Mexico – The Underground Paradise of Rio Secreto

We have all visited caves but I admit I had never experienced anything like Rio Secreto before. A huge system of caves near to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

One of the natural wonders of the country. It is actually one of the best underground experiences I have ever had. A natural wonder does not cover enough in words what it is like when you take a trip through it.

Mexico caves


Over many centuries an underground river of pure water has been carving out pure beauty beneath the ground through the limestone.

Social Wellness Walks

There are around 38 km of caves in the system and 10 km are used for tourism that you see here. More than enough plus preservation is very important.

During research into the caves they have found cave paintings and religious altars from the Maya people. So it was most probably an important place too, long ago, before us modern people re found it.

How was It Discovered

The caves remained hidden after the Maya civilisation, until one day, in 2004, a farmer was chasing an iguana. He chased into one of the cave entrances and thus Rio Secreto was discovered in the modern world. This paradise beneath the ground.

My Day Within The Caves

Of course so much of it would need to be explored in diving suits, but, at the area of Rio Secreto the networks are semi filled thus making it accessible to many.

Wetsuits on, right from the start as you go into one of the many entrances hidden in the jungle the eyes and senses are hit with pure natural beauty that cannot be seen hardly anywhere on earth.

I had never heard of the caves here at Rio Secreto before, but I was never going to forget them for the rest of my life. A unique place that has to be seen and experienced to be believed. The colours!

cave waterfall rio secreto

The care taken by the owners and guides to ensure it stays pure for future generations is a great thing to see. All must shower before entering, all are briefed on how to avoid touching the stalactites etc to stop human contamination.

No glaring touristic lights to show the way, or footways. It truly is just you, a headtorch and an awesome natural paradise.

Wading through the water, carefully, you may get a glimpse of some of the truly unique wildlife down here. Life that has evolved with no light. More on that further on.

Mexico caves with light and water
Mexico secret caves

Sometimes you are walking, sometimes ducking down, sometimes swimming/floating through the pure clear water. One and a half hours slowly taking it all in.

The guide has so much knowledge and enthusiasm too. Everything is explained or proudly shown. And the Mexicans are right to be proud of this.

Even as I write this with all fresh in my mind I feel I should pinch myself to prove I actually saw and experienced what I did. Magical! Beautiful! Mother Nature, my favourite architect, thank you!

swimming through the cave

After the discovery of the caves in 2004. It was mapped then a section open for ecotourism public tours. If you are in Mexico and near to Playa del Carmen then I seriously suggest you take a tour in these wondrous caves.

It will give you memories to treasure.

The Nature and Wildlife of Rio Secreto

Even the walk to and from the cave entrance and exit points lets you get to see and hear a unique nature, never mind what lives below.

Azotador – Tussock – Halysidota sp
Azotador – Tussock – Halysidota sp

Life does live in the caves themselves. deep in the dark and in the waters. Creatures swimming or climbing that have never seen light throughout the whole of their evolution. Insects and fish, colourless and eyeless as they had no need.

In the image captions I have put the names in Spanish, English and latin.

Mariposa cola de golondrina – Swallow tail butterfly – Papilionidae
Mariposa cola de golondrina – Swallow tail butterfly – Papilionidae

Imagine this spider crawling up your leg? It certainly has the colour and stance as if to say stay away.

Tarántula – Tarantula – Brachypelma vagans
Tarántula – Tarantula – Brachypelma vagans
Gusanito medidor – Geometer moth – Geometridae
Gusanito medidor – Geometer moth – Geometridae
Mantis religiosa⁄campamocha – Praying mantis – Thespidae
Mantis religiosa⁄campamocha – Praying mantis – Thespidae
Langosta – Locust – Schistocerca sp
Langosta – Locust – Schistocerca sp

These so far have been wonderful and colourful examples of land in and around these unique caves where light and vegetation has helped them.

As I said before, evolving without being able to see, deep down in the cave system itself, meant no need to evolve eyes or colour. Nature always continues to wow us with how it adapts to all ways of life and conditions.

Pez ciego – Blind fish – Ogylbia pearsey
Pez ciego – Blind fish – Ogylbia pearsey

New discoveries in Rio secreto are happening all the time. Teaching us more as fast as we can learn. It truly is a remarkable place that I will always remember as being honoured to take a look inside.

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  1. I’d really like to do this with my husband, but he is a non-swimmer and is not comfortable having to rely on a life jacket. He has no problem wearing a life jacket, but prefers to have his feet on the ground too. Is this something a no swimmer can do?

  2. Well written! Rio Secreto is one of my favorite excursions.. From the beginning with the blessing to the guide that had so much love and respect for the park.. Plan on going back for sure ! Thank you so much for the memories;)

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Shelly.. a very memorable place indeed isn’t it? 🙂 ty

  3. Paul Steele says:

    Thanks for the tip Ginger. Will put on list for next time over there 🙂

  4. A magical secret world, thank you.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      It is Ian. a wondrous place

  5. Fabienne Wolf says:

    What a beautiful post, what gorgeous photographs! I’m hooked and signing up to see more …

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks Fabienne, wonderful to see you 🙂

  6. Rajani Arya says:

    Amazing, amazing place and photos too!!! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Nicole @ Green Global Travel says:

    Wow these are stunning photos! We missed this when we were in PDC a couple of months ago but we are definitely going back and these caves are on the do-to list!

  8. Escort Anna says:

    Hello Paul, I was there for Christmas and New year and I visited the caves . Wonderful experience . Your photos capture the wonder of the caves . Playa del Carmen , great holiday destination . So much to see and do. I wish I could have bumped into you , that would have been good Anna x

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Anna.. A remarkable place. So glad you got to experience it x

  9. PurpleTravelKate says:

    Really great post, it looks like an absolutely remarkable place!

  10. What an amazing adventure! Mother Nature has created so many beautiful places for us to see. This is going on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      go for it! amazing experience

  11. Soft Tones Wedding Photography says:

    Now you are just showing off! Pothole in Uk (except perhaps Otter Hole) and you get nothing like this.

  12. Adventure Traveler says:

    Amazing – this blows away all the caves I’ve ever been to filled with tourists


  13. Jigme Tsuendrup says:

    Paul you have a wonderful and very beautiful pictures here. just one missing. its Bhutan's cultural, landscapes, people, etc. You should visit Bhutan on photographic tour. i can arrange you one with a lowest fare. let me know if you are interested.

  14. Wow! Absolutely stunning! Seeing these images makes me wonder how much beauty this planet has to offer us! And we're just contaminating it!
    Thank you for sharing!

  15. Cole @ FourJandals says:

    WOW! I love going into caves and these are extroadinary. Waitomo Caves in NZ are kind of similar but if I remember rightly they don't have as many fantastic colours (its basically pitch black haha). Did you take the photos or are these from the company?

  16. Barry Brown says:

    wow wow and wow again thank we started thinking about offering tours to this wonderful place

  17. J Knipper says:

    We just visited Rio Secreto Oct 16, 2011. AMAZING and highlight of our trip to Playa del Carmen. Your photos capture the true beauty of this place. The guides are more than eco-friendly and nice to see that the management has not sold out to total commercialization. The water was twice as deep as normal because of all the rain Playa had last week which made it even more of an adventure.

  18. Charlotte says:

    This is just beautiful. I was in Playa del Carmen last year and sure wish I had known about this place. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!

  19. Wow! These pictures are amazing! I'm sure it's even more stunning in real life.

  20. WOW!!! Paul, that must have been incredible to see first hand, the pictures are beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing!

  21. PAUL DOUGLAS says:

    Too much green color. Must be lots of acid in this "clear water" percolation. I think somebody dyed the water.

  22. Joyce Hoekstra says:

    Absolutely beautiful !. Thanks for posting, Paul.

  23. Mike Finney says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  24. Anita Nelson says:

    I have truly enjoyed vicariously traveling the world through you~! I never dreamed anything so beautiful existed – especially underground~! Just as I was wondering how you were getting around or seeing, you answered. I love your writing style, Paul, it's fantastic, flows easily and intuitively. The photography here is absolutely STUNNING~!!x0x

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