Home Luxury 7 Places You Can’t Miss In The Riviera Maya, Mexico

7 Places You Can’t Miss In The Riviera Maya, Mexico

by Chloe Gunning
Riviera Maya, Mexico
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From pristine, sandy beaches and crystal clear lagoons, to towering Mayan pyramids and breathtaking cenotes, there are so many amazing places to visit in the Riviera Maya in Mexico. 

Have you been to Riviera Maya yet? Well you should! This jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula is one of my favourite areas to visit in Mexico. This stretch of coastline is absolutely stunning, and is just a short distance from one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

Beach in Mexico

Beach in Mexico

Dip your toes in the crystal waters of Mexico’s Caribbean coast and you can expect to catch a glimpse of thousands of beautiful tropical fish, peaceful sea turtles, schools of dolphins, sharks, rays, and much more.

Away from the sea, there are plenty of amazing places to visit in the Riviera Maya – you’ll be spoilt for choice! This region isn’t only known for its teeming oceans and golden beaches. It was once the centre of Mayan civilisation, and you’ll find imposing ruins and fascinating sacred sites all along the coast.

Don’t miss the amazing pyramid at Chichen Itza, or the amazing cenotes (natural sinkholes filled with clear water, which were sacred for the Mayan people) which are dotted throughout the region. To give you a little inspiration, I’ve jotted down some of my favourite things to do in the Riviera Maya.

Scuba diving in a cenote in Mexico

Getting To The Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and its golden sands stretch for over 100 miles. International travellers usually arrive at the airport in Cancun, which is conveniently located just to the north of the Riviera Maya.

Most hotels can arrange travel to the Riviera Maya directly from the airport, or you can hop in a collectivo (local minibus) or a taxi. Costs vary depending on how far down the coast you plan to travel. As a rough guide, the bus from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen will set you back around $10, or a taxi will cost around $55.

Beach walks in Cancun, Mexico

Beach walks in Cancun, Mexico

Weather In The Riviera Maya

The best time to visit the Riviera Maya is during the dry season, between late November and February. At this time, you can expect warm, sunny weather, clear blue skies and temperatures hovering around 29 degrees Celsius.

As the season progresses through March, April and May, however, temperatures rise to an average of 34 degrees Celsius, with very high humidity, making this a very sticky and uncomfortable time of year to visit.

The rainy season begins in May and continues until early November, when the Yucatan Peninsula is hit by tropical storms and higher levels of rainfall.

Places To Visit In The Riviera Maya

  1. Puerto Morelos

Cancun’s lesser-known next-door-neighbour, Puerto Morelos is full of old world charm. This beautiful town is considered one of the best places to visit in the Riviera Maya, and it’s not hard to see why.

If you’re looking for perfect golden sands, rich waters teeming with rare sea life, and an authentic Mexican town, this is the place for you. You won’t find big resorts or rowdy groups of tourists here – instead you’ll have the opportunity to engage in some serious rest and relaxation, and learn a little about the local culture.

The lighthouse at Puerto Morelos, Mexico

The lighthouse at Puerto Morelos, Mexico

The biggest draw is the incredible reef just a few hundred metres off the beach. It’s the second largest reef in the world and home to over countless species of fish, 5 types of sea turtle, and even catch whale sharks.

Enjoying the food at Unico Beach, Puerto Morelos

Enjoying the food at Unico Beach, Puerto Morelos

  1. Akumal

Known as the ‘Place of the Turtles’, Akumal is a popular day trip for those staying in the Riviera Maya. With 5km of pristine beach, and a beautiful lagoon, Akumal is the idea place for swimming and wildlife spotting.

It’s easy to see why this place has such a wonderful reputation – there are five distinct bays, all of which boast crystal waters, shady palm trees and plenty of excellent bars and restaurants for evening entertainment.

Turtle

Turtle

My tip? Hire a snorkel and fins and swim a few metres off the beach. Sea turtles feed on the sea grasses here, and they’re amazing creatures to observe under the water. 

  1. Playa Del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is the central hub of the Riviera Maya, and the ideal base for exploring the rest of the region. This popular town attracts many visitors, but still retains a little of its local charm.

Wander 5th Avenue and you’ll find numerous bars, restaurants and gift shops. For a more local feel, head a few streets further back and you’ll discover street vendors selling delicious tacos and markets with fresh ingredients. Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

  1. Tulum

Once the site of an important Mayan city, Tulum is now one of the most popular towns in the Riviera Maya. An Instagram haven of beautiful bars and restaurants, chic hotels and villas, it’s popular with a young crowd who are looking to have a fun holiday in the sunshine.

You can’t visit without takin a trip to see the ruins of Tulum’s ancient Mayan city which are perched on top of a cliff with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop.  It’s a great place to get to grips with local history and culture.

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

This is where you’ll find some of the best cenotes in the Riviera Maya, with plenty within a short bike ride of the town. Once there, you can jump in the water for a splash around, pop on a snorkel and see what’s going on below the water, or even go scuba diving deep inside the cenote.

  1. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

This remarkable wetland is one of the most striking natural features of the coastline, and a magnificent place for wildlife on the Yucatan Peninsula. Covering 5280 square kilometres of gorgeous nature, this is the place to come if you want to see crocodiles, dolphins, rays, turtles, and manatees in their natural habitat.

It’s easily accessible from Tulum, and the Sian Ka’an Reserve is easily one of the most beautiful places in the Riviera Maya.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

  1. Puerto Aventuras

If you’re looking for a little decadence on the Riviera Maya, head to Puerto Aventuras, where you’ll find plenty of luxury 5-star hotels, bars and restaurants to make your holiday memorable.

Barcelo Riviera Maya, Mexico

Barcelo Riviera Maya, Mexico

Stay at the Barcelo Riviera Maya and enjoy top-class dining experiences, fun activities and beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea. This Riviera Maya hotel has all inclusive options and is a hotel only for adults – perfect when you want a break from the little ones in your life (however lovable they are!)

Barcelo Riviera Maya, Mexico

Barcelo Riviera Maya, Mexico

This small expat town is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, with a beautiful protected bay and a chance to spot dolphins. This is the best place on the Riviera Maya for pampering, so sit back with a cocktail and enjoy the view. 

  1. Coba

Deep in the heart of the Yucatan jungle lies Coba, an ancient ruined Mayan city known for its impressive pyramids. Now just a small village, this site was once one of the most important trading urban centres in the Mayan world, with 50,000 inhabitants at its peak.

Today it’s a wonderful place to explore, with fascinating Mayan ruins, a friendly, laid-back vibe, and some dazzlingly beautiful cenotes hidden away in the jungle.

Coba, Mexico

Coba, Mexico

Other Places to Visit in the Region

Cancun

Although it has a reputation as a party town, there’s more to Cancun than Coco Bongo! Pretty beaches, lots of adventure activities and plenty of hotels make it an easy day trip from anywhere along the Riviera Maya.

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico

Chichen Itza

You can’t visit this region without taking a day trip to Chichen Itza – one of the most famous Mayan sites in Mexico. You’ll be amazed by the massive stone pyramid known as El Castillo, but there are more incredible ruins tucked away around the site.. This is a bucket list highlight of any Mexico trip and should not be missed!

Chichen Itza Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Isla Holbox

Looking for the perfect place in the Riviera Maya to escape the crowds? Head to colourful and bohemian Isla Holbox for stunning beaches, fabulous food and drink, and a laid back vibe.  This is one of my favourite places in Mexico. I spent several days on holiday there last year and absolutely fell in love with it.

Pretty views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Pretty views on Isla Holbox, Mexico

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is the ideal paradise beach location, with glistening white sands, crystal waters, and plenty of opportunities for snorkelling and diving. There’s also lots here to keep you entertained in the evening, with a laid back atmosphere and some excellent local food options. Find out where to stay in Isla Mujeres.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Bacalar

Bacalar is a small, sleepy village perched on the shores of Lake Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours. This remarkable spot is known as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (magic towns) and once you visit, you’ll understand why.

Lake Bacalar in Mexico (Photo: Emily Luxton)

Lake Bacalar in Mexico (Photo: Emily Luxton)

Cozumel

Not sure what to do in the Riviera Maya? Grab your snorkel and head for the sea! Cozumel may be a quiet, sleepy island, but it’s one of the best spots in the region to get up close to some incredible sea life.  The scuba diving and snorkelling here is second to none, and if you head away from the cruise ship terminal, you’ll find a bit of local life too. 

I hope this guide has given you a little inspiration for where to visit in the Riviera Maya. I’m sure you’ll love this stunning place just as much as I do – let me know where you end up!


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