The Riviera Maya

Twenty years ago-- maybe less-- few tourists had even heard of the Riviera Maya and even fewer had ever been there. Then it was the rural Mexico of Indian villages and tiny isolated fishing villages along the turquoise Caribbean Sea between Cancun and the border with Belize. The villages still exist, but many are no longer so tiny. Instead, the Riviera Maya was created just for you, the North American and European tourist, so you could come and enjoy Mexico's own bit of paradise.

Ruins and beach at Tulum.

The 100 km stretch known as the Riviera Maya is in the middle of the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. Here the towns are smaller and there are fewer tourists with miles of solitary virgin beaches, sparkling white sand and crystalline turquoise waters. The second largest reef system in the world, the Great Maya Reef, runs along the coastline and an unrestrained "jungle" surrounds the towns and beaches. In this part of the Mexican Caribbean, full of exotic tropical animals peering or flying through the branches, there are many places to explore. A unique and complex underground river system flows beneath the surface and surprises visitors with magical caverns, caves and cenotes (sinkholes). There are also hundreds of archaeological sites, remnants of the incredible and timeless Mayan civilization, and a spectacular and plentiful marine life.

The Riviera Maya begins 32 km south of the Cancun International Airport and ends at Punta Allen. The Riviera Maya is comprised of four main tourist areas:

  • Playa del Carmen
  • Puerto Aventuras
  • Tulum
  • Akumal

You can get to the Riviera Maya from many North American and European gateways, often on nonstop flights to Cancun. From there, it is a scenic drive south to the fascinating Riviera Maya, with its unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, tropical jungles and Mayan ruins. Playa del Carmen's quiet ambiance is found after a short 45-minute drive south of the Cancun Airport. Thirty miles further down the coast lies Puerto Aventuras, a perfect backdrop for a leisurely vacation. Continue south to Akumal, a nature lover's paradise. Enjoy incredible values under the sun at a vast array of fabulous resorts! With its close proximity to Cancun, Cozumel and the most popular sites of the Yucatan, it's no wonder that the Riviera Maya is a favorite of North American vacationers!

Best Time to Visit

If you want to pick the best month for going to the Riviera Maya, it is likely to be November. The weather is at its best and the prices are "low season" because there are fewer tourists going there.

The best weather for visiting the Riviera Maya is November through February. Temperatures tend to be in the low to mid 80s, and the humidity is not too bad. It is the "dry season" for this part of Mexico, with rain only falling on 6-12 days of each month and then maybe only an inch of rain per month. Precisely because those are the best weather months, they are also the months with higher prices and some of the biggest crowds of northerners escaping the cold weather of the US and Canada.

The worse months for going to the Riviera Maya are March through May when the discomfort from heat and humidity is extreme. The average daily temperature is in the low 90s, and temperatures of 106° F are not unknown. It only begins to cool off a bit as the rains start in May (expect rain on 10 days that month for a total of more than 3 inches in the month). Despite the weather, those months are also some of the most crowded as "spring breakers" descend on the Riviera Maya for major party time.

In the "summer months" of June through October, the discomfort level is not quite as bad although the heat and humidity are high and it will be rainy quite often. Expect significant rain on 20 or so days in each of those months. And those are the months when hurricanes may strike in the Western Caribbean and put a real "dampener" on a beach vacation.

See tips for dressing.

Practical Matters

  • The Riviera Maya is in the Central Time Zone.
  • Electricity is 110v, just like in the US and Canada.
  • English is widely spoken.
  • US dollars are accepted in most places. But if you want pesos, you can get them from ATMs and banks. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm, some until 5 pm. A few open on Saturdays from 10 am to 1:30 pm.
  • Tipping is expected for excellent service; in restaurants and bars, 15% is typical. Tipping hotel maids is a very nice thing to do as they work for low wages and your tips will be very much appreciated. A couple of dollars per day can make a difference in their lives and hardly break your bank. Tipping of taxi-drivers is not expected.
  • Traveling with children? Mexico is very strict about allowing minors in who are not accompanied by both parents. Minors traveling with only one parent or adults other than their parents must have a notarized letter from the absent parent(s) authorizing them to be taken out of the country. If the parent is deceased, a copy of the death certificate will be required for check-in at the airport. Don't even think about going into Mexico without this documentation. If in doubt, ask Carole about it when you talk to her about arranging your travel to Mexico.


There is a two day waiting period, and couples must present a passport or driver's license and original raised-seal birth certificate, certified copies of both parents' birth certificates or valid passports, four witnesses, and blood tests not older than 15 days. Divorced people must meet other document requirements as well.

Resorts that offer wedding packages may have additional requirements and typically ask couples to be at the resort at least three business days before the day of the wedding (e.g., check in by Tuesday for a Friday wedding). Be sure to ask Carole for the specific requirements in your case.


The Riviera Maya offers an 18-hole course in Playa del Carmen, and a 9-hole course in Puerto Aventuras.

  • Playacar Golf Club is located just 45 minutes south of Cancun, and was designed by Robert Von Hagge. This 7,202-yard course is rated 73.1, and has plenty of tee boxes for every level of play. It features long narrow fairways and undulating greens that are protected by very large snow-white sand bunkers. This course is situated next to Playa del Carmen, in the exclusive Playacar development. Approximate green fees are $100 - $120 for 18 holes.
  • Puerto Aventuras Golf Club is a beautiful Par 36 jungle course designed in 1991 by Thomas Leman. One of the best kept secrets in the area, the fairways and greens are covered by a smooth carpet of Bermuda grass, and surrounded by Palm trees, bugambilias, tropical ficus and lush foliage.


There are a wide variety of resorts on the Riviera Maya, from ultra luxury to pretty basic to you-would-have-to-be-desparate-to-go there ones. Here is a selection to choose from, but there are many others. Ask Carole to help you pick the ones just right for you.

Luxury / Deluxe
1 Ikal Del Mar
2 Paraiso de la Bonita Resort & Thalasso

3 Aventura Spa Palace (All-Inclusive)
4 El Dorado Royale - A Spa Resort by Karisma (All-Inclusive)
5 Gala Beach Resort Playacar (All-Inclusive)
6 Grand Xcaret by Occidental (All-Inclusive)
7 Paradisus Riviera Cancun (All-Inclusive)
8 Royal Hideaway Playacar by Occidental (All-Inclusive)
9 Secrets Capri (All-Inclusive)
10 Secrets Excellence Riviera Cancun (All-Inclusive) - Opening Fall of 2004
11 Xpu-Ha Palace (All-Inclusive)

Superior +
12 Omni Puerto Aventuras
13 Allegro Playacar by Occidental (All-Inclusive)
14 AZUL Hotel and Beach Resort (All-Inclusive)
15 Desire Resort and Spa (All-Inclusive)
16 Gran Porto Real Resort and Spa
17 The Hidden Beach Resort (All-Inclusive)
18 Oasis Akumal (All-Inclusive)
19 Royal Maeva Tulum
20 Sunscape Tulum (All-Inclusive)

Moderate +
21 Playacar Palace (All-Inclusive)
22 Viva Wyndham Azteca (All-Inclusive)

23 El Dorado Resort - A Spa Resort by Karisma (All-Inclusive)
24 Viva Wyndham Maya (All-Inclusive) Soft Eco-Tourism Experience
25 The Explorean Kohunlich (All-Inclusive)


The Rivera Maya offers an abundance of fun in the sun activities and a more relaxed pace than Cancun. But there is nightlife, too, in the resorts—many of which are all-inclusive with multiple bars, alcoholic beverages included in the price, and nightly entertainment provided. And, you can find a good time in the small beachside bars in the quaint fishing villages. Larger towns, such as Playa del Carmen, have a lively bar scene. See Riviera Maya Activities for ideas of tours and other things to do while vacationing in this beautiful area.

Click here for information on Riviera Maya vacation package departure dates and pricing.

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