Offshore of the Riviera Maya is the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest
in the world. The reef extends south to
Belize and Honduras.
Along the Riviera Maya, the reef is called the Great Mayan Reef and the diving
in this area can
be spectacular. In addition, there a number of unique
archeological areas and ecological parks
The weather in the Riviera Maya is subtropical. It is warm year round with
temperatures peaking in the summer, while the rainy season occurs in
September and October. Protection from the sun is a must, as not only
will you be outside a lot, but the sun will be shining at a higher angle
than at home and
can do damage quickly unless you are lathered up and wearing sun gear.
Those who visit the Riviera Maya do so for its great sunbathing, good quality diving and snorkeling,
an abundance of water sports and a chance for a day trip to Cozumel or
The coast along the Riviera Maya was actively used for living, fishing
and trade by the Mayans and for this reason it is also known as Mundo Maya ( the Mayan
World). The heritage of the Mayans continues in this area and it is propagated and
preserved by many of the indigenous residents.
If you are interested
in the Mayan civilization, you will enjoy visiting
the Mayan sites of
If you are interested in touring either or both of these fantastic
excavations, be sure to click our links, which will take you to mini-guides
describing the sites and providing photos of what you will see when you
are a number of towns that might catch your eye along the Riviera Maya and each offers
something slightly different than the others. Many towns are small and
the lodging opportunities are limited, so plan ahead. In addition,
accommodations generally become more modest as one goes south, although you
will find luxury hotels and specialty boutique hotels scattered throughout
Playa del Carmen is the Riviera Maya's largest town. In some
ways it is a mini-Cancun, offering more of everything than its siblings up and
down the coast. Located approximately 40 miles from Cancun,
Playa del Carmen is known for its variety of hotels, great beaches, good
food and pedestrian-only waterfront. La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is the main pedestrian zone, with lots of shops,
restaurants and most of the city's night clubs. Close by is Playacar, a local
tourism development featuring hotels, villas, shopping and golf.
"Playa" is also popular because of its direct ferry connection to
Cozumel. In addition there are a number of attractions along the Riviera Maya that can be
reached by easy day trips from this area.
Playa Mamita's, a popular beach area hosts the yearly Riviera Maya Jazz
the official website
details on dates and performers.
Other locations along the Riviera Maya that are favored by tourists include Akumal, Puerto Aventuras, Kantenah and Tulum.
Akumal (place of the turtles) is considered by many to be a great location for
diving or snorkeling. Its bay and surroundings are home to subterranean rivers which help to create very clear diving
conditions. In addition, there area has a few coastal caves that make
for interesting diving, if you have the skills. Akumal offers a relatively large selection of hotels and
has a number of good restaurants.
Puerto Aventuras is a gated community with a modest selection of hotels.
It appeals to those looking for privacy and exclusivity. Its marina is
a good place to charter boats for sightseeing or fishing. In addition, its CEDAM Museum hosts treasures from a number of local shipwrecks.
Kantenah, often called Kantenal, is another restful area that many believe
has some of the most beautiful views on the Riviera Maya. While
might dispute that claim, there is little doubt that this community is a
pleasant place to stay
The main attraction in Tulum is the archaeological site, however, the town
itself is growing in popularity as a vacation location. Hotels here were once a great
bargain and are still somewhat reasonable, but prices have increased as the
area's popularity escalated.
Tulum is a quieter town than Playa del Carmen, for example,
and if you are looking for rest and relaxation Tulum
may be the place for you. There is a broad range of accommodations,
although the best hotels and resorts are close to the area's narrow, but extremely beautiful beaches.
Two commercial ecological parks along the Riviera Maya that attract many tourists are Xcaret
(near Playa del Carmen) and Xel-há (near Tulum).
Xcaret park is focused on culture, ecology, Mexican wildlife and a nighttime
show called the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, which presents Mexican music and
dances from around the country. The scuba diving here is quite good and a
large number of water activities are available, including swimming with
Dolphins and swimming in cenotes (water-filled sinkholes). A day at Xcaret is
relatively expensive, but it may be just the thing for families. See
official site for
The Xel-há ecological park is located on a
coastal inlet that features amazing biological diversity. The 200
acre park features an open-sea aquarium and a variety of land and water
activities. See its
official website for more information.
The Aktun Chen park, south of Akumal capitalizes one of the region's famous cenotes
. The name translates roughly into "the cave with a river inside".
The park offers nearly a thousand acres of rainforest for exploration.
However, the main
interest here is a cenote filled with stalactites and stalagmites that can be
seen during a guided tour that lasts a little over an hour. Interesting
flora and local wildlife inhabit the rest of the park. For more
information, see the park's
The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve located south of Tulum, was named a UNESCO
World Heritage Site because of its sensitive tropical ecosystems. The
Biosphere Reserve includes tropical forest, mangroves, marshes and a marine
section intersected by a barrier reef. Its habitat contains a
remarkable diversity of plants and animals. The reserve, which is over
a million acres in size, is funded by "limited" tourism. If you
visit, your "contribution" will help sustain the reserve. There is a lot
to see and do, although all of it is related to nature and observing nature.
For more information see the
of the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an (CESiaK).
The Riviera Maya is growing popularity because of its great beaches and
reasonably-sized crowds, even during the high season. Development is
beginning to take away some of the natural charm for which the area is
known. However, the change is also bringing in some excellent hotels and
a wide variety of quality restaurants, something the Riviera
Maya lacked in the past.
Those interested in planning a trip to this area, might find this
commercial website for the
Riviera Maya to be a helpful resource.
Next - The
Seaside Mayan City of Tulum
the Hidden Mayan City of Coba
Return to Best Places to Visit in Mexico
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.