Exploring Mexico's Riviera Maya

Golf with Caribbean views, cenotes and ancient history

Article by Stacy Conde

Photography by Stacy Conde and provided

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Take an early flight and you could be dining on the Mexican Riviera Maya’s Caribbean shores by dinnertime. From Cancun airport, a quick car ride will deliver you into the warm embrace of the Yucatán.

This peninsula, separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, is host to white, sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters, tropical rain forests and jungles, and the rich history of the Mayan people.

You could plant your beach umbrella in Cancún, but I would recommend venturing further afield to the heart of the Riviera Maya to Playa del Carmen, Akumal or Tulúm, where you’ll have the opportunity to experience more of the local culture. Although the region’s biggest business is rooted in tourism, there is a lot to discover. 

If you want to spend an afternoon on the fairway, there are many options. With a tropical climate that brings plenty of moisture, golf courses are lush with Caribbean views. Mayakoba El Camaleón ranks among the world’s best. Designed by world renowned Australian golfer Greg Norman and home to the LIV Mayakoba tournament, the 7,024 yards of this course plays through Mayan jungle, mangrove wetlands and the beach.

For me, a crucial important part of travel is being able to soak up the authentic nature of a place… and I love to shop. Culture and history are baked into hand made products. Weaving and embroidery are traditions that date back hundreds of years in the Yucatán. Artisan cooperatives in nearby Merída, Timul and X-Pichil preserve the art of hand woven hammocks and the Maya hipil dress. It can take as many as 15 days to create an elaborate, tasseled hammock.  

There are two things not to miss when visiting the Yucatán: cenotes and the archeological zones. There are thousands of cenotes throughout the peninsula. These freshwater sinkholes, all connected through limestone passageways, are crystal clear, cool water pools.  

There are 18 archaeological zones in the region, including Chichén Itzá, Xcambó and Tulúm. From 600 - 900 A.D. the Mayan civilization thrived, built complex cities and developed the science of astronomy and calendar systems. It’s pretty humbling to stand in the shadow of Chichén Itzá and think about the 35,000 inhabitants that lived and worked there more than 1,000 years ago. 

After all that exploring, you could rest your head at Mayakoba, an award winning eco-paradise with four luxury hotels, white sandy beaches and miles of lush, green jungle. Each hotel has a unique flavor with a private beachfront, multiple eateries, and a spa. 

There is so much to see and do, in addition to taking time out just to lounge on a beach chair. In a week you can just about scratch the surface of what the area has to offer… and then hopefully you’ll be able to visit again to experience even more. Mayakoba.com


In ancient Mayan times, cenotes were an important water source and a mystical connection to the underworld. Today, they are local swimming spots and a magical place to see colorful fish, turtles and aquatic plant life.

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