Mexico » The Best Activities and Excursions In The Riviera Maya, Mexico: Boat Trips, Cenotes, Ancient Ruins And More!

The Best Activities and Excursions In The Riviera Maya, Mexico: Boat Trips, Cenotes, Ancient Ruins And More!

The best tours and excursions in the Riviera Maya include exploring the ancient civilisations of the Mayan people, sailing through the bright turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and sampling all the delicious Mexican food the region has to offer. 

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is a VERY special place for me. It’s where I got my first proper dose of wanderlust! I headed off on my first solo long haul flight, landed in Cancun, joined a tour, and spent 10 days exploring Mexico.

I’ve explored quite a few parts of the country over the last few years, but it’s the Riviera Maya that draws me back time and time again. I love the variety of things to do, the people and the views. There’s a feistiness and fun, plus while it’s an easy place to explore as a tourist, there are some wonderfully authentic spots too.

Cocktail on the beach in Mexico
The best excursions in the Riviera Maya include views like this! 

So, time to show you around one of my favourite parts of the world, with a quick guide to the best things to do in Mexico’s Rivera Maya.

Explore The Riviera Maya’s Cenotes  

If you’ve never heard of a cenote, then you obviously haven’t visited the Riviera Maya before! Imagine a cave / lake hybrid and that’s kind of what a cenote is like. These incredible sinkholes are filled with bright blue, crystal clear water, and there are over 6,000 of them in the Yucatan Peninsula. They’re believed to be sacred, and it’s thought the Mayans saw them as the entrance to the underworld.

I find them absolutely magical, and while I’ve been to a few of the same ones over and over, it’s been fun exploring and taking a dip in new ones on each of my return trips. There are plenty of Riviera Maya excursions that will take you to popular cenotes like Dos Ojos and Ik Kil. If you get the chance though, head to Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula. They’re located close to each other and are not only less visited, but also absolutely stunning!

Cenote Samula, Mexico
Cenote Samula, Mexico
Cenote Xkeken
Some of my favourite excursions in the Riviera Maya are to cenotes like this one – Cenote Xkeken 

Alternatively, drive along the Ruta De Los Cenotes (between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum) and you’ll find several cenotes on either side of the road.

Relax In An All-Inclusive Resort

Iberostar Riviera Maya
When you’re not enjoying a Riviera Maya excursion you can relax somewhere like this

You’ve probably heard about the incredible all-Inclusive hotels in the Riviera Maya. For the ultimate hassle-free holiday, you can check into a swanky resort, feast on delicious food and spend your days relaxing by the pool, taking part in lots of fun activities or enjoying a daily schedule of entertainment.

Just imagine all you can eat ice cream? Or pina coladas? Or tacos? Mmmm! Most hotels in the region have access to gorgeous white sandy beaches, great pool areas and food from around the world, so you’ll never be bored.

Check Out One Of The Adventure Parks

There are a few great excursions in the Rivera Maya built for adrenaline addicts! The one that caught my eye last time I visited Mexico was XPLOR. I remember driving down the main highway and spotting someone flying off a tall platform on a zipline.

XPLOR is an adventure park filled with exciting ziplines, caves and underground rivers. From driving an amphibious vehicle through rocky, wet terrain, to exploring an underground river on a floating raft, and hurtling through the skies on a zipline, it looks like SO much fun!

Xplor Cancun
Xplor Cancun – one of the most popular Riviera Maya excursions
Xplor - one of the most fun excursions in the Riviera Maya
Xplor – one of the most fun excursions in the Riviera Maya

Enjoy A Boat Trip To Paradise Islands

If you’re spending a week enjoying the beaches and sunshine of the Riviera Maya, I’d recommend taking at least one boat trip. While there are various snorkel and scuba diving tours, I’d recommend a trip to Cozumel or Isla Mujeres.

The Cozumel ferry leaves from Playa Del Carmen, and only takes 45 minutes (you can read my guide on how to get to Cozumel here). Meanwhile, to reach Isla Mujeres, you’ll need to book a day tour. Most ferry and catamaran excursions include a stop for snorkelling, lunch and the ferry trip to check out the vibrant and fun islands. Once there, you can enjoy the hippie vibes, street art, and taco stands. Find out where to stay in Isla Mujeres.

Paradise beaches on Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Paradise beaches await you on Isla Mujeres – one of the most popular excursions in the Riviera Maya
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Isla Mujeres, Mexico

If you have a bit longer, I’d 100% recommend the trip to Isla Holbox. It’s genuinely one of my favourite places I’ve been to in Mexico! More chilled out and less developed than the other spots I’ve mentioned, it’s a place with the brightest water, the best sunsets and a great all-round vibe for a few days away from mainland Mexico.

Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox
Incredible aerial views over Isla Holbox

Snorkel With Turtles

There are plenty of opportunities to get up close to incredible underwater life in this region of Mexico. One of my favourite activities from previous trips has been snorkelling with turtles in the wild. Sadly, there are lots of wonderful creatures in captivity in the Riviera Maya, so think carefully before booking excursions to the waterparks, or experiences involving swimming with dolphins.

However, there are a few spots I’d recommend visiting to get closer to nature.  Head to Akumal (a beach between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum) and you can often spot sea turtles swimming, grazing and enjoying the water close to the shore. It’s an amazing experience to see them in the wild. 

Some of the best excursions in the Riviera Maya allow you snorkel with turtles

Also, close by is Yal-Ku, a lagoon with an abundance of sea creatures. Compared to the heavily marketed water parks, this is a totally underrated spot, with cheap entry prices, great visibility and lots of amazing fish to get up close to!

READ MORE: 9 Amazing Things To Do On Your Cancun Holiday

Explore The Mayan Ruins At Chichen Itza And Tulum

The most popular Riviera Maya excursions are to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Tulum. This region is brimming with history, with the ancient ruins dating back to the 7th Century. While you can’t climb the pyramid at Chichen Itza, you can still get up close to lots of the monuments. 

Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza – the most popular Riviera Maya excursion

I’ve always found Chichen Itza to be very busy (bus loads of private tours arrive each hour) so I’d recommend arriving early if you can. I’ve always found trips to Tulum to be a little more relaxed. It’s still a popular spot, but it’s wonderful to take in the views of the ruins against a tropical backdrop of the Caribbean Sea. You can even take a dip in the water to cool off!

Tulum, Mexico
Tulum ruins – another great excursion in the Riviera Maya

I hope this has given you lots of ideas to make your Riviera Maya holiday extra special!

This blog post was sponsored by As always, all opinions are my own!

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Best Activities And Excursions In The Riviera Maya, Mexico

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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