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Swim with the whale sharks, a Mexican Caribbean summer trip highlight

If you are traveling to Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Holbox or the Riviera Maya this summer, you have the chance to see the gentle giants of the ocean, the whale sharks. This is an incredible wildlife encounter with the world’s largest fish, a Mexican Caribbean summer trip highlight.

From mid-May to mid-September, hundreds of whale sharks migrate to the northern waters of the Mexican Caribbean near the islands of Holbox, Contoy and Isla Mujeres to feed on plankton blooms caused by high temperatures, and eggs laid by spawning little tunny fish. Biologists say it is the largest whale shark gathering in the world.

Whale sharks are great ocean wanderers, migrating thousands of miles through the tropics during the year in search of feeding grounds with rich pickings of plankton and fish roe.

Fishermen in the Mexican Caribbean call whale sharks pez domino or domino fish in reference to their distinctive markings of stripes and spots. No whale shark is alike, they each have a unique pattern and taking photos of them is helping marine biologists around the world to compile a catalog. Through the use of this international database for identification purposes and tagging sharks they can start to map the movements of these enigmatic creatures during the year.

Imagine watching as a creature the size of a bus approaches out of the crystal-clear depths and then swims placidly by, its gaping jaws open to scoop up the minute plankton and filter the water through its gills. Suddenly wherever you look you see fins as the whale sharks eat their fill before diving deep. It is an awe-inspiring sight and one that wildlife watchers shouldn’t miss.

On the boat journey out to the whale shark area, there’s the added thrill of spotting wild dolphins and sea turtles. Huge manta rays also gather to eat plankton alongside the whale sharks and sometimes breach the water surface in spectacular flight.

Book your summer whale shark trip
Guided eco trips to the whale shark feeding grounds are available for small groups through Thomas More Travel. Book online at www.thomasmoretravel.com or at the tour desk during your stay.

 

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Royal Resorts Signature Club unveils a new benefit for members to enjoy

Royal Resorts Signature Club members now have an additional benefit to enjoy, a new Wine and Merchandise store on the Privileges for Royal Resorts shopping portal. This new online store features a selection of over 3,000 products including designer merchandise such as jewelry, home goods, travel gear and more, plus access to hundreds of hand-picked […]

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Four trip ideas for your next Cancun vacation

When you vacation in Cancun or the Riviera Maya, you really are on the threshold of a world of unforgettable travel adventures. On one hand, you have spectacular white sand beaches, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, offshore islands and the wonders of the Mesoamerican Reef and on the other you have the ancient cities of the Maya, jungles and wetlands teeming with wildlife and the crystalline waters of the area’s many sinkholes or cenotes. Then there are the famous eco-adventure parks of the Riviera Maya, the traditional colonial towns of the Yucatan, biosphere reserves, Mayan communities and haciendas, among others. There is so much to see and experience, enough for a lifetime of incredible memories. Here are four trip ideas for your next Cancun vacation.

How about an unforgettable eco trip to the desert island of Contoy on your next Cancun vacation?

A two-hour cruise across a sea in impossible shades of turquoise brings you to the untouched island paradise of Contoy or “bird island.” Declared a national park in 1998, the mangrove forest, palm groves and dunes of tiny Contoy are home to 150 species of native and migrant birds. The island has one of the largest populations of brown pelicans in the Caribbean and a 5,000-strong colony of magnificent frigate birds, cormorants, spoonbills, ibis and ten species of heron. The island’s deserted beaches are a refuge for sandpipers, oystercatchers and other shore birds in the winter and a nesting site for sea turtles in the summer.

Spend your day on Contoy swimming in the bay with placid sting rays, snorkeling, sunbathing and bird watching. For an additional fee you can board a smaller boat and explore the mangroves where you’ll see the birds up close. Climb the observation tower for breathtaking panoramic views of the island and the Caribbean.

Sightings of flying fish, sea turtles and dolphins are frequent during the boat trip to Contoy and summer visitors may occasionally catch a glimpse of the manta rays and whale sharks that gather to feed in the waters of the northern Mexican Caribbean.

Contoy’s status as a reserve means that the number of visitors is limited to only 200 a day.

A Mexican night under the stars at Xoximilco

Your destination for the evening is Xoximilco, a jungle park between Cancun and Puerto Morelos that is inspired by the canals and world-famous floating gardens of Xochimilco on the outskirts of Mexico City. At Xoximilco, the mariachis strike up under a star-studded sky, tequila flows and dinner is served on board a colorful trajinera or barge that sails along tree-lined canals. This is a Mexican experience you won’t want to miss on your next Cancun vacation; it’s full of color, music and song, a fiesta to share with family and friends.

On arrival at Xoximilco, you’ll be greeted with a welcome drink and a tasty traditional snack of esquites (corn cooked in lime juice and topped with cream or mayonnaise, cheese and chili powder), then you’ll be ready to board your trajinera. There is a boat for each Mexican state and all are decked out in colorful and unique designs featuring symbols associated with the individual states, for example the monarch butterfly for Michoacan.

During your cruise through the forest, you’ll be serenaded by musicians from different parts of Mexico, such as guitar trios from the Yucatan, harp-strumming jarochos from Veracruz, the banda from northern Mexico and, of course, mariachis. You’ll also see scenes representing life in Xochimilco: canal-side wooden homes, men tending gardens and women paddling canoes filled with flowers, produce and warm tortillas for your meal. You’ll watch traditional dances and try some yourselves, hear ancient Aztec legends and dine on delicious Mexican cuisine.

Visit Izamal, the city of gold

Have you ever visited Izamal, the Yucatan’s very own “city of gold?” If not, go off the beaten track on your next Cancun vacation. Famous for its huge 16th-century Franciscan convent and imposing Mayan pyramid, this peaceful little town all decked out in bright yellow is often called the “city of three cultures,” a reference to its pre-Hispanic and Spanish heritage and the traditions of today’s Mayan inhabitants. It is the perfect spot for discovering the history and traditions of the Yucatan, shopping for handicrafts and sampling regional cuisine.

Inhabited by the ancient Maya as far back as the 3rd century B.C., Izamal became a sacred site with shrines to two deities: Itzamná (the chief god, inventor of writing, medicine and agriculture) and Kinich Kakmo (the sun god). Archaeologists have unearthed more than 20 major Mayan buildings around town, along with ceremonial roads called sacbes, tombs and house mounds. The principal temple is the pyramid of Kinich Kakmo, the third largest building in Mesoamerica in terms of volume.

After the Spanish Conquest, Franciscan friars took advantage of Izamal’s religious importance by building a huge mission on top of the Pap-Hol-Chac temple. The Convento de San Antonio de Padua was founded in 1549 and completed in 1618. Home to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the patron saint of the Yucatán since 1648, it is one of Mexico’s ten most important shrines. The fortress-like building is also said to have the largest closed atrium in Mexico and one of the largest in the world, with no fewer than 75 arches.

The historic houses, arches, churches and civic buildings surrounding the convent are painted yellow and are part of the charm of this Pueblo Mágico. Explore its tranquil neighborhoods, sample the traditional cuisine, watch artisans at work and call in at the Community Museum in the main square.

Izamal is 158 miles from Cancún and 43 miles from Mérida, take the turnoffs signposted on the toll road or Highway 180.

Submerged sculptures, visit Cancun’s Underwater Art Museum

The Cancun-Isla Mujeres National Marine Park is home to the world’s largest underwater sculpture museum, inaugurated in 2009. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this famous icon on your Cancun vacation and see the colorful marine life that now makes its home among the statues. Snorkeling and diving trips are available.

More than 500 statues by British sculptor Jason deCaires-Taylor and other artists are submerged in different locations in the park, including Punta Nizuc and Manchones Reef.

In addition to its artistic appeal and the powerful symbolism of the sculptures, the museum has a message of conservation. As another attraction for snorkelers and divers, it takes the pressure off popular reefs in the marine park, giving them a chance to recover and for fish populations to increase. The statues have undergone a “sea change” over the years, transforming into gardens of coral, colorful sponges, sea fans and algae. These new reef communities have attracted damsel and butterfly fish and crustaceans such as lobsters that live among the corals. Large schools of blue tangs and angel fish are also returning to the area.

Go exploring with Thomas More Travel

Whether you want to visit ancient Mayan cities, enjoy a fun day out at the Riviera Maya’s famous nature parks, spend the day zip lining in the jungle or go snorkeling, Thomas More Travel has the tour for you on your next Cancun vacation. Visit thomasmoretravel.com to browse the tour collection.

Book all your travel adventures with Thomas More Travel

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The latest Cancun & Riviera Maya news

Here’s a round up of the latest Cancun & Riviera Maya news and an update from Merida, capital of the neighboring state of Yucatan.

Cancun is 47 years old this April

The Pioneros de Cancun (Cancun Pioneers Association) are gearing up to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the founding of Cancun on April 20, 2017. This group is comprised of members of the founding families who came here in 1970 to work on the construction of Mexico’s first master-planned tourist center. Cancun’s anniversary celebrations will include masses, processions, exhibitions and a dinner dance for the Pioneros Association.

Cancun’s pioneers built the first hotels, the roads and the infrastructure that the fledgling community on the mainland would need. Some came alone and sent for their families later while others brought wives and children with them into a new world of deserted beaches and dense jungle where it was common to see spider monkeys and toucans in the trees. This annual gathering on April 20 is a chance for them to meet up once more and swap memories.

Founded in 1975, Royal Resorts is a Cancun pioneer and The Royal Cancun story began in 1977. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, what are your memories of Cancun in the early days? Drop us a line at memories@royalresorts.com and let us know.

Xcaret’s Scarlet Macaw Breeding & Conservation Program documentary overall winner at Boston College Film Festival Award

In more Cancun & Riviera Maya news, Flying Home: the Return of the Scarlet Macaw, the documentary on Xcaret Park’s scarlet macaw breeding and conservation program that is helping bring Mexico’s macaw population back from the brink of extinction, was named the overall winner at the 2017 International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival in Boston on March 26, 2017.

Produced by Xcaret and Mexican production company Bicho Studio, the documentary follows the macaws bred in Xcaret Park on a journey from their birthplace to the jungles of northern Chiapas and southern Veracruz where they spend time adapting to their new habitat before being released to the wild. It tells of the work done by Xcaret biologists and vets, university researchers, NGO’s and communities in the release areas. The film won in the Small Company category, Fan Favorite category and Best in Show category.

The International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival is the largest film festival that showcases the work of companies and professionals in the field of corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Xcaret began to breed macaws in 1993 and has been so successful that it is in the Guinness Book of Records for the numbers of chicks born. Survival rates are 80 percent and to date more than 1,000 birds have been raised from four original breeding pairs. A flock of them is set free every day at noon to fly over the Riviera Maya park and several flocks have been released into the wild. In only three years, this groundbreaking reproduction and conservation program has boosted Mexico’s wild macaw population by 80 percent.

Two popular Merida events get a facelift

On your next trip to Merida, the 2017 Cultural Capital of the Americas, you’ll find that two of the city’s most popular events, the Noche Mexicana on Saturday evening and the Merida en Domingo all-day gala have been revamped to make the experience even more enjoyable for residents and visitors.

Both weekly events offer you the chance to sample traditional antojitos or snacks such as quesadillas and tacos, shop for crafts and local art and watch musicians and dance performances from the Yucatan and other parts of Mexico.

The Noche Mexicana takes place in the park at the beginning of Paseo Montejo and on Sunday the main square, Calle 60 and other surrounding streets are closed to traffic for Merida en Domingo.

Contact Thomas More Travel if you would like to plan a trip to Merida during your Royal Resorts vacation.

Road works on Highway 307 in the Riviera Maya

Here’s some Cancun & Riviera Maya news to be aware of if you are due to be in the area in April or May, road works in the Riviera Maya. If you are going to be driving on Highway 307 in the Riviera Maya please take extra precautions as road works are underway in several places. Work will continue for the next two months and there may be delays in the mornings.

Work will take place every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the highway between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. The affected stretches are from km 302+500 to km 320+00 in both directions and from km 322+000 to km 330+950, direction Playa del Carmen to Cancun. There are signs alerting drivers to upcoming road works and you should reduce speed.

For more Cancun & Riviera Maya news check this blog regularly.

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Upcoming Events in Cancun & Riviera Maya


(Photo courtesy of Experiencias Xcaret)

Here’s a round up of upcoming events in Cancun and the Riviera Maya in April and May, 2017.

Fundadores 2017 International Riviera Maya Fishing Tournament, Playa del Carmen, April 14-16

This tournament attracts fishermen from all over the state and the Caribbean. Competitors are asked to follow catch and release policy to help preserve fish stocks.

Representation of the Crucifixion, Playa Delfines, Cancun, April 14

Playa Delfines or El Mirador in Cancun is the setting for a representation of the Via Crucis and Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, April 14. Processions, masses and vigils also take place in other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida and throughout Mexico.

Anniversary of the Founding of Cancun, April 20

Masses, processions, exhibitions and more in Downtown Cancun to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the founding of Cancun.

Cancun International Capitan Armando Ferrat Fishing Tournament 2017, Cancun, April 21-23

This tournament attracts fishermen from all over the state and the Caribbean. Competitors are asked to follow catch and release policy to help preserve fish stocks.

Regatta del Sol al Sol, Isla Mujeres, April 28 – May 5

The 49th year of this famous yacht race from the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in Florida to Isla Mujeres. The event also features parties for the yacht crews and islanders, excursions and a race around Isla Mujeres.

Ultra Marathon 50K, Cozumel, April 29

A Jungle race on the island of Cozumel following a route from Villa Maya to Punta Molas lighthouse on the northern tip of the island. The distances are 50, 25 or 12.5 kilometers and 1.5 and 3 kilometers for younger runners in the 8 to 10 and 11 to 14 age categories. Running or trekking. Deadline for inscriptions April 8. www.circuitoultras.com

Puerto Morelos Fishing Tournaments, late April – early May

Cesar Martin Rosado Tournament, Puerto Morelos, April 28-30

Don Andres Garcia Lavin Tournament, Puerto Morelos, May 5-7

Travesía Sagrada Maya, Xcaret and Cozumel, May 26-27

One of the most famous events in the Riviera Maya in May, The Sacred Mayan Crossing is the reenactment of an ancient pilgrimage. Oarsmen set sail from the port of Pole (now Xcaret) in a fleet of wooden canoes bound for the island of Cozumel where they will worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the Maya goddess of the moon and fertility.

Visit the Royal Resorts blog at www.royalresorts.com for listings of more events in Cancun and the Riviera Maya during the year.

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chichen itza
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Unlocking the secrets of the pyramid at Chichen Itza

The ancient Mayan capital of Chichen Itza casts its spell whenever you visit it but in March it seems all the more impressive. Thousands gather at the foot of the Pyramid of Kukulcan in the Great Plaza to welcome the spring and the return of an ancient god.

Also known as El Castillo, the 25-meter-high pyramid is a solar clock, aligned to catch the rays of the setting sun on the spring and fall equinoxes (March 20 and September 22 in 2017). Triangles of light and shadow form along the side of the north staircase and the figure of a snake appears, merging with the head of a stone snake at the foot of the building, creating the illusion of a gigantic serpent slithering down from the heavens and across the ground towards the Sacred Cenote. The apparition of this mysterious figure is testimony to the skill of ancient astronomers and architects.

The snake symbolizes Kukulcan (also known as Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico), the feathered serpent god, returning to earth to give hope to his followers and heralding the spring planting and fall harvest seasons for the Maya.

 

A pyramid inside a pyramid

The pyramid of Kukulcan was built some time between A.D. 550 and 800, with later modifications between 800 and A.D. 1,000. The majestic pyramid we see today was constructed during the Itzae period when the city reached its peak, between A.D. 1050 and 1300. The Itzae had links with cultures in Central Mexico and this is reflected in their art depicting serpents, eagles, warriors and skulls.

When archaeologists first explored the pyramid, they dug through tons of stone and earth to find a second temple containing a chac mool statue, the enigmatic reclining stone figure with hands cupped to receive the heart of a sacrificial victim, guarding the entrance. There was a magnificent throne in the form of a red jaguar with jade spots and eyes in the inner sanctum. The sacred feline figure was discovered with an offering of coral, sacrificial flint knives and a turquoise mosaic disc.

Studies in the last two years have revealed more secrets hidden deep inside the pyramid. Using the latest tri-dimensional electric resistivity tomography technology, archaeologists have discovered that a cave containing a cenote lies beneath the structure and that there is an even earlier and much smaller temple dating from AD 550 to 800. Built before the Mayan inhabitants came into contact with other Mesoamerican civilizations, it is in pure Maya architectural style. This find means that there are actually three temples on the site built around each other at different times during the city’s history.

The only source of fresh water in the Yucatan, cenotes were the gateway to the Underworld, the home of the gods and were holy places. The earliest pyramid may have been located beside the cenote for religious ceremonies and later rulers added their own monuments on top as a way of channeling sacred power.

A short distance from the Great Plaza is another building associated with Mayan astronomy, the round tower known as El Caracol or the Observatory. It has a viewing platform and wells, which were used by ancient astronomers to mirror starlight, and it was aligned to catch sunsets and moonsets on both equinoxes and to mark the course of Venus.

If you would like to explore Chichen Itza, one of the greatest ancient cities in the Americas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, contact Thomas More Travel to book your day trip.

Several Chichen Itza options are available, including excursions that offer you the chance to call in at the colonial town of Valladolid, one of the Yucatan’s Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns), explore cenotes or stay in the evening for the Chichen Itza Light & Sound show, Noches de Kukulcan, a spectacular video mapping screening.

 

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Set Sail in the Mexican Caribbean, it’s Sport Fishing Season

March heralds the start of the sport fishing season in the Mexican Caribbean and avid fishermen are preparing to go in search of the ‘big one,” a memory they will treasure for the rest of their lives.
The fastest predators in the sea, reaching speeds of over 68 miles an hour, sailfish and marlin move through area waters in the spring and summer hunting huge shoals of migrating sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Snapper; dorado, bonito and wahoo are also plentiful and knowledgeable local fishermen will take you right to where the fish are running.
The best fishing grounds in the area lie to the east of Isla Mujeres, along the Arrowsmith Bank, around Contoy and Holbox islands, off the coast of Puerto Morelos, and in the Cozumel Channel, the deep ocean trench between the Riviera Maya and the island of Cozumel. Further south along the Costa Maya, the fishing villages of Mahahual and Xcalak also attract sport fishermen.
Hidden in the mangroves, the calm lagoons that stretch along the Quintana Roo coast offer a different challenge – they are rich in bonefish such as tarpon, permit and snook and attract fly fishermen from all over the world. There are fishing lodges in the Boca Paila area and Punta Allen in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Holbox and the Isla Blanca wetlands around Laguna Chacmochchuc to the north of Cancun are also good spots.
Local marinas adhere to the catch and release policy to help conserve fish stocks and we urge you to join their campaign. The thrill of being out on the waves in pursuit of sleek marlin and sailfish should be enough and we hope that you will liberate any game fish you catch.
If you enjoy fishing and are looking for your own unforgettable encounter with the big fish of the sea, contact Thomas More Travel for fishing trips and boat charters.

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2016, record breaking year for tourism in Mexico

A record-breaking 34.9 million foreign tourists visited Mexico in 2016, 8.9 percent more than in 2015 according to the latest figures published by the Bank of Mexico. Tourism revenue was up 10.3 percent when compared to 2015. The World Tourism Organization also announced that Mexico is set to climb one spot in the World’s Top Ten Visited Countries to No. 8.

With a favorable exchange rate for international visitors, expanding global air connectivity and a wealth of tourist attractions beyond its beautiful beaches, Mexico has great potential for future growth.

In 2017, airlines around the world are adding new routes to Mexican cities, boosting the number of flights on existing routes and switching to larger aircraft to cater to increased demand. Mexico’s airline partners have announced the addition of one million new seats this year on international direct flights from more than 20 countries (source: Mexico Tourism Board).

Mexican destinations continue to figure among the lists of must-see places in international travel magazines. The country is also growing in popularity as a retirement haven, either full-time or seasonal. International Living gives Mexico the top spot in its Annual Global Retirement Index 2017. This survey rates a variety of factors including cost of living, real estate, climate and healthcare.

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Beach Hopping in the Riviera Maya, Xcacel

Discover picture-perfect Xcacel, a spectacular palm-lined bay in the Riviera Maya with untouched reefs festooned with sponges and sea fans in shallow water just offshore and a secret cenote.

A track leads from the highway through the forest, mangroves and a coconut palm grove to the beach. Once you have taken in the spectacular views of white sand and sparkling turquoise waters, don your mask and flippers and get ready to explore Xcacel’s coral gardens. As you explore, you’ll spot parrot fish, pork fish, blue tangs, butterfly fish and sergeant majors, and you may be lucky enough to see spotted moray eels and turtles.

After a spot of snorkeling, bask in the sun or go for a stroll along the beach and visit the cenote hidden in the mangroves. Peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful, this is a place to celebrate nature.

Due to its importance as a turtle-nesting site, the Quintana Roo state government designated it as a turtle sanctuary in 1998, thus protecting it from development. There is a turtle camp at the site and volunteers patrol the beach at night during the summer on the look out for nests. Recent sightings of other rare creatures such as deer, ocelots and the nocturnal jaguar in the Xcacel area have led to pledges to boost protection of this natural treasure.

Contact tourdesk@royalresorts.com for more information or ask at the Thomas More Travel desk in your resort.

Whenever you go snorkeling or diving, please rinse off suntan oil before going in the water as it is harmful to marine life. Wear a white t-shirt to protect your skin from the sun instead.

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Go off the Beaten Track in the Yucatan Peninsula

Have you ever wanted to go further afield and explore more of the Yucatán Peninsula during your Royal Resorts vacation? A world of wonders awaits discovery beyond the spectacular beaches of Cancún and the Riviera Maya and Thomas More Travel offers private tours with a vehicle, driver and guide so that you can see more of the area at your own pace and leave the driving to someone else.

How about spending the day in the Yucatan’s colonial twin towns and Pueblos Magicos (Magical Towns) Valladolid and Izamal? Both are rich in history and traditions and surrounded by cenotes, archaeological sites and haciendas.

Head for Merida, capital of the Yucatan for a couple of days and use it as your base for exploring the southern part of the state. Tour the Puuc Route, famous for the ancient city of Uxmal and the smaller sites of Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labna, all sharing UNESCO World Heritage status. Visit some of the restored haciendas in the area and the Loltun Caves. You can return to Merida via the Convent Route, a chain of villages with colonial churches, caves, cenotes and archaeological sites that starts with Mani and includes Mama, Teabo and Acanceh.

Alternatively, turn your sights south from Cancun and the Riviera Maya and head for central and southern Quintana Roo. Discover the ancient Mayan sites of Muyil and Chacchoben, the historic towns of Felipe Carrillo Puerto and Tihosuco in the Zona Maya or the Caribbean fishing villages and dive spots of Mahahual and Xcalak on the Costa Maya.

Further south is spectacular Bacalar, the Lagoon of Seven Colors, state capital Chetumal and the archaeological sites of Oxtankah, Kohunlich and Dzibanche.

For an unforgettable trip into the wild, visit the ancient Mayan capital of Calakmul in southern Campeche, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its monuments and the biodiversity of the jungle protected by the vast Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

Contact Thomas More Travel for more information about private tours and sightseeing itinerary ideas.

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Opened in 2000, The Royal Sands, the largest resort in the Royal Resorts Collection, is celebrating its 17th anniversary this season. A glorious beach setting at the heart of the Cancún Hotel Zone, 340 spacious ocean-view villas and an array of services ranging from a full-service spa and gym to a marina, activity center and […]

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10 Mexican Caribbean Travel Experiences for 2017

Traveling to the Mexican Caribbean this year for a Cancun family vacation at Royal Resorts? Try something new during your 2017 trip. The Mexican Caribbean and the Yucatan offer a wealth of amazing places to visit and the opportunity to create unforgettable travel experiences. Where would you like to go and what would you like to do? Thomas More Travel is your guide to the area and here are 10 great trip ideas to whet your appetite for wanderlust.

Explore the Mesoamerican Reef

When you travel to the Mexican Caribbean for your Cancun family vacation you literally have the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second longest coral reef system, right on your doorstep! Take the plunge and explore a wonderland of reefs that begins near Contoy Island, runs through the Cancun-Isla Mujeres area, and south along the Riviera Maya and the Costa Maya into the neighboring country of Belize.

Stretching for nearly 700 miles, this immense reef system is home to more than 500 species of fish, large and small, 350 species of mollusks such as octopus, conch and colorful nudibranchs, tiny sea horses, turtles and many other wonderful marine creatures.

The Mexican Caribbean also welcomes ocean wanderers that move through the area to feed or breed during the year. They include eagle rays, golden cownose rays and manta rays, sailfish, marlin and the famous whale shark. The world’s largest fish, the whale shark congregates in the waters around the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and east of Contoy and Isla Mujeres during the summer months to feed on plankton.

Plan a family snorkeling trip in Puerto Morelos Marine Park, Yalku or Isla Mujeres or don your mask, flippers and tanks for unforgettable reef dives in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres area, Cozumel and Akumal. For an amazing experience further afield, visit Banco Chinchorro, a coral atoll off the coast from Majahual and Xcalak.
With clusters of submerged sculptures in several locations in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres National Marine Park, Cancun’s iconic Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) is the largest of its kind in the world and well worth a visit. Snorkeling and dive trips are available.

Mesoamerican Reef

Spend the Day in Playa del Carmen

When was the last time you strolled down la Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen’s vibrant 5th Avenue? If it has been a while, on your next Cancun family vacation why not plan to spend the day in the Riviera Maya’s lively waterfront capital? You’ll find even more boutiques, craft shops, art galleries and international designer stores to browse through and plenty of new restaurants, bars, outdoor cafes and gelaterias to tempt your taste buds.

There’s more, after a spot of shopping or beach time why not take the family to Playa’s trio of attractions? First up is the Playacar Aviary where you can see toucans, parrots, macaws and other colorful native birds from southeast Mexico in a jungle setting.

Then head for the 3D Museum of Wonders on 10th Avenue. The exhibits at this very different museum are 3D drawings and famous paintings on the floors, walls and ceiling that create optical illusions. Come face to face with a lion or a dragon, drag a zebra out of the jungle, surf the waves, fly like the birds and even pose in a shell like Botticelli’s Venus.

Finally, visit Playa’s newest attraction, L’Aquarium, a state of the art aquarium with 45 spectacular tank installations on three floors of the Plaza Corazon Mall on 5th Ave and Calle 14 (the entrance is on Calle 14). Exhibits showcase the coral reef and other marine ecosystems and more than 200 species of multicolored fish and marine creatures.

Yet another museum is set to make its debut in Playa del Carmen later this year, the Frida Kahlo Museum. Timed to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of this iconic Mexican artist, the museum will be the second of its kind in the world and will feature paintings and sketches by Frida and local artists inspired by her work.

L’Aquarium Playa del Carmen

 

A Vision in Pink

If you have never been to Rio Lagartos, the fishing village on the north coast of the Yucatan that is the gateway to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, make 2017 the year that you explore this wetland wonderland. It is home to thousands of flamingos, so many that they dye the horizon salmon pink.

Local fishermen trained as eco guides take visitors on boat trips through the ria or estuary and mangroves to the salt flats and lagoons where the flamingos feed on the minute brine shrimp that give them their bright pink plumage.

In addition to flamingos, Ria Lagartos is a refuge for 364 other species of bird and the feathered population is swelled in the winter months by migratory ducks, waders, songbirds, birds of prey and even hummingbirds that fly south to escape the colder climes of the US and Canada. During your boat trip you can expect to see herons and egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, skimmers, white and brown pelicans and hawks. You’ll spot birds any time of the day but for the greatest number of sightings plan your visit for sunrise.

Ria Lagartos Reserve owes its name to the lagartos or crocodiles often spotted in the mangroves. Other resident wildlife includes spider monkeys, jaguars, deer, coatimundi and raccoons. The shoreline is also an important nesting area for sea turtles, particularly the hawksbill or carey, the smallest of the four sea turtles found in waters around the Yucatan Peninsula.

A trip to Rio Lagartos can be combined with a visit to the colonial town of Valladolid or the archaeological site of Ek Balam, 20 minutes to the north of Valladolid.

Pink Flamingos

Nights of Mexican Caribbean Magic

For a magical Mexican Caribbean evening how about dining under the stars on board a catamaran or a Spanish galleon? Other options are a Mexican gala of music, dance and tasty cuisine, a Mayan jungle experience or a Cirque du Soleil show.

There’s something about taking to the waves to watch the sunset, enjoying a lobster dinner and cocktails and watching the moon rise in a star-studded sky. Evening cruises depart from Cancun and sail through the lagoon and the bay. Luxury yachts and catamarans also ply the Riviera Maya coast.

Xoximilco Park is the place to go for a lively Mexican fiesta of music and cuisine. Board a trajinera or colorful gondola for a cruise along canals in the jungle where musicians serenade you at every turn. Dinner is a tasty selection of some of Mexico’s most popular dishes and beer and tequila flow freely.

Cirque du Soleil’s Riviera Maya show La Joya takes its inspiration from the annual migration of the monarch butterfly, Mexican nature and history and the passing of the love of life from one generation to another. Music, art and the grace of the Cirque du Soleil performers make it an experience for the senses. Four packages are available: VIP dinner and show, dinner, champagne and show, show, champagne and hors d’oeuvres and show only.

Xoximilco

Merida, Cultural Capital of the Americas 2017

Celebrating its 475th anniversary and being named Cultural Capital of the Americas 2017, the first city to have achieved this distinction twice, Merida should be on your must-see list this year. Lonely Planet, New York Times and the Huffington Post have all recently featured the capital of the Yucatan for its colonial treasures, rich traditions, cuisine, music and the hospitality of its inhabitants.

Spend the day exploring the city’s historic heart, visiting the 16th-century Cathedral and Casa de Montejo, home of Merida’s founding family, on the main square. Then stroll along Calle 60 past more colonial churches and leafy squares to Paseo Montejo, a wide boulevard lined by opulent mansions built at the height of the henequen boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Visit Merida’s many museums and art galleries, starting with the Gran Museo de la Cultura Maya and the Regional Museum for an introduction to Mayan culture. At the City Museum, you’ll learn that Merida’s origins go way back before 1542. The Spanish conquistadores built their city amidst the ruins of a much earlier Mayan capital called T’ho.

Shop for Yucatecan and Mexican folk art in craft centers, bustling markets and eclectic boutiques and galleries. After dark, sample the delights of the Merida dining cuisine and enjoy a different cultural event every evening. The program ranges from traditional dance performances and guitar trio concerts to a Mexican evening and Merida en Domingo, an all-day gala on Sunday.

Mestizas Merida Yucatan

Have a Family Park Outing

Treat the children to a day out at one of the Riviera Maya’s famous parks on your next Cancun family vacation. There’s plenty to choose from, whether you enjoy water sports, zip lining and jungle adventures or Mexican culture.

Spend the day snorkeling at Xel-Ha or “flying” through the forest canopy at Xplor or Selvatica. Visit four cenotes in one day at Xenotes Oasis Maya, explore a pristine cave system at Rio Secreto or combine Mayan history, cenotes and jungle adventures on the Coba Encuentro Maya, Jungla Maya or Cenote Maya tours.

With an array of natural and cultural attractions including a huge aviary, aquarium, a Mexican Folk Art Museum, underground rivers to explore and a caleta or inlet for snorkelling there’s something for everyone in the family at Xcaret. Be sure to stay on for the spectacular evening show. From the days of the ancient Maya and Aztecs to the coming of the Spaniards and all that ensued, it tells the story of Mexico through music and dance. It’s so colorful, vibrant and moving that it will have you shouting “Viva Mexico” with the best of them.

Xenses, the Riviera Maya’s latest park, is a strange world of optical illusion and fantasy where nothing is as it seems and the fun is endless.

Xelha

Mayan Majesty

Famous Mayan metropolis Chichen Itza made international headlines in 2016 with the discovery of an even older pyramid hidden inside the famous Pyramid of Kukulcan. If you have visited Chichen Itza or the cliff top citadel of Tulum before, why not make 2017 the year you venture further in the Maya World?

Head inland from Tulum on the Mexican Caribbean coast to the ancient jungle city of Coba, one of the largest archaeological sites in the Maya World but also one of the least studied; 90 percent of its temples and palaces have yet to be excavated. For spectacular views of the surrounding forest and four nearby lakes, climb Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid in the northern Yucatan.
South of Tulum, the smaller site of Muyil is on the shores of a lagoon in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Exploring both sites on your Cancun family vacation is a chance to have your own jungle experience with plenty of wildlife sightings.

In the neighboring state of Yucatan, discover Ek Balam near Valladolid or pay a return visit to Chichen Itza, one of the World’s New Seven Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or is this the year that you travel further afield to the beautiful ancient city of Uxmal? Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uxmal is famous for the artistry of its stone carvings and is the largest of a chain of archaeological sites known as the Puuc Route, all an hour’s drive south of Merida.

Tulum

Off the Beaten Track

Go off the beaten track during your next trip to the Mexican Caribbean and explore the Mayan communities of central Quintana Roo and the immense Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, an area collectively known as Maya Ka’an. A collection of community tours gives you the chance to visit rural villages, meet the Maya and learn about their culture, farming, herbal medicine, cuisine and beliefs. If you enjoy nature, other trips take you deep into Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve for bird watching, kayaking, snorkeling and a look at chicle harvesting. The sap of the chicozapote tree is the natural raw ingredient for chewing gum.

Sian Kaan

Explore at your Own Pace with a Private Tour

On your next Cancun family vacation, sit back and relax, let someone else take care of the driving as you explore the area at your own pace on a private tour available through Thomas More Travel. You have a van, driver and even a bilingual guide at your disposal and you can plan your own day, spending as long in each place as you wish. Visit one of your favorite Mexican Caribbean beaches for lunch or go somewhere new. Tour desk staff will be happy to help you put together a sightseeing itinerary.

Thomas More

See more of Mexico

If you are staying in Cancun or Riviera Maya for several weeks and you would like to go somewhere different this year, why not see more of Mexico? Thomas More Travel offers getaways to some of the country’s most famous destinations and an expanding internal flight network makes regional travel easier than ever. Guided tour packages are available to cosmopolitan Mexico City, the colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Puebla, Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua and the beautiful state of Chiapas, a blend of breathtaking natural scenery, Mayan and colonial history and traditions.

Guanajuato

 

Book your 2017 Vacation Adventures with Thomas More Travel
Visit www.thomasmoretravel.com to book your 2017 vacation adventures or visit the travel desk in your resort during your stay for more tour ideas.

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