A short drive from the party palaces of Cancun, Auberge’s Etéreo has hired an in-house Indiana Jones to teach guests a thing or two
For most, the Riviera Maya is about palm-fringed beaches with free-flowing tequila cocktails. But at Etéreo, an Auberge resort that opened December 2021, school is in session.
Built amongst the mangroves in the high-end Kanai development complex, a convenient 35 minutes from the Cancun airport, the resort has tapped world-renowned archaeologist Dante Garcia to provide services in-house. Garcia—who holds an advanced degree from the Autonomous University of Yucatan—has been featured on Nat Geo and specialises in Mayan archaeology, as well as the area’s prodigious natural wonders. For instance, he has 20 years of experience cave diving in local cenotes—the underground, fresh-water caverns that were left behind by the impact of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
In Etéreo’s purpose-built El Nicho—the resort’s library—Garcia meets and briefs guests ahead of their adventures. Besides outlining itineraries, he uses the time to measure the physical abilities and risk tolerance of guests, so that he can amp up or scale back the following day’s activities.
But you don’t have to be Indiana Jones to enjoy the ride. His menu of smart excursions offers something for any taste, fitness level, or attention span. Examples include a visit to the famed Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza (skipping the normal two-and-a-half hour drive via a Cessna); and breakfast at a 17th-century hacienda with access to the galleries where the Carnegie Institute planned its famed 1929 excavation, before setting off to explore one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
If you want something that sounds even more academic, join a Dynastic Archaeology by Air tour. It transports guests via a comfortable one-hour flight in a Piper Cherokee Six, over the heavily congested tourist mecca of Tulum and the magnificent coastline, to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A delicious lunch awaits at base camp, before you penetrate the jungle surrounding the enigmatic and compelling remains of an ancient city.
Other expeditions include a descent into a subterranean cave to explore one of the Mesoamericans’ most sacred sites. A visit to this underground realm of the rain god Chaac includes an in-depth anthropological tour of the Mayan Sacred Water Wells via a canoe ride through a lagoon. At the end you’ll arrive at a hidden archaeological site full of ancient buildings covered by jungle, with spider monkeys gambolling in the trees.
Still not done? Snorkel in a cenote containing the second largest cache of Mayan remains in the region. For those with adequate scuba-diving expertise (and certification), Garcia will even lead them on a dive penetrating deep into a subterranean cave.
On the morning I met Garcia, we travelled by SUV to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere to explore the under-appreciated ruins of Muyil by foot. Stopping to admire an anomalous temple structure that Garcia believes was influenced by the Guatemalan architecture of the period, he pointed out the easy-to-miss entrance to a cenote beneath the ruin, which the biosphere’s officials seem oblivious to. We then enjoyed an easy hike through the forest (with a stop to climb a lookout tower for an aerial view) until reaching an iridescent blue, fresh-water lagoon. A waiting motorboat ferried us across and into a dense mangrove forest, where we docked and floated down aquatic channels built by the ancient Mayans. Garcia theorises that these canals were carefully carved and maintained by the ancients to use for easier transport of goods.
But never fear: Should your brain cells start to feel especially stimulated, there are ice-cold margaritas waiting back at the hotel. This is Cancun, after all.
This story was first published on Robb Report USA