Riviera Maya Travel Guide
Beyond the beaches (those in Playa del Carmen are the most beautiful, while those in Tulum tend to be more quiet), there are lots of nature- and history-focused things to do in the Riviera Maya. Coral reefs are a major draw here; so is Xel-Há, a private park where you can swim with parrotfish and manta rays. Nature lovers will want to also consider making a phone reservation with the office of Flora, Fauna y Cultura to watch turtles lay eggs on the sand (July through September). Wildlife spotting is equally on the itinerary at Laguna Yal-Kú, which runs inland all the way to the sea. You can rent snorkel gear and life jackets to get a better view of the colorful fish, but keep in mind that park rules forbid the use of sunscreen to protect the lagoon's delicate ecosystem. Ancient ruins abound in the Riviera Maya (consider renting a bike to get around). One highlight: The Cobá Ruins, which are extensive, so be prepared to walk a lot. Local Rivera Maya culture is just as vibrant—it's worth stopping by the fisherman's cooperative, which operates four-hour fishing and snorkeling trips; the funds go back to the community.
This venue is closed.
Bargoers here, a short taxi ride from Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, descend by candle-lined stairs into a subterranean lounge, trying to recall the little saying they learned as children to tell stalactites from stalagmites.
Many cenotes—sinkholes in the subterranean rivers that riddle the Yucatán—are either limited to divers or overrun with crowds, but not this 15-by-130-foot pool, fringed with fan palms on a rocky bluff.
Mexico is famous for its silver, and the most celebrated craftsmanship still comes from the town of Taxco, near Mexico City. One of Taxco's most famous design houses, Los Castillos, creates the majority of the products for sale at this shop, from earrings to anklets and everything in between.
This ever-popular thatched-roof beach bar is located on the less-frequented eastern half of the island. Take note: it's only open in daylight hours (there's no electricity on this side of Cozumel).
A mix of guided jungle and water activities are offered at this park in an up-close, jungle environment. Water activities are focused on snorkeling and diving in the cenotes—underground pools and waterways common in the area.
Snap up beach reads, bestsellers, classics, tomes on Maya culture, and local guidebooks and maps—the largest selection of (mostly used) English-language books in the Yucatán—at this inviting warren of overflowing wooden bookshelves reminiscent of a college-campus hangout.
Where It Is: The limestone bedrock that underlies Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is pocked with freshwater-filled sinkholes called cenotes. For divers, one of the best known is the 48-foot-deep Cenote Taj Maja, just south of the Caribbean coastal town of Playa del Carmen.
The bar and restaurant on the ninth floor of the new Hotel Wynston has panoramic views of the harbor, the town center, and the sea. In addition to the usual spirits, the bar stocks an extensive wine list to complement the restaurant's Mediterranean-Asian–fusion menu.
The 11th-century walled city's 15 pyramids are illuminated in shades of red, blue, and amber for 45-minute nighttime tours.
The tour takes small groups on snorkeling trips to lesser-known underground rivers like the recently opened Kin-ha.
Tangle with a snake, feed a peccary, walk through a crocodile den, and be accosted by an affectionate spider monkey at this 150-acre nature reserve, home to reptiles and mammals indigenous to the Yucatán, all rescued from the wild or from illegal owners.