15 things to do in the Riviera Maya that will make you want to move


August 7, 2020

Visiting the Riviera Maya is an unforgettable experience.

There is no earthly paradise like this one; one where you can enjoy beautiful beaches, interesting Mayan ruins, lots of culture, incredible cenotes, delicious food, a good atmosphere, and a lot of other things.

In short: there is always something for everyone, whether you prefer the entertainment and bohemian atmosphere of Playa del Carmen, or you prefer the connection with the nature of Tulum.

So - to help you make a list for your next vacation - here is a list of the best things you can do on the Riviera Maya.

1. Sunbathe on the beaches

When you visit any of the cities or beach towns on the Riviera Maya it is essential that you spend a day at the beach, as the most beautiful beaches in Mexico are found here.

The Mexican Caribbean is distinguished by its crystal clear waters, with coral reefs, and being home to animals such as sea turtles, dolphins, and a great variety of fish and migratory birds.

And you're probably wondering which beach to visit.

This will depend on whether you are in Playa del Carmen or Tulum, but no matter where you are, you will end up being delighted.

In Playa del Carmen you can visit Playa Mamitas, one of its main beaches -and one of the closest ones- where you can sunbathe, swim and play beach volleyball.

Playacar in Playa del Carmen.
However, if you stay in Playacar -the hotel zone- you can access the beach, one of the most popular among tourists.

And what if you want to visit a beach away from the crowds to connect with nature? In that case Punta Maroma is the perfect beach, as it is one of the most beautiful virgin beaches in the Riviera Maya.

In Tulum you can spend the day at Playa Paraiso, one of the favorite beaches thanks to its beauty, because it is not a public beach and it is close to several tourist attractions.

2. Go to Puerto Morelos

If you are planning a tour of the entire Mayan Riviera then Puerto Morelos should be your first stop, because it is at the beginning and because it has so much to offer.

Puerto Morelos.
This is one of the most important ports in the state of Quintana Roo, so the main economic activity is fishing.

Some of the things you can do in Puerto Morelos are swimming in its quiet beach, diving, going to the botanical garden, visiting the crocodile captivity, horseback riding, biking, shopping at the handicraft market, buying fish, among others.

3. Shopping on the 5th Avenue

Playa del Carmen has become a very popular tourist destination because it is a cosmopolitan city, with lots of style, nightlife and many amenities, all this near the beach.

However, much of the popularity of this place is due to the 5th Avenue, the main tourist attraction just steps from the beach and where you will find a lot of shops, restaurants, cafes, and even art areas.

Usually, tourists arrive at the beach during the day and then walk along 5th Avenue to go shopping, have a coffee or an ice cream.

Banner of real estate developments in Playa del Carmen.

At night you can enjoy the wide variety of night clubs in a very lively and colorful atmosphere, as well as taste the Caribbean drinks and dishes in the bars and restaurants.

Without a doubt, this is must-visit place while you are in the Riviera Maya.

4. Spend the day in Cozumel

Cozumel is an island just 18 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, and is a very lively place and one of the best tourist destinations in the Riviera Maya.

What makes Cozumel so special?

One of the main characteristics of this island is the good atmosphere that unites the bohemian parties with the sea and the moonlight. This is why the bars and restaurants on the beach have been booming.

But that's not all, as there are also diving areas - around 40 - where you can observe the coral reefs, manta rays, dolphins and various fish.

5. Explore Rio Secreto

If you really want to experience adventure, you should take a tour of Rio Secreto, near Playa del Carmen.

In this place you will have the opportunity to get to know a very interesting underground cave system. These caves are semi-flooded, and you can swim and snorkel in them just like in the closed cenotes.

In addition, several tours include a bicycle tour of the dry trails, rappelling, refreshments, all the necessary equipment, an expert guide, and a buffet lunch.

6. Take a Cenote Tour

There are countless cenotes in both the Riviera Maya and Yucatan and many connect with each other. These are very popular tourist attractions among tourists.
Cenotes are natural formations in the form of water deposits that can be open, semi-open or closed.

According to the Mayan culture, the cenotes are the connection to the spiritual world, as portals to the Xibalbá - the Mayan underworld - and that's why different ceremonies were performed in them.

Gran Cenote in Tulum.
Nowadays, many cenotes are enabled to receive tourists. You can swim, dive and have a good day.

Some of the must-visit cenotes are:

  • Gran Cenote: One of the most popular and closest to the archaeological site of Tulum. It is a semi-open cenote so it is perfect for swimming surrounded by the Mayan jungle.
  • The Coba Cenotes: Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha and Multum-Ha are three closed cenotes, and in them you can admire the stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Xcacelito: This cenote is located near the beach of Xcacel, and is one of those secret places in Tulum, where you can connect on a spiritual level with nature.
  • Cenote Dos Ojos: Named for the "two eyes" shape it has when viewed from above.It has several underwater caves ideal for cenote diving.

7.  Explore Xcaret

The Xcaret theme park is located only 5 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, one of the most popular attractions in the area in the Riviera Maya.

Here you can do ecotourism and different water activities, such as diving in the coral reefs, exploring the underground rivers, going to the beach and swimming in the shallow cenotes.

Besides that you have access to different types of shows related to the Mayan and Mexican culture, the ceremony of the Voladores de Papantla, and a visit to the museum of popular art.

8. Ecotourism in Xelhá

If you have already visited Xcaret and you still feel like having fun in this kind of theme park, then you are in luck, because Xelhá is another place you have to visit.

As well as in Xcaret, you can do different activities - mostly water - such as snorkeling, going down the river, swimming in the cenotes, practicing zip-lining in the river, going over the floating bridge, riding your bike, visiting the nursery, visiting the Mayan ruins, among others.

And one of its most recognizable areas is the 40-meter high lighthouse, where you can go up to admire the park -and the jungle-, take pictures, and slide as many times as you want down one of the 4 30-meter slides.

9. Admire the turtles in Akumal

In different areas of the Riviera Maya you will have the opportunity to observe the sea turtles in their natural habitat and one of those is Akumal.

This place is located halfway from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and here you can not only observe the turtles but also swim with them.

Turtles in Akumal.
To swim with turtles you will need professional diving equipment but if you don't have your own equipment you can rent it right there.

After swimming you can try the delicious Caribbean food in one of the nearby restaurants.

10. Visit the ruins of Tulum

The Mayan civilization developed in the Yucatan Peninsula, and that is why a great effort has been made to preserve the ruins, so that you can learn a little more about their history.

And one of the most interesting -and popular- ruins of the Riviera Maya is the archaeological site of Tulum.

Tulum was an important Mayan city that was characterized by its strategic location in front of the Caribbean Sea, and for being completely walled.

The archaeological site of Tulum.
The main building -the Tulum Castle- was an important ceremonial center and a lighthouse that helped the Mayan navigators.

Destino Hunab, one of our developments in the Riviera Maya, is located very close to the ruins of Tulum

11. Be amazed by the Sian Ka'an reserve

Sian Ka'an is one of the most important nature reserves in southern Mexico, covering some 625,193 hectares and home to a great flora and fauna, underground rivers, petenes and several vestiges of the Maya.

Jaguars, tapirs, manatees, monkeys, pumas, crocodiles, turtles, and jabirus, are some of the protected species in Sian Ka’an.

Currently, a great deal of conservation and research work continues to be done, and tours with specialized guides are allowed, so that you can learn a little more about their ecosystems.

Sian Ka'an.
If you visit Sian Ka'an don't forget to use biodegradable mosquito repellent and sunscreen, follow your guide's instructions, do not interact with nature and respect it at all times.

12. Discover the ruins of Muyil

In Sian Ka'an Reserve you will be able to explore the hidden ruins of Muyil.

Muyil is named after the lakes surrounding Muyil and Chunyché, which played a very important role in the livelihood of the Mayan community that lived here several years ago.

The main building is called "el Castillo" - a name similar to Tulum Castle - which is about 17 meters high.

13. Explore the ruins of Coba

The archaeological site of Coba, is well known for being hidden in the jungle.

Ruins of Coba.
To explore this area we recommend you to do it by bike, either if you bring your own or if you rent one, because the distance to travel is worth it.

Unlike other ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, in Coba you can climb the 120 steps of the Mayan pyramid -Nohoch Mul-, and marvel at the landscape from above.

14. Eating in a palapa

We have already told you about beaches, theme parks, Mayan ruins, cenotes, diving, among other things, but we cannot forget the traditional experience: eating in a palapa.

Although it sounds simple, this is one of the things you have to do in the Riviera Maya, because not only would you be enjoying your food, but also an incredible view of the white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Among the dishes you can find are traditional Caribbean seafood, as well as traditional foods such as cochinita pibil, enchiladas, salbutes and -of course- tacos.

And you also have the option of ordering international food, prepared drinks, desserts, etc.

15. Enjoy the nightlife

Throughout the Riviera Maya you will find a lively nightlife, whether you prefer moonlit nights in Tulum, or bar and restaurant nights in Playa del Carmen.

The great advantage of both places is that these night activities are very close to the beach, which adds a very special and bohemian touch.

Also depending on the time of year you are, you will have the opportunity to enjoy different nightly celebrations, such as the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, the Carnival of the World, among others.

What else to do near the Riviera Maya?

Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum and Coba are the places in the Riviera Maya, and each of them has a lot to offer.

In fact, there are so many things to do that it takes a very long vacation to be able to do at least half of them.

Banner of real estate developments in the Riviera Maya.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't also tourist attractions worth visiting in the surrounding area, such as the Yucatan and Cancun.

So, below we list some of the things you can do in places near the Riviera Maya:

  • Visit the archaeological site of Chichen Itza: One of the modern wonders of the world, and one of the most emblematic tourist spots in Yucatan and Mexico. Here you have the opportunity to learn more about the Mayans and marvel at their architecture. Its main buildings are the Temple of Kukulkan and The Great Ball Game.
  • Visit Merida: Recognized in 2019 as the second safest city in the Americas by CEO World magazine, it is a very quiet place, full of culture, art and entertainment.
  • Visit Cancun: It is the choice of many tourists, both Mexican and foreign, thanks to its all-inclusive packages in the hotel zone, where you can enjoy great luxuries, amenities of all kinds, and lots of nightlife.
  • Explore Isla Mujeres: It is one of the nearby islands of Cancun, which is perfect to spend a relaxing day and be able to swim with dolphins and turtles.

The Riviera Maya, the best place to live

When you get to know all the things to do in the Riviera Maya you realize how incredible it is, and how much this earthly paradise is worth visiting at least once in your life.

The experiences are unforgettable; thanks to its incredible nature, the exclusive services, the diverse sources of entertainment, its vast culture and history.

That is why many people decide to invest in a home in the Riviera Maya, and keep enjoying the benefits of this place.

The Riviera Maya is a place that you are sure to fall in love with for an endless number of reasons once you get to know it.

If you want to continue learning about the Riviera Maya -and investment- we invite you to read our article Playa del Carmen or Cancun: Which place should I choose, as well as the others articles in our blog.

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