With its pristine beaches, crystal clear cenotes and Mayan ruins, there are lots of amazing things to do in the Riviera Maya. From the hip and quirky beach town of Tulum to the nearby ancient Mayan ruins and the stunning nature and wildlife in the Si’an Kaan Biosphere Reserve, the Riviera Maya is one of our favorite places to visit. Having explored the beautiful Riviera Maya coast during our many Yucatan adventures we’ve put together this list of the 11 best things to do in the Riviera Maya.
Things to do in the Rivera Maya
Starting just south of Cancun in the town of Puerto Morelos, the Riviera Maya follows the coast to the small fishing village of Punta Allen in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
The Riviera Maya is one of the most stunning parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and should be included in any Yucatan Itinerary. After arriving in Cancun, many visitors go straight to the resorts and towns dotted along its coastline.
Getting around the Riviera Maya
If you are planning to explore, renting a car in Cancun is one of the best ways to see as much of the Riviera Maya as possible. We found driving safe and easy and we highly recommend renting a car in Cancun.
We booked our car through RentalCars.com and found that they have the best selection and prices that we’ve found – click here to book now!
Things to do in Riviera Maya tip: make sure you read up on TPL/LPI, a mandatory insurance in Mexico. Depending on the car rental company, TPL/PLI may be included in your agreed rental cost. If it is not included, expect to pay a daily rate starting at about US $20 per day although it can be more expensive. Credit card insurance doesn’t typically cover this extra in Mexico so you’ll likely have to pay it on arrival if it’s not included in your initial rate.
11 Best Things to do in the Riviera Maya
From beach towns to cenotes to island hopping the days away, these are our 11 best things to do in the Riviera Maya!
1 | Tulum
Tulum is an eclectic beach town and a great base from which to explore the Riviera Maya. Its amazing restaurant scene and hip parties are balanced by a focus on wellness with and abundance of yoga, meditation and healing treatments.
Tulum boasts white sand beaches which are shared between public beaches and exclusive beach resorts which line the chic beach road. Its most famous sight is the 13th Century Tulum Ruins where the stunning cliffside location makes then one of the most unique Mayan sites in the Yucatan. For a more detailed guide to Tulum check out our 17 best things to do in Tulum
2 | Swim in a Cenote
The Riviera Maya has some incredible swimming holes with crystal clear waters which are known as cenotes. Swimming in a cenote is one of the most unique and fun experiences in the Riviera Maya.
There are hundreds of cenotes dotted across the Yucatan and some of the best are easily accessible from the Riviera Maya. Ruta de Los Cenotes, a series of cenotes located in Puerto Morelos, are the closest Cenotes in Cancun. Gran Cenote, an open-air cenote immersed in an underground world of caves and caverns, is one of the most popular as is the double sinkhole at Cenote Dos Ojos which attracts both swimmers and divers.
Cenote Azul, one of the best Playa Del Carmen Cenotes, is a great family friendly option with shallow waters and an open swimming hole. Cenote Zacil, Cenote Carwash and Casa Cenote are some of the best open air cenotes near Tulum.
No matter which you choose, a refreshing swim in the cool waters of a cenote is an amazing Riviera Maya experience.
3 | Si’an Kaan Biosphere Reserve
Located just 10km south of Tulum at the very end of the Riviera Maya, the Si’an Khan Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its incredible natural beauty. Its name translates as ‘Where the sky is born’ and it traverses 120 kilometres of coastline.
The reserve is home to secluded Muyil Mayan ruins, quiet beaches, a coral reef and mangrove swamps. The animal population includes turtles, land crabs and crocodiles. The biosphere is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is incredible to experience such a place of solitude and wonderful natural beauty a few kilometres from the busy streets of Tulum.
Things to do in Riviera Maya tip: the less-visited Muyil Ruins are regarded as one of the earliest settlements on the Caribbean coast. The highlight includes the towering Castillo, the Observation Tower and the raised boardwalk which navigates through the lush jungle.
The Riviera Maya ends at Punta Allen, a small fishing village in the Si’an Khan Biosphere Reserve.
4 | Playa del Carmen
With its idyllic white sand beaches, sprawling resorts and easy access to the incredible Mayan ruins and crystal clear cenotes of the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is the most popular town on the Riviera Maya. It renowned for its nightlife, all inclusive resorts and beautiful beaches and is where most visitors base themselves on the Riviera Maya.
5 | Cozumel
The laid-back Caribbean island of Cozumel is a quick ferry ride from the nearby Playa Del Carmen on the Riviera Maya. The island is renowned for amazing snorkelling and scuba diving and the west of the island houses idyllic white sand beaches.
Cozumel is the perfect island escape with great food, drinks and island vibes!
6 | Akumal
Located between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen, the quiet beach town of Akumal is a postcard perfect Riviera Maya destination. Akumal has beautiful white sand beaches, warm Caribbean waters and a coral reef with resident turtles.
7 | Coba
Just a 45 minute drive from Tulum on the Riviera Maya, Coba is considered one of the most important Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. Located deep in the jungle, Coba was estimated to have a population of 50,000 at its peak although much of the site remains undiscovered. It’s still possible to climb, Nohoch Mul, Coba’s 137 foot tall pyramid, which is the tallest Mayan structure in the Yucatan. The reward is incredible views over the surrounding jungle and lagoon.
8 | Cancun
With its sprawling resorts, majestic Caribbean beaches and lively party scene Cancun is the main entry point to the Riviera Maya and is located 30 minutes from the town of Punta Morales where the begins.
Known for its beaches, resorts and nightlife, Cancun is also home to some impressive archaeological ruins with El Meco and its 40 foot pyramid and the 13th Century San Miguelito within each reach.
For more on Cancun, check out our guide to the 20 best things to do in Cancun!
9 | Isla Mujeres
The tiny Isla Mujeres is just a 20 minute ferry ride (check out our guide on how to get to Isla Mujeres for more details) from Cancun and a trip to the island is a hugely popular excursion from the Riviera Maya. Best explored by golf cart, the island has much to offer. From the idyllic Playa Norte beach to the rugged coastline and small Mayan ruins at Punta Sur there are lots of things to do in Isla Mujeres.
10 | Chichen Itza
The most famous sight in the Yucatan, Chichen Itza is a 2 hour drive from Tulum but it is absolutely worth a day trip from the Riviera Maya town. The Mayan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and the instantly recognizable El Castillo pyramid is one of the greatest sights on the Yucatan.
11 | Isla Holbox
Although not on the Riviera Maya, many visitors start their journey to the island paradise of Isla Holbox from the Riviera Maya. With its white sand beaches, turquoise waters and island vibes Holbox is an idyllic escape and a stay on the island is an amazing way to wrap up a Mexico vacation. Isla Holbox is a real slice of heaven and we highly recommend making some time to visit this beautiful island!
Things to do in the Riviera Maya tip: Holbox is a short ferry ride from fishing port of Chiquila on the north of the Yucatan Peninsula. It takes about 2 hours by road to reach Chiquila from Playa Del Carmen. Click here for more details on how to get to Isla Holbox and here for the best things to do in Holbox.
If you are planning to travel further in the Yucatan then check out our 25 top things to do in the Yucatan for more inspiration!