7 Things You Should Do in Mexico’s Riviera Maya


Bucket List Worthy  

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Now that the holiday season is fading in the rear view mirror, many Canadians will start looking for ways to escape winter’s chill, especially with the crazy weather we’ve been having in the Great White North.

One of our favourite winter getaways is the sun drenched Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Ideally situated on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, the region is famed for it’s luxury all-inclusive resorts and silky white sand beaches.

Having visited this tourist hotspot on numerous occasions, we’d like to share some of the things we think you should consider doing on your next trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Tulum, Mexico

1. Explore Mayan temples and archaeological sites

The most popular sites are Chichen Itza (recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World), Tulum and Coba.

Chichen Itza has some of the largest buildings found from in the Mayan era. Tulum, pictured above, is arguably the most beautiful Mayan temple due to it’s location on a cliff that overlooks the sparkling Caribbean.

Coba is located inland, deep in the jungle, and is highlighted by the Nohoch Mul Pyramid, one of the few archaeological sites that still allows visitors to climb its pyramid. The steep climb to the top offers breathtaking views high above the jungle canopy – just be extra careful on the way down.

If you plan to visit any of these sites, we highly recommend you go in the morning and bring plenty of water. There is limited shade at Tulum and Chichen Itza and the busloads of tourists arrive late morning. Skip the massive tour group and seek out smaller operators.

For those looking for something a little different and less touristy, check out El Rey, a 47 structure site located near Cancun’s hotel zone or El Meco, a 14 structure site located just north of Cancun. Although they don’t pack the same punch as Chichen Itza, Tulum or Coba, these sites are still impressive and less crowded.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

2. Take a day trip to Isla Mujeres (from Cancun) 

Rent a golf cart, scooter or bicycle and tour around this small, laid back Caribbean island (one can easily circle the entire island in a day). Isla Town still has the look and feel of a fishing village and it has several restaurants and shops.

Make sure you spend an afternoon at Playa Secreto, a sheltered inlet with water shallow enough for young children. For experienced scuba divers, you’ll want to check out sleeping sharks cave where sea creatures come to relax in the mix of fresh and salt water.

Mexico, Mayan Riviera

3. Leave the crowds behind and visit Isla Holbox 

Often considered Mexico’s best kept secret (spoiler alert!), Holbox is only accessible by ferry or air. To get to Holbox, you’ll need to drive to the Chiquila port and hop on a ferry that crosses the lagoon.

While on Isla Holbox you’ll find a small village with no paved roads, a variety of boutique accommodations and a beautiful beach that stretches over 36 kilometers! It’s also famous for its large congregation of whale sharks, pink flamingos and tropical fish. And for the adrenaline junkie, Holbox is known to be one of the safest beaches to learn kiteboarding.


4. Take the plunge in a Cenote 

Accessible through natural sink-holes, these water-filled caves offer a refreshing swim in cold, clear water. The caves differ in size, shape and depth, with some deep enough for repelling and rafting.

A couple of the more popular cenotes are Cenote Dzitnup, with its stunning cathedral limestone walls and turquoise water (see what it looks like here), and Gran Cenote, which is known for it’s epic cave diving (see what it looks like here).

Beach, Mexico

5. Hit the beach. That’s why your here, isn’t it?

The Yucatan is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. And we’re not just saying that to build up the hype – they really are that beautiful.

Cancun has one of the longest stretches of beach with the north side being the best for swimming. The beaches near the town of Tulum (pictured above) are perfect for anyone looking for a little more seclusion, yet still easily accessible.

Playa del Carmen has a long beach that offers cabanas, chairs, umbrellas and bar service (yes, you read that correctly – bar service right to your chair!). There’s also plenty of shopping, restaurants and water activities available.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons

6. Unleash your inner child at one of the many theme parks 

Looking for some good ‘ol fashioned family fun? If you’ve never been to the Riviera Maya you might be surprised to learn that it’s LOADED with theme parks. Most will require a full day commitment, but many have all-inclusive food and drinks built into the price.

Here are a few of the parks you should consider:

  • Crococun Zoo – No swimming here, but kids can meet over 300 crocs and other wildlife. There are even opportunities to touch, hold and feed some of local animals.
  • Xel-Ha – Don’t forget your bathing suit! This snorkel park is fun for both kids and parents. There’s a coral lagoon where you can snorkel in a natural aquarium or stay on land and discover the many colours and sounds of the jungle.
  • Xcaret – This is the first themed eco-park in the Riviera. Families can snorkel through underground rivers, natural pools and a dolphin pool. On land, there’s a butterfly garden, zoo and many forest paths.
  • Xplor – Looking for a shot of adrenaline? This adventure park hosts a number of extreme activities – ideal for older kids and the young at heart. The park offers 4 different activities – zip lines, amphibious vehicles, rafts and swimming in underground rivers.
  • Rio Secreto – Go deep inside an underground cave and experience true silence and darkness among some of the most dramatic mineral formations and stalactites in the world. It’s not ideal for toddlers or young kids, as children need to be comfortable swimming through a 600-meter route.

mexico snorkeling

7. Discover the underwater world

The Yucatan coast offers world class snorkeling and scuba diving. The reef system along the Riviera Maya is the second largest in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Isla Mujeres has excellent snorkeling and scuba diving for beginners because the reef is a half mile long but only 30 feet deep in most areas. The island of Cozumel, located just east of Playa del Carmen, is another snorkeling and scuba diving hotspot that attracts underwater enthusiasts from around the world.

Have you visited Mexico’s Riviera Maya? What did we miss?

About the Author: Cam Wears

Cam and Nicole Wears are the duo behind the popular Canadian travel blog TravelingCanucks.com. Having travelled to over 65 countries & territories together in the past 7 years, their life journey has changed since welcoming their baby boy in late 2011. They now write about family travel and share the baby travel tips they learn along the way.

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