What the awe-struck adventurers hadn't expected was the mighty temples and sophisticated cities of the Mayans. The evocative ruins of these temples remain, as do many elements of Mayan culture. Its influence is evident in everything from fiery food to vibrant fiestas, giving the region an added sense of the exotic; even the limestone landscape of underground rivers and sacred pools exudes an aura of primeval mystery. The coast has seen new visitors in recent decades as tourists have been drawn in by the laid-back lifestyle, perfect climate and beautiful beaches. Like the conquistadors, they’ve found there’s much more to the region than they’d ever imagined.