Tips and inspiration for your next trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya

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Why Riviera Maya?

Beach on Riviera Maya (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Beach at sunset in Riviera Maya (Image: Brittany Dietz)

When you stay in Riviera Maya, you have put yourself in the center of it all. A little more than 40 miles separate you from the nightlife of Cancun, a 30-minute ferry ride is all it takes to place yourself on the white sand beaches of Cozumel and a quick drive south brings you to where you can explore the Mayan ruins. You can enjoy so many different environments and experiences in one vacation when you stay in this diverse area. And the best part? Riviera Maya is only a 30-minute drive from Cancun International Airport — with many major airlines flying in and out of here it is an easy destination to get to from just about anywhere!

Where to stay

They are many accommodation options in Riviera Maya, whether you are looking for an all-inclusive resort, a hotel with a beautiful beach or a resort that caters to kids. Research the resorts available and decide which factors are important to you. Below are some recommendations on where to start your search.

Resort pool at Grand Mayan (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Resort pool at The Grand Mayan (Image: Brittany Dietz)

If you’re looking for seclusion: The Grand Mayan Riviera Maya

This beautiful resort is ideal for those looking for peace, quiet and seclusion. The Grand Mayan is large and devoid of crowds, which can sometimes make it seem like you are the only one there. If your idea of a vacation is worshiping the sun all day there are multiple pools to choose from and a large beach — all equipped with private cabanas, towels, umbrellas and food and drink services. You can also enjoy a day at the spa or golf course and then head to one of the 11 restaurants and bars. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time for Gong (Asian cuisine) and Tramonto (Italian and American cuisine) as the staff will not seat you without one.

If you’re looking for a great beach: Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa

Playa Maroma is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and features soft white sand and bright blue waters. With this beach steps away, you may not even care where you stay, but the Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa surely won’t disappoint. Spend your days poolside or by the ocean and be sure to climb the observation tower, which provides 360-degree views of the resort, beach and jungle.

If you are looking for a family-friendly environment: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The Grand Velas in Riviera Maya is an exceptional all-inclusive resort that has everything you could possibly need to have a picture-perfect vacation with your loved ones. It is close to all the main attractions, has an abundance of activities on-site and a kids club with everything needed to keep your little ones entertained. There is even a teens club for older children looking for a little time away from the parents.

What to do

Consider taking a day trip up north to Cancun and spend your day on the beach, shopping downtown and eating at some great restaurants or head south for a tour of the Mayan ruins in Tulum and learn all about the area’s history and culture. After your tour in Tulum you will be enticed to stay awhile longer to enjoy the pristine white sand and blue water at Playa Paraiso (which translates to Paradise Beach…and it couldn’t be closer to the truth).

Tulum - Mayan ruins (Image: Dennis Jarvis used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Mayan ruins in Tulum (Image: Dennis Jarvis used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

If you’re craving more adventure then you’re in luck as there are many tour companies located in the area that offer exciting and adventurous things to do. Check out Aventuras Mayas, which offers five different tours. Their guides are informative, experienced and know how to have a good time. Some activities provided through Aventuras Mayas are zip lining, rappelling, riding ATVs, swimming with dolphins, swimming with sea turtles, swimming through a cave (with bats!) and much more. Each tour includes lunch, which is a real treat featuring Mexican cuisine.

Swim in a cave (Image: Aventuras Mayas)
Swim in a cave! (Image: Aventuras Mayas)

Ziplining above the treetops (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Zip lining above the treetops (Image: Brittany Dietz)

For another great day trip, take a boat ride to Isla Mujeres (the Island of Women). This island is only five miles long and about half a mile wide, but packed full of fun. While you’re there enjoy some time on the beautiful beaches, walk around the downtown area, known as Centro, then stop at one of the many bars along the water for an ice cold margarita. Many of the boat tours that take you to the island will stop half way and let you off to snorkel, and on the way back to the mainland the boat will travel slowly so you can enjoy the picturesque sunset from the water.

Beach on Islas Mujeres (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Beach on Isla Mujeres (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Snorkelling off the coast of Isla Mujeres (Image: Brittany Dietz)
Snorkeling off the coast of Isla Mujeres (Image: Brittany Dietz)
No filter needed with this sunset (Image: Brittany Dietz)
No filter needed with this sunset (Image: Susan Heffernan)


  • If you’re traveling home from Cancun International Airport on a Saturday or Sunday give yourself at least three hours at the airport instead of the recommended two hours. Everyone travels home those days and the lines can get long. But with proper planning it won’t be a problem for you. If you end up with some free time, you can shop at the duty-free stores at the airport.
  • Pack or buy a waterproof camera, even a disposable one will do. There are so many opportunities to snorkel and the water is just so gorgeous — you’ll want to capture the sights to keep those memories!
  • If you plan to do a water excursion, pack your own water shoes. Many tour companies will require you to wear water shoes and if you buy them at your resort you could be up against a hefty price tag.
  • Snag some pesos for your stay. When you are negotiating with taxi drivers they may not always give you the proper exchange rate if you pay with U.S. dollars. Save yourself a few bucks by paying in pesos.

Featured image: Akumal Beach, Serge Melki

Tips and inspiration for your next trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brittany Dietz
Author: Brittany Dietz (39 posts)

Brittany has travelled to London, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, The Caribbean, Canada and all over the U.S. She's passionate about travel and has big plans for future trips! Brittany is a Content and Social Media Executive at Cheapflights.