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Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula: Cenotes, Crocodiles and the Caribbean Sea

When we were invited to a destination wedding in Tulum, we finally had a reason to stop finding reasons not to go. The 120 kilometres from Cancun to our VRBO three-bedroom rental in Tulsayab, 10 km outside of Tulum, was a breeze.

When we were invited to a destination wedding in Tulum, we finally had a reason to stop finding reasons not to go.

The 120 kilometres from Cancun to our VRBO three-bedroom rental in Tulsayab, 10 km outside of Tulum, was a breeze. Casa Tankah, located on an unpaved road on a remote stretch of rocky beach, proved to be a smart decision. Windy season is November to May, and our boys spent much of their time in the calm sheltered quarters of our private garden pool.

After our long day of travel, we didn't feel like cooking. Blue Sky, a hotel with an outdoor restaurant within walking distance from our casa, offers brick oven pizza and delicious local fare. The boys devoured their pizza while my husband and I sipped margaritas paired with fish tacos while the warm Caribbean air welcomed us.

On the top of our list to explore was Coba, a Maya archeological site one hour north of Tulum with a climbable pyramid. The 45-minute tour by a certified guide provided us with some fascinating facts, including the raised white roads the Mayas used to connect their trade routes, as well as an introduction to the Maya astrological calendar. Pedal bikes are available to rent, and riding through the ruins is a fun activity within the canopy forest to Nohoch Mul, the climbable 120-step pyramid.

On our return we stopped at a cenote. We'd just learned about the crystal clear water and unique geological formations of these sinkholes that played an important role in Maya rites. At Car Wash Cenote, (all are named) we were informed that we could swim among crocodiles. We assumed that was joke, as we jumped into the inviting cool oasis water perfect to wash off the Coba climb perspiration.

As I glided to the cenote's centre, something caught my eye. I slowly swam over to a couple standing at the water's edge tentatively looking over at the same spot I was. Is that really a crocodile, I asked? Yes, they replied. Needless to say I exited immediately and announced my discovery. We were told the crocodile was tranquillo – merely a young one. We are adventurous but not crocodile wranglers.

Next on our list were the beaches in Tulum. A local had recommended Paraiso's El Paraiso playa. We ordered food and drinks, so beach chairs and umbrellas were included at this beach club, as well as free parking. The ceviche, guacamole, salsa and chips were delicious and we quenched our thirst with margaritas and lemonade.

Mid-stay was the wedding, which began at sunset on the glorious Akiin Beach. Last minute we decided to stay in Tulum for one night, and we were fortunate to find Casa Ganesh, a rustic beachfront boutique hotel. The wedding was precioso, complete with Mexican entertainment, yummy healthful food and a dance floor under the starry night.

Our post-wedding morning began with yoga at Ahau, followed by a yummy burrito breakfast in the restaurant below the yoga studio. Although checkout was noon, Casa Ganesh didn't mind that we lingered on their beach chairs for the rest of the afternoon. The waves were strong but the sand was heavenly, even with the extra seaweed that had washed up upon the beach, a rare occurrence, we were told, this time of year.

On our way back to our casa we stopped at El Sudaca for empanadas, well worth the off-the-beaten-track experience both in quality and price. Our favorites were Tucumana (beef) and Pollo.

Chich'en Itza was a 2-hour drive one-way. We wished we had arrived by 9 a.m., as it was hot and crowded. Bring an umbrella to help with shade. The 20-metre, 365-step Temple of Kukulkan, with enchanting chirp echo, and the Observatory are the highlights of this World Heritage Site. We hired a guide here too, who helped navigate the long lines.

Cenote Saamal, a 30-minute drive from Chich'en Itza, was the perfect spot after the sweltering heat of our Maya pilgrimage. This cylinder cenote can only be reached by descending down many wooden steps where a lifeguard is on duty. To our relief, the only reptile in sight was a small iguana nestled in the cenote wall. Our boys jumped countless times from a high platform near the small waterfall cascading from the gardens above. We ended our day with a delicious Mexican buffet at Hacienda Selva Maya Restaurant that is conveniently located on the cenote grounds.

On our final evening we ate scrumptious steak and tried grilled cactus at El Asadero Tulum, while reminiscing about our Manatee Cenote episode earlier in the day. Here too we spied a tranquillo cocodrilo sunning on a rock beside the mangroves surrounding this sprawling sinkhole. We toasted our Yucatan experience with a red wine we'd purchased at Chedraui (we were charged an uncorking fee), wondering why we'd waited so long to visit this maravilloso natural peninsula.

Follow Cathy on and @cathyfedoruk in Instagram.