Whether it’s your first time coming to Mexico’s Riviera Maya or your tenth, there are so many exciting activities and things to do in the Mexican Caribbean! From Playa del Carmen all the way down to Tulum, here are six of our favorite places to go in the Riviera Maya that are sure to make your next visit unforgettable.
Downtown Playa del Carmen
Regardless of where you decide to stay, be sure to take some time to explore downtown Playa del Carmen while you’re in the Riviera Maya! Take a walk along Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) – one of the world’s longest and most interesting pedestrian-only streets – where you can enjoy some shopping and people watching before you head over to Purobeach or Mamita's Beach Club for a refreshing cocktail and a bite to eat. Situated about one hour south of Cancun and 45 minutes north of Tulum, Playa lies in the heart of the Riviera Maya and is the ideal base to kick off your explorations.
Puerto Aventuras Beach, Marina and Golf Community
Located only 25 minutes south of downtown Playa del Carmen, the exclusive and gated resort community of Puerto Aventuras is a great place to stay if you are looking for a laid-back vibe or love to play golf. There are plenty of local shops and restaurants around the marina and the white sand beaches here are really beautiful. You can also rent a catamaran and head out to explore the clear turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean Sea, or opt to swim with the beloved dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Center in the marina. Don’t forget to check out the ancient Mayan ruins at the caleta, which lies just south of the marina’s southern entrance.
Akumal, the Place of Turtles
Only 15 minutes south of Puerto Aventuras along the coast, the name Akumal is literally translated from the Mayan language to mean “Place of Turtles,” and is where many sea turtles choose to lay their eggs. The small bay is protected by a reef so big waves can’t penetrate the water, which makes it ideal for snorkeling. The sea turtles can be plentiful and are somewhat used to humans, so as long as you respect their space it’s often possible to get an up-close look. Insider Tip: Consider hiking the caves and touring Aktun-Chen Natural Park, which lies just south of Akumal proper – it’s truly breathtaking and you won’t be sorry!
Tulum Ruins and Beaches
Head another 25 minutes south from Akumal and you’ll find yourself in downtown (centro) Tulum, which is just a few minutes from the ruins of a walled city by the same name that was built by the ancient Mayans and overlooks the Mexican Caribbean Sea. This onetime backpacker’s paradise has become the world’s hottest new beach destination over the last ten years and is quickly emerging as a top foodie destination for culinary-focused travelers who are also interested in sustainability and enjoy the town’s uniquely luxurious eco-chic aesthetic.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
With a name that means “the place where the sky is born,” you know the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve has to be one of the world’s most incredible places. At more than 1.3 million acres, this protected reserve is home to more than 800 plant and 300 animal species. Located just south of Tulum, this is somewhat off the beaten track, which gives visitors a special opportunity to experience the Riviera Maya in its purest form.
The mysterious ancient Mayan city of Coba is home to massive ruins and five freshwater cenotes, which are extraordinary natural sinkholes filled with pristine, crystal clear water that are ideal for swimming. You can even climb the impressive Nohoch Mul pyramid at this fascinating archaeological site, which lies about 45 minutes northwest of Tulum! Insider Tip: We recommend renting a bicycle to explore, since the ruins are sprawling and there is so much to see.
Have you ever been to the Riviera Maya, or anywhere else in Mexico? Tell us in the comments!
Looking for a great place to stay? Read about the 5 Best Family Hotels in Tulum, Mexico and start to plan your next visit to paradise!