I was told once… all the greatest adventures begin just as unique as they truly are! So this one is no different…here, before you even enter this world, a local shaman will perform a sacred Maya cleansing ritual while using smoke, asking their death gods for permission so you could enter their domain. Only then you can turn on your headlights, dive into a mysterious dark place and discover its secrets.
If you would just close your eyes for a moment and imagine stepping back in time, you would find yourself surrounded by turquoise water clashes with honey-colored rock formations within the most spectacular underground cave. Congrats! You can absolutely do that if you keep reading.
I’m so excited you are here with me on this majestic journey through the past and ready to explore this one of a kind underground river decorated with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. The Secret River is a great wonder of the world and for sure not without a reason.
Why is this ‘a must’ tour in Mayan Riviera?
Well, if wondering through darkness doesn’t hook you, how about I tell you that you will enjoy swimming, floating and crawling surrounded by all these stalactites and stalagmites in this ancient and unique natural wonder…is that good enough? Or perhaps that you will have a unique chance to explore history which is dating from millions of years back.
I hope you got a sense of why this tour should be on the top of your bucket list if you are visiting Mayan Riviera, Mexico.
This amazing adventure is led by a trained and very informative guide in small groups (max of 10 people), where you will get a chance to learn how the caves are formed and experience true silence among some of the most sensational mineral formations the world has ever seen.
When the cave was discovered?
Records showed that local Mayan people have known about this cave system hundreds of years ago. But what did they used these caves for? Well, for the Maya these were the holiest places in the world, just as Christians and Jews consider the city of Jerusalem or for Muslims that is the holy city of Mecca. Here they have performed their rituals – sacrifice of animals and humans to please their gods. It may sound bizarre to us nowadays, but did you know that you can still meet some of the Maya people across Central America? So if you do, make sure you ask all questions you have…I know, I would.
Hm…what happened then? Sadly to say, this rock formation dated back 2.5 million years remained hidden from the newer generations… until the cave was discovered in 2004 by the persistent farmer who didn’t want to let go of an iguana, so after chasing one, he ended up discovering this true nature of wander. Should we thank an iguana or a farmer? That’s no longer a question, we are simply grateful that this mystical world is now open for us.
After formal cave exploration in 2006, the cave was successfully opened to the public in 2008. But… bizarreness doesn’t stop here! Although the entire cave system is long almost 38km, only 10% is used for us curious travelers, while the rest of it is secluded for further research and conservation. Therefore, after so many centuries, the largest part of this wonderful scenery still remains mysterious.
The most memorable moment for me…
Without thinking even for a second, I would say “the minute of silence”, when we reached out to the largest cenote and the tour guide asked to turn off the headlight and remain silent for one minute… which took us deep into the past revealing us just a glimpse of Mayan people’s rituals. Oh, that was such a marvelous feeling!
Complete darkness and silence accompanied with the occasional sound of water drop falling were at least to say one magnificent feeling mixed with anxiety and foreignness…something you will never forget.
What do I wish I'd known before coming on the tour?
In short…I would be so happy if I didn’t have to come here carrying so much stuff playing as an over-packed donkey… if you know what I mean. Luckily, you can just play by yourself and bring only a bathing suit, change of clothes and loads of excitement, because everything else will be provided at the park (beach towel, wet suit, water shoes, helmet with headlight, life vest).
There are also lockers, showers, a gift shop and a restaurant…so pretty much all you need.
Please note that cameras are not allowed inside the cave, but their amazing photographers will capture these moments for you, so be sure you check them out and purchase a photo package worth every penny.
Do’s and Don’ts from my personal experience…
- Carry with you only what you really need, lockers are regular size, so don’t expect to fit in a gigantic bag,
- Rio Secreto team is doing their best to keep the area as pristine as possible, so please don’t touch or for god sake don’t chop off stalactites and stalagmites while inside the cave. I know some people are burning with curiosity, but this is not the place to release it all!
- Watch out for your step all the time! Yes, you will follow the path of your tour guide, still…the cave floor is continuously changing and some areas are a bit slippery,
- Indulge with all your heart and relish to the maximum. This is one of a kind experience, so take advantage of being a part of it!
- Water is quite cold, so make sure you don’t say no to a stylish wetsuit offered in the park,
- Let check out available tour combos and enrich your overall experience.
How to get there…
Rio Secreto is located about 15 min drive from Playa Del Carmen, one hour drive from Cancun and 45 min from Tulum.
If you are staying on Cozumel Island, you can also take the ferry to Playa Del Carmen (45 min ride) and an additional 15 min drive will bring you to this magnificent wonder of nature.
Will you take a taxi or rent a car? That’s on you to decide.
If I can be totally honest with you, this has been an unforgettable experience for me even after visiting several other caves all around the world. After all, it is one of those tours I’m always so proud to recommend knowing that people will simply love it!
Remind yourself why as a child you loved so much to watch ‘The Goonies’ movie and show your kids a live adventure. They will be thrilled!
Have you visited the Rio Secreto or any other cave system that left you speechless? Share with us in the comments…we are all eager to hear about the unfamiliar wonders of nature.
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