Riviera Maya Information
Start Planning Your Mexico Vacation
There’s the Riviera, Then there’s the Riviera Maya.
Why schlep all the way to the French Riviera when you have the sunsational Riviera Maya on the dreamy Yucatan? This escape haven is a magical world filled with mystery, beauty and ancient traditions, along with sugar-white sands and swoon-worthy views of nature’s most unique and beautiful landforms. If you want to splish splash around like the Mayans, Xel-Ha is open for swimming and snorkeling through two of the largest subterranean rivers in the world. If you want to time travel, then you must visit Xcaret Ecological Park. This eco-archaeological locale once served as a central port of trade and navigation for the ancient Mayans, but in the 21st century, it’s your day-long play station: you can snorkel in protected inlets, observe exotic animals and in the evening, watch a show that’s bursting with color, music and folklore. For more nature-centric stuff to do, you’ll want to visit the region’s numerous ecological preserves. After you’ve spent time in the past, come back to the present–there are several towns in the Riviera Maya that are poppin’ with loads of aahsome, modern stuff to do: shopping, noshing, museum-ing, throwing back a few tequila shots. Time to dive in.
Other Destinations in Mexico
The Swiss Army Knife of Destinations: Mexico
Let’s start with the east coast: Cancun’s got an epic party scene. Cozumel is the mecca for diving and snorkeling. Moving to the west coast, if you’re into adventure, head to Mazatlan to explore historic ruins or hit Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo for a similar vibe, but a bit more upscale. For those who want to escape into the wilds of nature, Huatulco and Mazanillo are your places to explore. Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos have majestic mountains that kiss their beachy shores, along with aahmazing golf courses, breath-stealing resorts and delicious beaches. But Cabo, situated at the tip of Baja, where the shimmering Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific, not only has a hip party scene, it also has the iconic Los Arcos, where you can slow down and let the beguiling magic of Mexico wash over you.
Antiquity Fix: Tulum
Gotta love those mystical Mayans. They continue to be one of the most awe-inspiring cultures from the ancient world. One of the most iconic examples of these mysterious people is Tulum, a pre-Columbian city that was the major port for Coba between the 13th and 15th centuries, where one of the top things traded was, of all things, obsidian–volcanic glass. Grab your walking shoes and get ready to meander around 60 well-preserved structures that are cloistered behind a big stone wall. After you’ve learned about all the enigmatic deities in their culture, marveled at how they constructed such an intricate, sturdy maze and are sufficiently sweaty, take the staircase down to the sugar-white sandy beach hugged by turquoise waves and cool off.
Xciting Stuff: Xcaret and Xel-ha.
More Mayan goodness can be found at these spots. Back in the day (and we’re talking waaay back), Xcaret was once a Mayan port for departures to Cozumel. Since then, it’s evolved into a one-stop shop for exploring the ecology and culture of this delicious area with 40 natural attractions: a butterfly pavilion, a beautiful coral reef aquarium, along with a funky cone-shaped Mayan cemetery. Afterwards you can chill at the beach, swim with dolphins–or even sharks. Xel-ha, known as “the place where water is born,” 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 seriously dig snorkeling and splashing through this rockin’ ecosystem of exotic birds, marine life and other animals. Don’t miss Sea Trek, where with the help of a specialized helmet, you can walk (and breathe) under water on the seabed–without any previous training–and ogle all the ocean eye candy.
Get Out of Your Shell: Turtles at Akumal.
These are not just ordinary turtles. They’re endangered green sea turtles. They can weigh up to 700 pounds and live until they’re 80. They’re favorite thing to eat is sea grass and it’s found all over the bottom of the ocean floor. And they spend a good long time chowing down, so you can swim up and get a good look at them. Other passersby like barracudas and sting rays can be seen after you’ve taken the plunge, so bring your camera and snag some snaps.
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.