Riviera Maya: excursions and things to do

Mexico is a delightful holiday destination with beautiful nature, vibrant everyday culture and unique Mayan ruins. The Yucatán Peninsula on the east coast of the country, which is well developed for tourism, is the first encounter with the country for most visitors. Here stretches the Riviera Maya, an approximately 150-kilometre-long coastal strip with beautiful beaches and clears waters. Find out about the most exciting things to do and excursions in Riviera Maya.

Where is the Riviera Maya?

The Riviera Maya is the name given to a section of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea, stretching from the metropolis of Cancún in the north to Tulum in the south. The most important tourist resorts are Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras and Tulum, as well as the offshore island of Cozumel. All places are connected via the coastal road and are easy to reach.

Just south of Puerto Aventuras you’ll also find the spacious TUI BLUE El Dorado Seaside Suites resort, the perfect base for Riviera Maya excursions along the coast and inland. This Adults-only hotel with all-inclusive catering is all about relaxation. As a special highlight, you can book rooms with a private hot tub or swim-up pool as a romantic retreat. But as beautiful as the resort and adjacent beach are: Take a rental car and explore the region with the tips of the BLUE guides!

Palm Garden TUI BLUE El Dorado Seaside Suites
The palm-fringed gardens of the TUI BLUE El Dorado Seaside Suites.

TUI BLUE El Dorado Seaside Suites
For Two
Riviera Maya . Mexico

What is Riviera Maya Mexico known for?

he name of the coastal region refers to the Mayan people who ruled Yucatán in the early Middle Ages and left behind unique monuments. Of course, you can’t miss them, especially the magnificent ruined city of Chichén Itzá, one of the top things to do in Riviera Maya. A hot tip: the drive to the archaeological sites from the Riviera Maya takes about two and a half to three hours. To get there earlier than all the other day trippers who leave after breakfast, you should leave right at sunrise. Then you’ll have the place to yourself for a while before the hustle and bustle starts.

One of the great buildings of Chichen Itza in Mexico
The famous ruined city of Chichen Itza

Other ancient sites in Yucatán

  • Tulum – in a great location right by the sea
  • Ek Balam – far less crowded than Chichén Itzá
  • Cobá – hidden deep in the jungle
  • Uxmal – unfortunately very far to drive, but very impressive

A thing to do in Riviera Maya if you’re looking for the colonial Mexico of later centuries, is an excursion to pretty towns like Merida and Valladolid with their colourfully painted old towns. Everywhere you go, you’ll find stalls selling local street food like cochinita pibil and panuchos, which are a must-try. But only choose well-cooked food, otherwise you might spend a few days in bed …

On a romantic holiday in Mexico, excursions to idyllic palm beaches and natural paradises are a must. A special feature of the region are the so-called cenotes, original cave lakes whose ceilings collapsed at some point. Daylight reaches the small lakes through the hole, their steeply rising walls overgrown with jungle plants. There is no more romantic place to swim than a cenote. You will find two of the most beautiful cenotes on the way to Chichén Itzá: Xkeken and Samula. The cenotes directly on the Riviera Maya are usually quite crowded, but are worthwhile for short visits, for example the Gran Cenote near Tulum and Dos Ojos near Xcacel, a real adventure and absolute thing to do in Riviera Maya.

Cenote Mexico - a cave lake with a wooden staircase to the top in the middle
The Cenotes – an unusual swimming experience

Other great natural excursion destinations along the Riviera Maya

  • The Las Coloradas Lagoon with its pink beach
  • The paradisiacal Bacalar Lagoon, the Lagoon of the Seven Shades of Blue
  • The Celestún Nature Reserve, home to hundreds of flamingos
  • The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
  • The totally laid-back island of Holbox (pronounced Holbosh, by the way)

Is the city of Cancún worth a trip?

There are undoubtedly nicer cities on the Riviera Maya, but the air-conditioned shopping malls are a thing to to if you’re ever too hot. At the Museo Maya you can learn in detail about the indigenous people and their culture.

What else you can do on the Riviera Maya?

There are extensive tourist activities all over the Riviera Maya. Some highly recommended excursions:

  • Ziplining in the jungle, for example at Selvatica
  • Buggy and ATV tours through the jungle
  • Canoe and kayak trips in the mangroves of Sian Ka’an
  • Caving tours along the underground Rio Secreto
  • Diving with whale sharks at Isla Mujeres
  • Diving and snorkelling with turtles in Akumal
Ziplining in the jungle of Mexico
A young woman does ziplining in a jungle in Mexico

If you plan your holiday on the Riviera Maya as an all-inclusive tour, you can book great excursion packages at the hotel. These include several activities, for example ziplining, a cenote swim and a visit to a Mayan site. If you prefer to travel independently, the hotel can help you arrange a rental car.

The Riviera Maya: a holiday paradise for all

he beautiful palm beaches on the Caribbean Sea are just one of the many reasons why a holiday in the Riviera Maya is worthwhile. Discover the idyllic inland nature with its unique cenotes, admire the impressive Mayan pyramids and experience the warm hospitality of the Mexicans in pretty towns like Valladolid. You will return to your hotel saturated with great impressions from each excursion and digest them on a relaxing day at the beach – to then set off again full of energy.

Adults-only hotel on the Riviera Maya

TUI BLUE El Dorado Seaside Suites
For Two
Riviera Maya . Mexico

Some practical info on the Riviera Maya

What is the best month to go to Riviera Maya Mexico?

The winter season from November to April is the best time to travel throughout the Caribbean, and thus also for the Riviera Maya. You can escape the cold grey grimy weather in Europe and enjoy yourself under a bright blue sky with pleasantly high temperatures and low humidity. However, the northerly wind (El Norte) can bring heavy rain from time to time. From the north, hordes of young Americans also come in March to celebrate the universities’ spring break. Then it gets quite noisy in the tourist resorts.

How long is the flight to Riviera Maya?

The journey from the UK is usually made by direct flight to Cancún. There is also the option of booking scheduled flights via Mexico City or US airports. For direct flights from the UK, you need to plan a flight time of eight to nine hours to the Riviera Maya. You may have heard that the Riviera Maya is dangerous. In fact, Mexico has a big problem with drug gangs, who are always involved in shootouts. However, these confrontations are usually confined to the big cities in other regions of Mexico and there to certain neighbourhoods. On the beaches of the Riviera Maya, the Mexican police have increased their presence to protect tourists. Before visiting Mexico, it’s best to check the government websites again to be up to date.

How long is the ride from Cancun to Riviera Maya?

Depending on where you want to go to on the Riviera Maya, it takes about 45 to 1 hour to reach Playa del Carmen. Places like Tulum are further south and take up to 2 hours to be reached by car or taxi and 3 hours by bus.

Are there jellyfish in Riviera Maya?

The answer is yes, jellyfish love clear waters. There are many different species of jellyfish that can be found in the Caribbean Sea, and they’re not all dangerous to humans. However, some jellyfish sting more than others, so it’s important to know what you’re dealing with before heading out into the water.

Are the beaches better in Cancun or Riviera Maya?

Cancun’s beach is a city beach with high rise building right behind you. If you’re looking for turquoise waters and Mayan jungle right next to the beach, you should choose an accommodation on the Riviera Maya around Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

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