Only 1-hour from Cancun International Airport is an 81-mile stretch of Mexican Caribbean coastline known as Riviera Maya. The destination is home to a large variety of meeting/event venues, gastronomic options, nightlife and recreation. For planners, the city includes 640,000-sf of meeting space with capacity for more than 40,000-pax. During a recent visit, we toured the area with Riviera Maya Tourism to learn more about offsite activities and cool venues within the Mexican destination.
After swimming in the sparkling waters, sampling the spicy Mexican cuisine and exploring the busy city streets, we rounded up our top five reasons to book meetings and events in Riviera Maya.
#1 Jaguar Cenote
All Tour Native DMC guides groups of 22 through the Mayan woodlands, about 1-hour outside of Tulum. You’ll hop over rocks and muddy trails as you make your way through the green canopies. You’ll arrive around a gated hole in the earth, where traditional Mayan locals will bless you in their native language before you propel down the 40-ft sinkhole. The authentic ceremony is performed by a Mayan Shaman and includes herbal copal incense. Once you are strapped into the harness, use the ladder to guide your feet through the darkness. Once the latter ends, your instincts will kick-in as you guide yourself down into 100 feet of cool freshwater.
“We teach the whole group how to easily and safely propel down into the sinkhole,” says Pablo Guia of All Tour Native. “It’s great for a group of about 20 because they share the space together and enjoy the cool water.” Guia says that it’s a successful teambuilding activity since all members cheer each other on as they make their way down.
One by one attendees float on inner tubes around the cave-like cenote. You’ll see bats sweep across the dark dome and brown moss strands hanging down from the ceiling. As you look down into the abyss, a bright turquoise reflection of light shoots up from the floor. It’s a magical and unforgettable experience.
#2 Laguna Chabela
Hike down a marked trail through the Mexican jungle near Tulum to meet Elias and Doña Aurelia Cahum, a Mayan family that continues to live life in the ways of their ancestors. Tour and observe a traditional Mayan home that is made of wood with rocks at the base and a thatched roof. Guia will explain that the families who live in this way have a much stronger lifespan since they eat and live organically. The Cahum family have lived within the village for three generations. As you make your way up to the small hut, you may be greeted by a family of puppies and cats and hear sounds of turkeys housed in an adjacent hut. Doña Aurelia may prepare fresh tortillas that she made from scratch on a small fire within the home. The interior is clean and simple, with a large hammock for sleeping and an old acoustic guitar to pass the time. Guia speaks several languages, including that of the Mayan family and is happy to translate and teach key vocabulary.
Tour the archaeological ruins of the Mayans, dating back to 1200 AD. The village is comprised into three zones: the Tahkah, Tulum and Xel-Ha. The village of Tankah-Tulum zone is filled with gorgeous grasslands along a cliff overlooking stunning views of the Caribbean and the worlds second largest coral reef. Guia and his team will escort group members from tomb to tomb, describing the functionality and design of the ancient temples.
#4 Playa Del Carmen
After a meeting or day of recreation, groups head into Playa Del Carmen for a night of dancing and socializing. Explore 12th Street, the main strip of entertainment with trendy bars, action-packed nightclubs. Highlights include the impressive fire show at the Blue Parrot or the live performances at Coco Bongo. For a more relaxing night, try one of the specialty cocktails on the rooftop at Mandala.
For group meals, head to the 200-seat Yaxche restaurant, serving traditional Mayan cuisine in the center of Playa del Carmen. The eatery includes a private dining room for 100 and an outdoor terrace for buyout. Begin the meal with a traditional Chaya plant drink, sweetened with banana and pineapples. Afterwards, dive into a deep bowl of lime soup, with pulled chicken, lime juice and cilantro. All menu selections are based on local recipes and ingredients. The chef will customize a variety of sampler platters of venison tacos and avocado wraps with green chiles.
#5 Riu Hotels & Resorts
In 2011, Riu Hotels & Resorts opened the $2.5 million Riu Playacar Convention Center, servicing meetings and incentive groups staying at the area’s six all-inclusive Riu hotels: Riu Palace Mexico, Riu Palace Maya, Riu Playacar, Riu Yucatan, Riu Lupita and Riu Tequila. The properties offer a total of 2,700 guestrooms and 8,000-sf of meeting space. This year, the Riu Palace Mexico and Riu Yucatan unveiled new renovations, completely modernizing and upgrading all public spaces and guestrooms. All properties include all-inclusive F&B and drink services for attendees.