Though Cancun and the Riviera Maya get the most attention from visitors to Mexico's Caribbean coast, interest in Costa Maya (or Grand Costa Maya) has been growing. The area, which starts a four- to five-hour drive south of Cancun, stretches from Punta Allen south to the border with Belize. It's more than 100 mi/160 km south of Tulum in the Riviera Maya.
Although many travelers opt to drive from Cancun (where rental cars are plentiful) to the Costa Maya, it's also possible to take a bus from Cancun or Playa del Carmen into Chetumal, which is near the border with Belize and a starting point for trips into Guatemala and Belize.
Costa Maya has lovely beaches, small seaside towns and traditional architecture. Unfortunately, newfound attention to this once-secluded paradise is bringing with it a lot of hasty and often unsightly construction, although the government has promised that no new hotel will be taller than a palm tree (a regulation immediately ignored).
Costa Maya is also close to the Mayan ruins at Kohunlich, which are tucked deep in the forest about 40 mi/64 km from Chetumal. Groups can tour three plazas, a ball court and an imposing temple. Scientists believe more than 500 burial mounds in the area have yet to be uncovered. More large Mayan sites are opening north of Kohunlich. To learn more about the history of the ruins, you can visit the excellent Museum of Maya Culture in Chetumal.
Costa Maya also offers visitors plenty of ecotourism opportunities. Bacalar, which is 23 mi/37 km north of Chetumal, is a good base for sailing, fishing and bird-watching—more than 300 feathered species have been identified in the nearby jungles and wetlands. Scuba divers can also take a two-hour boat trip to Banco Chinchorro, which is part of the largest coral atoll in the Americas. Dotted with shipwrecks, the reef is a favorite with experienced divers.
For more information, visit http://www.costamaya-mexico.com.
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