Sunshine Paradise! 📍Riviera Maya, Mexico
If you are in the mood for warm sun, sandy beaches, pretty waters and natural wells on the Caribbean coast, away from the party scene, head to Riviera Maya, on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. It’s about an hour south of Cancun airport and well worth the ride. You will find this area to be one of the safest, tourist friendly regions in Mexico, filled with several boutique shops, fancy restaurants, boutique hotels and big beautiful all-inclusive resorts. Riviera Maya is also known for the water. The barrier reef system here is the 2nd longest in the world, stretching from Cancun to Guatemala. Enough space for everybody to jet-ski, scuba dive and maybe skinny dip, at your discretion. HA!
The average temperature in Rivera Maya is about 70-80 degrees fahrenheit. As usual, they have a rainy season that is expected to last from May through November. However, I recommend researching the average weather during your time frame and going with that. I visited Riviera Maya for 7 days in September and it rained for approximately 3 hrs on 1 day, that’s it. I was actually looking for more rain to tone down the heat. No Luck! Bring nothing but swimsuits, swim trunks, insect repellant and a few dollars for bribery purposes to tip for strong drinks.
Fiesta, Siesta, Tequila, Repeat....
When you’re ready to swim, try a cenote. Obviously the beach is always the first choice, but don’t miss out on this Mexican tradition. A cenote is a natural pit/sinkhole that leads to an underground hideaway. These underground caverns are formed when a limestone cave ceiling collapses and leaves a hole in the earth, exposing groundwater underneath. Cenotes were the only source of water in the jungle for the Mayan civilization, it was their form of communication to their Gods. These hidden water systems are considered sacred by the Mayan people. When you find these hidden locations, dare to dive. They are freezing cold holes of natural fresh water. This is not swimming pool water or ocean water, this is fresh water. Harder to breathe, float and swim (or maybe I was just waaay to cold to do any of the above). Try the outdoor cenotes too, it’s easier to see and swim. You can also jump or zip-line into these. You can’t do that underground. You’ll be able to see straight through the clear, pure, mineral-rich water to the fishes below. Don’t get too bold though, these fishes are not afraid of people. HA! Go with a tour guide/group and experience the best areas to snorkel. I recommend Aventuras Mayas and Xcaret Park. They provide unforgettable experiences. Note: Put the mask on before you enter the water! Welcome to the Mexican underworld!
You can’t go on vacation without doing something thrilling and adventurous, at least one time on your trip. Riviera Maya has several zip lining and off-road tours. You can ATV and/or buggy ride through the jungle. Again, I recommend going with a tour guide/group. They know the roads and you always have backup. My ATV cut off mid tour after climbing out of a cenote. If I was alone, with my useless, roaming, no service having Sprint cellular device, I would’ve been stuck like chuck. Not cool! Use these opportunities to indulge in the experience. Try booking this tour on a day that rain is expected. This makes for a muddier, dirtier ride. It’s all about the thrill. You can shower and be clean later! To the daring zip-liners, do it. Go for the tours with the longest, highest lines. I often end up doing at least one thing on vacation that makes me pee on myself, not sure why that excites me! I am not a child. Anyways, zip lining scared the life out of me but I got through it and hated it had to end. These tours usually range from $80-$150, depending on the inclusion of the tour. You know me, pick the one that keeps you out the longest and provides lunch and roundtrip transportation. We want bang for our buck over here!
Check out the cultural landmarks while here. Riviera Maya is home to several ancient Mayan archaeological sites. Chichen Itzá, one of the 7 Wonders of the World, is a must see. You can also visit and plan day trips to Tulum, Xcaret, Xel-Ha and Coba. Avoid the guided tours for these adventures. It’s a bunch of crowded baby buses that have designated drop off and pick up times. You will be left there all day, in the heat, to walk around the same site 5 times. Get a driver, catch the local bus or hop in a colectivo (big white passenger van). ADO is a popular bus that runs all over Cancun and the Riviera Maya district. You can also request a “second class bus” when you’re in the station. These buses are usually cheaper than the standard ADO bus and they go to the same destinations. However, you will be traveling with less leg room and no plush amenities. Be sure to ask how long the ride is on second class as these routes can be longer and out the way sometimes. If you ask me, it’s worth the savings. If you see a colectivo going to your destination, hop in, they are usually cheaper and run more frequent than the buses. Chichen Itzá is the furthest, about 2 hours away from Riviera Maya. Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Coba and Tulum are a lot closer, within an hour or less. Try visiting these locations when they open, prior to the bus loads of tourist crowds.
I always recommend all-inclusive accommodations when taking beach vacations but sometimes you can find a great deal on budget hotels in the surrounding areas. Always compare price and priority. Local hotels run from as low as $30-$40 a night, depending on the season. I recommend booking.com to find your stay. They usually offer free cancellation and pay when you stay options. If you want to go all out champagne taste on a beer budget, I recommend cheapcarribean.com for all-inclusive Caribbean destination vacation packages. I used this site to book a 7 day all-inclusive package for 2 people at a 4 star resort, with unlimited food and premium drinks, flights, VIP Upgrades, roundtrip airport transportation, access to all standard and exclusive onsite restaurants, Privileged Suite with patio Jacuzzi, 1 massage per person, discounted dinner on the beach, 24hr room service, exclusive a-la-carte breakfast and free wi-fi. All this for a whopping $1600 total. $800 per person, that’s a steal of a deal. The resort was beautiful and securely located in a gated neighborhood type setting with a local marina where you can shop, eat fresh seafood and charter small boats or yachts. It was a great place to take an evening stroll and inhale the scenery. I will further review and detail this resort in a later post.
It’s always polite to learn and speak a few words/phrases of the culture. Don’t be that arrogant, privileged traveler that expects everyone to speak your language, without a dollar in hand when asking for help. Educate yourself! Again, Indulge in the experience. After all, Google translate makes it easy for you to learn a word or 2. When in Mexico, greet the locals with your struggling lingo:
Buenos días (Good Morning)
Buenas tardes (Good Afternoon)
Buenas noches (Good Night)
Next time you consider a trip to Mexico, add Riviera Maya to list of must-see destinations! Get your feet in the Sand!
Have you been to Riviera Maya, Mexico? Tell us about your experience and what you found to be the most fun!