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Riviera Maya Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated March 2024

Tulum Mayan Ruins in the Riviera Maya
Tulum Mayan Ruins in the Riviera Maya

Welcome to the Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya is full of treasures waiting to be explored, offering sparkling turquoise waves, picturesque cenotes and incredible ancient ruins. The region sits on the Yucatan Peninsula and stretches for nearly 100 miles of coastline through the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Riviera Maya begins just south of Cancun in Puerto Morelos and runs south through Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Tulum and Sian Ka’an. Keep reading for everything you need to know to plan a trip to the Riviera Maya.

The Riviera Maya is full of treasures waiting to be explored, offering sparkling turquoise waves, picturesque cenotes and incredible ancient ruins. The region sits on the Yucatan Peninsula and stretches for nearly 100 miles of coastline through the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

Riviera Maya begins just south of Cancun in Puerto Morelos and runs south through Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Tulum and Sian Ka’an. Keep reading for everything you need to know to plan a trip to the Riviera Maya.

Riviera Maya Map

Riviera Maya Map

Contents

Beach on the Riviera Maya in Mexico
Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Riviera Maya Mexico

A Bit Of History

The Riviera Maya, located along the stunning Caribbean coast of Mexico, has a rich history that stretches back thousands of years. The region was once inhabited by the ancient Maya civilization, who left behind remarkable archaeological sites like Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. These magnificent ruins offer a glimpse into the Maya’s advanced culture and architectural prowess.

During the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the Riviera Maya became an important trade route and a battleground for European powers. Over the years, it experienced periods of prosperity and decline, remaining a relatively remote and sparsely populated area until the late 20th century.

Beach in Cozumel Mexico

Riviera Maya Today

Today, the Riviera Maya stands as a vibrant and thriving destination known for its breathtaking beauty and diverse attractions. With its luxurious resorts, stunning beaches, and world-class snorkeling and diving sites, it continues to captivate visitors from all walks of life. The region offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and cultural experiences, including exploring ancient Maya ruins, swimming in cenotes (natural sinkholes), and immersing oneself in the rich local cuisine and traditions. The Riviera Maya remains a true paradise that promises unforgettable memories and a warm, welcoming atmosphere for travelers seeking a slice of tropical bliss.

Riviera Maya Visitors Guide

Is Riviera Maya Safe?

The Riviera Maya is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The Mexican government has made significant efforts to prioritize the safety and security of tourists in popular tourist areas, including the Riviera Maya. However, like any other travel destination, it is always advisable to exercise caution and take necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.

It is recommended to stay in well-established resorts, follow the guidance of local authorities, and avoid traveling alone at night or in isolated areas. Additionally, it is wise to be aware of your surroundings, keep valuable belongings secure, and use reliable transportation services.

Where is the Riviera Maya?

Playa Del Carmen On A Map

The Riviera Maya sits on the eastern edge of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and stretches for nearly 100 miles of coastline through the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Riviera Maya begins just south of Cancun in Puerto Morelos and runs south through Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Tulum and Sian Ka’an.

The Best Time to Visit the Riviera Maya

The tropical climate in the Riviera Maya is fairly predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83° F) it’s the rainy season that visitors should pay attention to.

The tropical climate in the Riviera Maya is fairly predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83° F) it’s the rainy season that visitors should pay attention to.

January – April

The weather is picture perfect, but “peak season” means lots of tourists and higher prices. The ocean, cenotes and swimming pools (that aren’t heated) can still be a little chilly for some.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year still offer plenty of wonderful sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. The hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean fewer crowds and lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

Many consider the autumn-winter months to be the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. The hurricane season has passed by this time, and the humidity is low. It can be a little “cool” in the evenings so bring a warming layer.

January – April

The weather is picture perfect, but “peak season” means lots of tourists and higher prices. The ocean, cenotes and swimming pools (that aren’t heated) can still be a little chilly for some.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year still offer plenty of wonderful sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. The hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean fewer crowds and lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

Many consider the autumn-winter months to be the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. The hurricane season has passed by this time, and the humidity is low. It can be a little “cool” in the evenings so bring a warming layer.

 When Is The Riviera Maya Hurricane Season?

The Riviera Maya hurricane season begins in late May and lasts until early November, with the peak in September and October. The odds of a hurricane hitting Riviera Maya are low (five hurricanes have hit the Yucatan in the past 40 years), but hurricanes traveling near Riviera Maya can still cause severe weather. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and get travel insurance during these months just in case.

Hurricane Season
Boat on turquoise water of the Riviera Maya in Mexico
Boat on turquoise water of the Riviera Maya in Mexico

How to Get to Riviera Maya & Around

There are a few ways to get to the Riviera Maya and around the area.

Mexico Airport

Arrival by Air

Most people fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) when traveling to the Riviera Maya. This is the largest airport on the Yucatan Peninsula offering direct flights from the United States. It takes between an hour and 2.5 hours to get to the Riviera Mayas most popular destinations from the Cancun Airport.  However, direct flights are coming to the new Tulum International Airport soon.

The new Tulum Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport (TQO) is now open. The airport allows International travelers to connect to Tulum via Mexico City with domestic airlines such as Aeromexico. Direct flights from the United States will begin arriving at Tulum Airport in March of 2024. The airport is an easy 35-40 minutes from the famous Tulum Mayan Ruins and 45-50 minutes from Akumal by car.

  Search for great deals on flights to Cancun here.

Island Life Mexico

Airport Shuttles to Riviera Maya

Group or Private Shuttles can be pre-arranged to pick you up at the Cancun Airport and take you to your Riviera Maya accommodation. Group shuttles may stop at numerous hotels before yours, so this method could take a bit longer than a private shuttle (while being a bit cheaper). We recommend getting a private shuttle if you are in a group of 2 or more people.

  You can easily book ground transportation from the Cancun airport to your Riviera Maya hotel here.

Island Life Mexico

Rental Cars In Riviera Maya

Renting a vehicle in the Riviera Maya or at the Cancun airport may be the most convenient choice depending on how much exploring you plan to do on your own. It is an easy and affordable option. Rental cars can be as inexpensive as $15/day at the Cancun airport.

If you rent a car at the Cancun airport, head down the only highway southbound.

  Search for great deals on rental cars at the Cancun airport here.

Buses in Mexico

Buses in Riviera Maya

One of the most affordable transportation options to Riviera Maya is taking the ADO Bus (Autobuses de Oriente), which is easily the slowest option. You can check out the ADO bus schedule here. Busses do not stop at hotels, only at central bus stations.

Taxi in Mexico

Taxis in Riviera Maya

Taxis in the Riviera Maya are an easy way to get around. Flag them down on the road or have your hotel call one for you. Prices are around $4-$7 dollars locally. Traveling outside of town or between towns can add up though.

If you want to take a taxi to Riviera Maya from Cancun, they are everywhere on the street in Cancun and will take you straight to your accommodation. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance so you don’t get overcharged. Taxis from Cancun to Riviera Maya are convenient but can be quite expensive.

Destinations In The Riviera Maya

From North To South

There is so much to do in the Riviera Maya. It’s really easy to make each day a special experience. Here are the main cities and towns you can enjoy!

Puerto Morelos

click to see more images

1. Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is a charming beach town and quaint fishing village south of Cancun at the northern edge of the Riviera Maya. While Puerto Morelos is a smaller town, it’s known for its many luxurious all-inclusive resorts. With warm and welcoming locals, Puerto Morelos offers an off-the-radar beach experience that is just as beautiful as the more extensive resort towns. Puerto Morelos is also full of adventure opportunities like snorkeling and exploring ancient cenotes.

For more detailed information including things to do, where to stay and more, check out our Puerto Morelos Visitors Guide and our Puerto Morelos All Inclusive Resorts Guide.

Playa Del Carmen

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2. Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen is a jewel along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Just 30 minutes south of Puerto Morelos, the bustling town center, golden beaches, incredible amenities and nightlife are just a few of the things that make Playa del Carmen a top destination. Visitors delight in strolling down the vibrant 5th Ave, gathering souvenirs, dancing to live music and enjoying a meal at one of the countless restaurants. Want to take a day trip to Cozumel? Playa del Carmen is where you’ll find the ferry for your day trip. With proximity to nearby Mayan cultural centers and offshore islands, there’s a little something for everyone in “Playa.”

For more detailed information including things to do, where to stay and more, check out our Playa del Carmen Visitors Guide.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

Cozumel

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3. Cozumel

What was once a secluded island hideaway, has now become one of the most recognized tropical locales in Mexico’s majestic Riviera Maya. This is Isla Cozumel. It will take around 45 minutes to get from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel by ferry. Boasting white sand beaches, coral reefs, modern amenities and an enormous swaths of wild areas, it is an island paradise in every sense of the term. If you’re looking to scuba dive and snorkel, Cozumel is the place for you, as it’s one of the top diving destinations in the world. With countless activities, both below and above the waves, your Cozumel visit will surely be one you brag about for years to come.

For more detailed information including things to do, where to stay and more, check out our Cozumel Visitors Guide.

Puerto Aventuras

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4. Puerto Aventuras

Puerto Aventuras is a secret that locals have been trying to keep for years. It’s easy to see why ‘Adventure Harbor’ is an off the beaten track hidden gem. This gated community has its own golf course and a beautiful harbor lined with hundreds of yachts and sailboats. You’ll also find gorgeous beaches, stunning marinas, quirky restaurants and upscale accommodations. The town is divided by Highway 307, and you’ll find most of the restaurants, resorts and entertainment east of the highway on the beachfront.

Akumal

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5. Akumal

For those looking for a laid-back beach town on the beautiful Caribbean Sea, Akumal is a perfect choice. Only 15 minutes from neighboring Puerto Aventuras to the north and 25 minutes from Tulum to the south, Akumal is a great place to relax and take in the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya. The name “Akumal” comes from the Mayan word for “place of the turtles,” and this town has gained notoriety for being one of the best places in Mexico to spot and swim with sea turtles. Come to Akumal if you want fantastic beaches and turquoise water without the crowds. You may never want to leave!

For more detailed information including things to do, where to stay and more, check out our Akumal Visitors Guide.

Tulum

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6. Tulum

Breathe it in… the salty air, the wafting of floral incense, the deep sweetness of tropical flora and fauna…exhale slowly. You have arrived in Tulum. Around 25 minutes south of Akumal and 1 hour from Playa del Carmen. The magic of Tulum lies in its ruins, laid-back vibe and its high-end accommodations, making it an extraordinary destination on the Riviera Maya. You’ll discover not only the history of the nearby Mayan ruins of the same name but also the energetic pull the city and sea have over those who come to visit.

For more detailed information including things to do, where to stay and more, check out our Tulum Visitors Guide.

Sian Ka’an

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7. Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an, or “the place where the sky is born” in the Mayan language, is a biosphere reserve about 20 minutes from Tulum and 2 hours and 45 minutes from Puerto Morelos. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is like taking a journey back in time where you’ll be surrounded by lush, untouched nature. The reserve consists of ancient tropical canals, a rainforest, 120 km of coastline, an abundance of wildlife, and coral reefs to delight your adventurous spirit. This extraordinary biosphere does collect an entrance fee of $5.00 USD, but it’s worth it to explore this impressive natural wonder.

Where To Stay In Riviera Maya

There are all types of wonderful accommodations in Riviera Maya. From all inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For information about all inclusive resorts in the area, check out our Riviera Maya All Inclusive Resorts Guide.

Isla Mujeres Hotel Guide, the best hotels in isla mujeres

For the best Riviera Maya all inclusive resorts, check out our Riviera Maya All Inclusive Resorts Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Mexican Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Mexico Vacation Guide.

What to Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

Find The Best Riviera Maya Flights

Finding the best flights to Riviera Maya (via Cancun or Cozumel) shouldn’t be hard. We think the Kayak travel search engine is the best way to start. We’ve put together a quick guide to searching for the best flights using Kayak. Check out our Finding The Best Flights Guide.

Kayak Flights

Check out our Finding The Best Flights Guide!

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