Riviera Maya: Top 35 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions


Things to Do in Riviera Maya: The 35 Best Places to Visit

The Riviera Maya is one of the most beautiful destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, with stunning beaches, paradisiacal islands and unforgettable natural and archaeological sites.

To help you plan your next trip, here is my ultimate guide to the Riviera Maya, where I have gathered the best activities to do and places to visit with your family, partner or friends.

I also tell you what to do when it rains, where to find sargassum-free beaches and share all my best tips for a budget trip to the Riviera Maya.

Finally, you will find my hotel recommendations for all budgets and all the practical information you need for a perfect stay (money, how to get there, etc.).

So, how to visit the Riviera Maya? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!


What is the difference between Cancun and Riviera Maya?

Cancun is a city, and the Riviera Maya is a tourist area.

Both are part of the state of Quintana Roo and are closely connected since the airport is in Cancun and the Riviera Maya is full of tourist attractions (beaches, cenotes, archaeological sites).

In general, when you go to Cancun, you also visit the Riviera Maya and when you visit the Riviera Maya you have to go through Cancun!

Where is the Riviera Maya?

The Riviera Maya is located on the coast of the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan Peninsula.

It stretches between Puerto Morelos (35 km south of Cancun) and Punta Allen (Sian Ka’an Reserve), passing through Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Top 35 things to do in and around the Riviera Maya

Here are the best activities and places to visit in the Riviera Maya, or easily accessible from the Riviera Maya:

1) Dive into the Museum of Underwater Art

The MUSA is not only the largest underwater museum in the world, but also contributes to the conservation of marine life.

Some 500 sculptures have been placed near disappearing coral reefs to provide a new habitat for thousands of species.

There are 3 ways to discover the museum:

diving isla mujeres manchones
One of the underwater sculptures at Manchones. Work by Karina Salinas Martínez. Photo by MUSA
Cancun Underwater Museum
The work “Herencia”, by Jason Decaires Taylor in Punta Nizuc. Photo by Museo Subacuático de Arte de Cancún

2) Enjoy the best water park in the world

Whether you are visiting the Riviera Maya with kids or with friends, you should definitely spend one day at Xcaret Park.

It has been awarded several times as the Best Theme and Water Park in the world. It offers 50 activities in 80 hectares of jungle and Caribbean Sea, underground rivers, hiking trails, beaches, slides, a 262 ft high panoramic tower and much more.

You won’t be able to do everything in one day, but you will have a blast, no matter how old you are 😉

Don’t miss the Mexico Espectacular show at night, where 300 artists showcase the history, culture and traditions of Mexico.

You can buy your tickets to Xcaret here:

There are also other parks from the Xcaret group:

My advice
Don’t miss the best way to enjoy the parks: stay at the Xcaret Hotel ❤️and get free access to all the parks and meals! (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote)
Xcaret Park
Xel Ha Park
Xel Ha Park

3) Walk along Fifth Avenue

New York has its Fifth Avenue and Playa del Carmen has its own Fifth Avenue 😉

It may not have the same glamour and skyscrapers, but it’s a wonderful pedestrian street with a vibrant atmosphere, lots of restaurants, bars, shops and the  Fundadores Park.

You also have to pass by Quinta Avenida to get to the ADO bus terminal and the different beaches, so it’s a must-do in Playa del Carmen.

Parque Fundadores in Playa del Carmen

4) Seeing starfish in Cozumel

The Cozumel Island Biosphere Reserve is part of the Mesoamerican Reef and is considered one of the best diving destinations in the world thanks to its biodiversity.

Among the places you can’t miss in Cozumel is El Cielo, a sand bank surrounded by transparent water with several starfish.

To protect this natural area it is mandatory to access it with a guided tour and it is forbidden to touch the starfish⭐

The tour to El Cielo Cozumel also includes snorkeling at Palancar Reef, drinks (with and without alcohol), access to a beach club and lunch. You can book it here:

El Cielo, Cozumel

5) Refresh yourself in a cenote

Cenotes are amazing natural wonders that you can find by the thousands in the Yucatan Peninsula, including several in the Riviera Maya. They are sinkholes filled with fresh water that connect to underground rivers and caves.

There are three types of cenotes: open, semi-open and underground. Each one has its own beauty and charm. 😊

I really like Cenote Azul, Cenote Jardin del Eden, Chaak Tun and Taak Bi Ha, but as there are so many cenotes to discover, I recommend you my articles:

jardin del eden cenote playa del carmen
Jardin del Eden cenote, Playa del Carmen

6) Relax at Xpu-Ha Beach

Xpu Ha is one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya and is much less crowded than the beaches of Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

It is a beach of fine sand and clear water where you can snorkel, eat seafood, kayak or relax at a beach club.

Go in the morning, when there are hardly any people.

  • It is located south of Puerto Aventuras, 25 minutes from Playa del Carmen.
playa xpu ha
Xpu Ha Beach

7) Discover Tulum by bike

Renting a bike is the best way to visit Tulum. You can pedal along the Beach Strip, reach the beaches, the ruins of Tulum and several cenotes.

Tulum’s cenotes easily accessible by bike are Cenote Calavera and Gran Cenote, as well as Cenote Lavadero and Cenote Zacil-Ha, which are next to each other.

But be careful: the distances are longer than they look and it can be very hot, so go early in the morning. 😉

My tip
 If you want the full experience, book this guided bike tour of Tulum that includes Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido and Cenote Cristal, with brunch. 🚲

Renting a bike in Tulum is a great way to explore the area!

8) Coba

Coba is an ancient Mayan city hidden in the jungle, near Tulum, and one of the most fascinating places to visit from the Riviera Maya.

It was a very important city: at its peak, it had up to 50,000 inhabitants, and it has the second tallest pyramid in the whole Yucatan Peninsula!

There are several trails to explore from one structure to another and you can even rent a bike or take a bike taxi .

Coba also has three cenotes that are not very crowded: Tamcach-Ha, Multum Ha and Choo-Ha

To visit Coba you can:

  • Go by car: from Cancun (2h) take the 180D and then Highway 109, from Playa del Carmen (1h30) take Highway 307 to Tulum and then Highway 109, or from Tulum (50 min) just follow Highway 109.
  • Take an ADO bus from Cancún, Playa del Carmen or Tulum to Cobá.
  • Book a tour to Coba: since it includes pick up from your Riviera Maya hotel, you don’t have to worry about transportation. To make the most of it, I recommend the tour to Coba and Chichen Itza or the tour to Coba and Tulum.
Nohoch Mul in Coba, the 2nd highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula after Calakmul

9) Explore an underground cave

Rio Secreto is a natural wonder that you can’t miss if you are in the Riviera Maya.

It is a stunning underground river system that runs for 1968 ft, where you can explore amazing caves and rock formations.

You will walk and swim through crystal-clear water, surrounded by the beauty and mystery of this ancient place. You will feel like an adventurer as you wear a helmet, a headlamp and a thermal suit to protect you from the cold water.

Rio Secreto is a unique experience that you can enjoy with your family or friends, in small groups for safety and conservation reasons. It is only 15 minutes away from Playa del Carmen, so you can easily fit it in your itinerary.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see why Rio Secreto was voted as the best nature reserve in Mexico and Central America by the World Travel Awards🌿❤️

Book your tickets for Rio Secreto here (with optional pick-up):

Rio Secreto

10) Visit the ruins of Tulum

The archaeological site of Tulum, located in the Tulum National Park, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, is a must-see in the Riviera Maya.

The ancient city of Zamá (6th to 15th centuries) was an important trading port in the Mayan world, with ships arriving from various destinations in Mesoamerica with all kinds of products (salt, honey, jade, cotton, obsidian, etc.)

Today, you can see different structures such as the Castle, which is the main building of the site, the Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God, the wall and go down to the beach of the ruins.

How to visit the ruins of Tulum:

  • By public transportation: from Playa del Carmen, 1 hour by ADO bus or combi. From Cancun 2h30 fromthe ADO bus terminal – Make sure to buy the ticket that goes to the ruins terminal to the ruins terminal and not to the town of Tulum.
  • By car: 2 hours from Cancun and 1 hour from Playa del Carmen on the Tulum – Cancun/Mexico307 highway
  • With a tour: if you don’t want to worry about transportation, book this tour to Tulum with pick-up from Cancun or Riviera Maya. It includes the Tulum Ruins and a cenote!
La zona arqueológica de Tulum
Tulum archaeological site

11) Discover the lesser known beaches

The Riviera Maya is famous for its beautiful beaches, but they can get crowded with tourists sometimes.

Everyone wants to have their little piece of paradise of fine sand and clear water 😉

If you are looking for a more peaceful experience, you should visit Chemuyil and Xcacel beaches. They are very close to Akumal, and they are still not very popular among visitors.

They are pristine beaches with clear waters, but there are no facilities or services on site, so remember to bring water, snacks, your towel and an umbrella if possible, as it is not always easy to find shade.

playa chemuyil
chemuyil beach

12) Try the local cuisine

What kind of a trip to the Riviera Maya would it be without tasting some of the culinary specialties? Not very fun.

Besides the exotic fresh fruits that are always exciting to discover (e.g. guanabana, nanche, mamey…), each region of Mexico has its own traditional dishes, although they all share a love for tacos.

Tacos are easy to find, but I especially recommend trying the cochinita pibil tacos. This slow-cooked pork with achiote is a traditional Mayan dish from Yucatán.

Other local specialties are poc chuc, salbutes, panuchos and tikinxik fish.

If you want to discover the local products and culture better, I suggest you take a food tour in the Riviera Maya.

You can book the tour that interests you by clicking here:

My advice
 To understand the importance of tacos in Mexico, I recommend you watch some episodes of The Taco Chronicles on Netflix🌮

It’ll make you hungry!  

mercado playa del carmen
mercado playa del carmen
Tacos are the best option to eat rich and cheap in Mexico

13) Swim with whale sharks

This is a must-do activity in the Riviera Maya.

From May to September, whale sharks come to the warm waters of Isla Mujeres and Holbox Island, and it is possible to swim with them!

Good news: the whale shark is neither a shark nor a whale, but the largest fish in the world (up to 12 m) which is harmless.

It is a responsible activity, well supervised, which is done following certain rules in order not to stress them, as it is a protected species. ❤️

  • You can book this whale shark swimming tour, which also includes pick up at your hotel in the Riviera Maya or Cancun, all equipment, free time in Isla Mujeres and lunch:

whale shark holbox
Swim with whale sharks

14) Visit the Sian Ka’an Reserve

Sian Ka’an, which means “place where the sky begins” in Mayan, is one of the most amazing places to see in the Riviera Maya.

It is a huge protected area of 5182 km² that is a Biosphere Reserve and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has marshes, mangroves, sandy beaches, 300 species of birds, 100 species of animals, 1000 species of plants and several archaeological sites.

Of course, you can’t visit everything and you have to choose between two access points:

If you prefer to go on your own, I recommend you to choose Muyil, as it is much easier to get to (20 minutes from Tulum). You can even take public transportation by taking an ADO bus to Chunyaxche.

Sian Ka’an Reserve in the Yucatan Peninsula

15) Swim with turtles in Akumal

This is one of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya!

Akumal is a town near the Mesoamerican Reef which has a variety ofcoral species and 500 species of fish. In the waters of Akumal there are 3 species of turtles that come to feed in the bay.

You have two options:

  • Swim freely outside the protected area (no guarantee of seeing turtles)
  • Swim with a guide in the turtle feeding area, following certain rules to not stress the turtles (don’t touch them, don’t get too close) book the tour to swim with turtles here!

To learn more about the amazing experience of swimming with turtles, as well as other activities and places to see in Akumal, here is my ultimate guide to Akumal!

akumal turtle
Swimming with turtles in Akumal

16) Catamaran in Isla Mujeres

With its transparent waters, Isla Mujeres is not only ideal for snorkeling and diving, but also for enjoying this beautiful natural spectacle on a catamaran.

It is a day trip with pick up at your Cancun hotel, with unlimited music and drinks (with and without alcohol), perfect for relaxing and partying with friends.

The boat takes you snorkeling on the reef (1 hour), with free time in Isla Mujeres and includes lunch on the beach.

catamaran isla mujeres
catamaran isla mujeres

17) Ecotourism in Punta Laguna

People often talk about mass tourism in the Riviera Maya… but there are also some hidden gems to discover!

Punta Laguna is the perfect place for ecotourism near the Riviera Maya. It is a nature reserve, managed by a cooperative of Mayan families, that mainly focuses on the protection of the spider monkey.

There is a lake for kayaking, and you can see many spider monkeys and some howler monkeys in their natural habitat.

The tour is accompanied by a Mayan guide and there is also a museum that shows the Mayan way of life and the animals found in the area.

punta laguna tulum
punta laguna tulum

18) Punta Maroma

Halfway between Puerto Morelos and Playa del Carmen is Punta Maroma, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya, with fine sand and clear water.

It is an exclusive beach, very clean and well maintained.

There are 3 ways to get there:

1. Staying in a hotel in Punta Maroma:

2. Stop by the Marina Adventures Club:

Admission includes lounge chairs, umbrellas, restroom, shower and access to the restaurant. You can book your entrance to the club here!

3. Take an excursion to Punta Maroma:

My advice

If you are looking for a romantic activity in the Riviera Maya, you will love this experience in Maroma. one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.

You can book this experience in Maroma that includes:

  • Pick-up at your hotel and transportation to Maroma beach club
  • A short sunset catamaran cruise with a welcome cocktail and stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
  • Access to the Maroma beach club with open bar and a 4-course meal

punta maroma
punta maroma

19) Horseback Riding

Rancho Bonanza is an eco-friendly ranch that offers rides with horses that have been rescued after being abandoned and are now well cared for. ❤️

You can take a horseback ride through the jungle where you can see fruit trees, exotic birds, monkeys, lizards and other animals.

You can also swim in the ranch’s cenote and taste some products such as honey from the melipona bees that were considered sacred by the Mayas.

And don’t forget to take a picture with Michael Jackson, the ranch donkey!

This is a tour for beginners, or even for someone who has never done it before. The guides are great and the horses are very gentle.

It is a very safe and family-friendly activity in the Riviera Maya.

Please note:

  • Don’t forget your swimsuit and mosquito repellent. They have towels on site.
  • Open every day except Saturday.

You can book the tour at Rancho Bonanza here, with pick up in Riviera Maya or Cancun:

cheval rancho bonanza
cheval rancho bonanza

20) Discover street art

Downtown Playa del Carmen is full of colorful murals by local, national and international artists.

There are many on Quinta Avenida, but also on the adjacent streets.

You can check out my list of the best street art in Playa del Carmen (click here) to plan your route around town: it’s a great free activity to do in the Riviera Maya if you like urban art!

Street Art in Playa del Carmen

21) Bioluminescence in Holbox

Bioluminescence is the production of light by certain living organisms during a chemical reaction.

One of the most amazing attractions of Holbox is the bioluminescence that can be observed in the water, especially from June to October. You can see tiny sparks of light that glow in the dark, creating a stunning contrast with the night sky.

You can go to Punta Cocos at night and see some bioluminescence along the shore, but the best way to experience it is in the sea, a little further out. That’s why I highly recommend doing the kayak tour to see the bioluminescence:

bioluminescence holbox
The bioluminescence effect

22) Mayan Purification Ceremony

One of the most wonderful experiences in the Riviera Maya is to take part in a Mayan purification ceremony.

You will enter a temazcal (a pre-Hispanic steam bath prepared with copal and medicinal herbs) with a shaman who will lead the ritual.

Afterwards, you will enjoy a traditional Mayan lunch, visit the local community with a guide to learn more about their customs, and have the chance to cool off in a cenote.

You can book the ceremony in the Mayan community here

There are also several hotels that have a temazcal, such as Delek Tulum, Maya Tulum Retreat and Spa or Azulik, for example.

Of course, they do not offer an immersion in a community, but the temazcal experience itself is still worthwhile.

A Mayan temazcal

23) Contoy Island

Isla Contoy is a small island paradise where you will find one of the most beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya .

Here the water is shallow and clear, the sand is white and there is no sargassum. The blue shades of the water are absolutely stunning and the beach is heavenly: you would think you were in a movie!

Contoy Island is a protected natural reserve, home to many birds, turtles, fish, and coral reefs.

  • You need to book a guided tour from Cancun to visit it, because access is limited to 200 people per day.

It includes pick up at your Riviera Maya hotel, boat transportation with drinks, snorkeling, free time at Isla Contoy with lunch, and free time at Isla Mujeres before returning to Cancun.

Book it here!

contoy beach
The beach of Isla Contoy

24) Party at Coco Bongo

It’s no secret that Cancun is the best place to party in Mexico.

There are many bars and nightclubs, but the most famous is Coco Bongo with DJs and a great show that features acrobats and dancers in a real party atmosphere.

It is important to know that:

  • You have to be over 18 years old to enter Coco Bongo, there is no dress code required.
  • Tickets must be booked in advance because they sell out very fast.
  • There are 4 types of tickets: normal, premium, gold member and front row. I suggest you buy at least the premium ticket to get better quality drinks and access to the beach club, in addition to what is included.

You can buy your tickets at Coco Bongo here:

coco bongo cancun
coco bongo cancun

25) Selvatica Park

This is a must-do activity in the Riviera Maya if you love adrenaline!

It is a jungle adventure park with: a circuit of 12 zip lines, the Tarzania which is a mix of a roller coaster and a zip line, and a cenote accessed by ATV.

Selvatica was recognized as the best adventure park in Latin America at the World Travel Awards and named one of the 35 best adventures in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine 😍

The park is located on the Puerto Morelos – Leona Vicario Highway, also known as the Cenotes Highway, a 15-20 minute drive from Puerto Morelos.

If you prefer not to worry about transportation, you can book Selvatica entrance with pick-up from your Riviera Maya or Cancun hotel , which also includes a light lunch:

parque selvatica puerto morelos
The zip line to the cenote at Selvatica Park

26) Bird watching

The Riviera Maya is home to a great biodiversity, including hundreds of bird species.

If you are an ornithology enthusiast, you will love to participate in a bird watching tour with a specialized guide, either in the Cenotes Route in Puerto Morelos or in Muyil, in the Sian Ka’an Reserve (click on the links for more information).

  • In order to see as many species as possible, the tour starts early in the morning (5:30-6:30)
reserva toh puerto morelos
reserva toh puerto morelos

27) Punta Venado Bike Park

punta venado bike park
punta venado bike park

28) Kaan Luum

Kaan Luum is located 15 min south of Tulum, in a protected area at the entrance of the Sian Ka’ an reserve.

It is a lake with a great contrast between blue and green due to the difference in water depth: the 1.5 m lake has an 85 m deep cenote!

You can only swim in the shallowest part, and rest on the dock or under the shade. It is a good option to enjoy the water for a few hours, and of course without sargassum!

kaan luum tulum
kaan luum tulum

29) Chichen Itza

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted one of the 7 New Wonders of the World in 2007, Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan site in the world and a must-see on a trip to the Riviera Maya.

In 2h-3h you can explore the Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo (the main pyramid), the astronomical observatory, the temple of the warriors and the thousand columns, the tzompantli and its skulls, the largest Mesoamerican ballcourt and much more.

It is true that it is very touristy, so it pays to plan your visit well. Here are some tips:

The famous site of Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan

30) Discover the colonial cities (Valladolid, Izamal, Mérida)

In Mexico there are not only archaeological sites and beautiful beaches, there are also lovely colonial cities near the Riviera Maya.

Here’s what not to miss:

  • Valladolid is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, located near Chichen Itza . What to see: Calzada de los Frailes, San Roque History Museum, San Bernardino Convent, Francisco Cancton Park and San Servacio Church. – Check out my guide: The 25 best things to do in Valladolid
  • Izamal is known as the “yellow city” because its facades are painted yellow. To see: the Convent of San Antonio de Padua, the Kinich Kakmó and Iztamatul pyramids, the hammock making, the picturesque neighborhoods – What to do and see in Izamal?
  • Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and the safest city in Mexico. Highlights: the Paseo de Montejo, the colorful Calle 64, the Plaza Grande, the Casa de Montejo, the cathedral, the great Museum of the Mayan World – The best things to do and see in Mérida: Top 20 things to do in Merida
calzada de los frailes valladolid
Calzada de los Frailes, Valladolid

31) Ek Balam

Ek Balam is an ancient Mayan capital and houses the Acropolis, one of the most impressive structures in all of Mesoamerica.

There, the tomb of the governor Ukit Kan Lek Tok has been found, along with an amazing offering of 7000 pieces (ceramics, shells, etc.).

I recommend you to climb to the top: the view of the surroundings is incredible, and it is one of the few Mayan temples where you can still climb!

How to visit Ek Balam:

  • From Valladolid, 30 minutes by car on highway 295 and then on the road to Ek Balam. Buses leave from 44 x 37 street, 70 pesos
  • From Riviera Maya, 2h by Mexico 305D and then Cancun-Kantunil 180D. By public transport you must first go to Valladolid by ADO bus, then take a colectivo
  • With a one-day tour: for more comfort you can book this guided tour to Ek Balam with pick-up at your hotel in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, which also includes the Hubiku cenote and a box lunch.
Ek Balam, Yucatan

32) The Lagoon of the 7 Colors of Bacalar

Bacalar‘s 7 Colors Lagoon is a must-see destination on the Yucatan Peninsula, just a few hours from the Riviera Maya.

It may not have a beach, but there is never any sargassum here, making it an ideal destination for those who want to swim in clear, warm waters.

In addition, Bacalar is still much less touristy than its neighbors like Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

There are many things to do in Bacalar, whether as a couple, with friends or as a family:

To learn all about Bacalar, here I share with you my Definitive Guide to Bacalar!

cenote bacalar
cenote bacalar

33) Mahahual

Mahahual is a Caribbean town on the Costa Maya, located in the south of the Riviera Maya.

Thanks to its proximity to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second largest coral reef in the world!), it is an ideal place for snorkeling and diving, as well as for enjoying its transparent beaches.

And since Mahahual is only 1 hour from Bacalar, you can easily combine the two visits.

beach club 40 canones mahahual
beach club 40 canones mahahahual

34) See the flamingos

The most important flamingo colony of the American continent moves between the Biosphere reserves of Ria Celestun and Ria Lagartos.

It is a magnificent spectacle not to be missed in Mexico.

To help you choose between the two destinations, here is a quick comparison:

Rio Lagartos:

  • 1h30 from Valladolid, 3h30 from the Riviera Maya.
  • The advantage of Rio Lagartos: you can also go to the archaeological site of Ek Balam (from Valladolid), visit the pink lakes of Las Coloradas and take a boat ride in the reserve.
  • When to go: January to September (especially in April, May and June)


  • 1h15 from Merida, 4h30 from the Riviera Maya.
  • The advantage of Celestun: the boat ride to see the pink flamingos goes through the mangroves (including an 800 m tunnel!), you can see monkeys, crocodiles, birds, swim in “ojo de agua”. Also the beach of Celestun is clean and not very touristy.
  • When to go: from November to April (especially in March and April)
  • Check out my guide How to see the flamingos in Celestún?

If you don’t want to worry about transportation, you can book this excursion to Celestun with pick up at your hotel in Merida, boat tour of the reserve, swim and lunch on the beach:

A colony of pink flamingos in the Celestun Reserve

35) El Cuyo

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a destination in the Riviera Maya that is not overrun by mass tourism.

But, fortunately, there are some beautiful and little known alternatives for travelers seeking tranquility.

Just 2 hours from the Riviera Maya is El Cuyo, a small Yucatan village that resists tourist development.

People come here simply to enjoy the long, almost empty beaches, kite surfing, ecotourism and exploring the Ria Lagartos reserve.

Personally, this is one of my favorite places in Mexico!

playa bonita el cuyo yucatán
playa bonita el cuyo yucatán

Where to stay in the Riviera Maya: the best hotels

There is no absolute “best place” to stay when visiting the Riviera Maya, but some destinations certainly suit your travel style better.

Playa del Carmen

The advantage of Playa del Carmen is that it has everything (restaurants, bars, nightclubs, tour operators, stores) and, being in the heart of the Riviera Maya, it is easy to get to the various archaeological sites, beaches, cenotes and other destinations.

It is very convenient to stay in Playa del Carmen when you have a busy itinerary in the Riviera Maya.

  • Che Playa Hostel & Bar Adults Only: great hostel to meet other travelers and party, with a rooftop terrace that has a bar and a small pool, with several offered activities. Clean, with good wifi and a great welcome. From only 13 $usd for the dormitory or 37 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Lunata: a charming hotel with hacienda style decoration, which is hidden on Quinta Avenida, very close to the beach. Quiet, with a garden, rooms with balcony, and has very friendly service. From only 82 $usd per night!
  • Porto Playa Condo Beach Club: here you will find a spacious apartment ideal for a family, with fully equipped kitchen, living room and terrace. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a gym and a restaurant, starting at 172 $usd per night!
  • The Reef Playacar Resort & Spa: located on the beautiful beach of Playacar, just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue. Ideal for a romantic stay, with a beautiful tropical garden, two pools, a gym and a spa. 200 $usd with the “all inclusive” formula.
  • Hotel Xcaret Mexico All Parks All Fun Inclusive: it is definitely the best hotel in Playa del Carmen! Ideal for couples and families with children as this luxury hotel offers an exceptional package including meals and access to its parks (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote). Starting at 860 $usd per night, all inclusive.

My tip
Check out my comprehensive guide to find the perfect hotel or resort for your stay. Here’s the link: Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen? 


Tulum is the Riviera Maya’s luxury destination for Instagram. If you like bars and nightclubs with DJs on the beach, eco-chic hotels and beautifully designed restaurants, this is the place to be.

  • Mayan Monkey Tulum: an excellent value for money. Nice modern hostel with a good atmosphere, a pool, bar and garden. Including fast wifi, kitchen access, yoga classes, coworking spaces, and bike and motorcycle rentals. Dorms and private rooms starting at only 24 $usd per night.
  • Casa Almendro: if you are looking for a little more comfort, you will like this small cheap hotel in the center of Tulum. It’s a green oasis with a rooftop terrace with chairs and hammocks. There are king size beds and breakfast is included, from only 50 $usd per night!
  • Diamante K: is a high-end hotel but at a very fair price, which is exceptional in Tulum, especially for a hotel with direct access to the beach in the hotel zone! Bohemian chic atmosphere, including a restaurant, hammocks and beds on the private beach, and a massage service. Bungalows are 207 $usd per night.
  • Habitas Tulum: this small eco-friendly hotel with a chic design is ideal for a romantic stay in Tulum. It is a true oasis of peace, hidden among the palm trees, with a magnificent swimming pool and a private beach. There are also yoga classes on the terrace at sunset. From 371 $usd per night!
  • Kanan Tulum- Adults Only: this is the ultimate option for a luxury stay in Tulum. It is an ecological hotel for adults only, located on a beautiful private beach with hammocks and beds. With a fantastic rooftop terrace with a bar; the hotel also has an excellent restaurant, great rooms and a very friendly welcome. From 566 $usd per night!

Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is much less touristy than its neighbors, although it is very well located halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

It is my favorite for its tranquility, although there is less choice than in Playa del Carmen or Tulum because it is less developed.

  • Hacienda Morelos Beachfront Hotel: Beachfront hotel, with pool, very well located 100 meters from the main square, in front of a supermarket, close to restaurants, bars and cafes. Very good restaurant on site. Very good restaurant on site, from 78 usd per night!
  • Maya-Ha Village: Comfortable cabins for up to 4 people, located in a lush nature with exuberant nature with private cenotes. Ideal for relaxation, with meditation space, spa, restaurant from 124 usd per night!
  • Oom Bubble Boutique Riviera Cancun: Romantic and original lodging with transparent bubbles in the Mayan junglewith air conditioning, swimming pool, good restaurant from 29 euros per night!
  • Hotel Marina El Cid Spa & Beach Resort: This all-inclusive all-inclusive hotel is ideal for families with children. It has a children’s playroom, water slide, 4 restaurants, large swimming pool, beach with beds, sun loungers and hammocks. From 588 euros per night!
My tip
You can also read my full article: The best hotels in Puerto Morelos! 

Where to stay in Cancun

Sleeping in Cancun to visit the Riviera Maya is also a great option, since everything is close by.

Here are my best suggestions for hotels in Cancun for all budgets:

  • Mayan Monkey Cancun: hostel with a festive atmosphere in Cancun’s hotel zone, very close to the beach and bars. Terrace, outdoor pool, bar with happy hour, air conditioning, ping-pong, good wifi. Private rooms and dorms, from only 24$usd!
  • Bed and Breakfast Pecari: if you are looking for more comfort, I recommend without hesitation this establishment. It is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast located in a quiet street near the city center and the ADO bus station, with a relaxation area by the pool, spacious rooms, and a good breakfast, starting at 50$usd per night!
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites: rooms, suites, and villas for 2 to 12 people with direct access to the beach. Outdoor pool, children’s pool, gym, restaurant, beach bar. Breakfast included, starting at 218$usd per night.
  • The Royal Sands Resort & Spa: spacious rooms and suites with ocean views, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Large outdoor pool, gym, spa, fine restaurants, sports bar and many activities. All inclusive, starting at 485 $usd per night

My tip
For more options, you can visit my article about the best hotels and resorts in Cancun and find your perfect hotel. Here is the link: Where to stay in Cancun?  

What to do when it rains in the Riviera Maya?

Don’t let the rain ruin your vacation in the Riviera Maya! There are plenty of fun and exciting things to do even when the weather is not perfect 😉

Here are some of the best activities to enjoy when it rains in the Riviera Maya:

1. Swimming in a cenote

The best thing to do when it rains is to take shelter in one of the many underground cenotes in the Riviera Maya to explore the caves and swim in the fresh water.

I am thinking, for example, of Chaak Tun, Rio Secreto, Aktun Chen, Taak Bi Ha, but there are also many others! You can check my articles:

cenote chaak tun playa del carmen
Cenote Chaak Tun, the cenote located in Playa del Carmen

2. An immersive experience

Mystika is a new immersive museum that has opened in Tulum.

Its goal is to show the Mayan culture (traditions, animals, cosmology) and some of Mexico’s natural reserves in a surreal artistic atmosphere.

It is not just another museum, it is a unique experience. You can book your tickets here:

mystika tulum
mystika tulum

3. The Museum of Wonders

The 3d Museum of Wonders  a fun interactive museum for the whole family.

You will see large optical illusion paintings of classic art and different scenarios: the perfect place to take pictures!

3D Museum Playa del Carmen
My best try at the 3D Museum Playa del Carmen.

4. Shopping

There are several shopping malls to stroll around while staying dry.

The one located in the center of Playa del Carmen, on Quinta Avenida, is Quinta Alegria, with several stores.

You can also go to Centro Maya or Plaza Las Americas, which also has a movie theater.

quinta alegria playa del carmen
quinta alegria playa del carmen

Sargassum-free beaches in the Riviera Maya

Sargassum is a brown seaweed that sometimes invades the beaches of the Riviera Maya.

It usually happens between April and August, but it can also occur at other times of the year due to factors like pesticide pollution and climate change.

It’s hard to predict when and where sargassum will appear!

So, how can you make the most of your beach vacation if you encounter sargassum?

First of all, don’t let sargassum get you down!

The good news is that sargassum is not everywhere at the same time, so you can always find a beach nearby that is clear and clean 😉

To help you find the best spots, I recommend you follow the Sargassum Monitoring Network Facebook page, which is THE source for updated information on where sargassum is in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

sargassum riviera maya
The Sargassum Monitoring Network

It is important to know that, due to the currents, there is usually little or no sargassum from Playa Coral in Cancun to the north. So if your beach in the Riviera Maya is dirty, you are better off going to Cancun, Isla Mujeres or Isla Contoy.

Also due to the currents, the western part of Cozumel (which faces the Riviera Maya) is free of sargassum.

Other interesting sargassum-free options to consider: Laguna Kaan Luum, Caleta Tankah in Tulum, or a little further, the fantastic Bacalar Lagoon.

Riviera Maya Budget

Here are some costs you should know to help you prepare your budget for a trip to the Riviera Maya:


  • Bus 40 pesos per person.
  • Cab 80 pesos in the city or 500 pesos outside the city (varies according to distance).
  • Bicycle rental costs 250 pesos per day.
  • Private transfer from the airport to the hotel 1500-1800 pesos.
  • 1 L of gasoline costs around 23 pesos (may vary according to quality, brand and location).
  • There is only one toll road that partially passes through the Riviera Maya: the road between Cancun and Merida (the 2 stations are in X-Can and Piste, in the state of Yucatan). For example, Cancun-Chichen Itza costs 408 pesos, Cancun-Valladolid 328 pesos, Cancun-Merida 518 pesos. Use Traza Tu Ruta to calculate tolls in Mexico.


  • Archaeological sites: Chichen Itza 533 pesos, Tulum Ruins 85 pesos, Coba 100 pesos, Ek Balam 494 pesos
  • Cenotes: from 120 to 500 pesos per ticket


  • Street food 15-30 pesos.
  • Small local restaurant 60-80 pesos.
  • Fifth Avenue restaurant 250-500 pesos.


  • A Telcel SIM card costs 29 pesos.
  • A monthly rent can cost between 10,000 and 30,000 pesos, depending on the area and the size of the apartment.
  • A doctor’s visit can cost 50 pesos at (some) pharmacies, or 600 pesos or more at a clinic or hospital.

My tips
The prices you see here are just examples and they might change.

You should know that since the pandemic started, everything has gotten more expensive, but I do my best to keep the prices updated by checking them regularly.😉

Cheap travel to the Riviera Maya: 5 tips

A trip to the Riviera Maya can be quite expensive, as prices are higher than elsewhere in Mexico. Here’s how to save money:

1. Go to beaches for free

Officially, Mexico’s beaches are public (and therefore free to access), but in reality, some access is controlled and fee-based (like Xpu-Ha and Maroma, for example).

To enjoy beautiful free beaches you can go to Playa Paraiso (Tulum), Puerto Morelos, Playa Delfines (Cancun), Playa Norte (Isla Mujeres).

Of course if you use lounge chairs or umbrellas you will have to pay so I suggest you bring a towel, an umbrella or a chair if you can, snacks, drinks.

2. Enjoy free activities

There are many things to do without spending a peso, especially in Playa del Carmen: see the many works of street art, stroll along Quinta Avenida, attend the shows at Parque Fundadores, Punta Esmeralda, etc.

3. Avoid traveling in high season

High season in the Riviera Maya is from November to April and prices can be higher, especially during the Christmas-New Year, Easter (national tourism) and Spring Break (American and Canadian tourism).

The best way to save money is to travel outside this time of the year, for example between May and June or between September and October.

4. Cheap food

Even in tourist areas, you can always find good prices.

The first rule is to get off the main streets and away from the beach to find small local restaurants and street food stalls (tortas, tacos, fresh fruit juices, elotes, etc.).

5. Getting around economically

Public transportation is well developed in the Riviera Maya, with an extensive network of buses and colectivos. To take the bus, I recommend booking in advance on the ADO website, as prices are usually cheaper online than at the terminal.

How to get to the Riviera Maya from Cancun

If you’re flying to Cancun to explore the Riviera Maya, you’ll find plenty of options to get to Playa del Carmen. The journey takes about 1h20, and here are some of the best ways to travel:

  • By car: If you’re renting a car in Cancun, driving to Playa del Carmen is very easy. Just follow the highway 307 Cancun – Chetumal for 45 minutes.
  • ADO bus: There are several departures a day from terminals 2, 3 and 4. You don’t need to book in advance, you can buy your ticket when you arrive (220 pesos). It drops you off at Quinta Avenida.
  • Official airport taxi: This costs around 800 pesos.
  • Private transportation: For more comfort, I recommend this option, especially if you’re traveling with a group of people. It’s an air-conditioned van that can carry up to 8 people.

Rent a car to visit the Riviera Maya

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore the Riviera Maya and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use Booking.com Cars, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Booking Cars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Find a cheap airline ticket to the Riviera Maya

If you want to visit the Riviera Maya, you will need to fly to Cancun International Airport, as there is no airport in the Riviera Maya itself.

Cancun International Airport is a large and modern airport that receives many flights from Europe and North America, so you will have no problem finding a flight that suits your dates and budget.

To find your cheap flight to Cancun, I recommend you to use our flight comparator in collaboration with Skyscanner, which is a guarantee to pay the best price.

How much time to visit the Riviera Maya

There is so much to do and see in the Riviera Maya that you could spend weeks there without any problem.

And at the same time, the region is so easily accessible thanks to its proximity to Cancun airport that many travelers decide to go there for just 3, 4, 5 days.

To find out what to do during your stay, I invite you to check out my itineraries that include the Riviera Maya:

When to visit the Riviera Maya, what is the temperature?

The tropical climate here has two seasons: the dry season (December to April) and the wet season (May to November), with an average temperature of 26C all year round.

Here’s what you should know:

  • May to November

This is the rainy season, with high humidity and heat (especially from July to September). But don’t worry, you’ll still get plenty of sunshine, as it rarely rains for several days in a row or all day long.

However, this is also the hurricane season (especially from August to October), although it’s uncommon for a storm to turn into a hurricane. You can’t predict this in advance, so if you’re traveling during this time, I suggest you check the weather regularly. In any case, you’ll hear about it from the locals if there’s any risk.

The upside is that there are fewer tourists, lower prices and warmer sea water.

I’ve often visited the Riviera Maya in October (it’s my birthday month) and I’ve never had bad weather. So, it really depends!

  • December to April

This is the dry season, with very little rain and much less humidity. Therefore, it is more pleasant to walk around!

It is also the high season for tourism and prices can be higher

My conclusion

The best time to visit the Riviera Maya is during the dry season (November-April) to enjoy a pleasant temperature.

November-April to enjoy a pleasant temperature. It is best to avoid Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and spring break, when there are many tourists.

It is also a good idea to travel in the periods between the two seasons.

May to early June and October to November to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Money in the Riviera Maya: everything you need to know!

Is it possible to pay in US dollars?

Yes, most businesses in the Riviera Maya accept US dollars (hotels, tours, restaurants), as it is a very touristy area.

Is it better to pay with Mexican pesos or US dollars?

It is always better to pay with Mexican pesos because the exchange rate will not be very good for dollars. But if you already have US dollars, do not change them to pesos, it would be a shame to lose money in the transaction.

Where to change money?

If you need pesos, the best thing to do is to change money at home, at your bank, since normally as a customer you will not be charged anything or very little.

Once in Mexico (Playa del Carmen, Cancun) there are exchange houses everywhere, but I do not recommend changing money at the Cancun airport because the exchange rate is bad.

Personally, I prefer to avoid traveling with a lot of cash, so I withdraw pesos at ATMs with my cards when I need to. This is another good option!

Do I have to tip in the Riviera Maya?

Yes, the Riviera Maya is in North America, and the tipping system works the same as in Canada and the United States.

In general, you have to calculate 10-15% of the bill, or even 20% if the service has been exceptional.

Remember that wages are very low in Mexico and your tip can make a big difference.

My tip
 Be careful when you check your bill, because some places in the Riviera Maya might add the tip automatically (without asking you).

You don’t have to pay the tip amount if you don’t want to, and you can ask them to change it. 

What to bring to the Riviera Maya:

  • Sunglasses, a biodegradable sunscreen and a hat (or a cap) to avoid looking like a tomato from day two.
  • Mosquito repellent: There is no tropical region without mosquitoes! Protect yourself with a biodegradable mosquito repellent, especially when you are near a cenote or the sea.
  • Medication: I like to carry a painkiller (e.g. ibuprofen, paracetamol), band-aids, anti-diarrhea medication in my luggage to have on hand if I need them, but in pharmacies you will find all known medications. Keep in mind that the brands may be different, so it is best to write down the name of the component you are looking for.
  • Cash: It is always useful for cenotes, souvenirs, local transportation, etc.
  • A bottle of water: Water is not drinkable in the Riviera Maya and it would be a shame to consume endless plastic bottles. Many hotels have a water dispenser for their guests, if not you can buy a carafe of water (Oxxo or supermarkets) to fill your bottle. At least you limit the damage 🌿
  • Aqua shoes: These are very useful when you visit the cenotes, as there are always rocks. They help to avoid getting hurt or slipping. You can easily find them online (Amazon), or in the Riviera Maya (Walmart or Soriana).

Riviera Maya tourist map

Here is the map of the Riviera Maya with all the attractions mentioned in the article:

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

visit riviera maya mexico


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

Leave A Reply