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Top 5 Off The Beaten Path Natural Wonders In The Southern Riviera Maya

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While many of us travelers are certainly familiar with the Riviera Maya destinations like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, do we know much about the smaller towns and destinations to the south? Just drive past Playa del Carmen, and you’ll find no shortage of natural wonders for any type of traveler, and they are especially appealing to those interested in ecotourism.

Tropical Palm tree with hanging swings on tropical beach near Punta Allen, Tulum in Mexico.

The southern region of Quintana Roo state just doesn’t get the same amount of attention that its northern counterpart gets. Local professionals working in the southern region have encountered international tourists that have no idea about the amazing outdoor attractions in the southern parts of the state nor how to access them. This is why we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to highlight some of those off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Visiting these wonders in 2023 means that you’ll still be able to experience them without the busy tourist crowds. Who knows how tourism will be in lesser-known parts of the southern Riviera Maya, so now is the time to discover, get out, and explore. From cenotes to lagoons and biosphere reserves, here’s our list of the top 5 off the beaten path natural wonders in the southern Riviera Maya.

Portrait of an iguana climbing a tree.

1. Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve

A crowned UNESCO site, the Banco Chinchorro is a protected biosphere reserve just outside of Mahahual in the southern section of the Mayan Riviera. Not only is some of the best coral and other sea life in the region here, but you’ll also find migratory birds, endemic iguanas, and even sunken ships that you can explore on a dive. The area is split up into Cayo Centro, Cayo Labos, and Cayo Norte. 

You can book a whole day trip of the reserve with a local dive center or another travel agency in the region. 

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@vamosabucear Tiburón gata es una especie de tiburón que habita en los fondos marinos, llega a medir hasta 4 m de largo #parati #foryou #mahahual #bancochinchorro ♬ Sleepmode – Official Sound Studio

2. Yal-Ku Lagoon

Located in Akumal, the Yal-Ku lagoon is a top natural wonder and one of the best excursions to do in the Riviera Maya. Spend a few hours (or the entire day) here soaking up the sun, snorkeling, and swimming in this massive open-air lagoon.

The lagoon is an easy day trip from Playa or Tulum, making it a perfect addition to your Riviera Maya itinerary. To visit, you can book a tour or just do your own thing – pay the entrance fee, and enjoy your time in paradise.

@natashabarnhill #YalKu #Lagoon, #Akumal, #Mexico #LiveFlowSweatDuet #traveltiktok #lesbiansoftiktok #agegapcouple @andreatyjewski1146 ♬ Paradise – Bazzi

3. El Blanquizal

Just south of Tulum near Punta Allen, El Blanquizal is definitely a more off-the-beaten-path escape in the Riviera Maya. This is a crystal-clear, calm body of water that’s actually part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. You can access it by bike about 30 minutes from Punta Allen or pass by while on a tour of the Biosphere. 


EL BLANQUIZAL PUNTA ALLEN Agencia Inmobiliaria Bienes Raíces Quintana Roo Real Estate Riviera Maya

♬ sonido original – Bienes Raíces Quintana Roo

4. Bahias de Punta Soliman

Head about 20 minutes north of Tulum, and you’ll find yourself by the Bahias de Punta Soliman, two bays just off of a secluded road where you’ll be treated to amazing views of the Caribbean Sea below. 

There are a few cafes in the area where you can get fresh fish tacos and other seafood dishes, making this a great day trip from Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Plan to spend at least a few hours exploring the area! Travelers certainly appreciate the fewer crowds and imagining what life was like in the Riviera Maya decades ago before it was a massive tourist destination.

@juanca.arellano Bahía Soliman #tulum #mexico #paradise #ocean #fyp #parati ♬ Paradise – Ikson

5. Cenote Manati

Been to the main cenotes near Cancun and want to explore somewhere different? Head to Cenote Manati, one of the top natural wonders in southern Riviera Maya. Sometimes referred to as Casa Cenote Tulum, this one is an open-air cenote that’s surrounded by a mangrove forest. Bring swimming clothes to cover your skin and you can snorkel or swim here during the day.

The entrance fee is 150 pesos, and if you’re staying at the Hotel Casa Cenote entrance is free.

Here are some tips on visiting cenotes that we recommend reading before you set off for your day of cenote hopping.

@casacolibritankah Cenote Manatí is just a couple steps from our hotel. Imagine taking a morning dip here ✨🌴#tulum #tulumbeach #cenotes #cenotemanatí #swimming #snorkeling #freedivegirl ♬ No Place – RÜFÜS DU SOL

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Monday 6th of February 2023

You guys forgot to mention Panchito, a crocodile who lives in casa cenote 😅