Imagine a striking Caribbean coastline whose white sand beaches and contrasting blue waters stretch for nearly 120 miles (195 kilometers), offering visitors not only some of the world’s most spectacular views, but also access to some of the most vibrant marine life the world has to offer. Lined with five star resorts and home to unparalleled water and land excursions, Riviera Maya, Mexico is just that – a true Caribbean paradise.
Home to the world’s second-largest coral reef and a distinctive personality based on its close relationship with the Mayan people, the Riviera Maya is unlike any other Caribbean destination. Starting at Cancun International Airport in the north and stretching all the way to Belize in the south, Highway 307 acts as the region’s main artery for traffic flow. Passing by world-renowned destinations like the ancient city of Tulum, the bustling town of Playa del Carmen, and the stunning nature biosphere of Sian Ka’an, Highway 307 provides visitors with access to the region’s most spectacular sites and activities, regardless of where they stay.
This is great news for the adventurers at heart – with breathtaking landscape, ancient archeological sites, massive nature parks, miraculous natural wonders, diverse wildlife, calm crystal-clear waters, and vibrant flora and fauna there is too much to explore to simply stay put in one location.
With access to so many options it may seem overwhelming when selecting which activities and destinations to experience. To help you, we have put together the top 10 day trips to take when visiting the beautiful Riviera Maya. Regardless of where you choose to stay, the following sites and excursions are ones you definitely don’t want to miss.
1. Take a dive at the stunning island of Cozumel
Home to some of the world’s most pristine diving waters, the Mexican island of Cozumel, which is located just 6 miles (10 kilometers) off the coast of Playa del Carmen, is every diver’s dream. The small island has transformed into one of the world’s top diving destinations, exposing divers to the region’s lush sea walls, towering reef formations, and speedy underwater drifts.
With a protected reef system that forms a part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the marine ecosystem below is extremely healthy, providing shelter to at least 26 species of sea coral and more than 500 species of exoitc fish. Suitable for all levels of diving, Cozumel is perfect for independent travels, groups of friends, and families.
The Cozumel 2 Tank Scuba Diving Excursion is extremely popular among certified divers, exposing participants to the legendary clarity of off-shore waters, dazzling displays of coral, and spectacular marine life. With opportunities to dive as deep as 80 feet (24 meters) and as shallow as 45 feet (14 meters), divers are able to have a truly diverse and life-changing underwater experience.
Providing a bilingual certified divemaster, round-trip transportation, entry to two dive sites, lunch, and freshments, this is an opportunity not to be missed. With a duration of 10 hours (including round trip transportation from the Riviera Maya), this is an all day excursion. All participants must be 15 years of age or older and have their diving certification.
Additional Riviera Maya scuba diving excursions for all experience levels are available to Cozumel guests and can be completed by speedboat or from shore, depending on preference. Don’t waste time – start planning the most miraculous underwater adventure you will ever witness. Cozumel is waiting for you!
2. Explore the mystic, ancient ruins of Coba
It is impossible to visit Mexico’s Riviera Maya without coming into some form of contact with the region’s rich, Mayan culture. Once encompassing an area that included the modern-day Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas and extending southward through the countries of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras, this once dominating civilization has left its mark on local cultures and customs.
Often referred to as the “Mysterious Maya”, the ancient Maya culture has intrigued visitors from around the globe for over two centuries. With ancient cities such as Chichen Itza, Bonampak, Uxmal, Tulum, and Muyil (among others) scattered across the Riviera Maya’s vast landscape, and the presence of descendants that still inhabit ancient lands, visitors have the opportunity to not only explore these magnificent stone structures, but to immerse themselves in a culture unlike any other.
The Coba Ruins Tour is the perfect combination of exploration and immersion. Allowing participants the opportunity to journey into the Maya heartland, this tour exposes guests to the ancient Maya ruins of Coba as well as to two present-day Mayan villages where they will learn about current Mayan culture and customs.
Equipped with bilingual staff, round trip transportation, a buffet lunch, refreshments, towel,
restrooms, lockers, and showers, this all day excursion is perfect for adventurers of all ages. Go back in time and explore a world that has influenced the region for thousands of years. Not only will you awe at its innate beauty, but you will walk away with a greater appreciation for local culture.
3. Go deep-sea fishing off the lively shores of Puerto Aventuras
With nearly 120 miles (195 kilometers) of Caribbean shoreline, it is no surprise that the Riviera Maya has made quite the impression on deep-sea fishing enthusiasts. With one of the world’s most prominent deep-sea fishing reputations and home to what many say is the “#1 Sailfish Hot Spot”, the Riviera Maya continues to attract fishers of all ages and expertise.
Since sites such as Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, and Tulum deemed as the “privileged locations for Sailfish migration”, big game fish lovers arrive each year to try and get in on the action. In addition, fresh runs of Blue and White Marlin, Dorado, and Yellowfin Tuna tempt participants from February through September. Sports fishermen also praise the southern beaches of this area for their abundance of Dorado, Wahoo, Barracuda, Jack Crevalle, Red Snapper, Grouper, Spanish Mackerel and other species.
One location that has gained recent popularity is that of the Puerto Aventuras Marina. Due to the area’s unique topography, settled atop an underwater valley, giant-sized game fish arrive to its warm, shallow waters on the hunt for food. The Puerto Aventuras Marina Deep Sea Fishing Tour is a great way to experience a Riviera Maya fishing charter at its finest.
Equipped with bilingual staff, round trip transportation, fishing equipment, life jackets, refreshments, and even an additional snorkeling activity, this activity is perfect for fisherpeople of all ages and experience levels. Grab your hat and sunglasses, and get ready to set sail on an incredible deep-sea fishing adventure that is sure to have your adrenaline rushing.
4. Discover otherworldly, jungle cenotes
Home to the world’s most widespread range of underwater sinkholes and cave systems, locally known as “cenotes”, the Yucatan Peninsula provides visitors a truly unique underground experience. With nearly 6,000 cenotes spread out over Yucatan’s lush landscape, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to explore these remarkable natural wonders.
Once considered to be sacred wells by the ancient Maya, these natural sinkholes were often used for sacrifices, both human and material. Nowadays, they are home to a number of tropical flora and fauna and exhibit truly spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations. Popular sites include Cenote Azul (known for its turquoise water), El Gran Cenote, and Dos Ojos.
The Turtle Snorkeling and Cenote Swim Tour is perfect for those who not only look to explore these incredible underwater ecosystems, but who also look to interact with local marine life. With an opportunity to travel into the subtropical rainforest of the Yucatan Peninsula, participants will have the opportunity to explore the hidden world below the jungle floor – including its lively waters and massive cave systems. In addition, participants will be taken to the Bay of Akumal and lead on a guided snorkeling tour of the bay and it’s dynamic coral reef.
Equipped with a bilingual staff, round trip transportation, snorkel equipment, life jackets, food, and water, this full day excursion is the perfect jungle experience. Grab your water shoes, put on your hiking gear, and get ready to explore some of the Maya Jungle’s most miraculous hidden gems – ancient cenotes.
5. Dance the night away at the Cocobongo
After a long day of exploring the Riviera Maya, a savory dinner and cold drink is the perfect way to relax and recover – that is, until you hit the dance floor!
While the day may be winding to an end, the region’s nightlife is just beginning. Whether you look to have a romantic dinner and drinks on the beach, enjoy a quiet local bar, or dance the night away at a local club, the Riviera Maya has just the spot for you.
Mexico, along with numerous other Latin American countries, is known for its latin rhythms and dance floors. Salsa, cumbia, merengue, bachata – you name it, Mexico has it! Home to some of the Caribbeans most famous nightclubs, such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen’s Coco Bongo, the opportunities to experience latin music at its best are endless.
The Coco Bongo Party Night Tour is an excellent way to maximize your nightlife experience. The most popular nightclub in the region, the Coco Bongo offers guests state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, acrobats, circus acts, and conga lines all accompanied by either live bands, musician impersonators, professional dances, and a plethora of special effects, including bubbles and confetti. Talk about a show!
For those 18 years of age and older, this incredible package offers guests admission to the club, show, and open bar. This all-inclusive nightclub experience will have you dancing ‘till dawn to some of latin music’s greatest hits – so put on your dance shoes and boogie the night away. ¡Azucar!
6. Delve into the ancient site of Ek Balam & Cenote Maya
As previously mentioned, when visiting the Riviera Maya it is nearly impossible to return home without having been exposed to both ancient and present-day Maya culture. The Yucatan Peninsula alone is home to dozens, if not hundreds, of the nearly 4,400 ancient Mayan cities sprawled throughout southern Mexico and other Latin American countries. This gives visitors to the Riviera Maya a front row seat to some of the world’s most fascinating history.
One such site that has gained recent attention due to its impressive structures and historical importance is that of Ek Balam. Meaning “the black jaguar” in Maya, Ek Balam is located near the colonial city of Valladolid and is said to have been a Mayan powerhouse for nearly 1,000 years. With 45 identified structures that cover nearly 5 square miles (12 square kilometers), this was no small city. While only 1 square mile (2.5 square kilometers) is currently visible to guests, this Maya giant leaves all its visitors in awe.
The Ek Balam Ruins and Cenote Adventure Park Tour is a fantastic way to explore its enormous structures, highly decorated facades, and nearby natural wonders once enjoyed by the Maya themselves. One such natural wonder is that of Cenote Maya Park.
This majestic cenote is one of the region’s most famous and home to the largest dome in the Yucatan Peninsula. Swim in its crystal-clear waters and witness a miraculous underground cave system – one of the region’s deepest at 367 feet (112 meters).
Equipped with bilingual staff, round trip transportation, adventure equipment, buffet lunch, refreshments, towel, restrooms, lockers, and showers, this full day excursion is one that you will never forget. Get ready to explore some of the region’s most fascinating history, culture , and natural beauty. This is the stuff you only dream of seeing – make it your reality!
7. Set sail on a catamaran and go snorkeling at Isla Mujeres
With the world’s second largest barrier reef situated right in its own backyard, the Riviera Maya provides visitors with some of the world’s most thrilling water activities. Whether you look to dive deep into the unknown, dark waters that are home to larger sea creatures, or to observe the colorful marine life from the safety of the water’s surface, the Riviera Maya is the place to be.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere – stretches 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) and is home to nearly 60 types of hard corals that provide shelter for over 500 species of tropical fish, sea turtles , and even sharks. In fact, the reef is said to attract one of the world’s largest congregations of whale sharks. Woah baby!
To partake in a heart-pumping water excursion, try out the Catamaran Sailing & Snorkel tour to Isla Mujeres. Guests have the opportunity to jump on board a spacious catamaran for a jam packed afternoon of sailing on the turquoise, Caribbean waters and taking a dive into some of the region’s top snorkeling sites. Get up close and personal with tropical fish, vibrant corals, and maybe – just maybe even sharks!
End with a delicious meal and unforgettable views on the white sand beaches of Isla Mujeres (Woman Island). Additional water activities, including sailing, swimming, and snorkeling will also be available as well as time to explore the island’s quaint downtown area.
Equipped with bilingual staff, round trip transportation, open bar onboard the catamaran, guided snorkel tours, sightseeing, and a lunch buffet, this is an opportunity you won’t want to pass on. Enjoy the best of all worlds – soak up the sun on tropical waters, have a cold drink in hand, and explore life below the surface – does it really get any better than that?
8. Snorkel with stingrays at the tropical island of Cozumel
As the largest Mexican island in the Caribbean, Cozumel has become a hotspot for travelers whether arriving by car, boat, or airplane. Home to attractions such as Chankanaab National Marine Park, San Gervasio Archaeological Site, and its very own submarine tour, it’s no wonder that this tropical destination has been rated as the world’s third best cruise port.
Home to unparalleled marine life, world-renowned dive sites, white-sand beaches, and striking blue waters, the island of Cozumel is hard to beat. One activity that is truly unique in nature – literally – is the Cozumel Stingray Snorkel Adventure. Yes, that’s right – snorkeling with stingrays!
Now, don’t start sweating just yet. While most stingrays have barbed stingers on their tail (used primarily for self-defense), these specific stingrays have been clipped for safety, making this activity perfect for those who desire to gain a closer look at these marvelous marine creatures.
Equipped with bilingual staff, access to all beach club facilities, activity equipment, restrooms, and lockers, this two hour activity is perfect for people of all ages. After your encounter, feel free to enjoy the beach club which offers unbeatable Caribbean views. Ah, the good life! So, leave your fears at the door and swim among these beautiful aquatic species in their natural habitat. You are sure to leave with a new appreciation for life below the surface.
9. Witness a dazzling sunset onboard a luxurious catamaran
We all love spending some time on the beach – especially when visiting a tropical destination such as Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In fact, one of the things we look forward to most isn’t the five star hotel, open bar, or delicious local cuisine, but simply watching the sun rise and fall over the glistening water. After all, there are few sights as humbling as watching the sun seemingly disappear beneath the water’s surface.
Home to some of the world’s most astonishingly beautiful beaches, it’s no surprise that the region’s sunsets are equally eye-catching. Destinations such as Isla Mujeres (Woman Island), whose North Beach faces slightly to the west, are known for their impeccable, sunset-viewing locations. However, the truly best way to view the quickly changing sky is to hop on board a luxurious catamaran and set sail to some of the most sensational, offshore locations spread out along the Caribbean coastline.
The Luxury Sunset Sailing Tour offers you this one-of-a-kind opportunity. Jump onboard one of many luxurious catamarans and gain a front row seat to one of life’s most breathtaking occurrences. To make it just that much more romantic, enjoy snacks and cocktails from the ships open bar as you take in the fresh air and multi-colored horizon.
Equipped with a bilingual staff, round trip transportation, access to sunset tour, life jackets, snacks, and an open bar, this is the perfect evening get-a-way for those looking to add a little romance and class to their vacation. Lasting five hours, this is a great evening experience for couples or the entire family. Get ready to relax and marvel at the colors and the Caribbean sky – a truly rejuvenating experience.
10. Explore the Maya jungle in an ATV Adventure
Covering nearly every inch of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a lush, green ecosystem known as the Mayan jungle. Home to diverse wildlife, vegetation, and some of the country’s most spectacular natural wonders, the Mayan jungle is a treasure that every adventurer looks to explore.
With its vibrant, green landscapes colliding against the contrasting blue hues of the Caribbean ocean, it’s impossible to miss this remarkable Caribbean rainforest. Arriving to some of its greatest attractions isn’t always easy – but it sure is fun! One of the best ways to wind through its many dirt roads and overgrown trails is via the ATV Adventure tour.
Allowing participants the opportunity to embark on an unforgettable, jungle experience, this 4×4 tour is ideal for the adrenaline junky who doesn’t mind a little speed while exploring. When I say exploring, I mean it! Participants will be able to swim in, rappel into, and zip line over lively, freshwater cenotes and snorkel in a magical underground river surrounded by phenomenal rock formations.
Equipped with a bilingual staff, round trip transportation, ATV vehicles, activity equipment, entrance fees, snack, and refreshments , this is an excursion no thrill-seeker wants to miss. With few opportunities to jam pack this much action in a single day, this is an outdoor experience you are guaranteed to appreciate.
There you have it – the best activities to experience in Riviera Maya. As you begin the process of planning your unforgettable vacation, remember to enjoy the process from start to finish. The beauty, culture, and personality of the Riviera Maya is unlike any other destination around the world. Regardless of what you choose to do, you are sure to be left feeling grateful for having experienced such a one-of-a-kind destination. As they say in Mexico “agarra la onda”, or “go with the flow”, and let the Mexican Caribbean take you on a remarkable ride.