from central Playa del Carmen. After a 10-minute drive down
a long bumpy road, we checked into a locker area to change
into a bathing suit and drop-off excess bags — guests are
better off leaving their hands free for the wild ride ahead.
At this point, we were almost ready to enter the Nohoch
Nah Chich cave, which leads to the world’s largest underground
river system — spanning 95 miles. First, we took part in a
Maya purification ceremony, performed at the entrance. The
ritual consists of a mesmerizing five to 10 minutes with a
Shaman chanting and “smudging” your aura with smoke
from a small fire.
Our adventure was perfect for
tourists who have been to
Tulum and want something
Then the real adventure started — we rope-climbed down
into a cave with an underground river. Guests can snorkel
amid the crystal cool water, which is beautiful — except for
the bats flying around. I was assured that they don’t attack,
but if flying vermin scare your clients, consider advising them
to skip that part of the tour and save their nerve for flying
across the jungle on a zipline.
Clients looking to explore beyond the Riviera Maya’s Tulum and
Playa del Carmen should consider a jungle adventure
BY CAROLE DIXON
FINDING MYSELF IN THE RIVIERA MAYA for the fourth time in a few years, I was on the prowl for
something to occupy my time away from the pool. A stroll through downtown Playa del Carmen,
especially the 5th Avenue area, is always fun for a quick shopping excursion or a night of too many
tequila cocktails but, this time, I was looking for adventure.
Jungle Maya Expedition
A private motorcoach picked me up at 8 a.m. from the Grand Velas lobby for an adventure into the
jungle of the Riviera Maya. Had I decided to stay in the Zen Grand section of the property — featuring sprawling grounds surrounded by forest and even a small cenote with flowing water — perhaps I
would have not felt the need to seek out Alltournative, a tour operator which has provided more than
650,000 clients with adventurous half-day and day-long expeditions since 1999. Greeting me for my
Jungle Maya Expedition was my private guide for the day — Benjamin, from Germany, who is now a
local in Playa del Carmen. His Spanish-meets-German accent took a little getting used to at that hour
of the morning, but he was very knowledgeable about the area, Mexican history and where not to try
the local sushi specials in town.
The ride out to Rancho San Felipe, where the jungle can be accessed, takes just under an hour
To travel across the jungle, we took three ziplines, which look
frightening but are really fun. After climbing up a wobbly rope
ladder to the top, I was harnessed into a makeshift seat and
told to hold on to the straps. As I clung for dear life, I tucked
my legs slightly under and went sailing without a hitch. By the
time I had zipped to the other platform at the end of the line,
I had built up a bit of speed. Fortunately, two big strong men
were waiting to catch me. Even with that safety net, advise
clients that they might experience a jolt when they land. The
last zipline landed me into another water-logged cave with
more snorkeling and swimming.
For more excitement, there are waters nearby where
clients can stick their feet in for a natural fish pedicure. It feels
ticklish at first, but the tiny fish nibble at the rough spots on
your feet. The treatment, which is very popular in Japan, is
also performed for a hefty fee back at the hotel spa.
The day ended in a traditional Maya village, still on the
jungle grounds, where a typical Yucatan lunch is cooked in a
small home. Starving, we arrived to homemade corn tortillas,
a simple soup with carrots, chicken and rice and delicious,
fluffy empanadas. Just outside was a flea market selling
sarongs and handmade shell necklaces.
To leave the jungle, we took a trip on a 4x4, which the driver called “a Mexican rollercoaster.” Our adventure was the
perfect solution for tourists who have been to Tulum, want
something more adventurous and are not afraid of a vacation
from so-called civilization.
Agents can book a group tour or
arrange for individual VIP treatment. The seven-hour tour regularly
costs $119 for adults and $79 for
children ages 6 to 12.
THE DETAILS: Alltournative ( www.all
For an agent’s on-site
review of Maroma by
Orient Express, visit