Skip Expedia and Use These Top Online Resources to Help Your Brain Plan an Outstanding Riviera Maya Vacation
If you’re planning an upcoming trip to the Riviera Maya, it helps to do some research beforehand so you can prepare for a stress-free vacation. First-time visitors typically want to know where to stay, what the best things to do are, and how to stay safe.
In general, when traveling to any destination, certain precautions should be taken. Travel tips such as never leaving your luggage unattended, using ATM machines only in banks, and drinking responsibly are good pieces of advice wherever you go.
The Riviera Maya is one of the safest exotic destinations on the planet visited by over 4 million annual travelers. The most common troubles visitors face are sunburns the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge.
Besides packing environmentally safe sunscreens and Pepto-Bismol tablets, there are a few simple things you can do to steer you away from trouble in Mexico. More safety tips to come, but first, let’s get to know this divine destination better.
What Is The Riviera Maya and Which Town Suits Your Needs Best
The Riviera Maya is comprised of an over one hundred kilometre stretch of white sand beaches along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. This wondrous natural playground begins at Puerto Morelos and continues south just past Tulum. Dozens of adult-only, family-friendly and ultra-luxurious all-inclusive resorts run along this spellbinding corridor.
The tropical climate is one of the most appealing draws with an average eternal summer temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Boasting a diverse conglomeration of ecosystems, this unique piece of paradise presents world-class diving and golfing, the longest underground river system, and the second largest reef system in the world. With numerous protected biospheres and an extensive jungle speckled with the abandoned remains of an ancient civilization, the natural beauty and fun-filled activities are endless.
Beautiful Beaches and Bustling Towns
Just a handful of seaside towns occupy the captivating coastline, each with its own set of attractive characteristics. Puerto Morelos (20 minutes south of the airport) is a quaint village with one central square from which all of the action stems from. It is a popular destination for snowbirds as expats can easily integrate into the community and enjoy a peaceful existence. There are a few delightful restaurants, cafés and beach clubs surrounding the main square along with souvenir and ice cream shops.
Puerto Morelos Activities
- Xenotes Park
- Joya by Cirque du Soleil
- Little Mexican Cooking School
- Ixchel Jungle Spa
Continuing twenty minutes south is Playa del Carmen, the Heart of the Riviera Maya (40 minutes south of the airport). Once a small fishing village, it is now a vibrant, metropolitan city with a multitude of options for dining and entertainment.
The principal tourist area is on the east side of the 307 Federal Highway. Visitors can stroll Playa’s famous 5th Avenue from CTM to Playacar on the south end of the city. The multi-cultural community is made up of a colorful mix of national and international residents and the vibe is very casual. Despite its easy-breezy ambience, an abundance of upscale restaurants, luxury hotels, brand name and boutique stores give the city its sophisticated essence.
Playa has everything you could possibly need for a traveler’s comfort and convenience. There are banks, hospitals, and consular agencies for Canada, the United States, Italy, and France. In addition, you can find every type of cuisine, big box supermarkets and specialty health food stores. If you’re vegan or gluten free, there is a plentitude of restaurants that will cater to your dietary needs.
Playa del Carmen Activities
- 3-D Museum of Wonders
- Frida Kahlo Museum
- El Pueblito Cooking School
- Teatro de la Ciudad
- Beach Clubs
- Roof Bars with Pools
- Xcaret Park
- Xplor Park
- Xenses Park
- Rio Secreto
- Emotions Native Park
- Cenotes Parque Fundadores
- Free Daily Cultural Shows
- Shopping Malls
- Night Clubs
Next on the map is Puerto Aventuras (55 minutes south of the airport) yet another enchanting seaside destination. At its center is a bustling square with water-front eateries and a Dolphin Discovery as its main attraction. A few quaint coffee and gift shops border the canals, which run through the 9-hole golf course and residential neighborhood.
There is a marina from which many of the Riviera Maya catamaran, fishing and yacht tours set sail. A modest hotel zone offers ocean views and a couple of all-inclusive lodging options. The shopping and dining experience is limited but there are some popular local hubs with fantastic happy hour specials and sublime water views.
Puerto Aventuras Activities
- Golf (9 hole course)
- Swim with Dolphins
- Beach Clubs
- Xpa Eco-natural Spa
- Cedam Maritime Museum
- Rauxa Dinner Show
- Xpu Ha Beach
- Xel ha Park
- Woodward at Hard Rock Hotel
Ten minutes further south on the 307, you come to the Akumal, a.k.a. ‘The Place of the Turtles’ (65 minutes south of the Cancun airport). This beautiful bay is home to an abundant source of sea grass. The massive bed of sea grass and coral reef make it an ideal feeding zone for Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles. There is a principle dive shop on the beach, a few beach club restaurants and a couple of sprawling resorts.
On the road in from the highway to the parking for the bay, you’ll pass by convenience stores and ice cream shops (be sure to try some creamy gelato while you’re there.) For breakfast Turtle Bay Café is touted for its scrumptious pies and generous portions. If you continue down this road, you’ll arrive at Half Moon Bay. This residential area is sprinkled with more intimate hotels and gorgeous beach villas. Heading north still, to the end, you will come upon the Yal Ku Lagoon. The spectacular site offers snorkeling, a restaurant and palapas for shade when you’re not cooling off in the crystal clear waters.
- Yal Ku Lagoon
- La Buena Vida Beach Bar and Restaurant
- Akumal Monkey Sanctuary
The last stop on the Riviera Maya tour is the famed bohemian-chic town of Tulum (85 minutes south of the airport). It’s a quieter version of Playa del Carmen, but still offers some charming boutique shopping, upscale lodgings with thatched-roof cabañas and luxurious beach clubs. Although the style is rustic, the prices are on the posh side. However, the quality of cuisine and other-worldly dining experiences match the premium prices you’ll pay. Plus the views you will encounter on these beaches are truly priceless.
Tulum is renowned for its sustainable tourism, its wide alabaster beaches, Yoga and world-class cuisine. Exquisite jungle hideaways and random hole-in-the-wall restaurants showcase healthy and locally sourced menus featuring authentic Mexican offerings with a modern twists.
- UNESCO Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Punta Allen (2 hours from Tulum and the last town on this stretch of white-sand beach)
- Muyil Ruins
- Tulum Ruins
- Yoga and Wellness Retreats
- Xel Ha Eco-Park
- Tulum Jungle Maya Park by Alltournative
- Coba Ruins
Although Cancun is not part of the Riviera Maya, the Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the destination you will choose when booking your flights. There are plenty of popular big player online sites such as Expedia that offer hundreds of flight options. But it may mean a few extra dollars in your pocket to look beyond the usual suspects for more price comparisons. Try these additional suggestions for flight deals .
The first four options allow you to book your tickets right from the site. Although you will have to contact a travel agent, Itamatrix.com provides the whole calendar month of prices and compares almost every airline that flies to your destination. You can find plane tickets for half price with Itamatrix versus other giants in online travel industry, so it definitely deserves a mention.
How To Get From The Cancun Airport To The Riviera Maya
Most commonly, airport transfers are include if you book an all-inclusive hotel. However, you should know that these tourist buses can make 5-10 stops before arriving at your destination. That can mean sometimes mean an extra hour or two of travel time. Not exactly convenient when all you want to do is grab a margarita and hit the beach!
For an extra cost, taxis and private vans services might be a better option, especially if you are traveling with a group and can split the cost. The ADO bus has scheduled stops at all the major cities in the Riviera Maya including Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Expect anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours for shared transportation. If you do not mind the extra travel time, the ADO bus to Tulum takes approximately two hours. But it’s the way to go for the most cost efficient mode of transportation. Other perks include pickup points at all four terminals, air-conditioning, wide seats and televisions.
The Riviera Maya presents a vast selection of top-notch accommodation options. Whether you are coming to celebrate your honeymoon, reuniting with relatives for a family reunion or planning a getaway with friends, the hotel and vacation rental offerings are endless. Travelyucatan.com showcases a plethora of choices in all of the hot spot destinations in this area.
The best vacation tip we like to share that never fails to please guests is to break up your stay. Pool bars, unlimited food and umbrella drinks can be blissful and relaxing for a couple of days, but seven consecutive days of this becomes boring fast.
To the right is a compiled list of first-choice accommodations in the Riviera Maya. We recommend a mix and match to have two completely different, yet unforgettable vacation experiences in one.
Spend a couple of relaxing days at an all-inclusive for your fill of Eat. Drink. Sleep. Repeat. Then choose a vacation rental in one of Playa del Carmen’s top condo hotels near 5th Avenue, the city’s main dining, shopping and entertainment district. By staying both on and off a resort, you’ll really get a sense of the incredible Playa lifestyle. This is the best way to acquaint yourself with its sensational tastes and fun-loving people. It is just small enough to navigate by foot or bicycle. Yet the ever-transforming city still offers museums, aquariums, galleries, boutique shops and over three hundred restaurants in the downtown area.
Riviera Maya Travel Tips
Due to Playa del Carmen’s central location, travelers have convenient access to the many ecological parks, ancient Mayan ruins, and picturesque cenotes in the Riviera Maya.
Once you have confirmed your flight dates and the accommodations are booked, you can delve deeper into your research. Everythingplayadelcarmen.com is an excellent source of regional information and posts honest opinions of their personal experiences. Discover the best activities in the Riviera Maya along with restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. The site also contains updated travel tips and covers some of the newest concepts to pop up around the entire Yucatan Peninsula.
As the name states, you will find everything you need to know about Playa del Carmen and area. In the articles are detailed instructions on how to get around and the best economical or authentic menus in town. As well, you”ll know what to expect at popular and lesser visited gems in the Riviera Maya.
Learn From The Experts
The travel blogging duo from Gettingstamped.com spends a few weeks each year in Playa del Carmen. They loved it so much, it was once their home base for a four-month period. Hannah and Adam know this region well and have put together several guides. From living in Playa del Carmen to the best day trips and best margaritas, you’ll find a ton of useful information. Plus they continually update their articles so you can count on current content.
A third option that offers travel tips with full guides is the Bric Travel Blog. Any extraordinary experiences that are worth sharing are documented here to help visitors have fun and memorable vacations. Also, Bric’s Playa del Carmen experts are available online to answer any questions you may have regarding the area.
If you are fluent in español, Rivieramaya.com presents a wealth of information on the fore-mentioned destinations.
Should you want to do some exploring on your own, minus the expensive group tour prices and crowded buses, hire a reliable private van service. Travel Yucatan allows you to customize your adventure based on your group’s desires and timeline. Additionally, you have a private guide to give you insider information on some of the area’s top sites.
The local Taxi WhatsApp service (+52 1 984-138-1075 / +52 1 (984-197-0814) is another option for reserving a ride. The best feature of this service is that you have a guaranteed price at the time of booking so there are no surprises when you arrive at your final destination.
Tip: When hailing a cab on the streets, always pre-determine the cost of your taxi service with the driver before you get in. What you expect to pay is not always what the reality is if the price is not agreed upon beforehand. It’s best to establish the cost verbally before your journey begins.
Keeping Safe In Mexico
Mexico is a considerably large country with rugged mountainous, lush jungle, and desert terrain. Its coastal plains boast some of the most alluring beaches on the planet. The country is dotted with “Magical Towns” rich in history and architectural beauty. With such extraordinary features including limestone caverns, agave farms, coffee and coconut plantations, remarkable cathedrals, mouthwatering dishes, ancient Mayan cities, and cultural festivals, Mexico is a country that must be visited at least once in a lifetime.
When traveling to Mexico, here are the best tips for a trouble-free vacation:
- Avoid drinking the tap water
- Keep your purse on you when you go out rather than hanging it on the back of your chair at dinner
- Stay hydrated and take breaks from the midday sun
- Travel with a buddy when taking a taxi
- Bargaining for the best price is acceptable, bu keep the conversation respectful
- Drink responsibly and do not indulge in recreational drugs
- Purchase travel and medical insurance
- Set up notifications from your bank to authorize credit card transactions to avoid fraud
- Don’t leave your belongings unattended on your beach blanket
- Don’t be afraid to try street food, just follow the locals and stick to the busiest food cart stands
For any other information regarding a Playa del Carmen vacation, our offices are open everyday to answer your calls. Contact us anytime and we will do our best to help!