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Yucatan Peninsula Adventure: Kayak, Snorkel and Explore the Land of the Maya

Program Number: 21189RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/2/2015 - 2/10/2015; 10/24/2016 - 11/1/2016; 11/7/2016 - 11/15/2016; 1/21/2017 - 1/29/2017; 2/4/2017 - 2/12/2017; 2/18/2017 - 2/26/2017; 3/4/2017 - 3/12/2017;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: Mexico
Price starting at: $2,661.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Multi-Sport Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 19; 8 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

On Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the might of the Maya seems to live on in the power of nature. On an adventure that takes you into the tropical rainforest and along the “Mayan Riviera,” exhilarating activities include climbing a soaring pyramid, swimming in a sacred cenote, kayaking stunning waterways, snorkeling in an underground cave, zipping through the jungle canopy and encountering monkeys, birds and colorful fish.


• Kayak on the canals of Sian Ka’an, a UNESCO biosphere reserve that protects a huge variety of wildlife.
• Delve into the story of the Mayans as you discover the archaeological sites of Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum.
• Snorkel the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, home to hundreds of species of brightly colored fish.

Activity Particulars

Walking for two-plus hours, snorkeling, kayaking, zip lining.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Cancún, 1 night; coach to Chichen Itza, 2 nights; coach to Tulum, 3 nights; coach to Playa del Carmen, 2 nights; coach to Cancún for departure.

Flight from U.S.
Arrival Cancún
1 night
Coach to Chichen Itza
2 nights

Begin in Cancún on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, where your Road Scholar group leader prepares you for adventures to follow. Travel inland to the colonial city of Valladolid to find a lovely plaza and Spanish convent. Continue to the spectacular Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, which include imposing pyramids and the Great Ball Court. Take a swim in the beautiful cenote (natural sinkhole) Ik Kil, considered sacred by the Mayans.

Coach to Tulum
3 nights

Search for energetic spider monkeys and howler monkeys in Punta Laguna Nature Reserve. At the Mayan site of Coba, examine ruins quite different in style from those at Chichen Itza and, if you like, climb to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid. Kayak the calm canals of Sian Ka’an, a biosphere reserve that protects a huge variety of wildlife. Explore the walled Mayan city of Tulum beside the Caribbean. Snorkel in the caves of Cenote Nohoch for an up-close look at multihued stalactites and stalagmites.

Coach to Playa del Carmen
2 nights
Coach to Cancún for departure

Visit the Selvática Eco-Park for a rainforest adventure that includes gliding through the jungle on a zip line and walking on hanging bridges. Snorkel the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, home to 500 different species of fish. Share a farewell dinner complete with traditional mariachi music.


The oldest of the land’s found by Europeans in the New World, Mexico has endured a rough history at the hands of Cortes and subsequent invaders. Despite a turbulent past, the country maintains its relaxed and inviting charm with a mix of modern and traditional from its industrious cities to its captivating wildernesses.

Cancun: Airport hotel. Chichen Itza: Resort. Tulum: Beach hotel. Playa del Carmen: Hotel near beach.
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard Marriott Cancun
  Cancun, Mexico 1 night
   Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
  Chichen Itza, Mexico 2 nights
   Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel
  Tulum, Mexico 3 nights
   Hacienda Real Caribe
  Playa del Carmen, Mexico 2 nights
 Courtyard Marriott Cancun
Type: Hotel
  Description: This new hotel provides guests with excellent service, spacious rooms and open public areas. One of the most important highlights of this property is its location, only 5 minutes from Cancun International Airport. Courtyard by Marriott Cancun offers a free shuttle to its beach club, and also to Cancun's downtown area.
  Contact info: Bvl. Luis Donaldo Colosio Km. 12.5 Lte. 1 SMZA.301
Quintana Roo,   Mexico
phone: +52 -998-2872200
  Room amenities: High speed internet access, desk, a large LCD TV, and air-conditioning.
  Facility amenities: The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving a variety of delicious dishes. El Henequen resembles an old elegant ''Hacienda'' from the Yucatan Peninsula. The hotel also features a swimming pool.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to availability. Please contact your program provider, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for information on availability and rates.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Type: Resort
  Description: Mayaland was the first hotel built at Chichen Itza (1923) and its architectural style is reminiscent of the grand haciendas of the Old Yucatan. The main building was designed by Sylvanus G. Morley, the head of the Carnegie expedition that rebuilt Chichen Itza in the 1920's. Old-fashioned charm, modern amenities, and beautiful gardens (100 acres) are a welcome treat after a day of explorations in Chichen Itza.
  Contact info: Next to the Chichen Itza archaeological park
Chichen Itza,   Mexico
phone: +800-2354079
  Room amenities: Spacious air-conditioned rooms with en suite bathrooms. Each room has mosquito nets over each bed, ceiling fan, satellite TV, mini bar, and hair dryer. Safety deposit boxes are not available in the rooms; however, there are safety deposit boxes available for guest use at the hotel's front desk. Please inquire upon check-in.
  Facility amenities: Pools, four restaurants, convention hall, masseuse, craft shop, tennis courts, interconnected paths, over five kilometers of trails, laundry service, planetarium, and golf cart service. The hotel has a private entrance to the Chichen Itza Archaeological Park.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Beach front property located 4.6 miles from the Tulum archaeological site and half a mile from the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Thatched roofed bungalows have private porches with views of the beach or the tropical gardens.
  Contact info: Carr Tulum Boca Paila Km 7 5
Tulum,  00000 Mexico
phone: +52 -998 8873205
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, porch, telephone.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, tour desk, gift shop, safety deposit boxes, beach access, yoga room with daily classes, cenote, and spa services.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Hacienda Real Caribe
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Hacienda Real Caribe is an attractive, medium-sized property located in the northern section of Playa del Carmen just two-blocks from the beach. Playa del Carmen's Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), and all of its great shops and restaurants, is within easy walking distance. The hotel is about 45-60 minutes by car from Cancun's international airport.
  Contact info: Avenida 10 con Calle 10
Colonia Centro
Playa del Carmen, QROO,  77710 Mexico
phone: +52 -984-873-3130
  Room amenities: Rooms have air conditioning, ceiling fan, direct-dial phone, cable TV, clock radio, tile floors, in-room safe, minibar, and hair dryer. Balconies have city views or look onto the inner courtyard and pool.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, bar, pool, complimentary WiFi, room service, 24-hr front desk, currency exchange, elevators, and ballrooms.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Subject to availability. Room type and price is subject to hotel availability. Please contact your program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or for assistance in booking additional hotel nights.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Arrivals into the Cancun International Airport. Hotel check-in starts at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Cancun that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Cancun International Airport. Hotel check-out by 12 p.m. You will be staying at Hacienda Real Caribe the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Cancun
  Transportation to site: The Courtyard Marriot Cancun offers a complimentary airport shuttle service from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Participants wishing to use this service should contact the hotel for more details. Taxi services are available at the Cancun International Airport. Payment can be made in U.S. dollars.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Playa del Carmen
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available for hire at the hotel. Please ask for assistance at the hotel's front desk.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Flights from the U.S./Arrivals in Cancun, Yucatan.
(Monday, February 2)
 Arrive To: International flight arrivals in Cancun, Mexico. Transfer to your hotel and check-in, followed by time at leisure.
Note: Please note that this is an international travel day and does not include any meals or program activities. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m.
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Cancun

Day 2: Program Orientation/Walking Exploration of Valladolid/Transfer to Chichen Itzá.
(Tuesday, February 3)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Join your group leader in a stretching session by the hotel swimming pool before boarding our bus for a 2.5-hour drive to Valladolid. Upon arrival in Valladolid, enjoy a guided walking exploration of the city. Visit the main plaza and Bernandino Convent before stopping for lunch.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, transfer to Chichén Itzá (approx. 45 min).
Chichén Itzá is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, without question, one of the nation's best and most visited Maya ruins. The magnificent architectural and sculptural splendor of the city reflects a blend of cultural influences including Maya, Toltec, and Itzá.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Before dinner, enjoy a lecture on the history of the Yucatan and the Mayan calendar.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at the hotel's garden restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Chichén Itzá Maya Ruins/Cenote Ik Kil/Learning the Merengue/Planetarium show.
(Wednesday, February 4)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Meet in the hotel gardens for a stretching session with your group leader. After warming up, walk to the archaeological ruins at Chichén Itzá. Explore the impressive temples, ball court, and observatory found in the city complex.

El Castillo, the 80-foot pyramid that dominates the complex, is actually a sophisticated calendar. There are four stairways on El Castillo, each with 91 steps, adding up to a total of 365 steps--the number of days in a year. Each year during the spring and autumn equinoxes, shadows form numerous triangles that create the shape of a serpent. As the days come closer to the spring equinox, the serpent gradually climbs the pyramid. When the shadows return in September, the shape of the serpent creeps down the face of El Castillo.

Near El Castillo is Chichén Itzá's great ball court--the largest of its kind in Mexico. This official Maya sport had an interesting way of honoring its victors. At the close of each game, the captain of the winning team was decapitated as a sacrifice to the gods!

Before lunch, we will drive two miles to Cenote Ik Kil to take a refreshing dip in its cool waters.

Cenotes are water-filled, limestone sinkholes found in the Yucatán and some Caribbean sites. Cenotes were an important source of freshwater for the Maya living in the Yucatán Peninsula. They were also believed to be the gateways to the afterlife and were treated as sacred sites.
 Lunch: Lunch at Cenote Ik Kil.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, enjoy some time at your leisure to relax by the pool, catch up on your reading or maybe explore the hotel trails.

Before dinner, enjoy a fun merengue lesson in the hotel gardens.

Merengue music has an upbeat tropical sound that ranges from slow and romantic to fast, techno-infused pieces. Although the music has evolved into various forms, the distinct two-beat rhythm remains. Closely related to the salsa, the merengue is often felt to be an easier dance to teach since its footwork and sequences are less complicated. Partners face each other, in a closed position, moving in a circular pattern and simultaneously stepping and swaying to the music.
 Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.
 Evening: Planetarium show: Tales of the Maya Skies.
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland
Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve/Cobá Town and Maya Ruins.
(Thursday, February 5)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: This morning we will take a 2 hour drive to the Punta Laguna Spider Monkey Reserve for a guided forest trek. For the next hour and a half, we will learn about local flora and fauna while walking on forest trails. Be on the look out for spider monkeys and howler monkeys--the main stars of this little-known park.

Although the small and unassuming nature sanctuary is known for protecting hundreds of black-handed spider monkeys and a lesser number of howler monkeys, it also provides a safe haven for all nature of native wildlife and flora. An exploration of the forest trails reveals tall ceiba trees, zacate trees, fruiting ramón trees (a squirrel monkey favorite) and colorful epiphytic bromeliads. Ancient stone mounds and stone dwellings blend into the forest and offer interesting clues about the people who once inhabited the area.

Transfer to Cobá (approx. 20 mins).
 Lunch: At local restaurant en route.
 Afternoon: Walking field trip at Cobá ruins (approx. 2 hours).

The pyramids and stelae at Cobá resemble the architecture of Tikal (situated over a hundred miles away in present-day Guatemala) and not the style found at neighboring Chichén Itzá. In fact, depictions of Tikal royalty appear on several stelae at Cobá and this has led many to theorize that Cobá and Tikal maintained an alliance for many years.

Scattered throughout the ruins are numerous sacbés, a type of avenue paved with stone. The longest remaining sacbé leads to Nohoch Mul, the largest pyramid in the city. Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid on the Yucatán Peninsula and was likely constructed during the Post-Classic period (1100-1450). For an outstanding view (and a good workout!) climb the 115 steps to the top of the pyramid, but be careful on the descent as the steep stairs can lead to feelings of uneasiness and vertigo. To avoid the difficulties on the way down, try descending in zig-zag fashion, it will help your knees and prevent the dizziness some experience.

Transfer to Tulum.
Arrive at the hotel and check-in.
 Dinner: At hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Freshwater Lagoon Muyil/Kayaking at Sian Ka'an.
(Friday, February 6)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: After breakfast, transfer to Muyil and arrive to the freshwater lagoon of Sian Ka'an.

During the next 2 hours, kayak in the freshwater canals of Sian Ka'an. This activity will provide a good workout and give us an opportunity to examine local vegetation and spot wildlife.

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve protects approximately 969,000 hectares of lands between the municipalities of Tulum and Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Mexico’s Caribbean region. Sian Ka’an encompasses the main ecosystems found throughout the Yucatán Peninsula including coral reef, low and medium-growth forests, savannas, and wetlands. So far the park has recorded 103 mammal species (including 5 cat species!), 339 bird species, and 42 amphibian and reptile species. The reserve also protects 23 registered Maya sites.
 Lunch: At local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer back to the hotel.
Time at leisure to explore the local town, spend time at the beach or enjoy the gentle sea breezes from the comfort of a hammock.

Before dinner lecture: Cenotes and Underground River Systems of the Yucatán Peninsula.
 Dinner: On your own to explore local fare.
Accommodations: Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Tulum Ruins/Cave Snorkeling at No Hoch Cenote/Merengue Lessons.
(Saturday, February 7)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Transfer to the historic Tulum ruins, located little more than 4 miles from the hotel. Enjoy a walking exploration of the ruins to get a close look at some of its more notable buildings including the Temple of the Wind, El Castillo, Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God.

Although the ruins at Tulum lack the grandeur of Chichén Itzá and Cobá, its setting is breathtaking. The city was built sometime during the Early Classic Period (250-600) on top of a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. When the Spaniards arrived in the early sixteenth century, Tulum still operated as an important trading port. This was one of the last Maya cities to be abandoned after Spain’s conquest.

Transfer to Cenote Nohoch for a snorkeling adventure in one of the world's longest underwater cave systems!

Cenote Nohoch is part of the Sistema Sac Aktun, a large underwater cave system in Mexico's Riviera Maya. Visitors who are fortunate to spend time swimming and snorkeling at Nohoch have the opportunity to view some of nature's most beautiful creations. Multicolored stalactites and stalagmites protrude from cave ceilings and floors, visible above and below the waterline.
 Lunch: At local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Late in the afternoon, put your recently acquired dance skills to the test during a follow-up merengue lesson at the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner will be on your own, for a chance to explore local dining options.
Accommodations: Los Lirios Cabanas Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7: Snorkeling at Akumal Bay/Transfer to Playa del Carmen/Independent Exploration.
(Sunday, February 8)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Arrive to Akumal Bay for snorkeling activity. After receiving a brief orientation on safety procedures and the use of the equipment, enjoy the morning snorkeling in the nearby reef.

While snorkeling, you will possibly encounter sea turtles. Please make sure to admire these beautiful creatures at a respectful distance (about 6.5 feet). Avoid snorkeling over the turtles since they need to come up to the surface to breathe and to avoid approaching turtles when they are feeding.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, transfer to Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen, the focal point of the Mayan Riviera, has matured from a coastal fishing village to a vibrant town with an eclectic and carefree island feel. With dazzling beaches and an offshore reef, it is the ideal destination to conclude our energizing venture.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in. Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure to enjoy the beach, explore Playa del Carmen's main strip (Avenida 5), or lounge by the hotel pool.
 Dinner: Dinner will be on your own, for a chance to explore local dining options.
Accommodations: Hacienda Real Caribe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Selvatica Park/Reef Snorkeling at Puerto Morelos National Park/Farewell Dinner.
(Monday, February 9)
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant.
 Morning: After breakfast, we will take a 40-minute drive to Selvatica Eco-Park for a rainforest adventure that includes gliding through the jungle on a zip line, and swimming in a cenote!

Experience the thrill of coursing through and above the tree tops for a bird’s eye view of the jungle. Selvatica Eco-Park has two miles of zip lines threaded through the forest and connected by tree platforms. Zip lines are installed on an incline and work by using gravity to propel the user who wears a special harness clipped onto the cable. After donning your safety gear and learning the do’s and don’ts of zip lining, you will have the opportunity to try it for yourself with help from the park’s staff.
 Lunch: At Selvatica Eco-Park.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Puerto Morelos National Park for snorkeling on the reef. We will have the opportunity to enjoy two 45-minute snorkeling sessions at the reef.

The small seaside community of Puerto Morelos is situated on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. The world’s second largest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, lies a short distance from the town’s shore and extends all the way from Mexico to Honduras. The reef reportedly harbors up to 500 different species of fish and 60 species of coral.

Free time. Spend your last evening in Mexico with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at local restaurant with mariachi music.
Accommodations: Hacienda Real Caribe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Departures/Flights back to U.S.
(Tuesday, February 10)

Note: Please make sure your international flights are departing at 12:30 pm or later. Group transfer to Cancun International Airport will depart at 8:30 am from the hotel.

 Depart From: Transfer to the international airport in Cancun for flight back to the U.S. Driving time from Playa del Carmen to Cancun is approximately 1 hour. Arriving to the airport 3 hours before scheduled flight time is highly recommended.

The group transfer from the hotel is scheduled for 8:30 am. Please make sure your flights are departing at or later than 12:30 pm. Other arrangements can be made at an additional cost.

This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels.

Note: Participants can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.
 Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant (dependent on flight times).
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Moon Handbook Yucatan Peninsula

Author: Lisa and Gary Prado Chandler

Description: A compact, comprehensive travel guide with an excellent overview of the natu-ral history and culture of the region, including Yucatan but also Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo.

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America

Author: Stephen Howell, Sophie Webb

Description: Serious birders will want this definitive guide to the 1,070 bird species. It may be awkward to carry but it covers, in detail, all the birds you will see in the region.

Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Author: Joyce Kelly

Breaking the Maya Code

Author: Michael Coe

Description: Michael Coe chronicles the centuries-long search for the "rosetta stone" of the Mayan language, a search which received an enormous boost in 1952 when Yuri Knorosov successfully translated the Dresden Codex, a Mayan bark-paper text. The book also includes an extensive discussion of Maya studies and political activism in the wake of Knorosov's discovery.

Maya Art and Architecture

Author: Mary Ellen Miller

Description: An illustrated overview of the art and architecture of the Maya, making use of the latest discoveries at Tikal, Copan and Palenque to demonstrate the range of Maya artistic influence. With 200 illustrations, 50 in color, including site plans, maps, strikingly rendered reconstructions and color photographs of key temples and buildings.

Time Among the Maya, Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico

Author: Ronald Wright

Description: An account of travels among the contemporary Maya of Guatemala and Yucatan (with a side trip to Belize City). Organized geographically, it devotes chapters on Belize, the Peten, highland Guatemala, Chiapas and the Yucatan. Unlike most travelogues, this book includes a glossary, notes, bibliography and index. Wright (who also wrote the excellent Cut Stones and Crossroads, set in Peru) combines journalism, archaeology and a fine ear for dialogue in this engaging account.

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