Located on the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Riviera Maya is well known as the ultimate getaway for relaxation. With white sands lined with coconut trees and the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, Riviera Maya is every bit the paradise of your imagination. Its ideal location means that a boat trip over to the Caribbean island of Cozumel is always on the cards and great transport links means the rest of the coastline is easy to explore. Lapping at the shores are the warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean Coast, home to some of the best diving sites in the world, providing a playground for water sports. Couple this with ancient cultural attractions and historical highlights, and you have one of the most colourful regions in the whole of Mexico.
Top resorts in Riviera Maya
from £596 pp
Most popular hotels in Riviera Maya
Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa All Incl
At a glance
- Language: Spanish
- Time Zone: GMT +-5
- Average flight time: 10h 35m
When to go
(°C) Avg. High Temp
Whether you’re bringing the whole family along, a group of friends or just your other half, Riviera Maya holidays have something for everyone. With water sports, zip lines and horse riding for adventure lovers, jungle treks and Mayan ruins for explorers as well as beaches, restaurants and shops galore, the Riviera Maya offers lots of variety. There’s a huge array of things to do during Riviera Maya holidays, thanks to landscape rich with beaches, countryside and culture. Trips to Riviera Maya are extremely popular among diving enthusiasts who visit year after year to explore the area’s beautiful and interesting diving sites. Whether you want a beginner’s lesson in shallow waters, or you want to delve to deep depths in search of unusual marine life, the local seas provide endless watery exploration for thrill-seekers. Away from the sea you can also experience swimming in a cenote. Cenotes are naturally formed holes in the limestone rock that open onto deep wells of fresh water that is purified by the algae and land and make stunning and unique places to dive and swim.
Wine and Dine
The Riviera Maya is home to some of the best Mexican food around, and has many speciality dishes that are only found in this particular area, as well as restaurants where you’ll find international cuisine. While you’re here, try the empanadas, deep-fried stuffed tacos usually served early in the day. If you’re a fan of pulled pork, the cochina pibil is a must, although it’s also made with chicken or goat sometimes too. Slow cooked and served in tacos, you’ll usually find the best on street food carts. For fans of fish, ceviche will be very popular, it’s seafood marinated in onions and chilis, and just to make it extra delicious it’s normally made with fish caught that very same day. No matter what kind of traditional dish you try, it’s likely to be made with some of the fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the surrounding area, including tomatoes, avocados and papayas.
It’s true there’s lots of great nightlife for adults, but there's plenty for families to do on Riviera Maya holidays too. Give your kids a truly amazing experience and organise a trip to Xel-Ha to swim with dolphins in their natural habitat. If you’re after a more exotic day with the kids, Riviera Maya is famed for its eco parks - for example, staff at Crococun eco park encourage you to get up close and personal with the animals, touching and even feeding them. Within easy reach on the bus, this is a must-see for animal lovers. But the most popular family activity in Riviera Maya by far is simply spending some time on the beautiful beaches. The coastline here is perfect for spending long days topping up your tan while the children build sandcastles and play in the sea, and you can easily spend the whole holiday at the seaside if you want to, with no complaints from the kids.
Action and Adventure
As stunning as the beaches of Riviera Maya are, sometimes you want some adventure during your holiday, and luckily there’s plenty on offer. Because of the unique landscape, there are several adventure parks offering lots of thrilling activities underground and in the air. Find caves to explore on foot, as well as cenotes and rivers underground you can sail through on a raft. A variety of professional excursions will let you see these wonders first hand, with all the equipment and guidance provided for you. You can also trek through some exotic jungle, or power through it in an all-terrain amphibious with other adventurers. If you’ve got a head for heights, you can even sail over it on a zipwire, with 13 different lines to choose from, and there’s an airborne bike called the Skycycle that you can ride over the trees as well.
Life's a Beach
The beaches of Riviera Maya are beautiful and well-kept, with smooth sands and clear blue waters. As much as you’ll appreciate the stunning nature of the coastline, you’ll also find plenty of places nearby to shop, eat and drink because the main beach of Puerto Morelos is also very close to the centre of town. There are also smaller stretches of sand to the north and south of the main beach, belonging to specific resorts and hotels, but you’re bound to find a sandy spot of your own where you can spend the whole day in the sun. Snorkelling off the coast is a real treat because this is a protected national marine park and has a huge variety of colourful underwater life to look at, including turtles, fish and even dolphins if you’re lucky.
A night out on the Riviera Maya holds lots of entertainment and opportunities to relax and mix with the locals, as well as the chance to dance all night if that’s what you love to do. For the younger crowd, a night out in Playa del Carmen is always popular. Head to Fifth Avenue where all the action happens. With a thriving crowd of partygoers, get set for a fabulous night in this vibrant city. If you want to party on the beach then Blue Parrot Beach Club is the place for you, with an outdoor terrace and DJs playing all kinds of music. Casual parties and bars are everywhere, so there’s no need to get dressed up too much if you prefer to keep it low key. Hookah houses, roof terraces and traditional pubs are just as plentiful as nightclubs and beachfront bars.
The sands of Riviera Maya are just as perfect for couples as they are for families with young children, and you can spend a romantic holiday laying by the sea or walking along the beach in the evenings. In the Sian Kaan Biosphere you can find miles of deserted beach where you can spend a couple of hours together on your own before being transferred back to your hotel. If you want to have a romantic evening to remember, you can take to a catamaran for a sunset sail, complete with a bar and music to help you relax and enjoy this magical experience. Go underground to the cave bar in Playa del Carmen for an atmospheric drink or two in the evening, or go for a full moon dinner at Half Moon Bay in Akumal.
A holiday in Riviera Maya has much more to offer than just long days sipping on cocktails, soaking up the sun and watching the sea lapping at the bay. If you can pull yourself away from this idyllic setting, you can enjoy lots of cultural experiences, adrenaline-fuelled sports, and journeys through history. Visit the region’s Mayan ruins to delve into the country’s past civilisation, venture through its eco parks for some extraordinary wildlife spotting or indulge in a spot of island hopping to nearby destinations like Cozumel. Chichén Itzá, the jewel in the Yucatán peninsula’s crown, is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. These Mayan ruins are truly breathtaking and are an absolute must-see during your stay. Explore the Temple of the Jaguars and revel in the grotesque Tzompantli bench where Mayans displayed sacrificial heads. The Kukulkan, a 365-step pyramid, offers you a perfect photo opportunity and there’s plenty more to explore as well.