Riviera Maya Overview
If you're looking for a taste of adventure that doesn't require a trip to the video store, then grab your trusty fedora and enter a world filled with mystery, beauty and ancient traditions. The Riviera Maya offers unmatched views of nature’s most unique and beautiful landforms. If you want to splash around like the Mayans, Xel-Ha is open for swimming and snorkeling through two of the largest subterranian rivers in the world. Want to see how the ancient Mayans lived? Xcaret Ecological Park lets visitors explore amazing Mayan ruins that once served as a central port of trade and navigation. When you aren't thrill seeking, take time to stop and smell the roses at the region's numerous ecological preserves. When you feel the need to come back to modern civilization, you’ll have several nearby towns to choose from—each jam-packed with a variety of activities. You can shop 'til you drop, eat fantastic Mexican food, learn about Mayans in museums or knock back a few tequila shots to keep the good times going. No matter what you're looking for, the Riviera Maya is jam-packed with adventure to get you off the couch and enjoying life.
Other Destinations in Mexico
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Mapping Out Mexico
Why is Mexico everything to everyone? A quick visit to the east coast sums it up. Cancun’s got nightlife and a party scene while Cozumel offers outdoor adventure like diving and snorkeling. The west coast has even more to boast: Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta offer beaches, world-class hotels and great golf courses, making both locations perfect family vacation spots. However, adventure-minded travelers will want to head to either Mazatlan to explore historic ruins or Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, which has a similar vibe, but with the feel of an upscale city. For the escapist, Huatulco and Manzanillo boast virtually untouched natural beauty. While each destination is uniquely different, they all have their own special way of showing you the magic of Mexico.
Excitement and Adventure Await at Tulum
While the world didn't end in 2012, the Mayans continue to be one of the most awe-inspiring cultures in all the ancient world. New to the Mayans? Take a trip to the archeological zone of Tulum to explore one of the most unique archealogical sites in the Riviera Maya and learn about this exciting culture.
Located atop a cliff facing the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is comprised of more than 60 well-preserved structures built inside an impressive stone wall. The park is located 2 hours from Cancun via Federal Highway 307. It's recommended to park at the nearby shopping mall for easy access to the park. Once inside, you can walk around and explore the stone structures before taking the brown-wooden staircase down to the beach. While the park is amazing in its own right, if you are a beach bum, the sugary-white sands at Tulum are soft and ready for basking, while the water is clear and refreshing after a tour around the Tulum.
Xplore Mexico’s Mysteries at Xcaret
Historically, Xcaret was once a Mayan port for departures to Cozumel. Maybe we can take a cue from the Mayans and add a dash of sun, sand and waves to the long lines and gruff Customs officials at airports today. Sounds like a dream right? Well open your eyes to the beauty of Xcaret! Located on the Caribbean seashore, visitors who travel to the Mayan ruins of Xcaret can learn about the rich ecology and culture of the Riviera Maya by touring more than 40 natural attractions like the butterfly pavilion to see native butterflies in their habitat, a unique coral reef aquarium and an authentic cone-shaped Mayan cemetery with seven levels and 365 different tombs.
If the tombs leave you feeling a little "boxed-in," take a walk through the jungle trails and learn about the plants that produce cinnamon, vanilla and gum. If you want to put in some time beach-side, swim with dolphins or even sharks for the thrill of a lifetime. Once the sun sets, the fun really begins with a nightly theater show that features more than 300 actors on stage who will take you on a musical journey through Mexico’s rich history starting with pre-Hispanic times all the way to the present day. With so many exciting attractions, Xcaret is Xciting!
Get a Splash of the Old World at Xel-Ha
Known to the Mayans as “the place where water is born,” Xel-Ha is an incredible natural aquarium where the ocean and freshwater currents combine to create springs and underground rivers. While it may not be the exact birthplace of water, you'll have a ball snorkeling and splashing through this fascinating ecosystem of exotic birds, marine life and other animals. The park is one of the most amazing attractions in all of Riviera Maya. It’s a perfect place to practice snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and scuba diving. For a real treat, don’t miss the Sea Trek, where you can walk (and breathe) under water with the help of a specialized helmet, so you can explore the seabed naturally without any previous training.
While it may not be the exact birthplace of water, Xel-Ha will capture your imaginations and thirst for adventure like no other place in the Riviera Maya!
A Rich Heritage: Riviera Maya
Before 1999, the Riviera Maya was referred to as the Cancun-Tulum corridor. The term “Riviera Maya” was later developed and refers to the tourism district stretching from Puerto Morelos to Punta Allen. Overall, much of the Riviera Maya remains just as it always was – a traditional agricultural-based structure. However, the influx of tourism has allowed the region to thrive—sustaining the culture and people who call the Riviera Maya home.
When people visit the Riviera Maya, many come back with tales of beautiful, white-sand beaches, turqoise waters, ancient ruins, exotic wildlife and a new appreciation for life, beauty and adventure. While the Caribbean and Mexico are filled with many other great beach destinations, what sets the Riviera Maya apart from others is the untapped natural beauty and rich cultural heritage contained within the region. If you want a vacation that goes beyond the bounds of a "normal" beach vacation, the Riviera Maya is the place for you!
Snatch Up Your 5th Avenue Souvenirs
So you’ve had your fun in Mexico and you’re ready to go home, but wait! You haven’t picked up souvenirs for everyone. No worries. Head straight to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen where you can shop ‘til you drop. This busy street is lined with vendors, shops, art galleries and more, so you’re sure to find something for everyone. Whether you'd prefer to buy hand made crafts and jewelry or pick up a fancy purse at Armani, 5th Avenue has everything you'd need and more!
5th Avenue offers plenty of space to walk around in, so when you've worked up an appetite, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars to choose from, but be aware that the food and drinks on the beach are more expensive. So if you are on a budget stay close to 5th Avenue and enjoy traditional Mexican cuisine and plenty of American fast-food favorites. With plenty of sun and fabulous shopping – what more could you ask for? Get your 5th Avenue Souvenirs!
Riviera Maya Quick Facts
The main language in the Riviera Maya is Spanish, but many in the tourism industry speak English.
The official currency is the peso, but USD is also accepted.
The standard electricity supply in the Riviera Maya is 110 volts with two-prong outlets
All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from Riviera Maya.
Drink and brush your teeth with bottled water.
Central Standard Time (UTC/GMT -5 hours)
The peak travel season for the Riviera Maya runs from December to April.