One of the highlights of any Mexico itinerary is visiting the cenotes in Riviera Maya. Cenotes are underground sinkholes and complex cave systems found all over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Some of these cenotes extend for miles underground and are sunken or semi-sunken, which makes them a paradise for cavers and adventure seekers. Since moving to Mexico, we’ve explored so many cenotes — and the cenote system that stands out the most is Rio Secreto.
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Unexplored Underground Cave: Rio Secreto Mexico
Located just a few miles away from Playa del Carmen, Río Secreto is the least known of Riviera Maya’s cenote systems. While other similar caves in the Yucatan Peninsula require specialized training in cave diving to explore, Río Secreto is semi-sunken, which makes it easily accessible.
The thing that struck me the most about Río Secreto was how unspoiled it was. Being discovered only a few years ago by a 80-year-old man, Río Secreto was only opened to the public in 2007 as a protected nature reserve. Having been to several caves in different parts of the world, I’ve seen most of them eventually becoming a commercialized tourist attraction.
While this kind of experience might be interesting to some, it is not what Río Secreto is about. There are no artificial lights inside the caves other than some scattered wireless flashes and there is an active effort from the authorities to conserve this largely unexplored cave system.
Discovering Río Secreto’s Secrets
As we made our way through the underground river with the help of Dante, our passionate and experienced guide, we slowly discovered some of the secrets that have been buried underground for hundreds of years.
Dante recently found a spot near one of the entrances where big concentrations of clay can be found on the ground. For years, researchers have been wondering where ancient Mayans collected the clay found in temples and ancient cities in the area. This could be the very spot where ancient Mayans used to get this material for their constructions.
Another one of Dante’s discoveries was even more surprising. He brought us to a hollow, oddly shaped rock, somewhat resembling the remains of a pterodactyl. Although it seems physically impossible for a pterodactyl to be here (the whole Yucatan Peninsula was submerged below water when these dinosaurs were around), there are plans to further study this strange formation and there might be some surprises coming up.
Pitch Black Experience
At one point during our journey, our guide got us to sit down, turn off our headlamps and remain silent for a few minutes. The darkness fell upon us like a mysterious veil, removing all sense of place and awareness of our surroundings. The absolute silence was only eventually disturbed by the flapping of a bat’s wings as it passed above our heads.
After experiencing what it feels like to be inside this special place, it’s no wonder why ancient Mayas had such respect for these caves, considering them the entrance to another world.
Planning A Trip around Mexico?
Rio Secreto is just one of the many things to do in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. The region is packed to the brim with adventure pursuits, like snorkeling in Cenotes, swimming with whale sharks and visiting Mayan ruins.
If you intend to explore more of Mexico, check out our detailed 2-week Mexico itinerary that packs in the best of the country.
Read my articles on Mexico below:
- Moving to Mexico
- My 2-Week Mexico Itinerary
- 35 Things to Do in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
- 3 days in Mexico City
- 20 Fun Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico
- 15 Cool Things to Do in Cozumel, Mexico