On the Eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, 80 or so very special miles of palm-infused, sugar-sand beach is known as the Riviera Maya. This postcard-perfect stretch of paradise is bathed by the warm, turquoise-green, clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, and graced by over 200 days of sunshine and balmy tropical weather each year. The primary communities along the Riviera Maya include Cancún, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, and Tulúm. The Riviera Maya is my home, and not only is it a spectacular place to live, but it’s also easy to support a healthy lifestyle here.
1. On The Ground
With year-round warm weather, your wardrobe can be simple and casual. Shorts, sneakers, T-Shirts, or polo shirts are the norm, allowing for plenty of air circulation and freedom of movement. (It’s not tough to spend the entire day in swimwear, either!) There is an almost limitless amount of activities available here that provide natural exercise and fun.
Bicycling is quite popular, with several cycling clubs conducting group rides and competitions monthly. It’s also easy to simply strike out on your own, enjoying a modern and well maintained bike trail that runs through a large portion of Cancún’s hotel zone, all the way to the airport. And bikes are easy to rent, if you don’t already have your own. Numerous guided jungle-trail rides are available, too. Just contact one of the many bike shops in Cancún, Playa del Carmen, or Tulúm for details.
There are also nine beautiful golf courses in the area, as well as numerous tennis courts. If you’re inclined toward something a little less strenuous, but still healthy, you will often see groups of morning trail walkers hustling along, taking advantage of cooler morning temperatures. It’s better to knock out a few miles and enjoy a bit of socializing before the sun gets too high in the sky.
2. On the Water
Just offshore of the Rivera Maya is the world’s second-largest living reef system. Divers and snorkelers take full advantage of the proximity of the reef to the mainland and the clarity of the water. An abundance of dive boats and snorkel tours operate from numerous locations along this stretch of shoreline, and enthusiasts travel from across the globe to experience one of the world’s best diving environments.
Fishing of all types is also a favorite activity, from trolling for Marlin, Sailfish, or Mahi-Mahi offshore, to paddling a kayak into the mangrove areas in lagoons. Kayakers can be regularly seen on the calm waters of Nichupte Lagoon enjoying the abundance of birds and spotting tropical fish in the clear waters, while also getting a good workout. With an interesting shoreline, blending jungle, mangroves, and the urban environment of Cancún, you can easily spend hours on the water while enjoying constantly changing scenery. And the water is so clear you can see the bottom some 15 to 20 feet below, along with many tropical fish and the occasional, lurking Barracuda.
Add in jet skis, wake boarding, parasailing, surfing, and kite boarding, and you could feasibly never leave the beach.
3. Indulge in Healthy Food
As the Caribbean’s most popular destination, Cancún alone has more than 750 restaurants, offering world-class fare in every category. A large open market in Cancún-centro offers a large selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and all manner of spices and seasonings that can be purchased in bulk. Butcher shops also provide fresh cuts and fish merchants offer the fresh catches of the day. As you might expect, touristy restaurants will reflect upscale offerings with prices to match, while small, local restaurants serve good local food at greatly reduced prices; and it’s all very healthy, using fresh ingredients.
We enjoy many great restaurants in the area and have our favorites, but we buy fresh ingredients and do most of our cooking at home. During the heat of the summer, a large fresh salad is often the main course for our evening meal.
4. Hiking: Urban and Cenote Explorations
When most folks think of hiking, visions of wooded trails, rushing streams, and mountain passes often come to mind, perhaps with an evening or two spent around a camp fire. Hiking and camping along the Riviera Maya is another popular activity, but the terrain offers no heavy woodlands. I often see hikers who have pitched a tent or strung a hammock on one of the local beaches I visit each morning with my dog. All beaches are open to the public, while access to the beaches is often private. Beach hiking or beach combing can almost always deliver a prize to the observant hiker. I have a small collection of my finds including unusual shells and stunning cypress roots that look like an artist’s prize sculpture.
Other favorite and healthy activities include urban hikes, learning about the nooks and crannies of the city. Most cities have guide books and it seems like there is always another interesting store, café, museum, cenote (underground cave), or Maya ruin we haven’t explored. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
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