During our trip to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, we wanted to find some outdoor adventure. When looking online for fun things to do in the Riviera Maya region, we found that there was so many options. The hard part was making a choice. We got in our rental car we headed off to Hidden Worlds Adventure Park offered many activities that we wanted to do all in one package and for a reasonable price. A trek through the jungle on a bike, repelling, zip-roller coaster, splash zip lines into caves, and a snorkel adventure deep into a cave. This all sounded awesome, so we signed right up!
When people visit the Riviera Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula, they will undoubtedly see brochures and signs for some large “adventure” parks. However, what people don’t realize is that that some of these bigger parks are actually man-made. Their snorkel lagoons and caves are not natural, but more of a Disneyland that was created specifically for the tourists. Not that they aren’t fun to visit, because they do look like fun. But if you are looking for an authentic adventure, these are not the places to go. Plus, they are crazy expensive!!!
Hidden Worlds Adventure Park in the Riviera Maya is a completely natural setting. The Yucatan is home to a number of large underground river systems, and the cave and river system at Hidden Worlds is part of the 2nd largest river system. The park has been open for around 13 years, and it was founded by divers and friends who had discovered these great caves during their snorkel and diving excursions. It took years to get the park open. The land is actually owned by the Maya, so the owner rents the land from them.
With our limited time off work, we always try to squeeze in as much as possible on our trips. We were staying in Tulum along the Riviera Maya, only a short drive away from Hidden Worlds Adventure Park. So we made sure to arrive as soon as they opened in the morning. This played out in our favor because we were the only ones there! This was an great way to experience the Adventure Park because we were able to get a completely private tour by our guides Jimmy and Noe, as well as having a personal photographer named Roberto.
Jimmy and Noe greeted us and escorted us to what they referred to as their “limo.” We arrived at a make-shift vehicle, that looked like it was an experiment in someone’s garage! It was completely open all around, and even the engine and drive shafts were exposed. Ah Mexico!
The vehicle had purpose. The ride deep into the jungle was a bumpy one, and their “limo” did the job quite well. It was actually a pretty fun ride, but we definitely needed to hold on to keep from bouncing right out. During the ride we had a chance to get to know our guides better. We could tell these guys were going to be a lot of fun. They were asking all about our trip and we enjoyed learning more about them and how they became guides. As Liz was chatting it up with one of the guides, I on the other hand couldn’t stop inspecting this vehicle and how the driver was managing to drive it this thing!
After a 20 minute rough ride into the jungle, we arrived at the main staging area. This central area is where we were given a private locker, and there was also a restaurant, a small shop, and a gear up station. We put our belongings into a locker and headed over to meet our guides to start gearing up for our first adventure of the day.
First on the list was a jungle bike ride in the tree canopy. An extensive route of wires were hung through the trees between tall supports. The bikes hung from these wires, similar to a gondola, and they are powered by the human in the seat with foot pedals. Basically, it felt like you were sitting back with your legs in front of you using an exercise bike. And yes, it was exercise! This is another reason to arrive early at Hidden Worlds. The heat and humidity weren’t as bad as it would be in the afternoon.
We loved riding this track through the jungle. The wires took us both up and down; high through the trees, low through the jungle, and even cooled us off by going through a couple of caves. Some of wires in the caves dipped just enough for your seat to drag in the cool water. A refreshing splash during our workout! It was a tough task cycling across the wire, so we could see why they wanted us to do it first thing. But at times we could take a break to look around and enjoy the scenery, or take our feet off and coast along the downhill portions.
After a good 30 minutes of biking through the jungle, we needed to cool off. A roller coaster ride sounded like it would do the trick! We changed out of our biking gear, and replaced some of our equipment with special items for our next adventure. Then we walked over to a wooden stair case and hiked our way to the top. Honestly, this was probably the craziest thing we had ever seen. We are pretty adventurous people, but we have to admit that we were a little concerned about how this was going to go down. Basically, think of combining a zip line with a roller coaster, supported by wires and trees!
At the top of the staircase there was a metal track hanging from supports. We looked at each other and said “okay, who’s going first?” Our guide reached up to attach the wheels with handles onto the track, and one of us stood on a stool to attach our harness to it at our waist. After getting hooked up, it was up to you to get the guts to jump off this thing…and hold on for dear life! Not knowing what to expect out of this ride, going up and down a couple times, then rounding a corner with your body swinging sideways out over the canopy, you finally come to a fast stop at the bottom.
Some people might be a little uneasy with this homemade-looking thrill ride structure, but it was awesome. Even though it probably was dangerous and would never fly in the States, we had a blast. Since we were still the only people out here on this morning, our guides offered if we wanted to go up and do it again. “Yes!” we said excitedly with our adrenaline still pumping.
At this point, were were on an adrenaline high, so we wanted to keep it up. So we headed up to the actual zip line. After another set of stairs, we were again high above the jungle. We’ve been lucky enough to go zip-lining a few times. So we were ready to leap off the platform and feel the breeze on our face as we soared over the jungle. It was relaxing, and a beautifully smooth ride. Not near as crazy as the zip-coaster!
Once we exited the zip line, it was time to repel in a cave! So we walked over to meet one of our guides, grabbed some gloves and got harnessed up for the repel. We have been repelling before, so we weren’t too concerned about doing it. But just in case, our guides gave us a nice refresher on how to manage the repel. One at a time we lower ourselves into the cave, and the lower we go the cooler the air temperature is around us. The feeling of the cool air on our hot, sweaty bodies from being out in the extreme heat and humidity felt refreshing at this point. Once at the bottom of the cave, it felt as though we were in a different world. But the excitement wasn’t over yet.
Now that we have had our thrilling adventures for the day, it was time for a more relaxing, but just as awesome experience. It was time to go snorkeling in the natural cenote (pool of water) inside the cave. This is what we were actually looking forward to most about the day. Our guide Noe got us geared up with our snorkel, life vest, and flashlight which was attached on a string to our life vest. Now it was time to dive in. Being the big kids that Liz and I are, we were thrilled to run and leap off the platform into the refreshing, clean water.
Our guide, Noe, joined us in the water and after adjusting our gear after jumping in the water, we made our way back into the cave. The water was pretty deep, but having the life vests kept us comfortably floating and swimming on top of the water. The first thing we did was head toward the back of the cave, to a series of stalagtites & stalagmites that appeared to be blocking the path. Noe asked us if we were ready, and he took us squeezing through the crevices into the other side. Once through, it opened a whole different world! The three of us went deeper and deeper into the cave, and we could no longer see the light of the entrance to the cave or the platform that we jumped in from.
At this point, we are able to lean forward and put our faces in the water for the actual snorkel experience. The only light we had was from our flashlights. We could let them hang off our vest on the string, or hold them with one hand to look all around. Between the three of us and the reflection from the water, the lights actually lit up the water below is beautifully. “This is so cool!!” Liz and I kept motioning to each other.
The water was crystal clear, with a bluish hue. There were beautiful tropical fish swimming around. It was a surreal experience. Noe would stop every now and then and we would come above water so that he could point out items and teach us about the geological features of the cave, as well as telling us about the history of the Maya and the caves. After a while, we found yet another tight space to squeeze into. To show how deep we were into the cave, we all turned off our flashlights.
Yeah, it was pitch dark…and a bit unnerving. We literally couldn’t see our hand in front of our face. We sat there in the darkness for a bit of time, just bobbing up and down in the water. It was so quite, so peaceful, it really felt like you were floating in the darkness of your sleep! When we had had enough, we turned back on our lights and continued to swim around inside the cave, just enjoying every moment of this awesome experience.
This is by far one of the coolest and best experiences that we have ever had during all of our travels around the world. To be alone snorkeling in a cave in Mexico, if felt like a truly special moment. Unfortunately, our underwater camera wasn’t with us so we couldn’t capture photos of this experience. So this moment is special to the soul for us, but it gives us a reason to come back and do it again. And yes, we will do this again!
After all this fun, we were starting to get a little hungry. And a little known secret about Hidden Worlds is the amazing tacos that they offer in the restaurant. We had gotten a food ticket to go along with our adventure for the day, and we were glad that we did. After drying ourselves off and grabbing our items from the locker, we took a seat in the restaurant and awaited our lunch. The restaurant was open, but screened in to keep out the bugs. The kitchen was wide open and we could see a man working away.
When the food came we anxiously dug right in. We were warned about the salsa being extremely hot. Liz went for a taste, but I trusted my gut and just loaded it on there saying “If I’m going to dive in, I’ll dive in head first!” Boy was I in for a surprise. I can still feel the burn on my lips just thinking about it. It really was some of the best tacos that we had on the trip, but be cautious with that hot sauce! Hot doesn’t do it justice…my face was on fire! But it was delicious none the less.
After lunch we packed up and headed back to our awaiting “limo” and rode back out of the jungle with Jimmy and Noe, chatting the whole way. We loved every moment at Hidden Worlds Adventure Park in the Yucatan of Mexico, and would recommend it to anyone visiting. There are some very high priced commercial activities in the Riviera Maya, but this little gem is exactly what we needed to get our adventure fix, and overall it was much easier on the wallet. If you visit Hidden Worlds, be sure to ask for Jimmy and Noe, they were awesome. And our photographer Roberto was amazing. Seriously, at the end of our trip we visited with him and he showed us some of his photos. Be sure to check out his website: http://www.one.wix.com/robertone
Full Name, Age, Sex
Josh & Liz Wilson, 31 & 34, Married Couple
Blog / Publishing Title details?
Peanuts or Pretzels Travel Blog - www.peanutsorpretzels.com
Time spent travelling last year?
We spent more than 150 days traveling last year. We left out on our around the world in August and have been traveling non-stop around Asia, Australia, and New Zealand since then and now living in Guangzhou, China (2 Hours from Hong Kong).
Planned travel in the next 12-24months, When & Where?
For the next several months we will be traveling all around China and planning several day trips to Hong Kong. In the next 24 months we will be traveling all around Asia and possibly Africa.
Activities Experience / Preference? (Treking Dry Land, Ice & Snow, Jungle, Animal Safaris, Water sports, Climbing, Aerial Activities)
We are really up for any type of adventure. We have no limits to our adventures. One of our favorite adventures is Geocaching (world-wide treasure hunting game).
Regional Preference? Asia, Africa, South Pacific, Mediterranean, Western Europe, South or Central America, etc