Living in Playa del Carmen has a certain feel and allure that can sometimes seem indescribable. Playa has been growing so fast the last 10 years and yet it still somehow achieves to maintain its quaintness; and preserve its natural wonders, which are discovered on daily basis. One of those wonderful places is Río Secreto.
Rio Secreto was discovered in 2007, by a man who stumbled upon a hole in the ground, and set out to explore it. He did not know at this time, however, that he was discovering the longest, partially sunken, underground river system in the Yucatan Peninsula; reaching about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) long and 15 outlets within different areas. It was formed over the centuries and is a very stunning yet fragile lime stone formation.
Do I need to be a cave diver to enjoy this reserve to the fullest?
Unlike most of the caves found across the Yucatan Peninsula, which are completely flooded, and consequently making it completely necessary to acquire special dive training to explore them, Río Secreto is unique because it is only partially flooded, not requiring special diving certification. There are even some areas you can walk on dry soil, making the experience of passing from one gallery to the other much more interesting, since you don´t really know what you may encounter!
Prepare to be amazed and learn something new about these mystical caves at the same time!
The adventure starts right at the entrance of the park. You jump into a van and they drive you on a dusty road deeper in the jungle until you get to the entrance of the cave. Here you will find bathrooms, changing rooms and a locker area where you will get geared up in a special wetsuit, water shoes, a helmet specially equipped with a lamp on it (like a pro) and life jacket. Then a Mayan Shaman will say a prayer for the group that is about to go in; and safety instructions will be provided at that time as well. Then you can be on your way! It should be noted that large groups are not allowed to enter all at the same time.
Once you get into the cave, your guide makes the whole experience incredibly unique. They will show you the different types of rock formations, which do not stay on simple stalactites and stalagmites. You will discover curtains, towers and helectites; you can even see the roots of ancient trees making their way into the rocks to get water from the river! You will notice many different colors on the rocks due to the minerals they contain. It truly is a surprisingly alive new world!
Throughout the tour, your guide will answer every question you may have, and will give you directions on where to stand and what you are allowed (or not allowed) to touch, always keeping in mind that this is an ultra-fragile environment.
At some point you enter a dome full of stalactites at which point your guide will ask you to float and turn off your flash lights… I cannot tell you how this experience ends but I can only say that there´s nothing like it, trust me on this!
After a long tour, let´s go for a bite!
Once you end the tour, you are both happy and hungry! That´s why after you are out of the caves and change into your dry clothes, you´ll get to go to the Palapa and find a very tasteful and nutritive buffet dinner including soup, salads, a variety of mexican dishes, sweets and drinks. And why not relax for a while on a hammock, next to the Palapa, before heading back to your van to leave?
Rio Secreto is definitely a MUST do if you are visiting the Riviera Maya and/or living in Playa del Carmen! It is comforting to know that just a few miles south of your home, you can enter a magical underwater world!
If you are living in Playa del Carmen and want to know more about what there is to do in the area, be sure to follow our special Playa del Carmen blog.
-By Bea Lozano