Riviera MayaTravel Guide

Riviera Maya is a long stretch of coastline on the Mexican Caribbean connecting the resort towns of Tulum and Playa del Carmen, and the fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Situated on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the area is famous for its natural beauty – pristine beaches, mangrove forests and eco-parks, plus the Mesoamerican Reef System, the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. 
 
Dotted with all-inclusive resorts from family-friendly through to adults-only, Riviera Maya has become a prime destination with millions of tourists visiting each year. If you're the adventurous type, you can experience thrilling cenote diving – inland scuba diving in caves or sinkholes. Or how about a jungle hike or glamping in what feels like the middle of nowhere? 
 
If history, culture and food are the reasons you travel, this is also the ideal destination for you! Think ancient Mayan ruins and other archaeological sites to explore, Mexican and Mayan culture to appreciate, and top-notch cuisine. And let’s not forget the party people with the exciting nightlife of Playa del Carmen. So, what we’re really saying is that Riviera Maya has something for everyone. 

Explore Riviera Maya

Where to stay in Riviera Maya?

The Riviera Maya offers a wide range of accommodation options, including lovely eco-resorts, cosy bed and breakfasts and five-star or boutique hotels, so you’ll easily find a place to call home for your holidays. 

Layla Tulum is a luxury eco-resort in Tulum, situated on a pristine stretch of beach, surrounded by lush jungle. Choose from beachfront villas or overwater bungalows. The resort also features a world-class spa, swimming pools, restaurants, and many activities and excursions, making it the perfect place to relax, rejuvenate, and explore the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya.


Looking for a luxury, adults-only hotel for a romantic stay? The four-star Lagoon Boutique Hotel in Tulum is the perfect choice for couples. Set on a private lagoon with stunning views, the hotel offers a variety of amenities, including a spa, private beach, several restaurants, bars and bike rentals. 


If resorts are not for you, the Toh House Luxury Apartments are ideally situated in the heart of Playa del Carmen’s city centre and within walking distance from the beach. This exclusive apart-hotel offers you the best of both worlds – an apartment stay, with all the services and amenities of a hotel. You’ll be comfortable in the well-appointed spaces, and the property also has a beautiful pool area, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and a clubhouse. 


Hotel Almar Inn in Puerto Morelos is a small, rustic bed and breakfast that’s a favourite with families. Perfectly situated just a few steps from the beach, it offers both modern and rustic family rooms or you can opt for a cabin with a kitchenette. The inn is surrounded by a peaceful garden with a pool and it’s a short walk to the village. 


Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • Family swimming in a cenote in the Riviera Maya
    • Pool and beach in the Riviera Maya at sunset
    • Chichen Itza in the Riviera Maya
  • Family swimming in a cenote in the Riviera Maya
    Family swimming in a cenote in the Riviera Maya
    Family swimming in a cenote in the Riviera Maya
  • Pool and beach in the Riviera Maya at sunset
    Pool and beach in the Riviera Maya at sunset
    Pool and beach in the Riviera Maya at sunset
  • Chichen Itza in the Riviera Maya
    Chichen Itza in the Riviera Maya
    Chichen Itza in the Riviera Maya

Things to do in Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya offers many activities and attractions that take full advantage of its natural beauty. Whether you’re an active, thrill-seeking traveller, prefer to relax and unwind on your holidays or you’re looking for places to take incredible pics, read on. 

The Tulum Ruins are a popular tourist destination offering a glimpse into the region’s rich history. The site was once a thriving Mayan city where merchants traded in jade and obsidian, and it’s fascinating to explore with well-preserved temples, a castle set on the edge of a cliff and stunning ocean views.  
 
A highly recommended day trip is to Chichen Itza. Just over two hours inland from Riviera Maya by bus, car or tour, it’s one of the New7Wonders of the World and an important Mayan archaeological site featuring 26 ruins and the famous Mayan pyramid called El Castillo. 


Several operators offer visits to Mayan villages, and what a unique opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Mayan people! Some tour packages include a traditional meal or participation in an ancient ceremony.  


Playa del Carmen’s party vibe is well known, packed as it is with buzzing bars and clubs. During the day, the beach bars pump, and when the sun goes down, the music gets louder and the dance floors heat up like at Mandala. For a Las Vegas-type show with an after-party head to Coco Bongo Show & Disco or just chill with a cocktail at one of the many open-air drinking spots with ocean views.


Puerto Morelos is a quaint fishing town half an hour away from Playa del Carmen and if you’re visiting here, a recommended experience is “finding” the Secret Sandbar. This secluded beach is only accessible by boat, making it the perfect place to relax away from other holidaymakers and enjoy incredible views. It’s also an excellent spot for snorkelling with the coral reef nearby. Speaking of snorkelling, why not opt for a snorkelling tour? You’ll get to explore several cenotes and other watery hotspots all in half a day, guided by the experts. 


Riviera Maya boasts some of the most stunning landscapes and eco-parks in Mexico. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can explore some of the country’s densest jungles and wealthiest ecosystems, home to endangered species like jaguars, manatees and tapirs.


Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya food and drink

In Riviera Maya, European, Mayan and Mexican influences have fused to create an exciting menu of flavours and aromas. And of course, no foodie experience is complete without trying the street food.

The Cervecería Tulum Brewery and Restaurant is one of the most popular eateries in Riviera Maya. What started as a Mexican craft beer brewery is now an artisanal culinary experience with a menu that features fish sourced sustainably and produce from local organic farmers. Enjoy an immersive brewery tour and craft beer experience or opt for a four-course dinner while being entertained by either a DJ, dancers or mixologists.  

Rosa Negra is part of a high-end restaurant group in Mexico specialising in contemporary Latin American cuisine. Rosa Negra borrows flavours from Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil and you’ll find everything from Wagyu beef to Alaskan king crab and empanadas (filled pastries) here. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list, making it the ideal place to enjoy a night out with friends.  


Margaritas, surf and turf tacos, seafood delights and intriguing dishes like lime soup, served up in a rustic bungalow. This pretty much sums up the Penísula, centrally situated in the village of Puerto Morelos, which is a firm favourite with visitors and locals alike. Vegans will be in their element at the divine Veggie Veggie Street Food restaurant with its delicious light menu of smoothies, tacos, rice dishes and fajitas. It’s pet-friendly and even stocks vegan doggie treats!


The Traveler’s Table is a unique restaurant in Playa del Carmen in a beach club setting that asks you to forget everything you know about going to dinner! Intrigued? So were we! From bubbly on the beach and artisanal tequilas to a Mexican-inspired menu, it’s all about communal dining with fellow travellers. 


Tacos are popular everywhere in Riviera Maya but there’s a whole lot more going on in the street-food scene. Vendors and food trucks are easy to find, and the locals love to snack on the go. The previously mentioned empanadas, like tacos, feature on menus and on the street. They’re moreish half-moon pastries filled with chicken, cheese or beef. But if there’s only one kind of street food you try on your holiday, it has to be the incredible cochinita pibil – pulled pork that’s been slow-cooked for hours in banana leaves, served in a tortilla (flatbread). You’ll also find quesadillas (cheesy tortillas) and grilled Mexican corn off the cob served in a cup with toppings. For something sweet, artisanal ice cream or churros will hit the spot – think long doughnuts instead of round ones!


Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Riviera Maya through your eyes

Where to shop in Riviera Maya?

How fabulous is it that you can go shopping by the sea in Riviera Maya? Plus, you can take your pick of unique stores and high-end shopping malls, plazas and boutiques, offering an array of items from designer clothing to handmade souvenirs and jewellery.  

Calle Corazón shopping plaza is an upmarket retail experience in the heart of Playa del Carmen. You’ll come across familiar brands like Victoria’s Secret, Lacoste, H&M and Sunglasses Hut, as well as local boutiques, such as Karani Art and Kaana. Calle Corazón is also a great place to eat, with several restaurants and cafés. Need a little pick-me-up? Yes, there’s a Starbucks. In the mood for a hearty meal? Can’t beat Greek cuisine at Ilios. 

Over in Tulum, there’s a gem of a shopping plaza you just have to visit! Paseo La Xel-Va is a beautiful thatch-roofed complex with open spaces, charming courtyards and paths lined with greenery. Browse the artisanal pottery, gorgeous clothes and homeware and buy unique Mexican items or art to take home. Paseo La Xel-Va is a great place to spend a day or evening, whether you’re looking to shop, grab a bite to eat or relax with a cocktail. The Asian Bodega specialises in expertly crafted cocktails and cuisine from the East. 


A must-visit tucked into Puerto Morelos is the Mexican arts and craft market. No website or social media presence, so you’ll have to ask about it at a shop or hotel! In addition to the stunning souvenirs and gifts you can find here, there’s also tequila, chocolates and jewellery to haggle over. Yes, haggling is allowed if you can’t find a price on the item you want. Playa del Carmen has the Sunday flea and food market, featuring your typical flea market items you can snap up for a bargain and many food stalls to taste your way through. 
 
If you’re doing a self-catering stay, you’ll be happy to know there are many fresh food markets in Riviera Maya, stocking organic, vegan and fresher than fresh fruit and veg, such a Wo Market and the Green Deli, both in Playa del Carmen. 


Paseo del Carmen is a large pedestrian shopping mall in Playa del Carmen with a distinct Mediterranean feel – think white buildings with blue roofs. It’s home to various restaurants, cafés and shops, including Guess, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger and Tag Heuer. There’s something for everyone at Paseo del Carmen, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with tourists.


Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Riviera Maya?

Riviera Maya has a subtropical climate with two seasons – a rainy season (May to October) and a dry season (November to April). The best time to visit is December to March when the temperatures are a bit more comfortable and there are fewer rain showers. You can expect highs of 28°C (82.4°F) and lows around 21°C (70°F) throughout. In April the heat can spike up to 31°C (88°F), while May is the hottest month with 36°C (97°F) as the average daily maximum and an average low of 23°C (73.4°F). 

September and October tend to have the most rain, but these months are also considered low season, so if you’re watching your budget and don’t mind a bit of wet weather, come to Riveria Maya then. The rain comes quickly and leaves quickly, so not that bad! 

Take note that hurricane season is June through to November. But never fear, Riviera Maya is seasoned (we just had to!) when it comes to these weather phenomena. Warnings are issued about a week beforehand, while accommodation places and tour operators work with the local authorities to keep visitors safe.  

High season starts mid-December and goes through to April. Spring break is from March to April, when students descend on Riviera Maya, one of the top spring break destinations, to let loose and party up a storm. Shoulder seasons are July to August, and November to the beginning of December. Low season we’ve mentioned but you can also add May and June to the list. 

Don't miss out. Book your flight today!

How to get around Riviera Maya

Public transport in Riviera Maya is the easiest way to get around. It includes buses and colectivos (minivans) with the bus the cheapest option. The ADO buses are modern, comfortable, reliable and convenient, and travel to most of the tourist areas. You can buy your tickets at the ADO bus stations or opt for an online service such as Bookaway

Colectivos can transport up to 14 passengers and they drive along the main highway, Highway 307, between the city of Cancún, where the international airport for the region is located, and Tulum. They run frequently (about every 10 minutes) but not on a schedule. You hail one at the side of the highway by raising your hand as it approaches. The driver will usually stop if open seats are available or he’ll wave and drive on! If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, there’s a colectivo rank on Second Street.

Taxis in Riviera Maya are typically small sedans and run 24 hours a day. Your resort reception can advise you of the fares you can expect. Taxis congregate near the resorts, at taxi ranks placed strategically in Riviera Maya and also Cancun Airport. You can hail one in the street as well. It’s best to have your address written down as your driver may not speak English. 

A fun way to explore Riviera Maya is on two wheels. In Playa del Carmen, you can rent a bicycle from one of two operators, Biciplaya or Playa Bike Rentals. Feel the breeze on your face, take in the coastal views, hit the hotspots and get some exercise done all at the same time. 

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.

What are the best beaches in Riviera Maya?

Riviera Maya is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so the difficulty lies in where to go! Let’s start in Playa del Carmen, where Playacar Beach is easily accessible from downtown on foot. Popular with families, it’s also a go-to with water sports enthusiasts for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Insider tip: Phase 1 (there are two) is quieter and you can also explore the Playacar ruins here! 

Just 15 minutes from Tulum, Bahía Soliman Beach feels deliciously remote as it’s semi-private with no big resorts nearby. Lined with palm trees offering some lovely shade, a short walk away you’ll also find the rustic Chamico’s restaurant, where you can enjoy lunch before heading back to the water/your lounger.  

The locals’ favourite – Xpu-Ha beach – is set between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. About 3km (2 miles) long it features that striking turquoise water and white sand that Riviera Maya is famous for. With beach clubs, restaurants and water sport centres, you can easily spend a whole day here. It’s also ideal for snorkelling and kayaking. 

The coastal resort area of Akumal just outside Tulum spans five picturesque bays, offering a variety of beaches, from secluded to vibey, to suit every beachgoer. Also situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Akumal, which means “place of the turtles” in Mayan, is famous for its ancient residents – the magnificent sea turtles. You can spot them sunbathing on the sandy shores or gracefully gliding through the clear waters while you snorkel. Akumal's beaches feature convenient amenities like showers and lockers, and there’s a selection of restaurants and bars nearby. Akumal has it all, whether you're seeking a quiet escape, a chance to commune with the turtles or a busy beach day. 

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