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Things to do in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Things to do in  Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Welcome to Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Bursting with color, culture, and variety, the Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya bring together the best that Mexico has to offer: welcoming waters and white-sand beaches, colonial towns, jungle-shrouded cenotes, and UNESCO-listed archaeological sites. The region's best known—and most visited—Maya ruin is Chichen Itza, which features a massive step-pyramid known as El Castillo (The Castle), along with numerous, well-preserved carvings. Consider opting for a VIP-access tour to avoid the equally famous lines. Most international visitors fly into Cancun, famous for its luxury resorts and laid-back party vibes, or Merida, the region's largest city and cultural capital. In addition to nightlife, Cancun offers easy access to the entire Caribbean coast. Isla Mujeres is an ideal jumping-off point for snorkeling tours and at the right time of year, you can see whale sharks feeding nearby. The Maya ruins of Tulum are well worth a visit, as are Coba and Ek Balak. Check out Xel-ha or Xplor Adventure Park for high-energy, outdoor activities, such as ziplining over the rain forest canopy and cave rafting. The beach is never far away, and on the coral reefs around Cozumel and Isla Contoy, world-class snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities abound. Farther inland, Merida and colonial Valladolid offer myriad historical sites, pleasant streets lined with gardens and bright pastel buildings, artisans' shops, and a thriving restaurant scene. Be sure to sample some authentic Yucatecan dishes, like the distinctive black mole that takes hours to prepare, and tacos made with slow-roasted Yucatan turkey.

Top 10 attractions in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan



One of the best preserved Mayan sites, Tulum is a must-see attraction on the coast of the Yucatan. Tulum, the Walled City, is mounted high on the edge of a cliff, towering above the Caribbean Sea and a beautiful white sandy beach. It was only inhabited by the nobles, high priests and esteemed citizens, whereas the lower classes lived in simple wood and thatch huts beyond. The ruins here are truly spectacular, especially Tulum's main temple, dedicated to the Diving God.More

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

Kept hidden from the public until 2007 and strictly adhering to its sustainable tourism model, the evocatively named Rio Secreto, or “Secret River,” is deserved of its reputation as the best kept secret of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A dramatic series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river, the Rio Secreto is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern, one of few in the world that is accessible to non-professional divers. Venturing underground, visitors can explore the eerie passageways that once formed part of the mysterious, yet much talked about Mayan underworld; swim in the fabled underground river; and admire the unique natural caves, dripping with stalactites, stalagmites and strikingly colored mineral formations.More

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

Find everything you need for a relaxing and fun day at the beach with an all-inclusive day pass to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club Cozumel. Situated on a private, 1,500-foot-long stretch of white-sand beach, Mr. Sanchos has all the usual beach amenities like umbrellas and lounge chairs, as well as an infinity pool and an Aqua Park with inflatable climbing structures and water trampolines. Day passes include all you can eat and drink from the restaurant and bar, and there are abundant activities available for an additional fee, including parasiling, ATV tours, massages and horseback riding.More

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

Relaxed Chankanaab Park - or Parque Chankanaab - is a lovely and laid-back "eco archaeological park," just south of the town of Cozumel. There are several attractions on dry land, including faux Mayan ruins, pleasant gardens, dolphin and sea lion shows, and good seafood. The main attraction, however, is the wildlife rich undersea park, which you can explore with rented snorkel equipment. They also offer regular diving (you must have PADI certification) and the Sea Trek Adventure, like a resort dive with a breathing helmet but no certification necessary. You could also swim in a tank with dolphins, manatees and sea lions for an extra fee.More

Chichen Itza

The most important archaeological zone of the Yucatan and ancient capital of the Mayan Empire, Chichen Itza can be reached from several cities in Mexico. The ruins are best explored on a full day guided tour where you can learn why the site has been designated one of the modern wonders of the world. Even visit the Sacred Cenote, where human sacrifices took place to please the gods. Chichen Itza's extraordinary architectural beauty and fascinating history are sure to leave you in awe!More

Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

The Coba Ruins, built long ago—sometime between the years 500 and 900—lie deep in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. Visitors can rent bikes or hire rickshaws to travel among the knobby paths and thick forest that link the groupings of ancient pyramids and historic sites to one another. A climb to the top of the Nohuch Mul pyramid, the tallest in the Yucatan, affords visitors a spectacular (if nerve-wracking) view of the jungle, as well as the astronomical observatory and game courts that surround it. From this vantage point, travelers can also check out the Mayan’s version of an interstate highway: elevated roads called sacbeob, that lead from the ruins to other Mayan cities.More

Palancar Reef

The star attraction of the Cozumel Reefs National Park - or Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel - not to mention Jacques Cousteau's television show, which quite literally put Cozumel on the map - is Palancar Reef. Actually composed of 4 separate coral reefs, it is home to sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, lobsters, crabs, and a keleidescope of colorful fish. Boats leaving from Playa Palancar take snorkelers out to the shallowest parts of the reef, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from shore. Scuba divers, however, have several world-famous spots to explore. The Palancar Caves are probably the most famous attraction, with huge brain corals and swim-through tunnels. Palancar Horseshoe is another massive formation of huge corals, some partially damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma. Less experienced divers can visit Palancar Gardens, a shallower spot with mellow currents.More

Cenote Ik Kil

Cenote Ik Kil is a tropical cenote located in the Yucatan region of Mexico, just a few miles away from Chichen Itza. A sinkhole filled with water, Ik Kil is one of the most popular cenotes for travelers to the eastern coast of Mexico thanks to its lush surroundings and easy accessibility. Cenote Ik Kil is not partially covered by earth like many cenotes but is instead open to the sky; sunlight streams down and hits the water, making it a bright teal color, from which it gets its nickname: Sacred Blue Cenote. Vines hang down from the rock walls, and gentle waterfalls also make their way down the sides of the encompassing circular wall, which stretches up 85 feet around the surface of the water, giving the cenote a more exotic feel. Stairs down one side of the rock wall lead to a ledge from which you can get in the water to swim. The water stretches down 130 feet; while swimming, keep an eye out for the catfish that call the cenote home.More

Columbia Reef

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

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days on the Riviera Maya

How to Spend 3 Days on the Riviera Maya

Top activities in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Recent reviews from experiences in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

Great place to see!
paulinafarana, Dec 2019
Chichen Itza Sunrise with lunch,Tequila & optional Valladolid, Cenote & Pick up
The only downfall was quite long travel, from Riviera Maya over 2hrs each way but still worth it as the coach was fully air conditioned and comfortable.
Excellent Tour!
Getaway11695205364, Jul 2019
Chichen Itza, Cenote & Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour
If you are in the Riviera Maya area and want to see Chichen Itza and the beautiful Ik Kil, this is the tour for you!
Culture, Adventure and Souvenir shopping all in one cost effective trip.
Inspire22232654644, May 2019
Tulum, Coba and Cenote Tour from Riviera Maya
Tulum is fascinating and we were split into "English Speaking" and "Spanish Speaking" groups for our escorted tour.
For the price, you will never go...
Easter Marie J, Nov 2017
Chichen Itza All-Inclusive, Valladolid, Tequila tasting, Cenote Swim & Buffet
I'm giving this 4 stars because we didn't get to see the Observatory temple because of time constraints.
Amazing full day of Mayan...
gibsjr, Apr 2018
Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Cenote Hubiku Tour
The guide was spectacular knowledgeable, personable, very relaxed, and spectacularly accomodating to a bilingual English/Spanish group.
Everything about Mexico Lindo is...
syhmo, Jan 2018
6-Courses Mexican Cooking Class and Feast in Puerto Morelos, Cancun
If you have the opportunity to visit the Cancun/Riviera Maya area it is recommended that you visit Mexico Lindo.
I would recommend this tour to any...
Michelle H, Nov 2016
VIP: Chichen Itza Tour, Light and Sound Show with Mayan Appetizers From Cancun
A wonderfully produced movie of the Mayan culture was presented in English at a small planetarium at the hotel, which was the perfectly prepared us for the light show, which was all in Spanish when we went, translating devices were not available yet.
What a great day! Pick up from hotel...
nmarso, Oct 2016
Tulum and Xel-Ha All-Inclusive Day Trip from Cancun
Extremely knowledgeable and entertaining English and Spanish speaking guide at Tulum.
The tour was pretty much as...
rxbjs, Nov 2016
Chichen Itza the Mayan Wonder Tour from Cancun and Riviera Maya
It was billed as an english guide, however english was his second language and half of our van we had approx 15 people spoke spanish and thus, he spoke both languages throughout the tour.
The Tulum and Xel -Ha all inclusive...
Tenecia M, Jun 2015
Tulum and Xel-Ha All-Inclusive Day Trip from Cancun
Tulum was our first stop and it was impressive to see how well preserved the Mayan ruins have been kept.
It was a wonderful experience. We...
STEFANIE S, Dec 2011
Day Trip to Chichen Itza and Valladolid from Cancun with Cenote Swim and Lunch
We were lucky to see an elder woodworking, so we purchased directly from him, our local artist.

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