Things to do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Things to do in  Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

When there’s a will, there’s a wave

Offering ancient history fringed in beautiful beaches, Riviera Maya and the Yucatan combine seaside lounging and accessible exploring. The region brings together vibrant coral, inland jungle, and some of Mexico’s finest archeological sites—much of it within reach of famed resorts, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Whether you’re snorkeling at Cozumel Reefs Natural Marine Park, swimming in a fresh-water cenote, visiting family-friendly adventure parks, or checking out Chichen Itza pyramids, the best things to do in Riviera Maya and the Yucatan don’t stop at the water’s edge.

Top 15 attractions in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

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Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.More

Chichen Itza

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One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is among Mexico's most visited and iconic archaeological sites. Known for its main central pyramid, this impressive Maya site—once the ceremonial center of the Yucatán—also features temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).More

Tulum

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Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'More

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

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Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.More

Isla Mujeres

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Isla Mujeres (the “Island of Women”) is known for its rich marine life and pristine beaches. Here you can snorkel at Manchones Reef, scuba dive in the Cave of Sleeping Sharks, or stretch out on the white sands of North Beach (Playa Norte). On land you’ll find bustling nightlife, with oceanside bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood.More

Akumal

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Akumal is a small beach town located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Meaning “land of the turtles” in the Mayan language, Akumal is famous for its plentiful sea turtle population. Its secluded white-sand beaches and peaceful bays are also ideal for those seeking a more private experience.More

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

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With its unspoiled beaches, lush nature trails, and abundance of marine life, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is among the highlights of Cozumel, set along the island’s west coast in the area’s National Marine Park. The Chankanaab name comes from the Mayan language and means "little sea," referring to the park’s natural lagoon. The access to the warm, turquoise sea is a top draw, as are the provided lounge chairs and hammocks prime for relaxing on the beautiful beach.More

Palancar Reef

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The star attraction of Cozumel Reefs National Park (Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel), Palancar Reef is a rich underwater landscape ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Aquatic species thrive amidst these colorful corals, including sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.More

Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

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In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.More

Columbia Reef

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Columbia Reef is famous for its complex architecture of caves, arches, and coral spires. Here, you can find schools of snapper, barracudas, sea turtles, scorpion fish, and even the rare passing nurse shark. With both shallow coral gardens and deep ocean-floor caverns, the reef is accessible to snorkelers and scuba divers alike.More

Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park

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Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park encompasses the island’s best-known diving and snorkeling spots, including the Palancar, Columbia, and Paradise reefs, as well as the Devil’s Throat at Punta Sur and the shipwreck ofFelipe Xicoténcatl—a minesweeper ship used in WWII. The park houses up to 26 species of coral and 300 species of fish.More

Punta Sur Eco Beach Park (Faro Celerain Ecological Reserve)

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Located on Cozumel’s southernmost tip, Punta Sur Eco Beach Park (Faro Celerain Ecological Reserve) spans 2,500 acres (1,011 hectares) of coastal wilderness, coral reefs, and Caribbean ocean. Here you can find ancient Maya ruins, a picturesque lighthouse, and sandy beaches—plus exotic birds, crocodiles, and sea turtles.More

Chacchoben

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Mostly unexcavated, the Chacchoben ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Chacchoben) make up the largest and most visited Maya archaeological site in Costa Maya. Here moss-covered temples sprout from a lush jungle, attracting visitors who want to learn about Maya history, including the collapse of the ancient civilization.More

El Mirador Lookout

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Located on Cozumel’s rugged eastern coast, El Mirador lookout is a rocky seascape dotted with natural bridges, tide pools, and stone spires. This wild, undeveloped area looks out onto the open Caribbean Sea and offers a breezy escape from Cozumel’s more touristy areas.More

CoCo Bongo Playa del Carmen

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From circus performers swinging from the ceiling and dancers crowding the floor, to celebrity impersonators and Broadway-style musicals, Coco Bongo is a nightclub unlike any other. At the Playa del Carmen location, you’ll find extravagant stages, multiple bars, VIP table service, and a dance floor known to rock through the wee hours.More

Top activities in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Luxury Catamaran and Snorkel. Lunch & Open Bar Onboard and Visit to Isla Mujeres
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ATV Adventure, Interactive Bridges, Ziplines, Cenote & Free Lunch
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Cozumel Snorkeling Tour: Palancar, Columbia and El Cielo Reefs
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Cozumel Snorkeling Tour: Palancar, Columbia and El Cielo Reefs

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$61.75
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Tulum Guided Tour, Magical Cenote, Lagoon Snorkeling and Beachside Lunch
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Luxury SUV from Cancun International Airport

Luxury SUV from Cancun International Airport

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per group
Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

All about Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

When to visit

Beaches bustle all throughout the Riviera Maya’s December–April high season, when revelers enjoy warm days and cool, clear nights. The biggest bashes take place in March, as spring break parties ignite in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and other resort towns. While there’s fine diving and snorkeling here year-round, travelers in search of the massive whale sharks that migrate here should opt for a visit between June and mid-September.

Getting around

Renting a car in the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan is a popular option and puts far-flung temples, towns, and jungle communities all within reach. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase personal liability insurance, which is required in Mexico. There are plenty of other ways to get around, too: Mexico’s easy-to-use network of ADO buses links the Cancun airport with key communities and resorts. Taxis and shared minivans called “colectivos” are plentiful throughout the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan.

Traveler tips

Mayan archeological sites—such as Chichen Itza, the Tulum Archeological Site, and the Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)—are a highlight of exploring this area. Since many archeological sites have little shade, it’s worth planning to avoid the most intense sunlight. You can try visiting in the early morning or early evening to avoid the daytime heat. Or bring along an umbrella: Some portable shade comes in handy when you’re exploring sunbaked temples at high noon.

Local Currency
Mexican Peso (MX$)
Time Zone
EST (UTC -6)
Country Code
+52
Language(s)
Spanish
Attractions
118
Tours
5,836
Reviews
209,810
EN
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geo_hub

People Also Ask

What is Riviera Maya known for?

The Riviera Maya follows the east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and it’s known for all-inclusive resorts, gorgeous beaches, adventure parks, and its nearby coral reefs. There’s plenty of history here, too, from the temples and pyramids of Tulum Archeological Site to cenotes that were sacred to the ancient Maya.

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Is it better to go to Cancun or Riviera Maya?

Cancun is where beachfront hotels meet city nightlife—it’s an easy-to-reach getaway whose airport has direct flights to many cities worldwide. The Riviera Maya that extends south from Cancun is more laid-back, less about partying than adventure parks, all-inclusive resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving, and exploring nearby ruins and jungle.

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What is the best month to visit Riviera Maya?

Mild, dry weather makes the season from December through April the best time to visit the Riviera Maya. Spring and fall can be a bit rainier, with the hottest days arriving in May. Still, the Riviera Maya is a year-round destination, with beachgoers hitting the shore in every month.

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Can you visit Chichen Itza from Riviera Maya?

Yes, you can visit Chichen Itza from Cancun, but it makes for a long day. The archeological site is located 122 miles (197 kilometers) west of Cancun, a drive that takes 2 hours and 50 minutes. Tours of Chichen Itza from Cancun generally leave early in the morning and include other sightseeing stops en route.

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Which one is better, Chichen Itza or Tulum?

Chichen Itza and Tulum are both ancient Maya sites, but the similarities stop there. The UNESCO-listed Chichen Itza has a towering pyramid, ball court, and other major buildings pointing to the city’s importance. While beachside Tulum is much smaller, its compact temples have the turquoise-blue ocean for a scenic backdrop.

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Is it worth seeing Chichen Itza?

Yes, it’s worth seeing Chichen Itza. The UNESCO-listed archeological site is among the most impressive remnants of the ancient Maya world, with a massive pyramid, observatory, ball court, and other structures. It’s popular and can be crowded, but it’s famous for a reason: Chichen Itza is remarkably well-preserved and very impressive.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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