Close your eyes and try to imagine a spectacular natural attraction near Cancun. Whatever comes to mind, Rio Secreto will extend beyond your wildest imagination. One of the region’s many natural wonders, Rio Secreto is an awe-inspiring system of underground caves, rivers, and cenotes* in the Riviera Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. An intriguing work of nature, Rio Secreto will astonish you.
Rio Secreto Facts
Pool Tunich, the original name of Rio Secreto, was originally identified around the year 2004 by landowner Don Cleo who, while hunting an iguana, chased it into a hole in the ground. This hole led to the discovery of an interconnected cave system with an underground river. After experts explored and identified rock formations dating back 2.5 million years, they realized Rio Secreto was an exquisite natural phenomenon to be cherished and preserved.
Although the Yucatan Peninsula contains thousands of underground caves, rivers, and cenotes, Rio Secreto is unique. It is the only cave system in the region that is partly underground and partially flooded instead of being completely immersed in water. This distinct network of caves evolved after hundreds of years from river erosion, resulting in the fascinating stalactites, stalagmites, helectites, and columns that exist today.
Recognized as the longest cave of its type in the Yucatan Peninsula, Rio Secreto consists of over 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) of semi-submerged river caves leading to 15 natural outlets at various points along the way. With cool, clear river water winding through multiple cave tunnels, Rio Secreto is a rare underground world of breathtaking geological sights and tranquility, where only visitors’ voices and trickling water can be heard.
Rio Secreto Tours
This spectacular nature reserve began offering tours in April 2008 so travelers could see the incredible discovery for themselves. A Rio Secreto tour begins with a half-hour van or jeep ride across a jungle road to the Rio Secreto base camp and tour starting point. At the base camp, visitors are directed to locker rooms for changing into the wetsuits, water shoes, life jackets, and headlight helmets provided for the tour.
Since Rio Secreto is not under water and the river is shallow enough for walking, wading, and swimming, diving skills or other special skills are not needed. A small group of 6 people are led on a 1 & 1/2 hour tour through the caves by a trained, multilingual guide, who identifies the different types and ages of columns, pillars, hanging formations, marine fossils, crystalline cave walls, and sparkling river rocks.
As the tour nears an end, the guide leads the group to a white sand river bank and instructs them to turn off their headlights and rest in silence, while reflecting on this truly extraordinary experience. Near Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Rio Secreto is sure to be a vacation highlight.
Rio Secreto offers various tour options at different times of day, lasting about three hours from start to finish, and includes a light lunch. For more information or to schedule a tour, visit Rio Secreto.
*Cenotes are sunken caves with wells.
The Spanish word “cenote” evolved from the Mayan word “dzonot” which means “cavity containing life-giving water.”