From archaeological remains to beautiful beaches, these are the top-10 most ideal places to see while on vacation in the Riviera Maya of Mexico.
Of all the destinations in Latin America, the Riviera Maya is one of the most visited. It has become a dream destination because of its beaches, parks, large hotels, nature reserves, Mayan archaeological sites, and much more. The number of places to visit during a trip to this destination is immense, so today I’ll tell you about the ten most amazing places that you cannot afford to miss.
The best of Riviera Maya offers white-sand beaches, ancient Mayan archaeological sites, natural reserves, and theme parks. All you need to do is choose which of the activities you’ll be doing during your vacation in Mexico.
Cancun Hotel Zone
No trip to the Riviera Maya is complete without visiting the city of Cancun. And the best place to do so is in the Hotel Zone. In this sector, as its name indicates, you will find most of the hotels in Cancun. Along this strip of land (with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Laguna Nichupté on the other), there are spectacular beaches (like Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas, etc.) There are also large clubs and shopping centers in the city.
This island is located very close to the city of Cancun. And to get there, you have to take some ferries that leave from Playa Tortuga. Its beaches are one of the most beautiful in the Riviera Maya. Its calm environment attracts many visitors to relax or carry out catamaran sailing and water sports activities. The most beautiful place I recommend you visit at Isla Mujeres is Playa Norte, a beach with crystal clear and calm waters. Read more about what to do in Isla Mujeres.
This island, the third-largest in Mexico, is ideal for those seeking contact with nature and tranquility. And if you’re looking to do some diving in the Riviera Maya, Cozumel has it all. You’ll have access to national parks such as Palancar and Chankanaab, coral reefs, and lots of marine life. You can also take tours to observe crocodiles and birds in their habitat by ferry from Playa del Carmen or by plane from other Mexico locations. Read more about what to do in Cozumel.
This archaeological site is undoubtedly the main icon of the Riviera Maya. Recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, Chichen Itzá is truly impressive. The Mayan pyramid itself is known as “El Castillo” with the Ball Court and the Great Cenote nearby. When visiting, I recommend you first go on your own, first thing in the morning, because it’s best appreciated when few tourists are around.
These are Mayan ruins less known than Chichen Itzá, but they are certainly worth visiting. They are a bit hidden, located within a small jungle. But it has the peculiarity of the main pyramid of Cobá and can be climbed on foot with breathtaking views from the top.
This place is incredible because it combines the Caribbean Sea’s beautiful turquoise blue tones with another of the Mayan architectural works, which remains standing despite being built between 1,200 and 1,500 BC. The ruins of Tulum, especially with the “The Castle” being located a few meters from the beach, makes it the perfect spot to take the best photographs. It’s possible to visit here first and then see the rest of Tulum’s beaches on the same day.
The largest theme park in all of Mexico is Xcaret, and it is a must-see destination during any trip to the Riviera Maya. Located near Playa del Carmen, Xcaret was recognized in 2016 as “the best theme park in the world” due to the more than 50 attractions it presents. These attractions range from sailing in underground rivers, exploring the jungle, swimming with dolphins, and observing the Mayan culture Mexicana in the museums and chapels built in the park. And you cannot afford to miss the show “Xcaret at night” with more than 300 artists on stage.
Cenotes are natural structures similar to wells but with impressive external and underwater rock formations. Throughout the Riviera Maya and Yucatan, there are more than 7000 cenotes to visit. And depending on the type, they can be enjoyed while walking, swimming, and even diving to great depths, as in the Cenote Azul case. If you want to experience several of them in a single day, the Ruta de Los Cenotes starts from Puerto Morelos.
One of the lesser-known natural gems of the Riviera Maya is Río Secreto, an intricate system of underground rivers and caverns that are worthwhile visiting during your trip. The Mayans considered this natural reserve a sacred place and “the entrance to the underworld” – so authorities strive to preserve it. A tour of Rio Secreto includes cave walking, wetsuit swimming in the underground rivers, and much more.