When traveling to destinations like Riviera Maya, Mexico of course staying at a nice resort is key. The Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa certainly delivers on that front with a wonderful oceanfront property, spacious rooms, a decadent spa and delicious dining choices but I’m always looking for a little taste of the place I’m visiting. Nexus Tours can give you a piece of that.
Based in Cancun, NEXUS has a tour office located right in the Royalton Riviera Cancun making it easy to plan exciting excursions whether that’s shopping, adventure or cultural. On my recent visit with Sunwings Vacation I was give a little taste of adventure and history.
Discover A Little Mexican History
Seeing architectural features in books and movies is amazing. The design, manpower and craftsmanship that go into some of these buildings is mind blowing. I attended two different architectural tours, one to Chichen Itza and another in Tulum. Most tours are organized in large groups on a tour bus if your budge allows I would definitely opt for the smaller tour groups. The van is smaller and small number of participants allows the tour to be customized a bit for your needs and provides freedom to ask questions and start conversations.
Our Chichen Itza tour left early in the morning since the drive from the Royalton Riviera Cancun was about 2 hours one way. It was nice to have a To-Go breakfast packed and waiting for us in the van.
The size of the pyramid in Chichen Itza is impressive and the history behind its design, using the structure as a calendar, is even more fascinating. At one time you could walk up the structure but it has since been closed off to preserve the building’s integrity.
I think the kids would find the The Great Ball Court interesting, like an early basketball type game. It actually reminded me of the Pyramid game in Battlestar Galactica. Not sure kids would be keen on winning their game since the leader on the winning team would be decapitated by choice to honour the gods.
Although Chichen Itza was interesting to visit I think kids would enjoy Tulum far more should you only have time for one architectural visit. This property is much closer to the Royalton (about 1 hour compared to the 2 hours to Chichen Itza and the roads aren’t smooth).
Tulum’s seaport landscape and location I found to be far more interesting. The buildings appear at various levels, giving you steps and pathways galore to walk around compared to the very flat and open Chichen Itza. It’s like a life-size fort and kids will love that.
When you’re done exploring the grounds of Tulum you can enjoy the small beach down below the cliff edge if the tide is in your favour, another bonus to this destination when traveling with kids. It’s like the reward after finishing homework.
Family Travel Tips:
- When enjoying any of the outside tours you might want to pack a small umbrella or poncho in a backpack in case the rain shows up. Our small tour group provided us with umbrellas when we had a short shower and the Royalton Resort and Spa included an umbrella in our room too.
- Tulum isn’t as developed as Chichen Itza so the washroom facilities aren’t the best, as in no toilet seats in the stales, so plan to go before the trip if you can.
- Avoid souvenir shopping on site since many items are imported knock-offs
- Wear hats and sunscreen and bring some water as both spots can get rather hot during the day.
- Avoid bored or cranky kids with a little planning ahead of time: talk about the site and see what areas interest them most when you visit, put together a short scavenger hunt to find key structures or features, or maybe try a photo tour giving kids disposable cameras to capture their perspective.
Discover a Little Mexican Adventure
If you’re like me and love the idea of doing something adventurous but not too risky (like when I tried indoor sky diving), then you should checkout the NEXUS tour to Rio Secreto.
Layered in your swimsuit (there’s a change room on site), diving suit, water shoes, life jacket and helmet with headlamp (all provided on site), you will head into the jungle to explore the underground water caverns.
After a 10-minute walk through the woods on a worn path (not paved) we reached some cement steps that took us down to the cave entrance. Even the first part of the cavern walk was on a paved walkway but when we reached sand and a small pool of water we knew our adventure was about to begin.
This isn’t a diving expedition but a walking one with some swimming. You are lead by a guide in small groups, walking (slowly as the ground is uneven and you’re not allowed to touch the walls or anything else for stability) through pools as shallow at your ankle to water deep enough to swim.
The water depth varied from shallow to deep to shallow again as we followed our guide through the amazing cavern. Since we couldn’t bring a camera with us, the folks at Rio Secreto had a photographer accompany us and took random and staged shots of the group. The whole experience was pretty incredible, especially swimming below low hanging stalactites.
Rio Secreto is listed as a family-friendly activity, however the length of the tour, the activity involved, and the darkness might be too much for young family members. I would lean toward tweens and teens but it depends on your own child’s ability and comfort level. It’s not a strenuous adventure but you are walking on a lot of uneven surfaces without using the walls to balance yourself (you’re not allowed to touch the surfaces inside the cavern to keep it preserved). Basically since the stalagmites and stalactites you will see on your adventure took thousands of years to form, the big rule is not touching. There is some maneuvering from different ground levels as the water level changes from around your ankles to swim depth and some places you have to walk crouched over or climb through small areas.
I noticed they do offer walking sticks for those who think they will have trouble with balance but I think these would cause more problems once in the caverns, especially as you try to maneuver through tight spaces. I think it’s better to just move slow on your own. Your guide will wait or help you in tricky areas.
The one thing to remember is to look up, left and right. It’s easy to spend so much time looking down at your feet trying to navigate your next step that you’ll miss the amazing beauty within these caverns. I loved this whole experience but swimming in the low caverns was my favourite part. It was pretty exhilarating and just my type of controlled risk.
Before we changed out of our gear we were offered a shot of Xtabentun liquor at the end (which reminded me of cough syrup but it did offer a warming affect). Once changed, we followed our guide to a group table to enjoy a buffet of local dishes before heading on the bumpy road back home.
Family Travel Tips:
- Use your own judgement when determining which family members to bring on this excursion. The caves are dark and there is some climbing, swimming, and crouching without touching the walls or ceiling.
- As with all things in nature there are creatures in the caves such as bats and spiders. These creatures we not obvious to us and in areas off the path but our guide would call them out.
- Don’t put on sunscreen or make-up before your visit. You will be required to take shower (in your swimsuit) to wash off any oils, products or chemicals on your skin to avoid contaminating the water source.
- You won’t be able to bring a camera, phone or any device into the park area so unless you need them, leave them at the hotel. You are given a locker to put your valuables when you change. The tour will have a photographer on hand to take photos of your visit (both group and individual shots) which you can pick-up at the end of the tour on CD.
- Bring a plastic bag or towel to wrap your wet suit in for the ride home.
Rain Day Agenda
If you’re lucky your holiday will be rain-free but on the odd occasion that rain strikes, like it did for me, I have the perfect way to spend your day. Plan to visit the Rio Secreto tour, you’re going to get wet anyway and it’s one excursion that won’t be hindered by the rain. On your return to the Royalton Riviera Cancun enjoy a tropical cocktail in their spacious lobby. Rain or not the view will be spectacular. Follow-up with a visit to the spa for a massage and the hydrotherapy circuit. The water therapy pools on their own are amazing.
All three of these excursions we booked through NEXUS Tours which happens to have a tour office right on site at the Royalton Riviera Cancun. When we were flying with Sunwing we were offered the chance to pre-book tours for a discount.
My excursions were provided for the purpose of this review though the opinions expressed are purely my own.