There is no shortage of excursions when you visit the Mayan Riviera.
When you are driving down the hotel highway from the airport, there are non-stop advertisements for ziplining , swimming in cenotes, visiting ruins and experiencing “wildlife.” I use quotations for wildlife, because I really don’t think you can use that ters when the animal is in a swimming pool or gets pulled out of a cage.
Unfortunately, a large majority, especially the “X” chain (Xcaret, Xplor, Xel-ha), are amusement park attractions teeming with crowds of tourists. Definitively an option if you don’t mind line ups, overpriced souvenirs and food, and packed tour buses.
But if you want something a little more authentic, then a great a option is Edventure Tours.
It’s a small family-run tour operator that allows tourists to pick and choose adventures to fill up their day.
While private excursions are an option, a standard tour has about 8 participants and 1 to 2 guides.
Also, some of the activities take place on land owned by Edventure Tours, so you literally have the place to yourself.
When I went with my husband in March 2012, our itinerary was as follows:
1. An unguided tour of the Tulum Ruins (guided option was available, but we wanted to go at our pace).
2. ATV Jungle Ride (where you get to drive or just be a passenger)
3. Zipline on a private zipline course
4. Snorkel in two different cenotes (again, on private land)
5. A delicious Mexican lunch
6. Snorkel with sea turtles
7. Snorkel in a lagoon aquarium where fresh water meets the sea
As you can see it was a really busy day, but it was so well organized and timed that we were back at our resort in time to have a much needed nap before dinner.
The highlights for me were the beautiful ruins in Tulum, swimming in the private cenotes and snorkeling with sea turtles in the wild
The secret, we were told by the owner (Ed) of Edventure Tours, was arriving at Tulum first thing in the morning before the crowds and heat arrived. We were picked up at 8:00 in a mini-van that took us to the main office just outside of the ruins where we were put in groups, picked up our gear for the day, and signed up to get photos taken throughout the day.
The ruins were incredible. While a guided tour would have been interesting, there are plenty of signs along the way that are available in English. There are also enough tours groups around that you pick up bits and pieces at all of the main sites.
You could spend an entire day at the ruins I am sure, but by 9:45, it was getting extremely hot and the parking lot that was nearly empty when we arrived was filling up with tour buses.
Next up was a short drive to the next location, Selva Maya, the private cenote and zipline park. You can only reach it by ATV through a dirt road in the jungle, where they warn you about potential wildlife that we may encounter along the way.
The cenotes here are incredible. The first cenote is open to the jungle, but the second one involves carrying flashlights as you follow tunnels and maneouver around stagmites and stalactites.
After lunch, you get the opportunity to swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach, which is truely a surreal experience. The bay is full of sea grass that the turtles feed on, so there is pretty much a guarantee that you will get the chance to swim alongside them.
The water is pretty shallow, so everyone wears life jackets to prevent you from stirring up the bottom with your fins. The turtles, who you can tell are so accustomed to seeing humans swimming by, are constantly popping up beside you.
After this very busy day, you will have no problem spending the next one lazing by the pool recovering from all of the adventures. You get a chance to do everything that is available at the amusement parks, with a little more driving, but a lot more authenticity.