Explore the ancient Mayan Ruins, and enjoy some of the Mayan Riviera’s most iconic and beautiful beaches here. Located about an hour and a half from Cancun is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city, known as Tulum.
While Tulum’s main attraction is its well-preserved ruins, the town itself is also worth visiting. Well-designed, open-air restaurants line Tulum Pueblo’s main street, along with craft vendors, cute shops and food stalls. If you are planning to visit the ruins, it’s best to do so early in the morning or after 3 PM, as Tulum is a popular port-of-call for many cruise ships.
Adding to Tulum’s beauty is its oceanfront location, and is the only Mayan city built on a coast. It is also one of the few protected by a limestone wall, 784 metres long, seven metres thick and three to five metres in height. Why the surrounding wall? There are a couple of theories. One is that it was built to protect the people on the inside from invaders, the other suggests it was used to separate the upper class from the lower class people.
After learning the rich history of this archeological site, stop at La Malquerida for a cold beer and authentic tacos.
2. Check out Playa del Carmen.
Here you’ll find everything from the happening to the hip!
A popular spot for nightlife, Playa del Carmen also has some of the Riviera’s best places to dine. Among them is Alux -- a one of a kind dining experience, taking you down a candlelit staircase to an underground cave and cenote. Enjoy fine dining and a fantastic wine selection in with one of the most breathtaking backdrops you can imagine.
For something more casual, we recommend El Fogon. Squeeze in at a table with the locals enjoy the famous Tacos Al Pastor and lime margaritas. Don’t be intimidated by the big line-up, it’s worth the wait! There might be a big line-up, but trust us when we say it’s worth the wait!
3. Chill out in Isla Mujeres.
Stretching only 7 km north to south, this charming island is loved by tourists yet retains its authentic local vibe. This translates to both busy beaches, but also some of the best off-the-beaten-path food and drink spots.
4. Visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Tour this stunning protected area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to thousands of indigenous, and some endangered, species of flora and fauna.
5. Experience Xcaret.
This sprawling theme park, centred around ecotourism, includes diverse cultural and educational attractions, amusement rides and natural ones like underground rivers. Swim down the mineral-rich, sacred waters through scenic caves.
There is an unbelievable amount of things to do here, from swimming with nurse sharks, stingray encounters, scuba diving, or spending time in the Temescal lodge, pre-Hispanic tradition to reconnect with nature and achieve a state of mental and physical relaxation. You can also watch the Papantla Flyers (a pole flying religious ceremony) or check out a Mayan Ballgame.
Spend the day participating in a variety of unique activities, or simply relax at the beach, taking in the majestic surroundings.
6. Drive to Chemuyil en route to Tulum.
Why? To tour The Jungle Place, a private sanctuary for the endangered Spider Monkey. The centre provides food, shelter, medical care and a lot of love to rescued Spider Monkeys who were victims of the illegal pet trade, poaching, and habitat destruction.
This is not open to the public for walk-ins, so make sure you book this in advance. Tell your taxi driver to wait for you while you learn about the Spider monkeys, experience cute interactions and help feed them.
7. Bask on beaches.
The most magnificent clear blue water can be found along the Mayan Riviera. Snorkel or kick back with a book under the shade of a palm or umbrella.
8. Snorkel in cenotes.
Snorkel, scuba or swim in these cool (both temperature-wise and awe-inspiring) naturally-produced freshwater pools. Created from limestone sinkholes and caves, these crystal-clear cenotes are particularly associated with this area of the Yucatan Peninsula.
9. Take a Mayan Tour.
We recommend visiting Tulum with a guide, or a Chichen Itza tour, and there are plenty of other day trips you can do to learn about the fascinating Maya.
One of our favourite tours is Intrepid’s Maya Underworld Explorer. A local guide takes a group on an intimate tour of Playa del Carmen’s intricate ancient underground world of snaking rivers, enchanting cenotes, otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites while learning about sacred Mayan traditions, rituals and ceremonies honouring Xibalba, the underworld. Emerge from the labyrinthine lairs to the jungle, where you may come face to face with endangered jaguars in a protected area.
10. Swim with whale sharks.
Come face-to-fin with the largest fish in the world. These gentle giants may seem intimidating, but in fact, they can be playful and curious, leading to unforgettable underwater interactions.
Whale shark season starts mid-May and runs to mid-September, with the population at its peak usually in July and August. Naturally, you’ll also be able to see other aquatic wildlife, like rays and dolphins.
Dream Riviera Maya Vacations Start Here
The Riviera Maya region literally teems with things to do, on the water as well as on land. Ready to create your perfect Mexico sun holiday? Yucatan, or you can sit in the shade, but you don’t want to miss our free expert planning, far-reaching network and insider pricing.