate you will find Super Chomak Grocery. This small store while expensive, has an extensive selection of goods imported from the USA. Lol Ha restaurant near the Akumal Dive Center serves a great cheeseburger right on the beach or fancier dining at night in their indoor restaurant. The commercial center has an internet cafe, gym, a couple of restaurants, and a number of boutiques.  Further along this road you will find 4 restaurants, a convenience store, and another dive shop. You can enjoy a cold one and the view from La Buena Vida restaurant and bar or a romantic dinner in the jungle setting of Que Onda. Yal Ku Lagoon at the end of the road, is where fresh water from a cenote meets the ocean salt water. The calm, clear, shallow, waters here are teaming with life and a great place for a novice snorkeler to get wet.  See our Akumal Restaurant section for a full listing.

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Aktun-Chen Cenote Cave System & Animal Refuge:  
19.5 km. (12.1 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
92.5 km. (57.8 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

This dry cave is incredible and allows those who do not snorkel or dive, the opportunity to experience the rare beauty of this underground world. This cave once provided protection from storms and hurricanes for the Maya. The one hour guided trip will lead you through the system along a trail illuminated with soft natural light to enhance the beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations. The last chamber is very large and has a crystal clear blue pool of water with a bridge. The owners have also quite the collection of rescued animals.  Watch for the monkeys when you park the car.  They are terribly mischievous and will get right into your vehicle if given the opportunity.  An ATV jungle tour is also available. Access from the highway is along a well groomed dirt road 3.2 km through the jungle. This area was once a "chicle" plantation.  For more information please visit their web site by following this link  Aktun-Chen

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Kuxi Kaax 'the Jungle Place' monkey sanctuary:  
xx km. (xxx miles) from Puerto Aventuras to turn off (entrance to village of Chemuyl)
xx km. (xx miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

 Off the beaten path, this monkey sanctuary has a rescue program for native monkeys in need of help.  Depending on what monkeys are there and their state of mind and health at time of visit, you may have the opportunity to interact directly with spider monkeys.  Reservations must be made in advance.  Call 52, 984 116-9777 or see their web site at Kuxi Kaax   

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Xel-Ha (shell-ha) Eco Park:  
 24.8 km. (15.4 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
97.8 km. (61.1 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

 “Where the Waters are Born” is an appropriate name for this sacred ancient Mayan port. Enjoy an extraordinary network of natural pools, waterways, islands, caves and ancient ruins. Entrance price includes access to all areas of the park, the train to the river, float tubes, life vests and parking. Or do the 'all inclusive' thing where all your food and beverages are included.  There is an additional charge for the dolphin swim and massages. This park is heavily visited by tour busses from Cancun and the all inclusive hotels. Get there early to avoid the crowds.  For more info see their web site XelHa

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Xel-Ha Ruins:  
25.3 km. (15.7 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
98.3 km. (61.4 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff 

This small archaeological site is very convenient and worth a look if you are interested in Mayan ruins. 

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Dos Ojos (oh-hoes) & Hidden Worlds:  
25.8 – 26.7 km. (16.0 – 16.6 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
98.8 km. (61.7 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

“Two Eyes” named after the two cenotes which do connect. This is where footage for the IMAX film “Journey into Amazing Caves” was shot. Here you can experience one of the most magnificent underwater cavern ecosystems in the world. Buddy Quattlebaum, owner of the Dos Ojos Dive Center, claims the "World's best cavern dive and snorkel". He may be right.  Buddy has dedicated his life to mapping and exploring this special underwater cavern system. You can also explore the “Bat Cave” without getting wet. This place is worth a visit if you are interested in cenotes.  For more on Hidden Worlds

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Bahia de Puntas Soliman:  
28.8 km. (17.9 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
101.8 km. (63.6 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff 
 
This wild, beautiful area offers bird watching, snorkeling, secluded beaches, beach combing and a seafood restaurant called Lalo’s located in a marvelous setting. There are 2 bays, one has the restaurant and the other is low density residential with a number of vacation cabanas and villas. Stop by Palapas Caribe and see Andy if you want to do some diving or fishing, he knows all the best spots. With the new development you can follow the beach road south and you will come to Tankah.  This area is developing quickly with new villas being built steadily.  We are so impressed with one of the villas that we have listed it on our web site even though it is not in Puerto Aventuras.  See Villa Yardena for full details.

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Tankah:  
32.5 km. (20.2 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
105.5 km. (66 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

This bay was nearly deserted not too very long ago. Today there are a number of beach houses being built and more to come. Turn at the Casa Cenote sign off of the highway or come straight through from Punta Solimon on the new road. Casa Cenote has a nice cenote named 'Manatee Cenote' to snorkel in, a restaurant right on the beach and cabanas. They also offer snorkeling equipment rentals and diving.  This is a good place to come for lunch.  Owner Gary makes a mean Texas bar-b-que on Sunday afternoons.  This is when you will often catch us locals there.  While you are sitting in the restaurant, look straight out into the water approximately 100 feet off shore. The burbling water you see, is where the underground river feeding the cenote is draining into the sea. Properly trained and equipped cave divers enter the river system across the road in the cenote and make their way through the cave exiting in the ocean.  Another very good option for lunch or dinner is just up the road at Blue Sky Resort.

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Tulum:  
39 - 42 km. (24.2 - 26 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
112 - 115 km. (70 - 72 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff  

The 3 main aspects of Tulum are the village, the beach and the ruins. For more information on the ruins, see the Mayan Ruins section. Besides being a small center of commerce for the local area, Tulum attracts many ecology and budget minded travelers.  However this is changing quickly as more and more up market places pop up. Many people say this is what Playa del Carmen was not too long ago. 

You will reach the turn off for the ruins first, then a little further you will note the turn to Coba & Chichen Itza on your right. A little further along and you will be in the small village. Here you can find many restaurants all of which are very casual. You MUST have some 'red' chicken at one of the sidewalk restaurants while here.  Things are changing quickly in Tulum so we suggest you not only see our Tulum Restaurant Guide, but stop and ask someone on the street for their recommendations too. Check out YAX.CHE on the main street for fine handcrafted items.

To find the kind of quiet tropical beach one dreams of, turn left at the Coba sign as you enter town. Follow it down to the T intersection. Left takes you to the back entrance into the ruins. Turning right at the T takes you down the road to Boca Paila, Punta Allen and the Sian Ka’an ecological reserve. Heading in either direction from the T you will find numerous restaurants, palapa style cabanas and campgrounds. You can access the beach through most of these. See our Tulum Restaurant Guide for more details.

Article about development in and around Tulum (click here)

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Grand Cenote:  
45 Km. (28 miles) from Puerto Aventuras
118 km. (73.8 miles) from Cancun Airport turnoff 

Turn off highway 307 in Tulum and follow the road towards Coba. 3 Km. from the traffic light in Tulum, you will come to Grand Cenote. This is a fantastic cenote to snorkel in and a wonderful cavern dive.  There is a small entrance fee.

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Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve: 

"Where the earth meets the sky" in Mayan. Sian Ka'an is a world biosphere reserve of 1.3 million acres (528,147 hectares) in the center of the state of Quintana Roo. Restrictions and regulations have protected this area from excessive human intervention. The reserve incorporates all ecosystems representative of the subtropical zone. Although most of the reserve is a little remote, you can still get an excellent sense of this diverse ecosystem on a half day trip from anywhere on the Riviera Maya. 

Travel to the village of Tulum and then continue right through the main street to the edge of town.  From here head 14.5 Km on the highway towards Chetumal and you will reach the tiny village of Muyil.  Stop here, spend an hour viewing the Chunyaxhe ruins (or more commonly known as Muyil ruins)  Be sure to take the nature path that winds through the jungle to the lake. 

At the lake you can organize a boat trip through the lagoon and channel (bring your bathing suits, and some protection from the sun and insects.)  Or if you want to skip the ruins, just stop at the parking lot and ask around, a boat guide will stop by looking for business and lead you to the dock.

We took the short 2 hour trip and loved it.  A longer trip can be arranged which will take you all the way out to the ocean.  Our guide was a botanist who had grown up in the area and so was extremely knowledgeable and caring of the environment.  We passed through the first lake to a very narrow and shallow canal that was built by the Maya to connect to the next lake which is even larger.  Across this lake to a natural canal which we followed down to a Mayan Ruin.  At this point the guide took off with the boat and left us to float down the canal for about a half hour to a point where he was waiting for us.  We had taken masks and snorkels so we were treated to wildlife above and below the water line.  The only negative to an otherwise fabulous day was that our guide stole Twyla's sunglasses out of her pack while we swimming.  It was a good reminder that you always need to be protective of your belongings.

You can take a more organized excursion by contacting Amigos de Sian Ka'an in Cancun for a guided trip, 998-988-9583 or the tour office on the left as you enter Tulum OR visit their web site Amigos de Sian Ka'an  

Another source for more information on tours and lodging in the Sian Ka'an biosphere see EcoColors web site.

OR visit the web site of Community Tours Sian Ka'an

OR visit the web site Central Ecologico Sian Ka'an who also have kayak tours and basic accommodations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boca Paila & Punta Allen: (part of the Sian Ka'an biosphere)

The very small communities of Boca Paila & Punta Allen are located within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere.  They are both accessible by vehicle most of the year.  What was an arduous trip has gotten much easier with the paving of the road from Tulum to the Interpretive Center at the entrance to the park.  Plus, significant upgrades to the road have been made from the entrance all the way to Punta Allen.  Although a new bridge has been put in and fairly routine grading of the road now takes place, this is still a trip best suited for a jeep.  There has been an announcement that the road is to be paved all the way to Punta Allen.  While this is certainly an economic boom for residents, I find it quite sad.  Previously, the time and determination it took to reach Punta Allen provided a sense of accomplishment at simply arriving with a reward of visiting somewhere that truly was off of the beaten path.  The road still snakes down the isthmus with the Caribbean ocean on one side and the bay on the other.  Although there is some new development, they are still no end of inviting places to pull over and go for a swim on the endless beach that you should have completely for your own.

The road is still not great, especially when it rains, but the attraction beside the
unspoiled bountiful nature, or a delicious seafood lunch, (my favorite in Punta Allen is Cuzan  Guest House) is the world class bonefish, permit and tarpon fishing at Boca Paila and Punta Allen (follow these links for more info Boca Paila Lodge  or Pesca Maya or Bonefish Bum Lodge or Cuzan  Guest House)  

Mexico's largest and most prolific lobster reserve, covering a total of 120 thousand hectares (296 thousand acres) is located in Ascension Bay at Punta Allen. The lobster season is from the first of July to the end of February.  In the clear, shallow waters of the bay, visitors can watch fishermen diving to catch lobster bare handed, then have a couple grilled for dinner. The accommodations are limited and basic at both villages, however that does not deter the fly fishermen or nature lovers who are trying to keep this secret from getting out.  You can do a day trip down here to fish and we here it is worth it.  Either use one of the guides or take your own tackle. 

You can take a more organized excursion into the biosphere by contacting Amigos de Sian Ka'an in Cancun for a guided trip, 998-988-9583 or the tour office on the left as you enter Tulum OR visit their web site Amigos de Sian Ka'an  

OR visit the web site of Community Tours Sian Ka'an  A co-operative of local tour operators from Muyil and Punta Allen.

Another source for more information on tours and lodging in the Sian Ka'an biosphere is available on EcoColors web site.

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  Mayan Ruins         Golf    Restaurants



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Canada        1 403 775-7028



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We hope that this Maya Riviera information guide to the many Riviera Maya attractions, helps make your Mexico vacation villa or condo rental experience better.  If you have information on any attractions or things to do and see in Cancun, Puerto Morales, Playa del Carmen, Xcaret,  Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Xelha, Soliman Bay, Tankha, Tulum, Punta Allen or anywhere else in the Cancun to Tulum corridor, please contact us so that we may include it here in our Riviera Maya info guide.

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