Riviera Maya & the Yucatan
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Things to do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Things to do in  Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Welcome to Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Bursting with color, culture, and variety, the Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya bring together the best that Mexico has to offer: welcoming waters and white-sand beaches, colonial towns, jungle-shrouded cenotes, and UNESCO-listed archaeological sites. The region's best known—and most visited—Maya ruin is Chichen Itza, which features a massive step-pyramid known as El Castillo (The Castle), along with numerous, well-preserved carvings. Consider opting for a VIP-access tour to avoid the equally famous lines. Most international visitors fly into Cancun, famous for its luxury resorts and laid-back party vibes, or Merida, the region's largest city and cultural capital. In addition to nightlife, Cancun offers easy access to the entire Caribbean coast. Isla Mujeres is an ideal jumping-off point for snorkeling tours and at the right time of year, you can see whale sharks feeding nearby. The Maya ruins of Tulum are well worth a visit, as are Coba and Ek Balak. Check out Xel-ha or Xplor Adventure Park for high-energy, outdoor activities, such as ziplining over the rain forest canopy and cave rafting. The beach is never far away, and on the coral reefs around Cozumel and Isla Contoy, world-class snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities abound. Farther inland, Merida and colonial Valladolid offer myriad historical sites, pleasant streets lined with gardens and bright pastel buildings, artisans' shops, and a thriving restaurant scene. Be sure to sample some authentic Yucatecan dishes, like the distinctive black mole that takes hours to prepare, and tacos made with slow-roasted Yucatan turkey.

Top 15 attractions in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan


Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'More

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.More

Chichen Itza

One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is among Mexico's most visited and iconic archaeological sites. Known for its main central pyramid, this impressive Maya site—once the ceremonial center of the Yucatán—also features temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).More

Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres (the “Island of Women”) is known for its rich marine life and pristine beaches. Here you can snorkel at Manchones Reef, scuba dive in the Cave of Sleeping Sharks, or stretch out on the white sands of North Beach (Playa Norte). On land you’ll find bustling nightlife, with oceanside bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood.More

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.More

CoCo Bongo Playa del Carmen

From circus performers swinging from the ceiling and dancers crowding the floor, to celebrity impersonators and Broadway-style musicals, Coco Bongo is a nightclub unlike any other. At the Playa del Carmen location, you’ll find extravagant stages, multiple bars, VIP table service, and a dance floor known to rock through the wee hours.More

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

With its unspoiled beaches, lush nature trails, and abundance of marine life, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is among the highlights of Cozumel, set along the island’s west coast in the area’s National Marine Park. The Chankanaab name comes from the Mayan language and means "little sea," referring to the park’s natural lagoon. The access to the warm, turquoise sea is a top draw, as are the provided lounge chairs and hammocks prime for relaxing on the beautiful beach.More


Akumal is a small beach town located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Meaning “land of the turtles” in the Mayan language, Akumal is famous for its plentiful sea turtle population. Its secluded white-sand beaches and peaceful bays are also ideal for those seeking a more private experience.More

Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.More

Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida)

The pedestrian-only Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) runs parallel to the ocean in downtown Playa del Carmen. This bustling tourist strip provides easy beach access and is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Lining Fifth Avenue are shops aplenty, including those selling artisan crafts, fine jewelry, and cigars.More

Paradise Reef (Paraíso Reef)

One of Cozumel’s most popular dive sites, Paradise Reef (Paraíso Reef) is famous for its clear water, diverse coral structures, and teeming schools of colorful fish. Here you can spot large sea species such as eels, rays, and nurse sharks in addition to smaller creatures such as seahorses, boxfish, and delicate pipefish.More

Palancar Reef

The star attraction of Cozumel Reefs National Park (Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel), Palancar Reef is a rich underwater landscape ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Aquatic species thrive amidst these colorful corals, including sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.More


With unparalleled access to the Caribbean Sea and all of its bounty, a visit to the Xcaret eco-archaeological park is a must when on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Snorkeling, ziplining, river rafting, exploring underwater rivers, and hiking tropical trails through jungle ruins are all options within this natural adventure park, which gives fast access to many of Cancun’s greatest attractions.More

Columbia Reef

Columbia Reef is famous for its complex architecture of caves, arches, and coral spires. Here, you can find schools of snapper, barracudas, sea turtles, scorpion fish, and even the rare passing nurse shark. With both shallow coral gardens and deep ocean-floor caverns, the reef is accessible to snorkelers and scuba divers alike.More


Mostly unexcavated, the Chacchoben ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Chacchoben) make up the largest and most visited Maya archaeological site in Costa Maya. Here moss-covered temples sprout from a lush jungle, attracting visitors who want to learn about Maya history, including the collapse of the ancient civilization.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days on the Riviera Maya

How to Spend 3 Days on the Riviera Maya

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Recent reviews from experiences in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Great Spot for the Perfect Relaxing and Fun Pool & Beach Day
Joshua_O, Oct. 2022
Mr. Sanchos Beach Club All-Inclusive Day Pass
I will definitely return in the future and hope to see Audon there again.
Absolutely loved it
Lauren_L, Aug. 2022
4 PLACES 1 DAY Tour to Coba and Tulum Ruins, Cenote and Playa del Carmen.
We paid for the diamond tour and would recommend the upgrade, it meant you got drinks on board the coach, the life vest at the cenote and a drink at lunch all included so it was much easier knowing everything was already included, all you then need money for is some tips and souvenirs At coba we took the taxi/tuk tuks up to the Ixmoja pyramid which was only 150 pesos for both ways, it saved alot of time and meant we got to see more of the ruins as the stopped along the way, plus they gave you little bits of information about the ruins too The cenote was fantastic, so refreshing after walking around tulum, getting in and out of the cenote was easy too as it had wooden steps to get in and out, the food at lunch was lovely too!
Tulum was truly beautiful!
Paige_B, Jul. 2022
Ultimate Tulum Experience Mayan Ruins & Cenote Swim from Riviera Maya
The tour ended early evening so I could still continue my activities and pick up was timely.
Great place to see!
Paulina_F, Dec. 2019
Chichen Itza Early Access, unexplored Yaxunah, Cenote & buffet lunch
The only downfall was quite long travel, from Riviera Maya over 2hrs each way but still worth it as the coach was fully air conditioned and comfortable.
Excellent Tour!
Arvid_A, Jul. 2019
Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour
If you are in the Riviera Maya area and want to see Chichen Itza and the beautiful Ik Kil, this is the tour for you!
Culture, Adventure and Souvenir shopping all in one cost effective trip.
Andy_S, May 2019
Tulum, Coba and Cenote Tour from Riviera Maya
Tulum is fascinating and we were split into "English Speaking" and "Spanish Speaking" groups for our escorted tour.
Amazing full day of Mayan...
Jason_G, Apr. 2018
Tour to Chichen Itza and Ekbalam with Cenote
The guide was spectacular knowledgeable, personable, very relaxed, and spectacularly accomodating to a bilingual English/Spanish group.
For the price, you will never go...
Easter Marie J, Nov. 2017
Chichen Itza Tour, Buffet Lunch, Cenote, Tequila tasting & Valladolid
I'm giving this 4 stars because we didn't get to see the Observatory temple because of time constraints.
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All about Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

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People Also Ask

What is Riviera Maya known for?

The Riviera Maya follows the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and it’s known for all-inclusive resorts, gorgeous beaches, adventure parks, and its nearby coral reefs. There’s plenty of history here, too, from the temples and pyramids of Tulum Archeological Site to cenotes that were sacred to the ancient Maya.

Is it better to go to Cancun or Riviera Maya?

Cancun is where beachfront hotels meet city nightlife—it’s an easy-to-reach getaway whose airport has direct flights to many cities worldwide. The Riviera Maya that extends south from Cancun is more laid-back, less about partying than adventure parks, all-inclusive resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving, and exploring nearby ruins and jungle.

What is the best month to visit Riviera Maya?

Mild, dry weather makes the season from December through April the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. Spring and fall can be a bit rainier, with the hottest days arriving in May. Still, the Riviera Maya is a year-round destination, with beachgoers hitting the shore in every month.

Can you visit Chichen Itza from Riviera Maya?

Yes, you can visit Chichen Itza from Cancun, but it makes for a long day. The archeological site is located 122 miles (197 kilometers) west of Cancun, a drive that takes 2 hours and 50 minutes. Tours of Chichen Itza from Cancun generally leave early in the morning and include other sightseeing stops en route.

Which one is better, Chichen Itza or Tulum?

Chichen Itza and Tulum are both ancient Maya sites, but the similarities stop there. The UNESCO-listed Chichen Itza has a towering pyramid, ball court, and other major buildings pointing to the city’s importance. While beachside Tulum is much smaller, its compact temples have the turquoise-blue ocean for a scenic backdrop.

Is it worth seeing Chichen Itza?

Yes, it’s worth seeing Chichen Itza. The UNESCO-listed archeological site is among the most impressive remnants of the ancient Maya world, with a massive pyramid, observatory, ball court, and other structures. It’s popular and can be crowded, but it’s famous for a reason: Chichen Itza is remarkably well-preserved and very impressive.


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