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The Riviera Maya

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          Beautiful Beaches and Mayan Ruins





Best Places to Visit  in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Beaches and Mayan Sites

 Great weather, great water, great beaches = Riviera Maya


The Riviera Maya runs along the coast of Quintana Roo, the northeastern Mexican state snuggled up against the Caribbean.  The Riviera Maya starts south of Cancun, running from Puerto Morelos    to Tulum. 

Exploring the Riviera Maya will expose, mile after mile of white-sand beaches, lapped by beautiful turquoise water on one side and rocky cliffs, rimmed by lush, green, jungle on the other.

The Riviera Maya is popular with travelers who are not attracted to the twenty-four hour a day action and large crowds found in Cancun.   Slower paced than its northern neighbor, the Riviera May retains the Caribbean Coast's signature  weather.  It also mixes in a number of Mayan sites and pleasant ecological parks, for good measure.

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.

       .What's not to like, we wish we were there - on a beach on the Riviera Maya

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 Cancun.

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 Tulum and Coba.  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 visit.


Bungalos, beaches - sounds like the Riviera MayaThere 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 the area. 

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.

Watching the sky and water change color are a popular pastime along the Riviera Maya

"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 Festival.  See the official website  for 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 others might dispute that claim, there is little doubt that this community is a pleasant place to stay

        .A beach scene at Tulum

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.


Xcaret from Riviera Maya
From Viator Tours

Yep, there is plenty of wildlife at the local ecological parks in the Riviera Maya

Two commercial ecological parks along the Riviera Maya that attract many tourists are Xcaret  (near Playa del Carmen) and Xel-hᠨnear 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 the official site  for more information. 

The Xel-hᠥcological 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  official website.

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 official site 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.

NextThe Seaside Mayan City of Tulum

Or - Visit the Hidden Mayan City of Coba

Or - Return to Best Places to Visit in Mexico

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index  or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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Locator map showing the location of the Yucatan and Riviera Maya










Riviera Maya's hurricane season is between June 1 and November 30.

The coast here is  unprotected by offshore islands. As a result, it is often threatened by hurricanes.

The storms  peak in August and September, but "canes" can occur anytime during the season.





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Where Next?

East Coast/ The Yucatan


West Coast

Mexican Riviera North

Cabo San Lucas

Mexican Riviera South
Puerto Vallarta

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Cenotes are small,  water filled pools that may be underground or at the surface. 

These types of depressions are common  in areas where limestone underlays the surface.

Sometimes the limestone collapses and exposes the cenote.  In other cases, the ground erodes beneath a stable cap rock and an underground pool forms.

The cenotes were a source of fresh water for the Mayans.  Today  they are tourist attractions that provide combine great swimming and diving with interesting geology.

























Chichen Itza from Riviera Maya
offered by Viator








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