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Riviera Maya featured image
Riviera Maya featured image
Riviera Maya featured image

Riviera Maya

Bordered by a shore of white, palm-fringed beaches, grottoes, and coves, Riviera Maya is filled with natural wonders. It also boasts spectacular man-made marvels with some of Mexico’s best archaeological sites and Mayan ruins nearby. The region, which stretches along the country’s sun-drenched Caribbean coast, features calm shorelines dotted by vibrant coral reefs, stunning upscale resorts, and cozy boutique hotels.

Having quickly become one of Mexico’s most appealing destinations, the Riviera Maya is a relaxing alternative for those who prefer a more low-key experience than is typically found on the Caribbean shores of the Yucatan. Since the area’s impressive resorts (which are generally all-inclusive) are confined to a few pockets of developed areas, the region is ideal for visitors seeking a Mexico-Caribbean getaway in a secluded setting.

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The weather is ideal, the beaches are uncrowded, the azure waters are the gateway to rich marine life, and the old fishing villages have retained their carefree charm. Welcome to the Riviera Maya!

 

Area favorites

Puerto Morelos

In this charming fishing village, tranquility reigns with open skies, long stretches of beach, and a friendly atmosphere. It's likely to remain this way in the long run because the reef and mangroves have been declared ecological preserves, ensuring careful development in the surrounding area. Tourism attractions include a class of luxury hotels and championship golf courses that raise this area to a whole new level of hospitality. This is a place for relaxation — pure and simple.

Playacar

The upscale residential and resort development of Playacar is the site of many all-inclusive hotels and golf courses. A charming enclave of outdoor cafés, shops, and resorts centered on the village of Playa del Carmen, it also provides ferry service to Cozumel.

Take time to stroll along lively Playa del Carmen’s La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), the village’s cobblestoned main drag dotted with chic galleries, artisan boutiques, bustling cantinas, and eclectic eateries. La Quinta Avenida comes alive in the evenings as locals and tourists browse the shops, boutiques, and open-air cafés.

Puerto Aventuras

This once-deserted turquoise bay is now a beautiful resort development spanning nearly 900 acres of private villas, condos, and hotels. At the heart of the development are a marina and an assortment of restaurants, coffee shops, handicraft stores, and bakeries. Deep-sea sports fishermen and those who dream of swimming with dolphins are frequent visitors to the bay.

Akumal

Further south, the allure of tropical isolation draws people to Akumal, a laid-back retreat irresistible to divers who come for the offshore reefs and to sunbathers who bask on the perfect palm-lined beaches. Once part of a large coconut plantation, Akumal is now a resort community with silky white-sand beaches that are protected by offshore reefs. In Akumal, which is Mayan for “place of the turtles,” sea turtles swim the sprawling bays and guests can watch from June to November as their eggs hatch on the sandy shores.

 

Amazing Mayan ruins

Travel through time at any of the 1,200 archaeological sites that are scattered along the Riviera Maya. These marvels of architecture, most of which have been wonderfully restored yet are still shrouded by dense jungle, reveal a profound mathematical and astrological wisdom.

Tulum — the original resort

Discover for yourself why the Maya chose Tulum as the spot for their very own ancient "resort." You'll see exactly what they saw: rocky cliffs, white-sand beach, swaying palm trees, and one of the world's best places to catch a sunrise. Plus, you can tour the stunning temples and palaces that the Mayans left behind.

Secluded Tulum attracts visitors with its coast-hugging location near splendid cliff-top Mayan ruins. The blend of traditional Mayan huts, wonderful dining, and shops creates a charmingly unusual ambience.

Built over many centuries, it contains one of the most amazing archaeological finds in all the ruins - the Temple of the Frescos. This is the most visited of the ruins in the Mundo Maya, and you should take along a bathing suit for a dip in the exquisite beaches at the base of the city.

Coba Ruins

The ruins of this important Mayan site in the Riviera Maya are still shrouded by thick jungle, imparting the feeling of "discovery" for visitors. The city is an enormous 50 square miles! Excavations have located the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán, a nine-tiered castle, and a ball court. Also, it has the most sacbe (wide, limestone-paved ancient roads) of any site yet discovered.

Eco-adventure at Xcaret and Xel-Ha

The eco-adventure theme parks of Xel-ha and Xcaret allow access to Mayan ruins while also offering diversions like snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, and wildlife viewing.

Xcaret Park contains some small Mayan ruins as well as a coral reef aquarium and nature reserves for manatees, birds, and jaguars. Go snorkeling, watch folklore shows, visit historic exhibits, and dive the underground rivers that join the most extensive subterranean water system in the world. Float down the Maya River to an authentic recreation of a Mayan village. At night, ancient Mayan rituals are re-enacted in illuminated grottoes and culminate in a traditional show in the moonlit amphitheater.

Xel-Ha Park also features archaeological sites, plus a natural inlet and lagoon, aquarium, turtle reserve, underwater caves and grottoes, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming with dolphins.

 

Local cuisine

Restaurants in Riviera Maya offer a range of dining options, including upscale international establishments and quality seafood restaurants. Visitors can also find Mexican and Yucatecan establishments for more authentic local dishes. Yucatecan cuisine combines Mayan and European ingredients, and has gained a reputation as one of the finest in all Mexico. Unique regional offerings include:

  • Sikil Pak, also called pumpkin seed dip, is a fine paste to accompany tortillas or boiled eggs, made with ground pumpkin seeds and roasted vegetables;
  • Tikin Xic, or Yucatan fish, is fresh fish cooked on a girl and served with a paste made from orange juice and Annatto tree seeds;
  • Cochinita Pibil, Yucatan pork, is a slow-roasted pork dish where the meat is marinated with spices and Achiote and wrapped in banana leaves.

 

Things to see and do

Riviera Maya is filled with must-see attractions and wonders. Items marked with a (*) are Liberty Travel Insider Experiences, handpicked tours (some exclusive to Liberty Travel) that can be booked as part of a Liberty Travel Escape.

Chichen Itza Private Tour (with upgrades to Cooking and City Tours) *

Enjoy a fascinating day trip to the central area of the Yucatan on a privately guided tour of Chichen Itza, with an early arrival to avoid the crowds. Taste authentic Mayan cuisine, or upgrade this tour and prepare a Mayan meal of your own! For the full experience, you can finish your day by exploring beautiful architecture and an ex-convent at a classic colonial city.

Isla Mujeres VIP (with upgrades to Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin Experience) *

Get ready for an activity-packed day at the Royal Garrafon Natural Reef Park. You’ll go hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and zip-lining, and also enjoy an international buffet lunch in the exclusive Garrafon wine cellar. Upgrade to include the Dolphin Encounter and you also receive a handshake, kiss, and hug from friendly dolphins. With the full Dolphin Experience upgrade, you’ll spend a full hour in the water with dolphins and join in their games.

Xcaret Ecological Park

Visit the ecological park Xcaret, an area the Mayans considered nature's sacred paradise. Float in the underground river, snorkel in the clear water inlet, tour botanical gardens, see a breeding ground for turtles and crocodiles, and explore the butterfly pavilion. Delight in a live nightly show in which Mexican and Mayan folklore are represented through music, dance, and color.

Puerto Morelos Snorkeling *

Experience a guided snorkeling adventure at one of the most beautiful and fascinating Yucatan Peninsula locations. Bathed by spectacular turquoise water, this off-the-beaten-path coral reef has been declared a National Marine Park. Snorkel two different areas of the reef to witness two distinct and incredible habitats. Finish the day relaxing on a beautiful white-sand beach surrounded by the turquoise sea while enjoying a cold beverage and light snacks.

Coba Ruins

Experience the richness of the Mayan World and discover the Mayan ruins of Coba. Climb Chimuch, the tallest pyramid in the Northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Visit a Mayan village, co-habit with the descendants of this most admirable pre-Hispanic civilization, and participate in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage.

Tulum & Must Do’s in Mexico *

Discover the ancient Mayan culture at one of the most beautiful and best preserved coastal Mayan sites in the Yucatan during this full day experience. Tulum is located atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and is a must see while vacationing in Cancun. Afterwards, relax at the surrounding white-sand beach, swim in a nearby cenote, and visit the iconic 5th Avenue of Playa del Carmen for lunch and shopping.

Golf Jack Nicklaus Course

Experience this amazing 9- and 18-hole yard, highlighted by the radiant white sand, dark natural stone, and pristine lakes that make the Mayan Jungle such an extraordinary natural landscape. This course is a garden of delights for golf lovers.

ATVs and Horseback Riding 

Travel by horseback or feel the breeze as you drive your own ATV through the jungle paths and secluded beaches of the Mayan Caribbean. Cool off with a refreshing swim, and enjoy the unique opportunity of riding a horse in the water.

Deep Sea Fishing

Enjoy bottom fishing and trolling on boats fully equipped with a professional crew on board. You can catch and release, take a trophy back home, or even have the crew filet your catch of the day for you.

Riviera Maya Fast Facts

Approximate flight times

  • NYC/Newark 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Philadelphia 4 hours
  • Boston 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Miami 2 hours
  • Los Angeles 4 hours, 30 minutes

Entry/departure requirements

All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport valid for at least six months, with a blank page for an entry stamp. If staying in Mexico for over 72 hours, a Mexico tourist card is needed (single entry up to 180 days). A departure tax of $18-29 (depending on airport) is generally included in airfare.

Climate          

Tropical climate with hot weather year-round. Average high temperature is 86°F

Official language

Spanish (English widely spoken; Mayan spoken by many local indigenous people)

Official currency

Mexican Peso (U.S. dollar widely accepted)