The Riviera Maya is one of the most sought-after honeymoon and beach destinations in the world. And with good reason! The idyllic white beach landscapes, the luxury resorts, the delicious food: the Riviera Maya is undoubtedly a place that deserves all the praise it gets. But there’s much more to do here than just relax at a resort.
Joana and I visited the Riviera Maya for a week in 2014 and we loved the experience. Below, check out our suggestions for the best things to do here in this region of Mexico.
(Note: even though the weather here is wonderful, it isn’t so year-round! To avoid the rainy season (which is also the hurricane season), book your trip between December and April.)
RELAX AT A RESORT
The Riviera Maya is one of the most sought-after destinations for those who like to enjoy the best a luxury resort has to offer. The truth is, the two of us spent very little time at our resort and were always running around (there was so much to see!), but the temptation to stay was huge! The resorts in the Riviera Maya know how to make the most of the idyllic landscape that surrounds them and combine it with exceptional service that are perfect for a relaxing vacation.
VISIT ISLA CONTOY
Located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, this small island is one of the prettiest ones we’ve visited to date. It’s a true paradise island, protected by the Mexican government for being one of the last safe havens for sea turtles and other endangered bird species. Because of that, you have to pay to enter the island but it’s so worth it just for the incredible landscapes and biodiversity alone. Just take a speedboat from Cancún and in a few minutes you’ll arrive in heaven on earth!
ENJOY A CORONA!
This is la cerveza más fina and it’s produced here, in Mexico. I had already tasted it before and it was always one of my favorite beers so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a fresh one in that Mexico heat with the Caribbean Sea as my backdrop. Joana opted for a Coca-Cola but I think we can agree that, at least this time, she missed out!
WALk AROUND PLAYA DEL CARMEN
We know that most people visit Playa del Carmen for its beautiful beaches. But that’s not why the two of us came here (I mean, we could find gorgeous beaches by our resort or on the islands we visited too). What brought us to Playa del Carmen was the city’s Fifth Avenue. It’s here that you can find some really fun shops, restaurants and bars in a street bursting with life.
VISIT ISLA MUJERES
While Isla Contoy can only be visited in a day trip, at Isla Mujeres you can spend the night or, alternatively, just enjoy it on a day trip as well. We loved visiting this fishermen’s island for its downtown area. Here, we found an incredible mix of that Americanized vibrant Mexican culture. Filled with restaurants and shops, the Isla Mujeres downtown area is perfect for spending a fun afternoon doing some souvenir shopping. The beach on the island is also quite different from the beaches at the resorts and even Isla Contoy – it’s a public beach where you’ll find all kinds of people from families to street artists.
DANCE AT COCO BONGO
Joana and I don’t go out much at night, but we wouldn’t mind going out every night if it were to go to Coco Bongo! This is a fantastic place that mixes shows from the world’s most famous artists (from Queen to Madonna and Michael Jackson) with a dance floor where you can hang out until dawn. Tickets to get in start at $65 USD but even if you opt for the cheapest package you have unlimited drinks included for the whole night!
VISIT CHICHÉN ITZÁ
Chichén Itzá isn’t exactly on the Riviera Maya but it’s one of the most popular day trips that you can take from here. In just a few hours, you can visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and one of the most visited places in Latin America. Besides the famous Kukultán Pyramid, there are incredible ruins to visit in this city built by the Mayans some thousands of years ago.
DIVE INTO THE IK KIL CENOTE
And if you’re visiting Chichén Itzá, you have to go to the Ik Kil Cenote. This place is more well-known today but, in 2014, when Joana and I were there, it was still quite off the beaten path. We loved the experience of diving into the deep waters of this natural pool but we recommend that you look for another cenote if you want a more authentic experience with less tourists around (there are thousands of cenotes in Mexico so you’ll have plenty to choose from!).
HAVE FUN AT XCARET PARK
The cherry on top of the cake, Xcaret Park was our favorite experience in Mexico. The largest eco-archaeological park in Latin America, Xcaret Park has over 300 attractions to teach you how the jungle and Mexican culture blend together. Our favorite things to do were swimming in an underground river (this is one of the few places in the world where you can do this!) and watching the evening show that tells the story of Mexico from the Mayans until today. The park is also the perfect place to get to know some of Mexico’s oldest traditions – 5 out of Mexico’s 7 Intangible World Heritages can be found here! For more information, visit the Xcaret Park’s official website.