Tag Archives: Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya’s Rio Secreto: ‘It’s Another World’

By Richard Varr

Courtesy Rio Secreto

I step carefully onto the submerged cave floor with its slippery stones and loose rock formations, poking my long walking stick into the water.

Courtesy Rio Secreto

“There’s a bad drop here,” warns one of my traveling companions as I am about to plunge deeper into the cool, waist high water in a string of cenotes along the Maya Riviera.   I’m maneuvering along an underground river as low as 21 meters below the coastal Mexican jungle above.

Courtesy Rio Secreto

“Walking is a bit tricky because nature isn’t just plain, but it’s the fun part as well,” guide Julio Zacatzi tells me as we walk in single file, maneuvering through the narrow and contorted pathways one by one.  “We have to step down and use balancing skills.  It’s rough ground, but still quite maneuverable for us,” he says.

Around me are jagged, dripping stalactites and protruding stalagmites shooting out from above and below the twisted passageway before us.

Bats. Courtesy Rio Secreto

Through the clear water we see slender hand-length catfish gently undulating along the cave floor.  Bats hang still in pockets of chipped limestone above us, their eyes piercing our gaze and seemingly watching our every move.

Donning wet suits, life jackets and spotlighted helmets, we’re spelunking through a 700-meter-long passageway of Rio Secreto, a now popular attraction six miles from Playa del Carmen.  Julio tells me we’re walking along the “Alegría” route – just one path within the six miles mapped out for tours amidst the region’s seemingly boundless cenotes.   “Alegría means happy in English,” says Julio.  “I feel happy every time I enter here and every time I make contact with nature as well.”

Courtesy Rio Secreto

We enter one cavern where we’re now wading in deep water.  Julio instructs us to turn off our helmet lights, form a circle and hold hands.  “Now float on your backs and let’s be silent,” he says.   Abject darkness and stark solitude now engross us.  I hear only the staccato echoes of dripping stalactites and the gentle motion as some of us quiver to stay balanced in the still, cool water.

Courtesy Rio Secreto

Richard Varr. Courtesy Rio Secreto

“It’s another world – it’s like being literally inside nature and having a moment of relaxation,” Julio tells me.  “I have a new experience here every day, and I have the opportunity to share this experience with the people who come to Mexico as well.”

For more information:  http://www.riosecreto.com



With the controversial end of the Maya calendar this year, one guide book is highlighting tours, events, ceremonies and celebrations throughout the Mayan world.  Maya 2012: A guide to Celebrations In Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras is a Moon Travel Guide written by freelance writer Joshua Berman who splits his time between Colorado and Latin America.

Read his Maya 2012 blog at Moon.com:  http://www.moon.com/blogs/mundo-maya


Playa del Carmen Area Resorts

During my Riviera Maya trip in early June, I stayed at two resorts, the Royal Playa del Carmen and the Grand Velas, and visited a third one, Tres Ríos, for an evening function.


Royal Playa del Carmen

Royal Playa del Carmen. Photo by Richard Varr

What I found most unique about the Royal Playa del Carmen Resort is that every room has an in-suite double spa tub – ideal for romantic moments for this adults-only beachfront property.

Royal Playa del Carmen suite with hot tub. Photo by Richard Varr

The 508-suite, all-inclusive resort has a huge central pool just a few steps away from the beach, and more than a dozen or so restaurants, bars and cafes ranging from gourmet dining rooms to poolside swim-up bars.  Its spa, SPAzul,  has six single massage rooms with showers and four tandem massage rooms.  It offers Sáas Rituals, a Mayan inspired relaxation experience, directed by a trained Mayan Shaman, to help

New section at Royal Playa del Carmen. Photo by Richard Varr

connect with your inner being.  In addition, there’s nightly entertainment including acrobatic acts in it’s central lobby area.

I was very pleased with my room, as suites have terraces and feature a wide range of amenities including a large screen HDTV with a CD/DVD player, and a stocked mini bar, to name a few.  But what I liked most about Royal Playa del Carmen is its location.

Walking along Fifth Avenue, Playa del Carmen. Photo by Richard Varr

It’s just a block or two away from Playa del Carmen’s popular Fifth Avenue, a bustling central corridor is lined with touristy shops, restaurants and bars – all parallel to the aquamarine-tinted waters of Playa del Carmen’s expansive beachfront.


Here is a segment produced by the Royal Playa del Carmen Resort on gourmet recipes:

For more information:   http://www.realresorts.com


Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Grand Velas. Photo by Richard Varr

The Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort is an all-inclusive property in a peaceful spot – far from city lights and tucked within a large stretch of coastal Maya Riviera jungle.  Its 491 suites are spacious, ranging from 1,184, 1,270 and 1,377 square feet.  All have an excess of amenities including iPod, MP3, CD and DVD stations; a 42” flat screen TV and more.

Grand Velas spacious suite. Photo by Richard Varr

Fine dining is not hard to find here – there are five gourmet restaurants.  In fact, Grand Velas Chef Xavier Perez Stone was recently crowned Mexico’s “Chef of the Year” in Mexico City during the 11th Annual Alimentaria Expo Mexico, the country’s largest food and beverage trade show.  Stone is the chef of the award-winning Cocina de Autor restaurant at the Grand Velas, wowing the judges in a blind taste test with his black-skin trout and pineapple-colored shrimp, amongst other dishes.

Grand Velas pool with swim-up bar, looking towards the beach. Photo by Richard Varr

The resort’s large pool is just off the beach and sits amidst the swirls and curves of the resort’s four levels of suites – all with patios or balconies.   I found the Grand Velas to have quiet elegance and I recommend it for those who prefer seclusion.  The Convention Center with its spacious ballroom was ideal for our meetings.

For more information:  http://www.grandvelas.com


Tres Ríos

Tres Ríos Resort, Spa and Nature Park is also tucked deep within the coastal jungles of the Riviera Maya.  It has 273 suites, five restaurants, four bars, spa facilities and of course beaches.  The Tres Ríos Nature Park includes three natural rivers, ten cenotes and mangrove forests.

Sunset at Tres Ríos Resort. Photo by Richard Varr

I did not stay here but attended an evening function and captured on camera the glow of the evening sunset reflecting off the ocher-tinted resort buildings.

For more information:  http://www.haciendatresrios.com

Riviera Maya: “Mexico Espectacular” Cultural Show at Xcaret

Photo by Richard Varr

“Mexico Espectacular” is a grand cultural performance at the Xcaret eco-archaelogical theme park.  With more than 260 actors in colorful costumes, the show portrays themes from Mexico’s history, culture and folklore.


The first video clip below is from the “Carnaval de Veracruz” performance, depicting the port city’s carnival the way it’s held today.

The second video clip highlights the folklore of Jalisco with Mariachi music and dual trumpeters.