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 Ultimate guide to Riviera Maya, Mexico 

First, we are going to establish what the Riviera Maya is, where it is and why it is so famous worldwide.

The Riviera Maya is a coastal strip in southeastern Mexico facing the Mexican Caribbean in the coast of Quintana Roo and including the island of Cozumel.

It is usually considered to start about 36 kilometers south of Cancún in the so-called “Pueblo con Encanto” of Puerto Morelos, and extending down to Punta Allen, a remote slice of paradise in the far South of Quintana Roo, inside the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an.




It began to develop as a tourist destination in 1990 due to the boom that the area experienced since the ‘80s which boosted the tourism sector in the region; starting with the Cancun-Tulum corridor which quickly became one of the most important sources of tourism revenue for Mexico.

What makes the Riviera Maya so internationally recognized - at the level of other destinations, such as Hawaii - is the enormous amount of activities you can do in the Riviera Maya, as a couple, with family or friends. It is a natural and multicultural paradise with endless adventures for everyone!

In addition to the impressive turquoise color of its waters, a hallmark of the Mexican Caribbean, it also has extensive beaches of fine white sand, majestic archaeological sites, and the largest system of underground rivers, cenotes and caverns in the world, embedded in the heart of the Mayan jungle.

Here you will also find countless luxury hotels, water and adventure parks, as well as picturesque towns that still preserve the relics and traditions of the ancient Mayans. You can also visit in the Riviera Maya a part of the second largest reef in the world, known as the Great Mayan Reef, teeming with amazing marine life.


Main places to go in the Riviera Maya

The entire Riviera Maya is beautiful, however, it has different types of locations for all kinds of tastes, some more instagrammable than others. Some places, like Playa del Carmen, have hotels and shopping centers with greater infrastructure, and others, like Akumal or Puerto Morelos, are villages with a quieter atmosphere, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


delphinus nado con delfines en cancun

It is very important that you decide or plan your vacation considering the different Mexican Caribbean seasons.For example the so-called high season, when there are more tourists in the area, coincides with the school calendar: winter holidays, from December 20 to 31; Easter holidays, from April 11 to 22 of 2022; and summer break which begins on July 29 of 2022.

Bubbles Div A

During the winter season, although it may not seem like it, temperatures are usually lower, between 20º and 28º C; while in the summer, the Caribbean heat can reach up to 38º C. 

Two other seasons that are important to consider when planning your visit to the Riviera Maya are the hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1 and lasts until November 30. And in recent years, in recent years, the sargassum season, which runs from May to mid-September.

What is certain is that, regardless of the time of year, in each destination you can find different options for entertainment, fun and culture. The most visited towns currently are: Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Playa Mujeres, Xcaret, Xel-Há, Tulum and Sian Ka’an.

How to go to the beaches in the Riviera Maya

One of the main places to go in the Riviera Maya is of course, the beach. For this there are two options in the Riviera Maya: you can go to a public beach, such as those found in Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, and Tulum. You can also enjoy the exclusive beaches of some hotels and beach clubs; although keep in mind that to access these, you must pay a fee, buy a day pass, or be staying at the hotel.

Safety in the Riviera Maya

Safety in the Riviera Maya is very well protected, both by the authorities and by private companies, which the same businessmen and hoteliers hire to guarantee a safe stay for their visitors.

Thanks to these joint efforts, thousands of tourists who arrive year after year can safely walk through places such as the Hotel Zone of Cancun or the Fifth Avenue of Playa del Carmen. 

Some areas with less hotel infrastructure, such as the town of Puerto Morelos and other coastal towns, are quiet and peaceful destinations; For this reason, they have become the favorites of couples who seek to spend intimate moments of tranquility and of families that feel very safe with their children there.

Regarding health safety, the Riviera Maya has kept many of its tourism activities open thanks to the fact that companies, hotels and recreational centers have adapted their protocols to comply with the standards established by the World Travel and Tourism Council ( WTTC) for safe travels for the duration of the pandemic

Quick list for safe travel to the Riviera Maya


Organize your trip with the help of tools such as Google maps, calendars, and apps to organize your expenses and of course, with all the remote service tools that hotels and recreational centers can offer you.

Pro tip: take advantage of the packages that some recreational centers already have pre designed; so you will not have to worry about organizing a lot and, most of the time, they are cheaper because they know exactly what you should and shouldn't spend.


Once you've arrived, quickly locate where the convenience stores and pharmacies are. Make sure you have hand sanitizer, face masks, insect repellent, sunblock, etc. on hand. On the same topic, do not forget to ask where you can find eco-friendly sunscreen and insect repellents to avoid damaging the natural environment, and where to dispose dispose of your masks properly.


If you travel as a family or as a couple, share all information about the trip’s itinerary, including schedules, dates and places and establish key places to meet up at in case you get lost or separate while going for a walk.


Places to go in the Riviera Maya: Main attractions in the Riviera Maya


What to do in Puerto Morelos?


It is one of the most beloved destinations for local tourism, but also for people from different countries who come here for a place to spend their quiet days of retirement.


what_to_do_Puerto Morelos




Walks along the beach and the boardwalk, take a boat trip offered by the local fishermen themselves; go on SCUBA diving and snorkeling tours, or visit some nearby cenotes on the famous Ruta de los Cenotes.


How to get there

Taking the highway from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, it is quite easy to get to the Puerto Morelos bridge where you will have to either transfer onto a van or walk along the walkway by the edge of the mangrove to get to the port

Puerto Morelos _ map
Cuando ir a puerto morelos

When is it best to go

Like the rest of the Riviera Maya destinations, it's all about personal preference. The Caribbean Sea tends to always maintain a spectacular beauty in any season. So, in addition to summer, you may be interested in visiting it in December, the month in which the Puerto Morelos Fair takes place.


If you travel as a couple

Do not miss the opportunity to take a relaxing massage in front of the sea, meet new friends in one of the many beach clubs or try the interesting gastronomy in one of the many restaurants in front of the boardwalk.


If you travel with kids

You will love walking along the boardwalk and along the coastal area, but there are also places like Dephinus Puerto Morelos, located on El Cid hotel where there are fun family programs and activities for dolphin interactions.

You must not miss

Taking your photo in front of the famous Puerto Morelos leaning lighthouse is, without a doubt, something that you cannot miss. Find out from the locals why the lighthouse is in this peculiar position; they will surely have an interesting story to tell!



What to do in Playa del Carmen?


More than a tourist destination, it is a municipality with great infrastructure combined with the charm of a town on the seashore. Therefore, here you will find a cosmopolitan atmosphere among the hospitality of its people.


 Playa del Carmen




As an established city, you'll find everything here, from shopping malls and fine dining restaurants, to traditional craft shops, bars, and nightclubs.

Some very popular recommendations are:

  • Walk along Fifth Avenue, an icon of Playa del Carmen that houses numerous stores of recognized brands and a great gastronomic offer
  • Go sunbathing and enjoy a cocktail at Playa Mamitas
  • Take the ferry and cross to the wondrous island of Cozumel
  • Rent a bike and ride on the downtown steers or the Fifth Avenue
  • Enjoy its vibrant nightlife

How to get to Playa del Carmen

You can get there from several destinations: leaving from Cancún by taking a bus at the ADO terminal or in your own car, although there are also public van-type transports that go to the beach.

If you already have a travel route or a plan of your activities with a hotel or recreation center, you can ask about their transportation plans included in your reservation.

Como llegar a Playa del Carmen
Cuando ir a playa del carmen

When is it best to go

At any time of year. There is always something to do in Playa del Carmen and its various parks, squares and public beaches.

In addition to the great New Year's Eve party, when the Fifth Avenue fills with color, party and fireworks, visiting Playa del Carmen during the Day of the Dead celebrations (November 1 and 2) is an excellent idea. During these days, the Mayan tradition of Hanal Pixán comes to life among altars, locals and tourists dressed up in the streets, and delicious typical dishes of this time.


If you travel as a couple

Definitely, the best thing that Playa del Carmen has for couples is the nightlife and the possibility of living unique experiences in nearby nightclubs and water parks. Stroll through the markets, such as the Mercado de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, where you will surely find the perfect memory of your trip.


If you travel with kids

You will find many options to do with your little ones, such as strolling through the famous Parque Fundadores - where Fifth Avenue begins - very close to the public beach and where there are always local activities.

You can also rent a bicycle and stroll through the colorful streets of Playa del Carmen until you reach Playacar, a residential area at the beginning of Fifth Avenue, full of vegetation and with some Mayan ruins.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit museums such as the 3D Museum of Wonders or the Frida Kahlo Museum; in addition to the Planetarium that always offers interesting talks and workshops on science and history of the Mayan culture.



You must not miss

Swimming with dolphins in the Riviera Maya, very close to Playa del Carmen. This is one of the best experiences that you can enjoy, either as a family or as a couple, since this habitat is extraordinarily beautiful and dolphins live naturally. The schedule to enjoy this experience is between 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.



What do in Tulum?

World famous for having one of the most beautiful and impressive archaeological site of the Mayan culture, the archaeological zone of Tulum offers a unique postcard view of a Mayan pyramid facing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.




In ancient times, Tulum was a strategic point for trade and exchange with other cultures. This is why this site has a unique architecture designed to monitor the nearby coast and the wall that encompasses the city from which the name of “the walled city” comes from.

It was also a society that deepened the study of the stars, which endows these structures with spectacular views for stargazing for curious sky gazers or for those who enjoy meteor showers, eclipses, etc.

Surely you have also heard of the events and congresses that take place here; from business events in which business leadership, real estate and tourism issues are discussed; to must-see parties and musical events.



You can camp or rent a cabin in the beach area very close to the ruins, take a paddle board ride or explore the Great Mayan Reef with a snorkeling adventure. Tulum is located near the Sian Ka'an reserve, so you can complement your tour by visiting this pristine and beautiful protected natural area.

Some very popular places like the Papaya playa beach club are great to cool off before visiting places like the giant sculpture that seems to open its heart, located on the Tulum-Boca Paila highway, where you will surely want to take a photo souvenir.

Cómo llegar a tulum

How to get to Tulum

It is very easy to get here by road from Cancun, Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen, as there are several public transport options, Although you should consider that Tulum’s hotel zone is 4.5km away from its downtown. So if you want to stay there, you can eight get there by private transportation, taxi or bicycle.

Cuando ir a Tulum

When is it best to go

At any time of the year, but definitely in the spring and summer you will find many things to do. You can also follow their official tourism pages for the dates of important events, such as the equinoxes and solstices, important dates for the Mayan cosmology.


If you travel as a couple

In addition to romantic dinners in front of the Caribbean Sea, a must for lovers is visiting Kaan Luum, whose transparent waters of different hues of green and blue make up a natural pool and the perfect setting to relax with your partner in a hammock or on the pier.


If you travel with kids

The best thing is to do is recreational activities or tours of the archaeological zone. Some families camp or go for a walk for several days, but it all depends on the type of activities that you like as a family, here you can find:

  • Flora and fauna observation tours
  • Guided tours of cenotes
  • Snorkel tours
  • Paddleboard or kayak adventures

You must not miss

You definitely can't leave Tulum without having your picture taken at the most popular Mayan pyramid in the Riviera Maya.


What to do in Xcaret?


This ecotourism park is one of the most famous inside and outside of Mexico because it offers a wide variety of activities of all kinds, such as adventure sports or living the experience of interacting with dolphins, sharks and other species.






Xcaret has activities for everyone, from children to seniors, but definitely the greatest offer is found by adults with dozens of activities related to adventure sports.

These are some of the activities you can do at Xcaret:

  • Swim through underground rivers, caves and cenotes
  • Enjoy water parks with slides
  • Visit the butterfly farm and the aviary
  • Visit the interactive aquarium
  • Go hiking through the jungle
  • Enjoy a tasting or a bottle from an exclusive wine cellar
  • Stroll through a henequen hacienda like those of Yucatan’s yesteryear
  • Snorkeling and Scuba diving
Mapa Xcaret

How to get to Xcaret

Being one of the main theme parks in the Riviera Maya, it is a destination with multiple possibilities to get there. You can go by public or private transport, and almost all routes can leave you there. You can leave for Xcaret from anywhere on the Riviera by road. You can also buy your entry ticket with round transportation included, where they pick you up at your hotel or meeting point.

Xcaret - como llegar
Cuando ir a Xcaret

When is it best to go

At any time of the year, but without a doubt, its extreme and adventurous activities are most enjoyed when there are not so many people, during the low season. Another good season to visit Xcaret is at the end of October and beginning of November, dates on which the now traditional Festival of Life and Death Traditions takes place, a great cultural sample of the Day of the Dead, an important date for all Mexicans.


If you travel as a couple

Nothing like enjoying an intimate moment with your partner surrounded by the beautiful landscapes of Xcaret. To do this and throughout the entire route, you will find small spaces with lounge chairs and hammocks facing the sea or the mouth of the Subterranean River, where you can rest with your partner enjoying - why not? - the delicious dishes offered by the restaurants of specialties at this place.


If you travel with kids

Xcaret has fun for all ages; a balance between activities for children, adults and seniors, although adventure-loving adults definitely enjoy this place a lot. The best for the little ones? The Butterfly Park, the Aviary, the Interactive Aquarium and the many islands with different endemic species, such as monkeys, deer and jaguars are, without a doubt, the best attractions for children.

You must not miss

In addition to swimming in the Underground River and staying for the incomparable night show, swimming with dolphins in Delphinus Xcaret is something you cannot miss. 


What to do in Xel-há?


Like Xcaret, it is an ecological park but with a slightly more familiar and not so extreme atmosphere. It is also famous for the multicultural shows that take place in the park's recreational facilities.






Xel-Há has been growing for several years as an ecological recreation center. It has various activities that have become iconic of the place such as the Chuck Kay Flight, visits at sea with Snuba Caleta, the bike ride through the Land of Huh or the walk through the Floating Bridge.

Cómo llegar a Xel Há

How to get to Xel-há

It is located 40 minutes by road from Playa del Carmen and has many options to get there, including tour packages that reach the park and other nearby areas.


When is it best to go

Any time of the year is fine for Xel-Há. However, if you plan a family trip, spring and summer are an excellent option to take advantage of your vacations.


If you travel as a couple

Live the experience of creating a beautiful bond with dolphins and other marine species in an ideal habitat in the Mexican Caribbean, at Delphinus Xel-Há.


If you travel with kids

Tour on floating tires, bike ride, snorkeling adventure in the cove, hanging bridges, and sliding at full speed down the slides of the new Mirador Lighthouse from a height of 40 m, are some of the activities that you can do with your little ones. In general, Xel-Há has an excellent family atmosphere.

You must not miss

You definitely have to visit La Caleta, a natural pool where the waters of the underground river system of the Riviera Maya converge and the salty waters of the Caribbean Sea, creating a perfect habitat for numerous marine species, and contemplate the magnificent 360º view from the top of the Mirador Lighthouse.


What to do in Sian Ka’an?


A protected biosphere reserve declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1987. It does not have much infrastructure and most of its inhabitants are fishermen or work in tourism. 

The name Sian Ka'an means ”spell or gift from the heavens” in Mayan and it was part of the territory of two chiefdoms (the Mayan form of government), Cohuah and Uaymil.

At the time of colonization it was part of the pirate route so it did not have settlements in communities during all that time and even today, being an ecological reserve, it is not a very developed with and with a small population.

Sian Kaan-1




Sian Ka’an is mainly a fishing area, since being a protected natural area, the development of infrastructure like the one that exists in some places in the Riviera Maya is not allowed.

For this reason, its activities are related to the observation of flora and fauna and diving.

The areas that you can visit in tours are Punta Allen and Boca Paila, plus, the route to get there is in itself a scenic path full of imposing marine species such as the crocodile and hundreds of birds that you will love to see.


How to get to Sian Ka’an

It is located 140 km from Cancun and 10 km from Tulum. It is mainly accesible by boat, at least, for the main tourist areas where it is allowed to carry out tours or water activities with low impact on the region’s ecosystem. It is best to schedule an excursion in advance departing from Xcaret, Cancun, or Tulum.

Playa del Carmen_map

When is it best to go

Since it is not an area where you can stay at for extended time, you can go on a tour at any time of the year. However, the best time could be spring and summer, when there is more influx of visitors so it is possible to share the boat ride through this area.


If you travel as a couple

You will love kayaking and snorkeling! Actually,  Sian ka'an has multiple activities related to ecotourism, such as walks through mangrove areas or visits to nearby cenotes; so while it is spectacular, it might be more enjoyable without young children.


If you travel with kids

Boat trips to some of the areas of the biosphere can be a very familiar option, but these tours usually depart from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum; so account for longer travel times.

You must not miss

Visit Boca Paila and Punta Allen, the most popular areas in the tours of the place and get to know the Muyil and Chunyaxché lagoons where you can admire the mangroves and much of the fauna and flora of Sian Ka’an. 

In addition, the wetlands of this reserve, which rise up among the herbs of the swamps, form ecosystems called petenes, which are islets with low-rise jungle-type vegetation, with very particular marine fauna that can only be observed there. Without a doubt a hallmark of this mystical place.


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