Do you want to visit Rio Secreto in Playa del Carmen and wondering if it’s worth it? You’ve come to the right guide!
As a Playa del Carmen resident and local travel blogger, I personally visited Rio Secreto and got to see what these magical underground caves are really like.
In this post, I’m sharing my honest Rio Secreto review, including everything you need to know about the attraction’s activities, food and beverage offerings, and value rating–plus top tips for visiting.
Read on to find out if Rio Secreto will be worth it for you!
Disclosure: This experience was sponsored by Viator (A Tripadvisor Company). As always, all opinions are my own.
What is Rio Secreto?
Rio Secreto (Secret River) is a nature reserve and beautiful underground river system located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The Rio Secreto attraction allows visitors to explore the caves and caverns of the massive network of rivers, which are filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
The Rio Secreto tour includes a guided trek through the caves, as well as optional activities such as biking and rappelling. Visitors can also swim in this Playa del Carmen underground river during the tour.
👉 Book your tickets to Rio Secreto ahead of time by clicking here!
Where is Rio Secreto?
Rio Secreto is located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, just 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo.
Driving times from nearby destinations are as follows:
- Playa del Carmen to Rio Secreto: 15 minutes
- Cancun to Rio Secreto: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Tulum to Rio Secreto: 50 minutes
Rio Secreto Map
History of Rio Secreto
Rio Secreto is an amazing underground river system in Riviera Maya, Mexico that was only discovered relatively recently.
Centuries ago, the underground caves of Rio Secreto were revered by the Mayans as Xibalba–the entrance to the Mayan underworld.
But it wasn’t until 2006 that Cleofas Pool first discovered the immense network of underground caves after chasing an iguana on his property. Lucky find!
Exploration, mapping, and topography began in 2007, and the caves were officially opened to the public in 2008.
The underground river system is made up of miles of caves and caverns that were formed by years of acidic rainwater seeping through the limestone caves and rock formations.
However, only a small portion (about 10%) of the Rio Secreto underground river system is open to visitors. The goal is to protect and preserve the delicate ecosystem of the caves, as the underground rivers serve as a main source of freshwater for the region.
Why Visit Rio Secreto?
Rio Secreto is a natural wonder that is home to some of the most stunning geological formations in the world–and one of the best things to do in Riviera Maya!
This Mexico underground river system winds through massive caverns and grottoes, many of which are adorned with other-worldly stalactites and stalagmites, giving visitors the unique opportunity to explore the underground world.
But what sets Rio Secreto apart from other attractions in Riviera Maya is that it feels much less touristy and commercialized. The company’s focus on preservation is evident and the site feels more natural and untouched.
While basic activities and amenities have been added, it really hasn’t been transformed into a theme park.
Visitors to Rio Secreto can safely explore the natural caves by walking, swimming, or even scuba diving through them, and there are several different guided tours to choose from.
Plus, each group is limited to 10 people or less for a more intimate and personalized experience.
☔️ Another unique feature of Rio Secreto is that it’s an all weather activity. Since the caves are underground, it’s the perfect rainy day activity in Playa del Carmen!
Who is Rio Secreto suited for?
Rio Secreto is perfect for adventurous travelers who love nature and being active.
This destination requires a lot of walking and physical activity, so it’s best suited for those who are able to walk and stand for long periods of time without difficulty.
Rio Secreto is also the perfect family-friendly activity as the minimum age is 4 years and older.
Who is Rio Secreto NOT suited for?
Rio Secreto is an amazing natural wonder, but it is not for everyone!
If you suffer from claustrophobia, fear of the dark, heart problems, or can’t walk or swim for long periods of time, then it probably isn’t the best place for you.
Rio Secreto is also not recommended for pregnant women due to safety concerns. Please take these things into consideration before booking a tour!
Rio Secreto Pros and Cons
Next, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Rio Secreto:
Pros of Rio Secreto
- Beautiful scenery
- Connect with nature and Mayan culture of the region
- Feels less touristy and more authentic
- All equipment is provided
Cons of Rio Secreto
- Upgraded experiences are expensive
- Not as action packed as other adventure parks
- Basic food and beverage
- Not very accessible
Rio Secreto Tickets
Rio Secreto currently offers 4 different ticket types:
- Rio Secreto
- Rio Secreto Plus
- Rio Secreto Wild Tour
Rio Secreto Ticket Comparison Chart:
|Ticket Type||Includes||Price ($USD)||Price with Transportation||Book Now|
|Rio Secreto||Rio Secreto Regular Tour||$79.00 Adults |
|$109.00 Adults |
|Rio Secreto Plus||Rio Secreto Regular Tour|
Salon de Paz Experience
|$99.00 Adults |
|$129.00 Adults |
|Rio Secreto Wild||Rio Secreto Regular Tour|
|$119.00 Adults||$149.00 Adults||BOOK NOW|
|Privilege||Private Tailor-made Tour||$389.00 (1 person)|
$289.00 (2-4 people)
Duration: 3.5 hours
The Rio Secreto basic admission ticket includes access to the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve, a specialized guide, lockers, wet suits, life jacket, helmet with lamp, towels, lunch buffet, and non-alcoholic drinks.
Current Rio Secreto prices are as follows:
- Rio Secreto: $79.00 USD (adults) | $39.50 USD (kids ages 4-12)
- Rio Secreto with Transportation: $109.00 USD (adults) | $54.50 USD (kids ages 4-12)
👉 Book Rio Secreto tickets by clicking here! Note transportation can be added on during the booking process.
Rio Secreto Plus
Duration: 6 hours
The Rio Secreto Plus experience is an upgraded package which includes everything from the regular tour plus biking, rappelling, and the Salon de Paz experience (dry caves walk).
I personally chose the Rio Secreto Plus experience which I will be reviewing in detail in this post!
Current Rio Secreto Plus prices are as follows:
- Rio Secreto Plus: $99.00 USD (adults) | $49.50 USD (kids ages 4-12)
- Rio Secreto Plus with Transportation: $129.00 USD (adults) | $64.50 USD (kids ages 4-12)
Rio Secreto Wild Tour
Duration: Full Day
The Rio Secreto Wild Tour is an upgraded option for extreme adrenaline junkies which includes everything from the regular tour plus mountain biking, snorkeling, and a continental breakfast.
Current Rio Secreto Wild Tour prices are as follows:
- Rio Secreto Wild Tour: $119.00 USD (adults)
- Rio Secreto Wild Tour with Transportation: $149.00 USD (adults)
👉 Book Rio Secreto Wild tickets by clicking here!
Duration: Full Day
The Privilege package is a private and fully customizable Rio Secreto tour experience. This premium package includes a tailor-made itinerary where you get to choose what you want to experience and for how long.
- Rio Secreto Privilege: $389.00 USD (1 person) / $289.00 USD per person (2-4 people)
How to Book Rio Secreto Tickets
I recommend booking your Rio Secreto tickets online through Viator (A Tripadvisor Company).
These are the main reasons I always choose Viator for Riviera Maya tours and activities:
- 24 Hour Cancellation Policy: With Viator, you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance of your tour date for a full refund. If you book directly with Rio Secreto, you are subject to a 10% rebooking fee if cancellations are made 5 days or more prior to the tour date. Cancellations made 4 days or less before the tour date are not refundable. Book with Viator for more flexibility!
- Same Prices: The prices on Viator are the same as booking direct but almost always have a better cancellation policy.
- Customer Service: In case you run into any issues with the tour provider, Viator’s customer service is prompt and responsive to resolve problems or issue refunds. But from my experience, I’ve never had any issues when booking through Viator!
👉 Book Rio Secreto tickets on Viator by clicking here!
How to Get to Rio Secreto
There are a few different ways to get to Rio Secreto depending on your budget and where you’re staying:
The easiest way to get to Rio Secreto is by booking the tours with round trip transportation included.
For an additional cost (around $30 USD per person), Rio Secreto offers pickup from most hotels in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Cancun.
If you’re staying at an AirBnB or vacation rental, then they will give you a designated meeting point. Rio Secreto buses are large, comfortable, and air-conditioned.
This is probably the best option if you’re staying in Riviera Maya or Cancun, but keep in mind that depending on the number of pickups, this can add on a lot of extra time to your day.
Take a Taxi
If you’re staying in downtown Playa del Carmen, the best way to get to Rio Secreto is to take a taxi.
This will be the quickest option where you don’t have to wait around for all of the hotel pickups.
For a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Rio Secreto, you can expect to pay around $300 pesos (~$15 USD) for up to 4 people.
Drive to Rio Secreto
If you have a rental car, you can also drive to Rio Secreto. A parking lot is available on site. As in any place in Mexico, it’s best not to leave any valuables in your car.
Take a Colectivo
If you’re on a budget, the cheapest way to get to Rio Secreto is to take a colectivo (shared van), which should cost less than $50 pesos (~$2.50 USD) each way.
Colectivos can be picked up at the main depot in downtown Playa del Carmen near highway 307 and the Chedraui grocery store.
You’ll want to make sure you get on a colectivo headed to Tulum and alert the driver you’re going to Rio Secreto.
For the return trip, you’ll need to cross the highway and flag down a colectivo that’s headed to Playa del Carmen.
🚌 You can find more information on taking colectivos in my Playa del Carmen to Tulum transportation guide.
Rio Secreto Review: Pickup & Arrival
I personally chose the Rio Secreto Plus tour with transportation included and was picked up at Coco Bongo in downtown Playa del Carmen.
I was the first one in my group to be picked up–the van was large, clean, and arrived 5 minutes early! We had a few more pickups to make on the way to Rio Secreto so it probably took about 45 minutes to get there.
Once you arrive, you are required to sign a liability waiver and watch a short informational video. You’ll likely have to wait a bit for everyone from the tour groups to arrive.
Once everyone is organized, you’ll set off in a van to the amenities area, which is the base camp and central hub with restrooms, showers, equipment, and changing rooms. You’ll also meet your expert guide to start the adventure!
🚨 Do you need travel insurance for Mexico? Yes! Most insurance plans in your home country will not cover incidents abroad. I recommend using Travel Insurance Master, which is a handy travel insurance marketplace where you can compare policies. Get a FREE quote by clicking here!
Rules for Visiting Rio Secreto
Rio Secreto is a protected nature reserve and there are a few important rules for visiting:
- Sunscreen is not allowed: You are required to take a quick shower before entering Rio Secreto in order to rinse off any sunscreen, bug spray, or harmful chemicals.
- Cameras are not allowed: For the safety of individuals, cameras and video equipment are not allowed in Rio Secreto. There is no light underground so you won’t be able to capture any good photos with a GoPro anyways. There is a professional photographer with flash equipment that will provide you the best photos.
- Touching the caves is not allowed: While exploring the caves, you are not allowed to touch anything as human touch can be very damaging to the rock formations. This can be very challenging because it is dark and the ground can be very uneven. Be sure to use a walking stick for extra support!
- Jewelry, watches, and personal items must be removed: You are required to remove all jewelry, watches, and personal items so that you don’t lose them in the caves.
Rio Secreto Review: Activities
Here are my honest Rio Secreto reviews of the Río Secreto Plus experience:
The Rio Secreto Plus adventure starts with a dry walk through the underground caves. You’ll be given headphones to listen to an interactive experience as you walk through the caves, learning about their history and formation.
The tour also includes a visit to the Salon de Paz (Room of Peace), a large underground space with impressive stalactites. And of course, there are plenty of professional photo opportunities along the way.
The listening experience adds music and dimension to seeing the caves for the first time, but this part of the tour is mainly just looking around and not very interactive.
🌮 After the caves, you also get to stop by a small casita and try some corn tortillas made by hand, which were very authentic and delicious!
The next part of the Rio Secreto underground river tour takes you biking through jungle trails, which adds a little more adventure to the tour. And will give you a good workout too!
You’ll ride to the rappelling activity and back on bicycles and helmets are provided. You’ll get to see some wildlife along the way like iguanas, coati, and butterflies and you may come across some mud puddles so be prepared to get a little dirty!
However, most of the time, we were riding on main roads rather than through the jungle so it wasn’t my favorite part of the tour.
During the rappelling activity, you’ll descend into an underground cave for an adrenaline rush! Harnesses, gloves, and ropes are provided so it feels very safe and comfortable.
Unfortunately on my tour, we didn’t get to rappel into the water–just a dry underground cave. It was fun and memorable but I wish it had lasted longer!
Rio Secreto River Swim
The river swim at Rio Secreto was by far the best activity! The caves are absolutely incredible, with stalactites and stalagmites everywhere you look.
And with the small group tours, you’ll be the only ones in the caves which leaves you feeling much more connected to nature.
You can walk, trek, and swim through the underground cave tunnels, and the coolest part is when they turn off all of the lights for a complete sensory experience.
You’ll be left in complete darkness and won’t even be able to see your hand in front of your face!
The river swim experience lasts for about an hour in total and is definitely the highlight of the tour.
Travelista Tip: You’re not allowed to touch anything at Rio Secreto so be sure to use a walking stick for added balance and support.
Rio Secreto Review: Food and Drink
At the end of the day, you’ll be treated to the Rio Secreto buffet lunch, which features mostly Mexican food, including chicken, rice, beans, pasta, and veggies. You’ll also find some fresh fruit and salad options.
The drinks selection includes water, limonada, and agua fresca (a refreshing fruit water). And you’ll also be treated to more tortillas made by hand–make sure to ask for these!
Overall, the regional buffet food is pretty basic with just a few options to choose from. But chances are you’ll be famished by the end of the day, so it’ll hit the spot.
🥃 You’ll also have the option to take a shot of “Xtabentun” which is an Anis liqueur with honey. It is actually pretty tasty and can be purchased in the gift shop!
Rio Secreto Review: Services and Amenities
Rio Secreto offers all of the services and amenities you need for an enjoyable visit:
Rio Secreto provides all the equipment needed for the day’s activities. They will provide:
- Water Shoes
- Neoprene Wetsuits
- Life jacket
- Hard hats / safety helmet with lamp
- Walking Sticks
- Harness for rappelling
Complimentary lockers are available at Rio Secreto and are large enough to hold a medium sized backpack. This is where you’ll store all of your belongings while you are doing the activities.
Restrooms are also available at Rio Secreto and there will be a few opportunities throughout the day for bathroom breaks. It is highly recommended to go before entering the caves!
Changing rooms are available at Rio Secreto where you can change out of your swimsuit and into some dry clothes at the end of the day.
Outdoor showers are available at Rio Secreto and showering is mandatory before entering the natural reserve in order to wash off any sunscreen, bug spray, or chemicals that may be harmful to the environment.
There is also a gift shop located at the restaurant, where you can purchase Rio Secreto souvenirs, as well as a selection of traditional Mexican handicrafts.
Rio Secreto Photo Package
The Rio Secreto Photo Package is the only way to get pictures from your tour of Rio Secreto, as personal cameras are not allowed inside.
Each group has a personal photographer following them around throughout the day to document the experience.
The Rio Secreto photos are high quality and taken with professional flash equipment, so they’ll be sure to capture all the details of your cave exploration.
The photo packages are pretty expensive at around $100 USD for all the photos. It’s worth it for larger groups but the price is pretty steep for couples or individuals.
Rio Secreto Riviera Maya Alternatives
If you’re looking for Rio Secreto alternatives, there are a couple of other options to consider in Riviera Maya:
These parks are best for ziplining and cenote experiences but don’t offer an extensive underwater cave system like Rio Secreto.
Xplor also offers more adrenaline pumping activities, as you’ll get to zipline, drive amphibious vehicles, and do some rafting and cave exploration, however the park is much more commercialized.
What to Wear to Rio Secreto
The great thing about Rio Secreto is that they pretty much provide all the equipment you need so all you have to do is show up in your swimsuit!
This is what you’ll want to wear to Rio Secreto:
- Swimsuit: Be sure to wear a swimsuit as you will definitely be getting wet while swimming and trekking through Rio Secreto. I always prefer to wear a one-piece swimsuit to be the most comfortable when putting on the wet suit and equipment.
- Shorts and a Tank Top: During the first part of the tour you will be walking around the site so you’ll want to wear comfortable clothes like waterproof shorts and a tank top over your swimsuit.
- Tennis Shoes: Wear tennis shoes to wear when walking around the site. The jungle terrain can be uneven so it’s best to wear comfortable walking shoes. If you’re concerned about getting your shoes dirty, you can also put on some water shoes before you begin the activities.
What to Bring to Rio Secreto
As I mentioned, all the necessary equipment and towels are provided so there are few things to bring with you:
- Change of Clothes: Bring a change of clothes to change into at the end of the day so you’ll be dry and comfortable for the ride back to your hotel.
- Money for tips: Don’t forget to bring money to tip your tour guide. The Rio Secreto tour guides and drivers rely on tips and work hard to provide an incredible experience.
Rio Secreto Mexico FAQs
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Rio Secreto Playa del Carmen:
How long does the Rio Secreto tour take?
The duration of the Rio Secreto tour varies depending on which tour experience you choose. The basic tour lasts about 3.5 hours while the Rio Secreto Plus, Wild, and Privilege experiences last pretty much the whole day.
Do you need water shoes for Rio Secreto?
No, water shoes are provided at Rio Secreto and you do not need to bring your own.
Can you do Rio Secreto if you can’t swim?
Yes, you can still do Rio Secreto if you are not a strong swimmer. Life vests are mandatory so as long as you are comfortable being in the water, you can float through the deeper areas of the Rio Secreto cave tour.
Is Rio Secreto good for kids?
Yes, Rio Secreto is a family-friendly activity that is suitable for kids ages 4 and older that are adventurous and comfortable being in water.
Can you bring a GoPro to Rio Secreto?
No, GoPros and cameras are not allowed at Rio Secreto. There is very little light in the caves so it would be very difficult to capture any good photos with a GoPro or waterproof camera. Professional photography packages are available for purchase at the end of the tour.
Tips for Visiting Rio Secreto
Follow these tips to make the most of your Rio Secreto experience:
- Wear a wetsuit: When visiting Rio Secreto, you have the option to wear a wetsuit while swimming in the caves. I would definitely recommend wearing one to be the most comfortable in the cold water. The temperature of the water is about 75°F but still feels pretty darn cold!
- Use a walking stick: You will also have the option to use a plastic walking stick while trekking through the Rio Secreto caves. I was hesitant to use one at first but would highly recommend it! The floors of the caves are extremely uneven and since you are not allowed to touch anything, a walking stick provides a lot of extra balance and support even if you are in good physical condition.
- Don’t bring a towel: Towels are provided at Rio Secreto so don’t bother bringing one!
Rio Secreto Review Final Thoughts: Is Rio Secreto worth it?
So, are you ready to visit Rio Secreto?! I hope these Rio Secreto tour reviews were helpful in guiding your decision.
If you’re still considering whether or not to visit Rio Secreto, I say go for it! It’s a totally unique attraction that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
The tour guides at Rio Secreto were excellent and you’ll learn a lot about the history and culture of this part of Mexico while seeing some stunning natural wonders.
However, if I did it again, I would probably just choose the basic Rio Secreto Tour because the underground river swim was the real star of the show and the most incredible part of the tour.
The added activities from the Rio Secreto Plus experience are fun but not essential, so if you’re on a budget you can still enjoy Rio Secreto fully without them.
But no matter which experience you choose, you’ll definitely be blown away by Rio Secreto’s natural beauty and more intimate small-group experience. It’s truly a hidden wonder!