There is no shortage of things to do in Mexico. Look no further for the top things to do in the Riviera Maya! This list includes the very best in dining, accommodations, culture and nature. The Riviera Maya is a region with a rich history, fascinating culture and a host of unforgettable experiences. The best things to do in the Riviera Maya may surprise you, and even inspire you to make it your next vacation destination.
Best Day with the Family: Xel-Ha
Xel-Ha is an expansive outdoor aquarium that will have everyone in the family entertained. Xel-Ha’s all-inclusive entrance fee covers meals, drinks and access to over 20 activities including inner tube floating, cave diving and zip lining. Xel-Ha is surrounded by lush jungle and dotted with natural lagoons.
Exotic fish, birds and plants can be seen from Xel-Ha’s network of boardwalks. Dive into the cenotes, feed the resident Coati or float down a lazy river at your leisure. Visitors can also pre-book optional activities like swimming with dolphins, massages or a Snuba Tour. Xel-Ha is fun for everyone!
Best Dining Experience: Yaxche
Situated along Playa del Carmen’s effervescent La Quinta Avenida is the illustrious Yaxche Restaurant. Mayan cooking techniques, regional ingredients and a passion for conserving a living culture has made Yaxche a leader in modern Mayan gastronomy. Here, diners have the opportunity to sample age-old Mayan recipes in a beautiful, contemporary space.
Best Hotel: Le Reve
Le Reve Hotel and Spa is ideally located just a 10-minute drive from Playa del Carmen, but boasts a quiet, romantic ambiance that is perfect for newlyweds and those seeking a little tranquility. This gorgeous boutique hotel features a white sand beach, al fresco dining and plenty of comfy nooks to catch up on some R&R.
Best Cultural Experience: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Mayan culture is closely tied to nature, and the best place to learn about past and present Mayan culture is at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Visitors are led through ancient jungle paths to see the Mayan Temples of Muyil and learn about the area’s native plants and animals. Other tour options include floating and snorkeling in the canals and bird watching.
Best Spa: Belmond Maroma
The Belmond Maroma is a true oasis – a place where the blend of nature and architecture captivates you at every turn. What better way to let your stress melt away than with a luxury spa treatment in Belmond Maroma’s Kinan Spa? This world-renown spa is just what the doctor ordered…really. Kinan Spa has a seasoned staff of medical, fitness, beauty and homeopathic specialists ready to repair, restore and refresh you back to life. The Kinan Spa is the recipient of many prestigious awards including the ‘Best Spa in Mexico’ by Conde Nast Travel in 2011.
Best Shopping: Road to Coba
The main road to/from Coba Archaeological Site has the best local crafts for sale in the Riviera Maya. Unlike the cheesy souvenir shops along La Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen, the crafts sold along the Coba road are authentic and significantly cheaper. Dream catchers, woven baskets, ceramics, masks and lamps are just a few of the items available for sale along this road.
Tip: Bring cash and be ready to bargain with the vendors, although you probably will not find these handmade items cheaper anywhere else.
Best Day Trip: Tulum
The Tulum Archeological Site is the Riviera Maya’s top attraction. This ancient Mayan port city is situated on a pristine white sand beach and features the incredible ruins left behind by an elitist Mayan society. Tulum, which means “walled city” is exactly that – a fortress designed to keep high society in and the laborers out. Tulum is the best day trip of the Riviera Maya because one could really spend an entire day here discovering the temples, then taking a refreshing dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Best Overall Experience: Snorkeling at Akumal Beach
Of all the top things to do in the Riviera Maya, this is by far my favorite! We’ve already covered the best in dining and adventure, but there’s one experience that stands out above all others, and is what makes it the BEST overall experience in the Riviera Maya… Snorkeling with sea turtles at Akumal Beach! For guests of the Akumal Hotel Caribe, Akumal Beach becomes their temporary backyard. This stunning natural harbor is teeming with life. Here, several species of sea turtle come to feed on the nutrient-rich grass that grows along the sea bed. Non-guests of the hotel can also come to discover this natural phenomenon for themselves. The Akumal Dive Center is located feet from the water’s edge and offers guided snorkeling tours and equipment rentals to make sure you won’t leave without seeing the turtles, rays and Akumal’s many other reef residents.
Check out our episode on Swimming with the Sea Turtles in Akumal Bay
The reason why snorkeling in Akumal Beach is the best overall experience in the Riviera Maya is that is shows us that natural beauty is everywhere, even if we do not always realize it’s there.
What are your top things to do in the Riviera Maya? Give us your suggestions in a comment below!
Special thanks to the Riviera Maya Tourism Board.