By Dana Heffernan – Guest Blogger
When my husband and I chose the Riviera Maya for our honeymoon, we were looking for a place to get away to and relax after a hectic year of wedding planning. We were pleasantly surprised by the interesting day trips available to those staying in the Riviera Maya and Cancun. We chose to take two day trips: Chichen Itza and Xel-Ha.
Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city about 2 hours west of the Riviera Maya. You get there by tour bus and the day's activities will vary with each tour company. On our tour, we spent the morning at Chichen Itza, stopped for an authentic Mexican lunch and swim and then headed back to the Riviera Maya. You can take a guided tour of the main ruins of Chichen Itza or walk around on your own. I recommend the guided tour as there is now information posted at any of the ruins. However, do take time to explore as much of the ruins as you can. The city is actually several square miles and the ruins give you a picture of life during the height of the Mayan empire. The big attraction at Chichen Itza is the main temple. Usually, you are allowed to climb to the top. The view from the top of the temple is fantastic, but it is not for those afraid of heights. There is no railing at the top platform, so you do have to watch your step. During the spring and fall equinox, a celebration is held at Chichen Itza and the temple is closed to climbers. However, visitors during the equinox can stay until dusk for the celebration and to see the sun cast a "serpent" on the temple. The "serpent" only appears during the equinox due to the position of the sun and the geometry of the temple stairs. It gets very hot at the ruins and there is very little shade, so be sure to bring sunscreen, some type of protection for your head and water.
Xel-Ha is an ecological water park that is south of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. You can spend the day at Xel-Ha or have a combined tour that visits the Mayan ruins at Tulum in the morning and the Xel-Ha in the afternoon. Xel-Ha offers a variety of activities from tubing and snorkeling down the river into the inlet to kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling in the inlet to swimming with dolphins. There are also rope swings and cliff jumping spots. Since we had been to Chichen Itza, my husband and I did not go to Tulum but spent the entire day at Xel-Ha. If you like the water and enjoy snorkeling I would recommend spending the entire day at the water park. We had a wonderful day there. The fish are friendly and have the most beautiful colors I have seen outside of the Great Barrier Reef.
I would highly recommend Xel-Ha and Chichen Itza if you have the time while you stay in either Cancun or the Riviera Maya. They are both worth the trip!