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.
An ecological theme park, Xcaret has a plentiful roster of activities and attractions focused on the surrounding natural environment and Mexico's cultural history.
Sure, you could book shiatsu, but this spa’s specialty is heavenly Mayan-inspired treatments. Everyone’s visit begins with an outdoor steam-cleansing ritual using resin from the revered copal tree.
Once the most powerful Mayan city-state in the northeastern Yucatán, this 26-square-mile site, crisscrossed by raised limestone roads called sacbéob and home to three pyramids, remains relatively untouched by excavators’ hammers and tourist traffic.
Between the international pier and Punta Langosta, this good-looking bar (with a crowd to match) sits right on the waterfront and is named for the number of ounces in a tequila shot.
Divers shouldn’t miss an excursion to see the first phase of artist Jason de Caires Taylor’s underwater sculptures series, a collection of 400 sunken works off the Caribbean coast.
Get your fix of Mayan criollo chocolate—bitter and complex, with hints of fruit, smoke, and vanilla, a “food of the gods” that’s exponentially richer than the forastero cacao used in 90 percent of blends.
A series of mini-shops in a restored colonial building, this market has the highest quality artisan crafts, clothing, tabletop goods, ceramics, and toys from throughout Mexico.
Modest compared with those on the
The Blue Parrot dates to 1984, making the club one of Playa del Carmen’s elder statesmen. What started as a casual hotel and bar now includes the 5th Avenue Hotel’s 19 rooms, plus 22 curvy units in the Blue Parrot Suites.
Run by a group of Playa del Carmen adventurers dedicated to sustainable tourism, this company works with Mayan communities to preserve their heritage.
Jaguars, ocelots, and tapirs, as well as hundreds of species of birds and fish, roam these 1.3 million acres of coastal jungle, home to nearly every Yucatán ecosystem and studded with unexcavated ruins.