Destination Spotlight: Riviera Maya

Located just south of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, a short drive from Cancun International Airport, is the vacation hotspot of Riviera Maya. Overlooking the sparkling shores of the Caribbean Sea, Riviera Maya is a quintessential beach destination that offers travellers plenty of opportunities for adventure and exploration. From the best all inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya to the top things to do, we rounded up everything you need to know about this popular resort area in Mexico.

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Woman in a dress standing on the beach at sunset Photo: @bennybennassi
Lounge on some of Mexico’s best beaches

If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in the tropics, you’ll find them lining the coast of Riviera Maya, with sparkling white-sand shores overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Puerto Morelos is a popular beach for snorkelling, home to the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park where you can scuba dive alongside exotic marine life. Looking to work on your tan? Playa Paraiso is a picture-perfect stretch of sand ideal for soaking up the sun. Those looking for peace and quiet will want to visit Secret Beach – located within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, this beach is often completely deserted.

Where to stay: Plan the ultimate beach escape at Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa, one of the most popular Riviera Maya hotels. This top-rated luxury resort is nestled on a pristine stretch of sand, where you can read your favourite book on a lavish Bali bed while enjoying a refreshing drink from the beachside wait service. Looking for an adults only option? Hideaway at Royalton Riviera Cancun is a resort-within-a-resort offering full access to the wider complex with exclusive facilities including a pool, restaurant and beach area.

Man and woman kissing a baby on the cheek on a city street Photo: @_sweetstephanie
Embrace the local culture in Playa Del Carmen

Less than an hour from Cancun International Airport is the vibrant downtown of Playa Del Carmen! This iconic beach town is known for its breathtaking beaches, lively bars and bustling 5th Avenue, lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. Grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants, serving refreshing margaritas and tacos, before snapping a photo in front of the colourful Playa Del Carmen sign by the Parque Fundadores, home to the famous Portal Maya statue. In the evenings, stroll along the cobblestone streets of 5th Avenue where you can watch talented street performers, hang out at one of the rooftop bars or visit the world-famous Coco Bongo nightclub!

Where to stay: Riu Yucatan is located just a short drive from the streets of downtown, making it the perfect home base from which to discover Playa Del Carmen. When you’re done exploring, you can soak up the sun by one of the sprawling pool areas with a swim-up bar or try out a range of complimentary activities like kayaking and snorkelling. Want to sample the local cuisine? Head to the poolside La Margarita restaurant to enjoy delicious Mexican dishes!

Woman in a dress and hat looking out at ancient Mayan ruins Photo: @karykaryalvarez
Step back in time with ancient Mayan ruins

One of the things that Riviera Maya is famous for is ancient Mayan ruins. While Tulum might be the most famous, there are plenty more to discover with an excursion including Chichén Itzá, Ek Balam and Coba. Tulum is a pre-Columbian city nestled on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and is considered to be one of the world’s best-preserved Mayan cities, with famous sites including the Temple of the Frescoes and El Castillo. Chichén Itzá is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, with its famous Kukulkan Pyramid. While you can’t climb to the top, you can snap a great picture in front of its majestic steps! Ek Balam offers panoramic views of the surrounding jungle with a picturesque cenote nearby. Finally, the ancient city of Coba features the tallest ancient structure in the Yucatan Peninsula – the Temple of Nuhoch Muul.

Where to stay: Stay a short drive away from the ancient ruins of Tulum at Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa, a Riviera Maya all inclusive oasis that’s hidden among 44 acres of tropical jungle. After a day spent exploring ancient ruins, you can try out a range of fun-filled activities around the resort – whether you want to tour the coast on a catamaran, find your Zen with a yoga class by the ocean or drop the little ones off at the kids club where they can embark on a treasure hunt.

Woman sitting on a dock overlooking a cenote Photo: @justjadamw
Discover lush landscapes

While Riviera Maya is famous for its white-sand beaches, inland you’ll find gorgeous lush jungles waiting to be explored. The Yucatan Peninsula is home to thousands of cenotes (natural pools that were formed over millions of years). Visit some of the area’s famous cenotes including Ik Kil, Ek Balam, Dos Ojos, Suytun and more where you can swim in the crystal-clear waters. Another great way to explore the lush landscapes and exotic jungles is with a visit to Xcaret Park, one of the best Riviera Maya excursions where you can swim through an underground river, spot exotic wildlife on a riverboat ride and more.

Where to stay: You’ll feel like you’re in the heart of the jungle when you stay at Hotel Xcaret Mexico. The resort was built into the area’s lush landscapes with caves and rivers weaving throughout the grounds. Enjoy unlimited access to all nine Xcaret Experience Parks and Tours throughout your stay, before lounging by one of the peaceful coves or grabbing a bite to eat at Las Cuevas, a restaurant built into the resort’s caves.

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