Things to do in Riviera Maya – Mexico
I guess Riviera Maya is the most visited touristic region in Mexico. Yes, it is touristy and all but it is so for a reason. Riviera Maya has it all. Fantastic nature, cultural heritage, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches and yummy food. There was no doubt that I’d add Riviera Maya to my itinerary.
I spent a week in Riviera Maya and wrote down my highlights for you to get inspired to make a decision where to travel next.
In this blog post: Cultural Heritage Cenotes - Phenomenal Nature Water activities Mexican Cuisine Where to stay in Riviera Maya How to get around in Riviera Maya How to get to/from Riviera Maya Warnings What to pack specially for Riviera Maya?
About Riviera Maya
The coastal highway 307 is from Cancun to Tulum about 130 km. The most popular destinations are Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Isla Cozumel, Isla Holbox, and Akumal. All these places are more or less full with all-inclusive resorts with private beaches. Which kind of sucks. If this is not that appealing to you, you have the choice to stay in lesser known Puerto Morelos. There you can find smaller hotels and family run guesthouses/B&B and the beach is accessible for everyone. Of course it is also a touristic town, but you have more options when it comes to cafés, restaurants, snorkelling tours, grocery shopping, and even souvenir shops. All this allows me to be more flexible and in my eyes it makes the travel experience a bit more authentic.
The famous archaeological sites Tulum on the coast, and Coba located inland, can be easily visited during your stay in Riviera Maya.
Tulum is one of the last cities built by the Maya. The archaeological ruins, situated on 12 meter tall cliffs, along the coastal line are probably one of the most visited Archaeological Maya Cities. To avoid crowds, and the heat, you should arrive very early in the morning!
- Entrance fee: 64 MXN (3-4 US$)
- Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm
47 km away from Tulum you can find another ancient Maya city, located inland. One speciality about Coba is that, unlike Tulum, it is allowed to climb the 42 meters Nohoch Mul Pyramid. But be careful, the stairs can be steep, especially when you climb down.
- Entrance fee: 38 MXN (3,5 US$)
- Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm
Don’t forget to bring!
- Steady shoes
- Plenty of water
- Sun Cream
- Hat & Sun glasses
- Swimming suit for the Tulum Beach
Read next: How to avoid crowds in Chichen Itza
Cenotes – Phenomenal Nature
This cenote is only 3 km away from Tulum on the way to Coba (Highway 109), on the roadside and very easy to find. Gran Cenote, as its name reveals, is huge, but not on the surface. Gran Cenote is named after its huge cave system. Even if you don’t dive, only by snorkelling you get the idea how big it is after you see the huge stalagmites everywhere. I won’t forget that colour blue.
- Entrance fee: 120 MXN (6,5 US$)
- Opening hours: 10 am – 5 pm
- Lockers are available
Cenote Dos Ojos
It means “Two Eyes” and it refers to two pools which are connected by a 400 meter long underground passageway. It is 118 meters deep which is the deepest known underwater cave passage. The whole cave system is ~60 km long.
One pool is half open and filled with blue clear waters which is perfect for snorkelers. The other pool is cavernous which makes it to a favourite diving sites by cave divers.
It is also only 3-4 km away from Tulum on the way to Playa del Carmen (Highway 307).
- Entrance fee: 200 MXN (6,5 US$)
- Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm
Don’t forget to bring!
- Snorkelling Gear
- Underwater camera
- Waterproof Dry bag
Read next: Cenotes in Yucatan Peninsula
The coral reefs of Riviera Maya are part of the second longest Barrier Reef system which is known as Belize Reef System. It begins near Cancun and continues southward to Guatemala along the Riviera Maya.
Snorkelling in Akumal with Sea Turtles
Akumal is the best place to see sea turtles thanks to its sandy ground offering sufficient sea plants. Swimming with these cute animals was one of the best memories I have from Mexico. There is also a very good chance to see rays. There are countless snorkelling tour operators, so choose one wisely, which cares about sustainable tourism and offers tours in smaller groups.
Diving in Underwater Museum in Isla Mujeres
MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte) is one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever been to. In this underwater museum there are huge sculptures of British sculptor, Jason de Caires Taylor. The sculptures are made of materials which enables corals to grow and collect. The statues also feature holes in them, which allow fish to colonise and feed off the coral.
Well, that was fun! The heights, the views from above… If you’re not afraid of the heights then just do it.
Snorkelling with Whale Sharks in Isla Holbox or Cozumel
I missed the chance but if you’re around during June-August, you should consider snorkelling with whale sharks. They are the largest fish specie ever, are super friendly and calm.
- Don’t swim with Dolphins in some entertainment pools. These animals are kept in captivity against their nature!
Well, I don’t need to tell you about how yummy Mexican food is, right?
My favourite “snack” was Guacamole served with tacos, a mixed salad of tomatoes & onions and a nice hot Mexican sauce. My whole life I thought I knew how Guacamole tastes, till the moment I had my first bit in the Beach Bar in Puerto Morelos, near to Wet Set where we booked our snorkelling tour! After that bit I got addicted and now suffer under so called “missing the real Mexican guacamole” syndrome.
I had the best Calamari and Mojitos in the family run super nice restaurant El Merkadito directly at the beach in Puerto Morelos.
Read next: 2 weeks Mexico Travel Itinerary
Where to stay in Riviera Maya
The first three days I stayed at a guesthouse in Puerto Morelos and after touring in Yucatan for a while turned back to Riviera Maya. This time I stayed in a resort in Akumal, which of course is comfortable and easy. Both type of accommodation has its pro and contras. So maybe a mix of both is a good idea. For price worthy accommodation check Booking.com.
How to get around in Riviera Maya
Well, we had rental car and the highway is really good, that you can easily go from one place to another within a day.
But also the bus network is good. From the main road you can catch a bus to go to Cancun, from where you can get in to the ferry to go to Isla Mujeres.
How to get to/from Riviera Maya
The nearest airport is Cancun International Airport. There you can rent a car. But again there are all sorts of options such as bus and ferry. Just be careful with taxis!
- Don’t do drugs. Don’t abuse alcohol consume and most importantly don’t drive when you’re high or drunk.
- Be aware of fake and/or corrupt police officers. In Mexico they have special forces for tourists. Search for them in case of emergency.
What to pack specially for Riviera Maya?
- Snorkelling set – Yes you can rent it, but I felt more comfortable having my own snorkel in my mouth.
- Underwater camera such as GoPro
- Red filter for underwater photography to have clear blue colours
Check my Pack List for more useful travel items! By buying products or booking accommodation with these links you’ll be supporting my blog without paying anything extra. Thanks already ❤️
For more insights from real pros I recommend Lonely Planet's Travel Guide for Riviera Maya. For price worthy accommodation check Booking.com or Agoda.com.
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As Riviera Maya’s sexiest city, Playa del Carmen has transformed into a hot spot cultural destination with burgeoning ambitions. With an incredible influx of international residents and visitors, a plethora of new restaurants and a bustling nightlife and art scene, Playa del Carmen is constantly on the radar for fun-seekers and culture-hounds alike.Find your vacation home in Playa del Carmen or Tulum today, book your home away from home and enjoy a well deserved retreat you need today!