White-sand beaches bordered by pristine jungle areas, freshwater cenotes and Maya archaeological sites The Riviera Maya is an area stretching south of Cancun 130 miles along the Yucatan's Caribbean coast. The 90-mile shoreline features white-sand beaches bordered by pristine jungle areas, freshwater cenotes and Maya archaeological sites. Offshore, this area shares a similar reef structure with Cozumel, just 12 miles across the channel. Near shore there are shallow reefs at Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, which are excellent for beginners. There is also drift diving and further offshore the Chinchorro Banks.You can even combine your diving with topside entertainment at Xcaret eco-archaeological park. Part nature preserve, part theme park and part water park, Xcaret has a self-contained PADI dive center on site. Xel-Ha is a similar park near Tulum. Both have inner-tube river rides, beachfront, Maya ruins, restaurants and swim-with-dolphins adventures.South of Tulum is the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, which includes hiking trails and rare animals such as jaguars, ocelots, margay, howler monkeys, tapirs and peccaries. There are also more than 350 species of birds, including toucans, ibis and endangered jabiru storks. The Reserve covers 1.5 million acres of rugged terrain comprising beaches, mangrove swamps, hardwood forests, savanna plains, lagoons, canals and more than 25 Mayan archeological sites.The best-known attraction here, however, is the cenotes. These freshwater holes have opened to the surface when the tops of limestone caves collapsed. They are decorated with stalactites and stalagmites that boggle the imagination. These open ports, considered sacred by the Mayans, connect with perhaps the largest cave and tunnel system in the world.Cancun airport is serviced by American, Mexicana, AeroMexico, Continental, Northwest, USAirways and TWA. Money is the Mexican peso US$1 = P9.50.
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