If there is one thing that defines the Mexican Caribbean, it is that this region is photogenic, interesting, beautiful and tourist-oriented. If your plans include spending a few days in the quintessential Maya land, here are 10 tips to increase your number of Instagram followers or to make your existing ones jealous.
If you are in the Riviera Maya and want to become a top influencer, be sure to check out these 10 spots
If you have never dreamed of visiting the Riviera Maya, it is because you are unaware of what awaits there. This part of Mexico boasts more than just tourists from all over the world searching for sun, parties and relaxation. There are many things to see aside from the beaches with turquoise water where time stands still with a cocktail in hand. Are you really going to miss out? To pique your interest, here are 10 Instagrammable spots that will make all your followers green with envy as they are surrounded by city sidewalks with more pools than beaches. Life isn’t always fair.
Isla Mujeres and the Underwater Museum of Art
Have you ever set foot in an underwater museum? Since the answer is most likely “no,” you will really enjoy this one in the Mexican Caribbean, regardless of whether you are into scuba diving or not. Created in 2009 as a way of protecting the natural reefs from human impact, and following the destruction caused by Hurricane Wilma, MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte, or Underwater Museum of Art) is made up of more than 500 submerged sculptures. This unique art collection is spread out over 4,500 square feet of sea and weighs 200 tons. Wow! There are two alternatives for reaching the underwater depths: in a glass-bottom boat or scuba diving. It’s up to you!
This area under the sea is also home to one of the most spectacular female communities: Isla Mujeres. The island, which was sacred to Ixchel, the Maya goddess of the Moon, was discovered and named by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The underwater sculptures—all of women—have a great historical value and their beauty is worth admiring. How to get there? Either on a catamaran with your friends or with an organized scuba diving excursion. Be sure to bring your underwater camera!
You will also need an underwater camera at this destination because below ground, in one of the caverns, you will come across this underground river with a “crystal museum” made up of thousands of stalactites and stalagmites in astounding shapes and colors. Before visiting this spot, avoid seeing photos of it so you can be swept away at first sight. However, any natural wonder like this will take a person’s breath away, regardless of whether they have seen it before in countless history books.
Once here, you can rent the necessary equipment to explore this underwater world during the hour and a half it takes to travel a little over half a mile. You will have time to ask your guide as many questions as you like and also take photos in the depths of the Earth.
Walking through historic cities where you can imagine, almost without closing your eyes, what our ancestors did or how they lived is an incredible experience that will give you goosebumps. The Tulum archaeological site is one of those places where this happens, especially if you get there early while other tourists are still eating breakfast at their hotel.
Located right on the Caribbean (it features a stunning beach area for taking the customary photo with the ruins in the background), its castle peers down from a 40-meter knoll. This site is special because of its archaeological value as well as the light it gives off in the spring and autumn. There is also a temple where the red pigments of the paintings can still be discerned, as well as nature in every direction and even the possibility of swimming with turtles.
Ik Kil cenote
The Yucatán Peninsula is home to one of the most beautiful cenotes in the Caribbean. If you tend to experience vertigo or claustrophobia, then skip to number five, but if you like adventure, then keep reading. Cenotes, which are natural formations, were considered by the Maya people to be sacred places that led to the underworld and therefore, in full contact with nature, sacrifices were made to the gods here.
When peering in from the surface, you will have the sense of gazing into the center of the Earth thanks to the 39-meter depth and 27-meter height. However, once you make your way into the cenote, your focus will be on its mystical greatness and on jumping into the water from an array of heights, just like the participants of the diving championship organized by Red Bull at this location. Don’t be afraid, just jump and smile for the camera!
Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue
If you’re more of a city dweller than you thought and miss walking along sidewalks, shopping and swiping your credit card, even while enjoying nature, then stay calm because we know just the place to go. With a New York name like 5th Avenue, this long pedestrian stretch is filled with restaurants, shops and locals with whom to start up a conversation and learn more about their culture.
And since this is the Caribbean, the turquoise beaches with fine sand and welcoming sunbeds are only a few streets away. Don’t miss a thing and make it clear on Instagram that you were also here.
Relaxing at the hotel is not sacrilege
After a 15-day vacation, returning home feeling more tired than when you left is more common than you think. For this reason, and because unfortunately many months or even a year will pass before your next getaway, why not spend a few days resting and relaxing at the hotel? Don’t think of this as “wasted time” but rather as an energy investment for everything that awaits. Your body and mind will thank you, and you won’t feel quite as tired at every destination.
We suggest the five-star Barceló Maya Beach Hotel. Located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, this recently-renovated property boasts magnificent rooms overlooking the sea. With a pool, a sports area and an all-inclusive option, this hotel is like a spa at which to be pampered under the Caribbean sun. Have you already taken the mandatory photo of a gourmet breakfast with white bedsheets in the background?
Sea sports: snorkel alongside turtles or swim with whale sharks
Relax, whale sharks only eat plankton. Let’s continue, ok? Between May and September, this huge species, which can grow up to 18-meters long, makes its way to the Caribbean coastline in search of warm water. With its unique print featuring black and white hues, this calm animal is accustomed to seeing humans and therefore poses no danger in normal situations. Whale sharks can be seen at Puerto Juárez and don’t be surprised if a manta ray also makes an appearance.
If you search for the hashtag #akumal in Instagram, you will see thousands of photos of sea turtles because here, 75 miles from Cancun, you can easily see and swim with them. Although it is nothing new for these animals to see humans in their habitat, the best and only way to get close to them is with the utmost respect and from a cautionary distance. The experience is absolutely unforgettable. We promise.
Oh, Chichén Itza!
Unless you are an expert in Maya history, we recommend visiting this Yucatán archaeological site with a guide to avoid missing out on any aspect of this New Wonder of the World that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site 30 years ago.
Absolutely amazing from every angle, it is made up of the most important Maya buildings that are in the best condition, such as the Kukulcán castle or pyramid, the Temple of the Warriors, the Skull Platform and the Group of a Thousand Columns. To avoid sharing your experiences with hundreds of tourists and trying to take photos between French and American visitors, be sure to get there early in the morning. You’ll thank us.
Paradise can be found at Sian Ka’an
There are 75 miles that separate Tulum and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, and this stretch includes the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. You can imagine what this means: untouched white-sand beaches, mangroves, bays and up to 20 archaeological sites such as Muyil, which aside from forming part of the Maya merchant route, also features an extremely photogenic lagoon and overlook.
Although reservations are suggested for overnight stays, the Punta Allen fishing region has authentic accommodations at lower prices. You can also try traditional dishes and meld with the locals at this Caribbean paradise.
The colors of Bacalar
It is possible that certain Pantone shades of blue may have originated here, but what is certain is that Bacalar Lagoon features up to seven different blue tones. Imagine how clear the water is.
Considered a magical Mexican town, the Fortress of San Felipe was built in 1729 to defend the village from pirate attacks. It has become a popular tourist destination where visitors can eat in palapa huts, spend the night by the water and enjoy walks around the lagoon while taking in the blue rainbow and immortalizing it in photos.