Cozumel is most famous for its crystalline waters and amazing coral formations, but after about an hour of bouncing on horseback through a thick, humid forest and exploring forgotten Maya ruins, I began to take seriously the island’s true diversity.
We were guests at Rancho Buenavista, a horse ranch on the eastern side of the island. The ranch occupies a significant portion of Cozumel’s entire area, and has been in the same family for generations. Among archaeology buffs, Buenavista is appreciated for its Maya ruins, the most important on the island after those at nearby San Gervasio.
After a short safety demonstration, we met our horses for the day. I would be atop Máscara (which, for the sake of Máscara’s manly pride, I should clarify is Spanish for “Mask”, not the eyelash-darkening cosmetic). These were full-sized North American horses, nothing like the pint-sized fellows we’d ridden in Iceland, and I felt a little nervous while mounting. But I kept my fears to myself. I had to, since the four-year-old daughter of the proprietors was riding with us, and was the confident master of her own steed.
Soon enough we were bouncing through the jungle. A playful pack of Xoloitzcuintles, Mexican Hairless Dogs, had decided to follow us, jumping at our feet as we dismounted to explore the first set of Maya ruins. Here, deep in the jungle, the Maya had excavated a cave out of the limestone, which they used for rituals to the goddess Ix’Chel. All along the path, we encountered statues which had been discovered around the grounds of the ranch.
Riding through the jungle, swatting away mosquitoes, and following our guide to ancient ruins… at Buenavista, we truly felt the thrill of adventure and discovery. Our tour lasted for around 90 minutes. Afterwards, back at the ranch, we relaxed with sore butts and a couple beers enjoyed “Chelada” style, with lime and pepper. It was a wonderful day out; if you’re looking for an exciting and absolutely non-standard experience in Cozumel, consider an excursion to Rancho Buenavista.