The perfect palm tree, the ultimate beach, coconut water straight from the source… holidays to the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen are an aquamarine paradise
A lone fishing boat anchors on sugar-white sands, a swim into azure waters is so crystal clear you can spot the markings on tropical fish, and back on shore romantic nooks are toes-in-the-sand luxury by day and twinkly light oceanfront dining by night. On that sublime strip between Cancun and Tulum, Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen holidays are all about plush hotels tucked behind grand entrances, boutiques stacked up with designer swimwear, ecological parks filled with natural lagoons and teppanyaki tables where smoking hot wagyu steak is just the start of an extravagant meal.
Super swish suites come with swim-up pools, jungle-style resorts put you in the heart of a unique nature reserve and cobalt waters are made for paddling out to tiny islets, searching for elusive whale sharks and watching sea turtles chomp on grass beds. That extraordinary barrier reef is a dream for seasoned snorkellers and if you’re new to the underwater world you’re in prime position for a warm welcome to marine life at the ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há where protected areas of the ocean are accessed via stairs into the sea. It’s easy to get lost in a spectacular world of beaches and sea for your whole stay, but equally, holidays to the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen take you off course to a land of ancient Mayan civilization at the spellbinding cliff-edged pre-Columbian Mayan walled city of Tulum and the lesser-explored ancient pyramids and sacbes of jungle-clad Coba.
Back among hibiscus-scented spas, rooftop bars and huge infinity pools, the only choice you need to make is whether it’s a long walk on the beach with a salt-rimmed margarita or a private cabana complete with Champagne and sweeping views of the coast.
- Our carefully chosen accommodation choices range from simple yet charming hotels to all encompassing all inclusive resorts
- The Xcaret and Xel-Ha eco-archaeological parks offer the perfect day out for families with cultural and nature based attractions
- The pre-Hispanic sites of Chichen Itza and Tulum are located within easy reach and offer a fascination insight into Mayan culture
- The trendy city of Playa del Carmen sits at the heart of the Riviera Maya and offers great shopping and dining options
- Just off the coast is the island of Cozumel, renowned for its crystal clear waters, perfect for snorkelling and diving excursions
Best time to visit Mayan Riviera & Playa Del Carmen
On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, December to April is the dry season, with a wetter season from May to November. June to October is the hurricane season throughout the Caribbean.
Mayan Riviera & Playa Del Carmen holiday highlights
If you can tear yourself away from the shade of a palapa or a dip in the ocean, other highlights include Playa del Carmen’s pedestrianised 5th Avenue – 22 blocks of shops, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife – the extraordinary natural ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há – think diverse marine life, cenotes and lagoons, rope swings and tranquil swimming caves – and day trips to both Chichen Itza and Tulum. You can try cave swimming at Rio Secreto just a few minutes outside of Playa del Carmen, hop on a ferry for the 45-minute ride over to the beautiful island of Cozumel and head to the tiny of Akumal to swim among the endangered green sea turtle.
Where is the Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located in the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula. Running south of Cancun all the way to Tulum, the Mayan Riviera is on the Caribbean coastline in the state of Quintana Roo.
Pick up calaveras (Mexican decorative Day of the Dead skulls), designer swimwear and colourful sombreros. Along Fifth Avenue – which runs for 22 blocks parallel to the beach – you’ll find lots of shops, and slightly further afield you’ll find glitzy shopping malls (La Isla Shopping Village and Quinta Alegria) selling luxury brands. In towns such as Tulum and Akumal you’ll uncover unique local treasures such as cloth paintings and wood carvings.
Food and drink
Expect achiote, citrus, chilli and smoke but don’t worry, not all Mexican food is as spicy as you think. Just make sure to look out for the habanero (very hot chilli)! Yucatan food is seasoned and flavoured with marinades and citrus juices, and spices such as oregano, coriander and garlic. Meats are cooked to perfection on a pib (fire pit of hot stones and coals), seafood and fresh fish feature heavily and ceviche is a favourite. Don’t forget to try chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips in salsa) for breakfast and look out throughout the day for the colourful agua fresca, tamales and bread bicycles that stop along the Mayan Riviera selling sweet and sugary breads, hand-wrapped tamales and fresh mango and hibiscus water.
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