We have no doubt that you’ve heard of the Riviera Maya. Whether you’ve already visited, or one of your friends or family members have, it’s no secret that Riviera Maya is a favorite destination for many vacationers, and one of Mexico’s most popular tourist regions.
The term Riviera Maya is relatively new and has varied definitions, so what exactly is this vacation hotspot?
This area is located just south of the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (approximately 10 miles south of Cancun), stretching along 75 miles of the Mexican Caribbean coastline.
But with so much area to explore, so many sights to see, and so many beaches to lounge on, where are the most noteworthy places in the Riviera Maya to enjoy a vacation?
Right in the center of Riviera Maya is Playa del Carmen—a relaxing, coastal resort town offering plenty of ecotourism, water sports, and nightlife, but far more tame than it’s rowdy Cancun neighbor.
While enjoying the beautiful beachfront of your favorite Playa del Carmen resort is an obvious option for vacationers, there’s still a variety of other attractions to enjoy in the city. Break up your day of sunbathing on the white sandy beaches by visiting one of the adventure parks like Xcaret or Xplor for zip lining and water rafting. Head to the cobblestone streets of downtown for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Walk among the Mayan ruins of Muyil, hike the Yucatan jungles, or discover aquatic life by scuba or snorkeling.
The city of Tulum is divided into three areas—the Hotel Zone, Downtown, and the Ruins. Divvy up your vacation itinerary for a chance to enjoy and discover all three on your trip.
The Hotel Zone, of course, is made up of beautiful beachfront resorts and luxury spas for a relaxing, pampered stay. The Ruins, best visited during sunrise to avoid the large tourist crowds, is where the Mayan ruins of Tulum stand against the gorgeous ocean backdrop. Make sure to bring your swimsuit and camera! For more of a local experience, head into the downtown area for shopping, dining, and a modest nightlife that’s not overwhelmed with tourists.
Roughly halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen lies the quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos. It’s home to many upscale, all-inclusive beach resorts and has a reputation as the go-to laid-back Caribbean destination. Puerto Morelos is a hidden gem for those looking for a truly relaxing vacation away from the glitz, spring break crowd, or tourist hot spots.
But don’t get the wrong impression—there’s still plenty to keep you busy (if desired) during your stay! Part of the largest reef system in the Western Hemisphere—Great Mesoamerican Reef—is just offshore, making water adventures such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and reef diving popular activities. Take a stroll around the central square and visit the many shops and small eateries, enjoy an authentic Mayan massage at the local spas, or book a catamaran to tour the shimmering Caribbean waters and it’s equally stunning coastline.
A small, luxurious gated tourist community, Puerto Aventuras is known for having some of the whitest sand beaches in Mexico, making it the perfect relaxation location.
There’s also many ways to get out and explore the crystal clear Caribbean waters, with most resorts in Puerto Aventuras offering either on-site or nearby full-service marinas. Rent a catamaran, book a private boat tour, or a tourist favorite—swim with the dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Center.
The name meaning “Land of turtles”, Akumal is a charming little beach town nestled between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. The town can be easy to miss, as it’s located in a protected shallow bay—making it all the more alluring for a peaceful getaway.
But don’t sleep on this hidden gem—it’s reef is known to have one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving locations in the Riviera Maya. Discover the various tropical fish, sea turtles, corals, and even shipwrecks!