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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

#1
Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

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Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.More
#2
Tulum

Tulum

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Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'More
#3
Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

Mr. Sancho's Beach Club Cozumel

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Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.More
#4
Chacchoben

Chacchoben

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Mostly unexcavated, the Chacchoben ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Chacchoben) make up the largest and most visited Maya archaeological site in Costa Maya. Here moss-covered temples sprout from a lush jungle, attracting visitors who want to learn about Maya history, including the collapse of the ancient civilization.More
#5
Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

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With its unspoiled beaches, lush nature trails, and abundance of marine life, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is among the highlights of Cozumel, set along the island’s west coast in the area’s National Marine Park. The Chankanaab name comes from the Mayan language and means "little sea," referring to the park’s natural lagoon. The access to the warm, turquoise sea is a top draw, as are the provided lounge chairs and hammocks prime for relaxing on the beautiful beach.More
#6
Merida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

Merida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso)

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The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Mérida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso) was built atop a Mayan temple in the 16th century. Notable for its relatively austere façade and surprisingly stark Moorish interior, Mérida Cathedral also houses some of Mérida’s most significant religious artifacts, including the Christ of Blisters statue.More
#7
Xplor Park

Xplor Park

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Set in the middle of the Yucatan jungle, Xplor Park allows visitors to experience Mexico’s environmental treasures firsthand. Here you can raft down a stalactite-filled underground river, swim in cenotes, ride in an amphibious vehicle, or zipline above the canopy. There’s also a nighttime option to explore after dark.More
#8
Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

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Isla Mujeres (the “Island of Women”) is known for its rich marine life and pristine beaches. Here you can snorkel at Manchones Reef, scuba dive in the Cave of Sleeping Sharks, or stretch out on the white sands of North Beach (Playa Norte). On land you’ll find bustling nightlife, with oceanside bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood.More
#9
Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

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One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is among Mexico's most visited and iconic archaeological sites. Known for its main central pyramid, this impressive Maya site—once the ceremonial center of the Yucatán—also features temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).More
#10
Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

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In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.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

Best ATV Tour, Ziplines and Cenote Swim with Lunch and Transport Included
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3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Caves
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From Cancun: Adult-Only Cancun Party Cruise to Isla Mujeres
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Jungle Buggy Tour from Playa del Carmen Including Cenote Swim
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Recent reviews from experiences in Riviera Maya & the Yucatan

star-5
Great place to see!
paulinafarana, Dec 2019
Chichen Itza Early Access, Tequila Tasting & Buffet Lunch (Avoid the crowds)
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.
star-5
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!
star-4
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.
star-4
For the price, you will never go...
Easter Marie J, Nov 2017
Chichen Itza All-Inclusive, Tequila tasting, Cenote Swim, Buffet & Valladolid
I'm giving this 4 stars because we didn't get to see the Observatory temple because of time constraints.
star-5
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.
star-5
Everything about Mexico Lindo is...
syhmo, Jan 2018
Tasty Mexican Cooking Class with Feast in Riviera Maya
If you have the opportunity to visit the Cancun/Riviera Maya area it is recommended that you visit Mexico Lindo.
star-5
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.
star-4
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.
star-5
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.
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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.
star-5
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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