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Riviera Maya Travel Guide

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Mexico’s Riviera Maya is a popular tourist destination located south of Cancun along the Caribbean Sea. It is renowned for its stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and all-inclusive resorts.

Although there are no official boundaries, traditionally, Riviera Maya has been thought of as the area between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. However, some towns as far north as Puerto Morales and as far to the south as Punta Allen are now marketed as being part of the Mayan Riviera.

Many of Riviera Maya’s resorts tend to be large complexes housing multiple hotels under one brand. Prices for all-inclusive resorts here also tend to be more affordable than many other Caribbean destinations.

Several important archeological sites – including Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza – are also located nearby. Learn about the Mayan civilization that once ruled this area as you wander through the ruins of cities that rose and fell long ago.

Home to the second largest coastal barrier reef in the world, Riviera Maya is also a hotspot for snorkeling and diving. So, if you’re looking for a great beach vacation at an affordable price, it is hard to go wrong with Mexico’s Riviera Maya!

TRS Yucatan Hotel – This is one of our favorite resorts in the world! The all-inclusive TRS Yucatan Hotel is a luxury “adults only” section of the Grand Palladium – although it feels like you’re a world away. The food is phenomenal, the service is second to none, and the experience is perfect for honeymooners or couples. Choose between rooms with a view, rooms with a private plunge pool, or a romance bungalow along the lake. This is one of places we stay for special occasions, and we highly recommend it. Check rates and availability >>

Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya – The Hard Rock Hotel is the place to live large while soaking up the sun in Riviera Maya. This all-inclusive hotel sits on a beautiful private beach which is protected by a natural rock formation – making the water extremely calm and perfect for snorkeling. Bring the family or stay in the adults only section if you prefer. The food is very good, and of course it wouldn’t be the Hard Rock with out excellent entertainment. Check rates and availability >>

Barcelo Maya Palace – The Barcelo Maya Palace offers a great all-inclusive experience at an affordable price. The hotel is also part of a larger Barcelo complex, which means your stay at the Palace allows you to take advantage of the restaurants and facilities at four other connected resorts. The food is good, the rooms are nice, and it comes at a price that is hard to beat. Check rates and availability >>

Grand Palladium Colonial – The Grand Palladium Colonial is part of a sprawling resort complex which includes the TRS Yucatan. This family-friendly side of the resort offers a beautiful sandy beach, massive pools, and an incredible spa area that is worth checking out. While the food and service doesn’t compare to the TRS Yucatan, both are pretty good for a midlevel all-inclusive and they come at a fraction of the price. Check rates and availability >>

Hotels in Playa del Carmen:

Playacar Palace – This 5-star all-inclusive resort offers excellent food and solid rooms at a relatively reasonable price point for a high-end resort. Even better, Playacar Palace is located just steps from the southern entrance to Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue. If you want easy access to all that Play del Carmen has to offer, it is hard to go wrong with Playacar Palace. Check rates and availability >>

Hilton Playa del Carmen – This “adults only” all-inclusive resort is located just east of 5th Avenue. Sitting directly on the beach, the Hilton is a great place to unwind while being just a minute’s walk from all of the action. Check rates and availability >>

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen – The Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen is a great place for the entire family. This downtown hotel is just a block from all of the dining, shopping, and nightlife on 5th Avenue. Head back to the incredible pool and beautiful beach to enjoy a peaceful reprieve from the action of the city. Check rates and availability >>

🌴🌴🌴 The Beach – You’re here for the beach, so be sure to enjoy it. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, parasailing, and more while you relax on Riviera Maya’s incredible white sand beaches and clear Caribbean waters. The best time to visit is between fall and the end of spring. Prices are usually lower during the summer, but the water could be affected by the annual sargassum (seaweed) bloom.

🌴🌴 5th Avenue (Playa del Carmen) – If you are staying in Playa del Carmen, this is an absolute must. If your resort is outside of the city, try hard to get here. Playa’s 5th Avenue is a pedestrian zone lined with hundreds of local and high-end shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. This place is absolutely oozing with energy and offers a great opportunity to get off the resort to enjoy a slice of Mexico. Do yourself a favor and spend an afternoon or evening here. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

🌴🌴 Snorkeling & Diving – Riviera Maya is home to some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving. Whether you want to explore the area’s coral reefs, snorkel in a cenote, or swim in an underground river, there are dozens of tours that can make your dream a reality. Browse Snorkeling/Diving Tours >>

🌴 Tulum – Standing guard on a cliff overlooking the beach below, the walled city of Tulum is one of the most picturesque archeological sites you’ll find. Although it’s not as old as Chichen Itza or Coba, Tulum’s ruins are very well preserved. Tulum is part of Riviera Maya, so you can get there by bus or taxi. However, we highly recommend using a licensed tour company for your visit – which will likely include stops at Coba and/or a cenote. Browse Tulum Tours >>

🌴 Coba – Climb the famous pyramid while visiting the ancient Mayan city of Coba. Dozens of Coba tours are available, many of which also include a visit to Tulum and a cenote. Plan for this to be an all-day event. Browse Coba Tours >>

🌴 Chichen Itza – The ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza are extremely well preserved and worth a visit if you are interested. Because this archeological site is a bit further from Riviera Maya, tours to the site will be an all day event. Browse Chichen Itza Tours >>

Xel-Ha Park – For a fun family-friendly day trip, Xel-Ha is an ecological park offering some unique water activities. Enjoy snorkeling in their natural “aquarium,” floating down the lazy river, jumping off a 5 meter (16.5 foot) cliff, and more. Compare Xel-Ha Tickets >>

Xcaret Park – This combination resort and ecological park offers activities like snorkeling, river rafting, ziplining, and much more. Compare Xcaret Tickets >>

(Key: 🌴🌴🌴=Must See, 🌴🌴=Make an Effort to Visit, 🌴=If You Have Time, None=Worth Mentioning)

Airport – Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the major transportation hub for this area. Most major airlines have multiple daily flights that arrive and depart from Cancun.

Getting to/from Your Hotel – Depending on the location of your hotel and traffic, driving directly to your resort typically takes between 45 minutes and 2 hours. To get from the airport to your hotel, you typically have three options:

  1. Book a private transfer (highly recommended). – We always book a private transfer to hotels in Riviera Maya. They are reliable, fast, relatively inexpensive, and comfortable. Find private airport transfers here >>
  2. Utilize a free hotel transfer. – Many hotels offer free pickup at the airport. However, this could mean waiting for and riding with several other groups. It could also mean multiple stops on the way to your hotel, which could result in a long and (sometimes) uncomfortable ride.
  3. Take a taxi.

Getting Around Riviera Maya – Although we have done it before, we do not recommend renting a car in Mexico. For travel throughout Riviera Maya, we recommend having your hotel call you a taxi or take a guided tour.

Tours and Activities