The Ultimate Guide to the Riviera Maya

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

The Riviera Maya is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, and it's no wonder that visitors keep coming back year after year to enjoy the beaches, the snorkeling, and the jungle adventures! For those who don't know much about this region, we've compiled the ultimate guide to help you plan your trip to the Riviera Maya and make sure you get the most out of your time here.

Mexico Trip Essentials

If you’re traveling within Mexico, it’s helpful to know that most hotels and resorts in Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and other popular beach destinations are equipped with air conditioning and also have amenities like free Wi-Fi access. But if you plan on staying at more rustic accommodations—such as a beachside hut or casita—expect limited electricity (or none at all) and no hot water. While you won’t be able to wash your clothes daily (they will likely dry within hours anyway), bringing clothespins can keep your duds fresh while you play in the sand all day.

Puerto Morelos

Beach town at it’s finest: Puerto Morelos is one of our favorite places in Mexico. It’s a laid back and relaxed beach town that feels more European than anything else. There are no tall high rises, just bungalows and cabañas along with gorgeous white sand beaches and turquoise water as far as you can see. The coast here is some of our favorites on Earth, offering everything from beautiful cliffs and swimming areas, to warm cenotes and snorkeling locations – it is absolutely stunning! Playa Punta Sur is easily one of our favorite spots in all of Mexico; simply drop your gear at your hotel and make it your mission to find out why everyone raves about it. Plan for spending all day here, whether it be relaxing on a hammock or playing with kids along the beach. You won’t regret visiting Puerto Morelos – these pictures don’t do it justice!

Playa del Carmen

Cozumel Snorkeling & Beach Tour with Lunch and Tequila Tasting for Two ($99) : Spend a morning snorkeling over a stunning coral reef, just outside of Playa del Carmen. Experience one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches, El Palmar, and grab some local seafood at La Buena Vida beachside restaurant before continuing onto Tequila Tasting for two with lunch. Explore the blue cave by kayak, swim in an underground cenote or simply relax on your sun’s all up to you! This tour is designed for you to spend as much time as you like at each place along your route before relaxing back on board a comfortable coach bus ready to take you home again. The itinerary can be changed based on group preferences – contact us if you want something different!

Cancun/Isla Mujeres

Dive El Palancar, and explore The Mezcal Experience at Casamigos. And don’t forget a little time for relaxation on Cancun’s famous beaches or a tour of Isla Mujeres. Did you know that Mexico is home to seven times more Mayan ruins than Egypt? Get back in time with a trip to Chichen Itza, an archeological site in Yucatan. Take it easy with a private beach day or visit one of many nearby cenotes—underground caverns full of crystal-clear water.


Cenotes and Excursions – Tulum and Akumal are both fantastic destinations in their own right, but they’re even better together. The drive between them takes just a few minutes and there are two main draws to choose from: Cenotes or excursions. You can visit both on your trip if you want, but you should at least have a plan for one of them. We recommend checking out cenotes first (that way you’ll be well-rested) and doing an excursion later in your stay, perhaps for your last day or afternoon. Here’s why: First off, cenotes are great places to go swimming. Some feature waterfalls that drop down several stories and create natural pools that allow swimmers to plunge into deeper waters and enjoy some adventure too. Some also feature caves with shimmering stalactites that surround crystalline pools of water—creating natural swimming holes unlike anything else found in Mexico.

Coba Ruins Tour

Leaving from Playacar, about 45 minutes outside of Cancun, guests take a one-hour drive through miles of sugar cane fields to reach Mexico’s ancient Mayan capital of Cobá. The Tulum Ruins Tour is by far our favorite tour in all of Mexico. There are no crowds, you get personal attention, and your guides will explain in detail about all aspects of these ruins. You will also see three different cenotes on tour – including one that has a rope swing! This has easily been our family’s most memorable experience while traveling in Mexico (so far).

Chichen Itza

This is a cultural center and archaeological site located in Yucatan. It is about 2.5 hours away from Play Del Carmen on your way to Tulum. Chichen Itza used to be a large city, so you will want to do an early morning tour before heading out to explore Mayan Ruins such as Cobá, Uxmal and Edzna . To learn more about Chichen Itza or for information on how best see these Mayan Ruins take a look at our full detailed guide.

Xcaret Eco Park Tour

Included in your trip package is a guided tour of Xcaret Eco Park – a self-sustaining water park and eco-friendly resort. Situated on 14 acres of lush tropical jungle, Xcaret is home to more than 1,000 animals from Mexico and around the world. Visitors can swim with dolphins and stingrays, snorkel in underground rivers and caves, wander through hidden lagoons...and much more! Bring your camera for amazing photo opportunities!

Cayo Largo Del Sur Tour

This tour is located in Cayo Largo, one of four islands that make up Isla Mujeres. The ferry ride from Playa del Carmen takes around 50 minutes, followed by a 20-minute boat trip to Cayo Largo.


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