What to Do on the Riviera Maya
Collected by Laura Winfrey , AFAR Local Expert
Leaving an impossibly perfect beach may not sound like a wise idea, but the Riviera Maya offers so much: Climb 13th-century Maya pyramids, swim in freshwater cenotes, and shop for locally made crafts. See as much as you can of this charming region.
Blvd Kukuklcan Km 9, Zona Hotelera Cancun, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Benito Juarez, Q.R., Mexico
Also called the Party Zone, this block along Cancún’s main boulevard pulsates with lights, music, and gaudy signs inviting partyers into nightclubs lining the street. From smaller open-air clubs like La Vaquita and Congo, to...
77500, Tulipanes LB, 22, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Hidden in the center of a quiet neighborhood between the main thoroughfares of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Yaxchilán, this area has been a top gathering spot for Cancún families for decades, especially after sunset on weekends. Despite...
Boulevard Kukulcán Km 1.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
This sleek outdoor mall sits in the lavish neighborhood of Puerto Cancún, known for its marinas, golf course, and luxury homes. The shopping center features international brands like Zara and Sephora, along with a stylish, upscale food...
Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
This extensive white-sand beach is the one Cancún locals love the most, and it’s still largely unknown to tourists. Bisected by a lengthy pier, Playa Langosta has calm, shallow, crystal-clear waters like most other beaches on the...
Boulevard Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
In English, "Playa Delfines" means "Dolphin Beach," and the name isn't just whimsical; on a good day, visitors to Playa Delfines can actually see dolphins. The best view is from the beach's "mirador," or lookout platform. This white-sand beach has...
Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
If you’ve dreamed of climbing an ancient Mayan ruin yet remaining free from the madding crowd, Cancún has a little secret: the El Rey Ruins, an archaeological treasure tucked into the Hotel Zone and just a 10-minute bus ride from most...
Boulevard Kukulcan KM 13 , LOCAL 410 y 411A, Benito Juárez, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Beginning right at the entrance to downtown Cancún (kilometer 0, where the median is also home to a spacious outdoor gym) and tracing the Hotel Zone’s entire northern stretch, this wide, red-paved path is a favorite for runners,...
Blvd. Kukulcan km 12.5, La Isla, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Luxury shopping is one of the perks of a vacation in Cancun’s downtown, and La Isla Shopping Village is the place for quality goods (be sure to stop in at Liverpool for duty-free designer products). La Isla isn’t just for shopping though: there is...
Av Yaxchilán, 2 de Febrero, 29086 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chis., Mexico
After dark, locals and tourists alike gather on this avenue. Here, you’ll see a blend of affordable downtown hotels side by side dimly lit dive bars, but the street is mostly known for its colorful eateries serving authentic Mexican food:...
Acamaya S/N, Javier Rojo Gomez, Puerto Morelos, Q.R., Mexico
This sleepy fishing village sits halfway between Cancún and Playa del Carmen, and has gradually evolved into a signature destination known for fresh catches and lovely white sands. Due to a nearby coral reef, it’s also one of the...
Calle Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
A favorite with locals and tourists alike, this is the place for delicious down-home Mexican food. The 33 main dishes are drawn from the culinary traditions of 33 Mexican cities, assuring a true taste of this interesting country. Favorites include...
Calle 14 bis entre Av. 10 y Av.15 Colonia Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Playa del Carmen’s 10th Avenue runs parallel to the city’s famous 5th Avenue but has a more low-key vibe, a relief when you tire of crowds, malls, and big-name brands. This bustling one-way street does allow cars, but it’s also...
Lote 3 Mza. 29, Fracc. Playacar, Playacar, 77711 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
This unassuming two-story plaza has become a popular Friday- and Saturday-night hangout for 20- and 30-something locals. In addition to its shops, Plaza Paseo Cobá is home to several restaurants and bars with a trendy, bohemian vibe that’s...
Calle 38 Nte. 152, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77720 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Situated at the eastern end of Playa del Carmen’s quiet, charming Calle 38, Shangri-La Beach is named after a small hotel that used to sit right there but has since been renamed and renovated. This stretch of the city’s coastline has a...
Carretera Chetúmal-Puerto Juárez Kilómetro 282, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
The massive nature park called Xcaret may be the Riviera Maya’s most touristy attraction, but there’s a reason it’s popular: It’s the only place in the area where you can do it all—snorkel, visit animal habitats, swim...
Carretera Cancún -Tulum Km 282, Puerto Juarez, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
If you like having fun while checking out the wonders of nature, Xplor is your place to be in Cancun. Here you can paddle through natural underground caves and then zip line above it all. On land, you can drive an ATV over a bridge, under a...
Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal- Puerto Juárez Km. 283.5 Ejido Sur, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
For millions of years, this mystical underworld stayed hidden deep underground in the Riveria Maya, Mexico. It’s where the underworld meets the heavens. This womb of the earth is a sacred place to the Mayans who believed it was the doorway...
Carretera Cancun - Tulum Km. 246 Lote 32 Manzana 3, Tankah 3, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Also known as Cenote Manatee, this natural spring is completely open, unlike so many others in the region that are situated in caves. You can kayak or snorkel in the cenote’s small river, which is lined on either side by dense mangrove...
Carretera Federal Cancún-Tulum. Km 124, Jacinto Pat, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
My fiance and I were hanging out in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the week and we decided to get away from the resort and Quinta Avenida for a while. We met a German gentleman named Roman who's lived in town for 20 years. He urged us to check out...
Carretera Tulum, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Ideal for travelers who daydream of swimming beside sea turtles, this bay has clear, shallow, pool-like water and a silky white-sand floor that means you can chill, carefree, as fish poke around your feet. For more adventure, rent snorkel gear and...
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