Experience the Riviera Maya's rich history by visiting some of the region's unique attractions and sites of cultural significance. Explore the historic Maya ruins and go for a swim in the many cenotes of the region. Both offer a chance to learn about the fascinating history of the ancient Maya culture. Find out more about the cenotes and ruins of the Riviera Maya—some of the most beautiful natural and man-made sights on earth—all within a short distance of Playa del Carmen, the region’s most bustling and luxurious tourist destination.
Cenotes are sinkholes formed millions of years ago by limestone caves that collapsed and filled with water. These sinkholes can be wide-open pools or caves containing pools that connect submerged tunnels. Snorkeling and diving in the remarkably clear waters of the cenotes are popular Riviera Maya activities. Most of these pools contain fish, turtles, and other impressive underwater life. There are thousands of cenotes in the Riviera Maya, particularly in the vicinity of Playa del Carmen, each offering exhilarating environments to discover.
Cenote Ik Kil is located only a couple of miles from Chichén Itzá, and a stop here is often included in day tours to the ruins from Playa del Carmen. Cool off in the cenote after a hot day walking among the temples and pyramids. The pool at Ik Kil is 200 feet wide with lots of sunlight coming in from above. This cenote is a beautiful setting and one of the few cenotes in Riviera Maya where diving is allowed because of its 130 feet depth.
The highlight of this site is two large connected cenotes. The Dos Ojos area actually has more than 28 known cenotes and over 50 miles of submerged cave systems that are popular with scuba divers. This is one of the most famous cenotes in the Riviera Maya, so if you'd like to snorkel or visit the bat cave, arrive when it opens to steal some time before the crowds arrive. Dos Ojos is a 30-minute drive south from Playa del Carmen.
Located just 50 minutes from Playa del Carmen, Gran Cenote's exotic jungle setting has a unique vibe. The clear water at this popular cenote is perfect for viewing fish, turtles, and other underwater life. It's an excellent spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are many accessible caverns to explore featuring stalagmite and stalactite rock formations and the bats that inhabit these caves. Gran Cenote's proximity to Cenote Dos Ojos makes it a perfect second stop on your day trip from Playa del Carmen.
The ancient cities of the Maya empire are the jewels of the Riviera Maya. There are many ruin sites near Playa del Carmen that offer unique opportunities for exploration. The formidable pyramids and temples built as far back as the 5th century are a stunning sight to see—and climb!
The ruins aren't as tall as some of the other sites, but because the Tulum ruins are set on a sea cliff, they offer spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea. This spot is also the second-largest ruin in Riviera Maya, with the oceanfront walled city built as a port. It's a 40-minute drive from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum ruins. Because it takes only a couple of hours to explore the entire site, you can cool off afterwards with a visit to nearby Gran Cenote.
Chichén Itzá is the most famous of the Riviera Maya ruins sites. It is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Because Chichén Itzá holds a fascinating history, a guided tour is the best way to truly appreciate what was once one of the largest Mayan cities. The picturesque Temple of Kukulkan isn't a place where you can climb, but it's a beautiful backdrop to take a picture together. Chichén Itzá is located 2 hours from Playa del Carmen.
Coba is one of the largest Riviera Maya ruins located in the jungle 90 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and one where climbing is permitted. Tackle the over 135-foot ascent to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid, the Yucatan Peninsula's highest Maya pyramid. The lush green foliage offers some shade, unlike the other ruins. You can rent bikes at Coba and pedal through the jungle between the temples, or ride a cozy pedicab (rickshaw) to the sites.
This site is named after the Mayan word for black jaguar. One of the least crowded of the popular Riviera Maya ruins, Ek Balam is also one of the best preserved. You can climb the ruins here, and there is a cenote attached to the site if you would like to take a dip after braving the acropolis pyramid steps. This large Maya city has a central pyramid, two palaces, and several other temples and buildings to explore. The Ek Balam ruins are located not far from Chichén Itzá, so it makes a perfect second stop on your day trip from Playa del Carmen.
• Some cenotes in the Riviera Maya have a bathroom and changing facilities along with snorkel gear rentals. Water shoes are recommended.
• Bring sturdy shoes, sun protection, and drinking water to explore the Riviera Maya ruins. Only some sites have refreshments available for purchase.
• There are many group or private tours available through our Concierge at Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Let our Concierge provide recommendations on the range of activities suitable for you, or create a customised excursion.