The Riviera Maya spans 80 miles along the Mexican Caribbean coastline, running south from Puerto Morelos to Tulum, with Playa del Carmen between the two towns. The three resort areas have helped make Riviera Maya a popular tourist destination, filled with sprawling all-inclusive resorts, tucked-away boutique hotels, and glamping options that feel miles away from civilization, while just being a short drive from town.
Stay A While
The Riviera Maya region has made its mark on the map as a resort locale, with its multitude of restaurants, buzzy bars and nightlife, and hotels catering to travelers of all styles, from those after adults-only resorts to families looking for kid-friendly pools and attractions.
If a wellness retreat is what you’re after, Tulum offers hotels suited for all budgets sitting on beautiful swaths of powdery white sand.
Riviera Maya’s restaurants have also drawn a culinary following, particularly due to the celebrity and well-known chefs venturing to Tulum. In Playa del Carmen, La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is lined with local eateries and stands serving street food classics like elotes, corn on the cob topped with chili and lime. Running parallel to the sea, the 22-block shopping street features everything from local handicrafts (hand-painted wooden carvings, handmade purses) to internationally known shops.
Discover the Past
But the region is also rich in archeological sites, featuring the remains of ancient Mayan towns like Tulum, Cobá, and Muyil. Riviera Maya is also home to more than 2,500 cenotes, semi-open limestone caves, or sinkholes believed to be the entryway into the Mayan underworld. Travelers can embark on a jungle tour to some of the more popular cenotes, where they can go swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
Coba is one of the most beautiful and largest Mayan archaeological sites. Nestled in the thick jungles of Quintana Roo, it is surrounded by lakes and breathtaking views. The ancient city dates back to the pre-Hispanic Mayan civilization and is one of the oldest Mayan cities in the region.
Another way to explore more of the region’s culture is at one of the natural and amusement parks, like Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, which offers more than 50 natural and cultural attractions, from shallow cenotes perfect for children to a coral reef aquarium, Mexican Folk Art Museum, and pre-Hispanic dances in the Mayan village. There are also plenty of things to do in the region in terms of water sports. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System—the second-largest barrier reef in the world—is a dream for snorkelers, since it’s home to nearly 500 species of fish, dolphins, and turtles. The Cancun Underwater Art Museum is another favorite for snorkelers and divers, with more than 500 life-size sculptures dotting the seafloor around Cancun and Isla Mujeres.