Beach in the Riviera Maya - Mexico

7 Things You Must Do When
You Stay in the Riviera Maya

Perfect activities for a week long vacation in paradise

7. Swim in a Cenote

Riviera Maya Cenote
Video via Shutterstock

Take a refreshing dip in these mysterious water caves

Words by Morag Peers

Cenotes are large natural sinkholes, and an iconic feature of the Yucatan Peninsula’s geography. In Mayan times, they were used for fresh water supply and religious ceremonies, but nowadays make the perfect place for tourists who want to swim, snorkel and relax in a unique environment.

Most cenotes are filled with fresh water that has been filtered slowly through the ground, so it is very pure and clean. With the water visibility being so high, they’re a perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.

You don’t have to be a particularly strong swimmer to enjoy a swimming trip to a cenote, but as many are up to 45 feet deep you should be confident at floating out of your depth. Many of the more popular cenotes offer lifejacket and snorkelling hire.

Local Tip:

"If you are a certified diver, diving Quintana Roo's magical cenotes is a must! Ranked by many to be among the best freshwater diving in the world, the cenotes are portals to an expansive underwater world that holds unique cultural and geological significance to the area."

Sarah Pulitzer, Blue Life

6. Scuba Diving and Snorkelling

Hawksbill Turtle swimming near sting ray in the Great Maya Reef
Video via Shutterstock

Meet the spectacular sea life of the world’s second largest reef system

Words by Morag Peers

The Great Maya Reef, which extends over 600 miles from the top of the Yucatan Peninsula down to Honduras, is home to some of the best snorkelling in the Americas.

The warm ocean and the stunning variety of coral, tropical fish and larger sea creatures make it a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers.

One of the best places to get started is on the beach at Akumal, a nesting ground for turtles. Spend the day relaxing on the white sands under a palm tree, or floating in the warm waters, watching the tropical fish and turtles graze and float around you.

Those who already hold an open water qualification will find no shortage of scuba dive excursions leaving from locations up and down the coast. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a lemon or nurse shark amongst the beautiful array of Caribbean sea creatures.

Local Tip:

"Coral reefs, caverns, bull sharks, whale sharks… it doesn’t matter, all year you will be able to enjoy the caribbean warm water with its 28ºc (84ºf)! To dive in the Riviera Maya you only need a 3mm wetsuit and enthusiasm!"

Federica Molinari, Phantom Divers

5. XCaret Park

Live performer at XCaret Park Playa del Carmen
Video via Shutterstock

The richness of Mexican biodiversity and history mix in this park

Words by Morag Peers

More than 40 different attractions await in this eco-archaeological park. You can start your day by exploring the jungle ruins or forest trails and then float along the underground rivers in the comfort of raft.

If you prefer your days more active, swap your shorts and shirt for swimming gear, pick up a snorkel and set off to explore the underground rivers or tropical waters at your own pace. The site also includes a colourful wild bird aviary, orchid greenhouse and aquarium.

When night falls, guests head to the on-site theatre for a colourful show featuring the best in Mexican culture, song and dance both old and new.

XCaret Park covers a large area just to the south of Playa Del Carmen, and given that there is so much to do on site, get there early to enjoy the park to its fullest.

Local Tip:

"Xcaret Park highlights the best of Mexican and Mayan culture, and the natural beauty of the region. Their annual Day of the Dead festival is my favorite event of the year."

Kristin Busse, What Am I Still Doing in Cancun?

4. Tulum

Beach at Tulum
Video via Shutterstock

Picture perfect beaches meet Mayan history

Words by Katherine Bradshaw

With picture-perfect sands, azure waters and a refreshingly laid back vibe, Tulum is a town like no other. Worth a visit for the awe-inspiring Mayan ruins alone, the much-loved coastal region has a great deal to offer beyond its ancient sites.

From relaxing beachside yoga to brave kitesurfing, Tulum is undeniably zen yet action-packed too. A dip in the cool waters of Tulum's many cenotes is a must-do activity and - if you’re on a quest for adventure - a snorkelling tour with one of the town’s excellent diving schools is highly recommended.

After a lunchtime treat of fresh ceviche at one of Tulum’s many beautiful beachside restaurants, venture a few minutes south to Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve where you could spot alligators and even shy manatees in the picturesque lagoon.

For a taste of traditional Mexico, head inland to Tulum town. Straddling the highway, the town itself is a far cry from the idyllic beach resort but well worth a visit to sample local tacos al pastor and colourful fresh fruit paletas. Tulum is less than an hour’s drive south of Playa del Carmen.

Local Tip:

"With kiteboarding on some of the Riviera Maya's most beautiful beaches, swimming in crystalline limestone cenotes, and snorkelling in nearby nature parks, Tulum is water-world plus.

Bring your bathing gear to its beachfront Maya ruins (come at its 8am opening time, before the tour bus crowds descend and the heat ratchets up) and after your visit, float in the aquamarine sea."

Jane Onstott, Mexico Guru

3. Playa del Carmen Nightlife

Playa del Carmen bar scene
Video via Shutterstock

Dine out and party all night in this refined hotspot

Words by Katherine Bradshaw

Vibrant and full of character, Playa del Carmen’s nightlife is something to behold. While neighbouring Cancun is well-known for its party scene, Playa del Carmen offers something a little more refined, without losing a resounding sense of fun.

Nightlife in Playa del Carmen centres on the beach and Fifth Avenue, while smaller local hotspots can be found within walking distance. You can enjoy some of the Riviera's finest cuisine, sip cocktails at one of the Playa's many beachside bars and dance the night away in several popular clubs.

One of Playa del Carmen’s biggest night time attractions is the flamboyant Coco Bongo, where entertainment is comparable to the glittering shows of Las Vegas. Enjoy a tribute to some of the all-time musical greats including Elvis and The Beatles, watch an energetic acrobatic display or experience a fabulous homage to Broadway.

For something a little quirky look out for Beercicleta, a pedal-powered pub tour. Local favourite Don Mezcal serves up traditional drinks in a central location, while Alux Caverna Restaurant offers a magical place to eat and chat in a striking naturally formed cave.

Local Tip:

"Nightlife in Playa del Carmen can start quite late, so grab a nap or a late dinner and get ready to head out around 11pm.

The most popular nightclubs include Coco Bongo, Mandala or the beachfront Blue Parrot, but you can also check out the Salsanera with amazing live Salsa bands, or the Zenzi beach club, with different entertainment every evening."

Lisa Wright,

2. Chichen Itza

Pyramid of Kukulkan - Chichen Itza
Video via Shutterstock

Absorb the rich culture of the Mayans at these world famous monuments

Words by Katherine Bradshaw

Hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza truly deserve their status as the second most popular attraction in all of Mexico. Situated between Valladolid and Merida - 125km west of Cancun - the ancient city can be visited on a full day trip from Playa del Carmen.

The pyramids, temples and incredible stone monuments are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Perhaps the most famous of all the Chichen Itza ruins is the Temple of Kukulkan - otherwise known as El Castillo - showcasing Mayan astronomy and the beginning of the 365 day calendar. During the spring and autumn equinox, a serpent-shaped shadow is visible at El Castillo - just one magnificent design feature of this ancient site.

When visiting Chichen Itza, be sure to pack comfortable shoes, plenty of water and sunscreen. The site is large and the sunshine strong all year round.

Local Tip:

"Inside El Castillo you will find a narrowly enclosed staircase that leads to a "chac mool", an altar where offerings to the gods were placed."

Juanita Stein, Yucatan Today

1. Relax

Relaxing on a hammock by the sea
Video via Shutterstock

Just kick back, enjoy the beach… and the cocktails

Words by Katherine Bradshaw

While the Riviera Maya has all of the incredible activities above nearby, it's also a brilliant place to relax and unwind. After all, this is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

At BlueBay Resorts, we offer all inclusive five star luxury. So hop on a beachside hammock and sip a cocktail – you’ve well and truly deserved this vacation!

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You can also watch a video version of this guide on YouTube.