Riviera Maya is a picture-perfect stretch of Mexican coastline. Situated on the Yucatán Peninsula, Riviera Maya is famous for its luxury resorts and high-end Mayan Riviera properties. If you are hoping for an idyllic vacation in the Caribbean sun, you can’t do much better than a trip to Riviera Maya. But Riviera Maya has much more to offer than sand, sea, and sun. Read on to find out more.
1.- Relax in the Sun
The beaches in this part of Mexico are amazing. Picture white sand so soft it resembles sugar, dipping gently into the turquoise water. You can soak up the sun, swim in the calm waters, or venture further out and do a bit of snorkeling.
• Maroma Beach just north of Playa del Carmen is a popular stretch of sand that is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. It has suffered hurricane damage in recent years, but the sand is still divine and there are facilities there, including a beach club and restaurant.
• Mamita Beach is popular with the younger crowd. The music is often loud, so this is not the beach for you if you want to snooze in the sun. It is, however, great for swimming.
• Playa Punta Esmerelda is quieter. It’s popular with local families. There are some freshwater pools, which are perfect for kids to swim in.
• Paradise Beach just down from Tulum is lovely. Spread your towel out on the flat sand and relax. The downside is that the beaches in this part of Riviera Maya get very busy at the weekend and parking is impossible. If you go, get there early.
2.- Go Snorkeling and Diving
The snorkeling and diving are world-class at Maya Riviera. Whether you are an expert or a novice, you won’t be disappointed when you head out into the water. You can rent snorkels from some of the beaches or take your own.
Rent snorkels at Yal Ku Lagoon and explore the mangrove and rock pools. The snorkeling is excellent at Paamul Beach. It is also great off-shore at the Puerto Morelos Beaches, but you will have to swim a bit further out.
One of the best snorkeling areas is the Moche Reef in Playa del Carmen. It’s a short boat ride out, so hire a local guide and explore the multi-colored coral reef. Tours typically take around two hours, but you will see a huge range of marine life, including puffer fish, sea turtles, moray eels, and spotted eagle rays.
Akumal Bay is the best place to see sea turtles. Book a tour for the best experience.
Advanced snorkelers should head to Yalku-ito where freshwater flows into the ocean. This creates a unique blend of freshwater and seawater, which attracts numerous schools of colorful fish. You might even be lucky enough to swim through a wall of fish – watch out for barracuda!
Maya Riviera is also a wonderful scuba diving destination. It isn’t the most popular place in the world to dive, but the Mesoamerican reef runs along this stretch of coast, so there are some amazing sights to explore, including underground caverns such as Dos Ojos, Chikin Ha, and Tajma Ha.
Dos Ojos is a must-visit spot for certified scuba divers. The cenote (a natural underground limestone cavern) is spectacular. There are many different routes into the cavern, so no two dives will be alike. You’ll see spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, as well as huge limestone columns. You won’t need cavern certification to dive Dos Ojos, but it is only suitable for advanced divers. Take your Go Pro camera and record your experiences.
3.- Play Golf
Maya Riviera is famous for its golf courses.
• The Riviera Maya Golf Club is a top-rated championship course. Work your way through the Mayan Jungle, taking in scenic lakes and beautiful views.
• The Moon Spa and Golf Club was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is divided into three courses: dunes, jungle, and lakes. It’s suitable for all levels, including beginners.
• El Camaleón offers tournament quality golfing and is renowned for its stunning architectural features.
4.- Learn More about the Mayan Civilization
A trip to Maya Riviera offers a glimpse of an ancient civilization. Everywhere you go, there are remnants of the Mayan people. Tulum’s famous ruins sitting above the beach are one of the most impressive sights of Maya Riviera. Tulum isn’t the most spectacular Mayan ruin, but it’s surely in one of the most scenic locations.
Visit the Tulum ruins early in the morning if you want to avoid the tour bus crowds. It is also cooler in the early morning. Travel there by car, bus, or train. There is an automated ticket booth at the entrance. A tour of the ruins takes around two hours and there are many trails to explore. Wander around under your own steam or book a guided tour.
5.- Be an Eco-Tourist
There are four eco-parks in the Maya Riviera and each one has something different to offer. Look out for jaguars, dolphins, monkeys, and flamingos. Swim in freshwater pools, go zip-lining and take an underground tour.
The Aktun Chen Natural Park near Tulum is one of the most family-friendly eco-parks. The Aktun Chen cavern is spectacular and deliciously cool if you are looking to escape from the heat. Have a go at the many outdoor activities or visit the wildlife zoo. You will see many of the park’s residents during your visit, including spider monkeys, coatimundis, and agutis.
6.- Visit the Caves of Kantemo
Don’t visit the Caves of Kantemo if you have a snake phobia – the caves are home to hundreds of them, all lying in wait hoping to snare an unwary bat at dusk. Hire a guide and learn more about local myths and legends. There is also an underground river, which you can explore via boat.
Maya Riviera is so much more than a beach vacation destination. You can sit on the sand and drink cocktails, but with so many fun things to see and do, that would be a terrible waste!