Riviera Maya

Destination Location

Riviera Maya
Hotel reviews summary
4.0

Our guest rating from 2 reviews

Overview

Explore and relax on the more than 200 kilometres of white sand beaches stretching along the blue-and-green Caribbean Sea. In the state of Quintana Roo, you can splash and play in the waters home to the world’s second-largest coral reef – a protected natural resource.

Just a 30-minute drive south of Cancun is the quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos, a perfect spot for a peaceful holiday where you’re able to easily buy the fresh catch of the day at the pier.

For the best strolling and shopping, head to the cosmopolitan beachside city of Playa del Carmen. It’s filled with hip boutique hotels and pedestrian avenues offering plenty of souvenirs and other goodies. Just an hour’s drive south of here (or two hours from Cancun), you’ll find the laid back town of Tulum, offering seaside archaeological wonders, superb beaches and romantic hideaways.

The Riviera Maya’s coastal jungle is home to huge adventure eco-parks, thriving wildlife and large archaeological sites of ancient Mayan civilizations. Explore these sites on excursions to places like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere just south of Tulum.

You’ll also find a wide range of accommodations to suit any budget. All-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels are found in abundance along the coastline. Enjoy the beach and pools during the day, then watch Las Vegas-style shows with your family in the evening. Or, if you prefer, snuggle up in a hammock hanging next to the ocean, bordered only by breathtaking jungle.

Riviera Maya is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • romance
  • culture and history

Airport served by: CUN

Destination basics

With average daily highs hovering around 28 C to 33 C year round, the Riviera Maya boasts a warm and welcoming tropical climate.

During the most popular travel months, December through February, temperatures are still quite warm, with highs of 28 C and lows of 19 C. The hottest months are June and July, when highs can sometimes reach 40 C! Luckily, cooling coastal breezes help keep things comfortable.

Seasons fall into two categories – dry (November to April) and wet (May to October). The most rainfall occurs during the months of September and October.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Riviera Maya

When you travel to the Riviera Maya, you’ll find yourself transported back in time to a place where the great Mayan civilization once flourished. The areas where the Mayans once had sophisticated settlements and performed religious rituals are now archaeological sites.

Two notable sites are Coba and Tulum. Coba is a two-hour drive from the city of Playa del Carmen. Many different tour operators take groups out to explore this 70 sq. km area. You’ll also find a network of roads linking this historic commercial and artistic centre to outlying areas.

Take a bicycle tour or rent a bike on-site to explore the pathways. The most striking feature at Coba is the Nohoch Mul pyramid – the highest structure in this part of the Yucatan. Climb to the top of its narrow steps and you’ll be rewarded with a great vantage point to view the surrounding jungle.

At Coba, a tour by the Mayan Express offers a performance by local Mayans of an ancient form of battle with musical accompaniment. In addition to these cultural excursions and activities, you can also discover Mayan art, architecture, pottery and clothing.

The town of Tulum is a two-hour drive south of Cancun, or a one-hour drive south of Playa del Carmen. Tulum means “wall,” which seems fitting when you visit the ruins there. The temple was built seaside and faces the Caribbean. There is also a beautiful beach here.

There are stucco masks at the corners of the temple and the remains of a large mural. At the centre of the ruins is El Castillo, meaning “the castle.” It is this site’s tallest structure. Although the ruins here are not for climbing, they still draw many tourists.

During the pre-classic period (400 B.C. to 250 A.D.), Mayan priests pre-occupied with astronomy and mathematical calculations believed in a cyclical, rather than a linear, concept of time. Take a tour and learn about how these beliefs translated into ancient Mayan healing rituals, and even Mayan games depicting the journey of souls.

You should also consider attending a Mayan ceremonial night with Dos Palmas Eco Tours. During this tour, you’ll get to participate in an ancient purification ritual led by a village shaman. There is chanting, offerings and a rustic Temazcal sauna in an igloo-like structure, similar to a sweat lodge. Long ago, Mayans performed similar ceremonies in the hopes of being reborn as warriors. Following the ceremony, you’ll be treated to a delicious Mayan meal, followed by a swim in a natural freshwater pool. If you love experiential travel, this is one tour you don’t want to miss.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in the Riveria Maya area. Canadian currency, debit cards, and travellers cheques are not widely accepted, so using pesos is usually easiest.

To exchange your Canadian cash or travellers cheques, stop by one of the many banks, exchange kiosks or your hotel front desk. Just don’t forget your passport – it’s required to cash your travellers cheques.

You can also withdraw cash from ATMs found in banks, grocery stores and hotels. Normal banking hours are Monday to Friday, typically from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with some branches open Saturday. Most exchange kiosks are open late.

Although American money is widely accepted, regulations are now in place to limit the amount of U.S. cash both residents and visitors can exchange in Mexico. Some financial institutions have imposed limits of US$300 per transaction, however many local businesses will only accept a maximum of US$100 per transaction. Even smaller businesses have chosen to forgo accepting U.S. money altogether, so the recommended way to pay is with Mexican pesos or credit card.

Mexico's largest island, Cozumel, is a heady mix of cosmopolitan restaurants, hotels and shops set amidst astounding natural beauty. It has become famous for its superb scuba diving, and also as a cruise ship destination where stylish amenities are offered in a simple island atmosphere.

San Miguel de Cozumel
Cozumel's only town, San Miguel, has a laid back elegance combining the charming remnants of colonial Mexico with the conveniences of modern life. Its heart and soul is the center plaza, known officially as Parque Benito Juarez, but often referred to as the zocalo, or simply as Plaza Central. Shops, restaurants and hotels surround the plaza, and since the whole area is blocked off to traffic, it can become quite crowded. Still, the area is a pleasant place for a paseo (walk), particularly on Sunday evenings when the locals gather to enjoy the free open-air concerts and dances. The main stretch, Avenida Rafael Melgar, is lined with high-end jewelry boutiques, souvenir shops, department stores and restaurants.

Running parallel to Avenida Melgar is the malecón, an ocean-side boardwalk decorated with sculptures commemorating events in Cozumel's history. Follow it north to the tidy Museo de la Isla de Cozumel to learn more about the Maya. Downtown San Miguel is also the place to find family-owned hotels with lower prices and a more Mexican atmosphere. When the plaza or main streets get congested from cruise ship traffic, walk east from 25 Avenida A onwards into the more residential neighborhoods, where the small tiendas (stores) and markets charge local prices.

Costera Norte
North and south of San Miguel are where the luxurious hotels and beaches start. The Costera Norte (North Coast), informally called Zona Hotelera Norte, begins just past the airport road. Much of its beachfront has been taken over by posh resorts with their grand lobbies and pools. The longest beach is Santa Pilar Beach, followed by San Juan Beach. Here the north road ends and you must take a boat to reach the pristine north coast lagoons, such as Laguna Ceiga or the uninhabited Passion Island.

Costera Sur
The Southern Hotel Zone, located along Carretera Chankanaab, and also known as the Costera Sur, offers the best beaches beginning at Corona Beach and ending at Palancar Beach. The famous coral reef running parallel to this part of the coast is a protected zone called Parque Marino de Cozumel.

The first attraction along the way is the popular Chankanaab Park, a park with a landlocked lagoon connected to the sea. Just off the fine sandy beach is excellent snorkeling where you can spot tame fish, underwater statues, a sunken ship and a pirate cannon.

The two largest beaches, San Francisco Beach and Mia Beach, are popular spots with the cruise ship crowd that swarms both beaches by early afternoon. On Sundays, San Francisco Beach is the gathering spot for Mexican families who come to enjoy the beach and bring along their music, games and family picnics. You may want to visit Mr. Sancho's for its free admission, laid-back beach atmosphere and good Mexican cuisine. Crowds and noise aside, both beaches offer excellent swimming and snorkeling. Those in search of more tranquility can follow the highway west to where Costera Sur takes a northern turn becoming the Costera Este (Eastern) Highway. Here the beaches are wild, wind-swept and, for the most part, deserted. Along the way is Cozumel's original settlement founded in 1847. El Cedral is now a charming farming community known for its country fairs. Beside its modern church are the remains of the oldest Mayan structure on the island. Signs along the highway will point you in the right direction.

Parque Punta Sur to Punta Molas
Just as the highway turns north you will find Punta Sur Park, a national wildlife refuge. Inside the park is the ancient Mayan lighthouse, El Caracol, which was built as an early hurricane warning system. At the southernmost tip is Celarain Point Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse that has been transformed into a navigational museum.

Paradise Beach is the first beach just outside of the park's entrance. Close to Chen Rio Beach are two smaller Mayan ruins, El Mirador and El Trono. The best beaches for swimming are found at the crescent shaped Chiqueros Point cove and at San Martin Beach. If you are on this beach during the full moon in May or June, you may see giant sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Further north is Morena Point, which is popular with surfers and boogie boarders because of its pounding surf.

Punta Este has a blustery beach, perfect for beachcombing, and is the final stop before the paved highway turns west and becomes Avenida Benito Juarez, leading back into San Miguel. An unpaved road continues north, leading to some of the most unspoiled beaches: Ixpal Barco, Los Cocos, Hanan Reef, Ixlapak and Playa Bonita are all what you would expect from a Caribbean beach. Along the way is the Mayan ruin of Castillo Real. The roads end at Mola Point Lighthouse, the island's most northern point. A tour is recommended to explore this extremely rugged area.

Ixchel's Ceremonial Center
Located in the lush sub-tropical forest, the serene San Gervasio ruins were once a ceremonial center where Ixchel, the Maya goddess of fertility and childbirth, was worshipped. Believed to have been occupied from 300 to 1500 CE, San Gervaiso has many excellent examples of Classic and Post-Classic Mayan architecture. Guides are available at the site, but you can also buy an excellent guidebook at the museum in town.

Mainland
Cozumel is 11.5 miles (18 km) from the mainland and Carmen Beach, one of the largest cities along the Riviera Maya coastline, is a 45-minute ferry ride away. From there it's a one hour bus ride south to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, or north to the mega-resorts of Cancun. Other nearby attractions include underground caves, snorkeling at Xel-Ha, and the unashamedly commercial Mayan theme park, Xcaret.

As one of the world's premier vacation destinations, Cozumel offers visitors a variety of things to see and do. In addition to a vibrant nightlife, visitors can entertain themselves by shopping, dining, playing mini-golf, visiting ruins, sunbathing, surfing, bird watching, fishing, horseback riding and, of course, scuba diving and snorkeling.

Nightlife
Most of Cozumel's nightlife is in its only city, San Miguel. There is no nightlife on the east coast since the few restaurants there close at dusk. Downtown bars open until the wee hours include the Hard Rock Cafe with its great music and bar along with Carlos 'n Charlie's and Fat Tuesdays. Both open-air bars are known for their loud, party atmosphere. Cactus Bar and Restaurant is a recent additon and has quickly become a popular spot to check out the party with its large dance floor and live music. Smoke Cuban cigars while listening to hot jazz at The Havana Club. Enjoy the Sunday Fiesta at Plaza Central, a live open-air concert with Mexican or Caribbean song and dance. The island's oldest disco Neptune Dance Club is opened on the weekends and is quite popular with the locals as well. The laid'back Mariac Hi Bar and the Stadium Sports Bar are both excellent places to people watch or to become aware of the latest sports scores. For those with a more cultivated sense of culture can go to the posh Arrecifeco and listen to live classical guitar.

The Casa de la Cultura offers local programs of music, dance, theatre and art. Every Thursday evening at the Feria Mexicana there's a folkloric dance performance. If you are lucky enough to be on the island during Carnaval(mid-February to March), you are in for an explosion of music, dance, parades and parties that fill the streets.

The largest movie theatre on the island is now the Cinepolis Complex, just minutes away from downtown San Miguel. It shows the latest Hollywood blockbusters with Spanish sub-titles. Two other, older theatres named Cine Cozumel and Cinel Cecillo Borge, also show English movies.

Shopping
Shoppers can get easily get their fix at a variety of stores selling Mexican handicraft art, souvenirs, clothing, diamonds and gold or silver jewelry. There are plenty of bargains to be found at the open-air markets just off the square. Los Cinco Soles is a popular souvenir stop, especially with the cruise ship crowd. Cozumel is famous for its jewelry stores. Among the most visited are Diamonds International and Rachat and Romero, which offer excellent choices in diamonds, gold and silver jewelry. Because Cozumel is a duty-free shopping zone there are some great bargains to be found on luxury items.

Outdoor Fun
With 285 days of sunshine a year, Cozumel offers endless hours of fun in the sun. There is something for everyone to enjoy on the island.

The Atlantis Submarines adventure is an amazing exploration of the reef, but is very expensive. A more reasonable alternative is a trip aboard the glass-bottomed Principe. Both Natural Adventures and Rancho Buenavista offer horseback riding through the jungle. Tours that explore the island's northern end on ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) can be arranged with Wild Tours or Tarzan Tours.

Deep-sea fishing is also a popular activity. Scuba divers will find plenty of underwater sites to explore. The most popular reefs are on the southwestern side of the island. Paradise Reef, Chan Kanaab Reef, Villa Blanca Wall, Santa Rosa Wall, Palancar Reef and Plane Wreck are just a sampling of what you can expect to find beneath the turquoise waters. There is no shortage of scuba diving companies and tours. There are also none that could be considered inexpensive. Aqua Safari, Caballito del Caribe and Eagle Ray Dive School are some of the more experienced companies on the island.

On the mainland, popular tourist attractions include the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, the natural aquarium Xel-Ha and the 250 acre, eco-archaeological park Xcaret.

Two inexpensive attractions are the San Gervasio ruins and Parque Punta Sur. You will find the most expensive part is the transportation out there. Chankanaab Park is an excellent bargain since your entry fee includes an archaeological park, botanical garden, a museum, a free dolphin show and great snorkeling. A fun family evening can be had at Cozumel Mini-Golf, an 18-hole miniature golf course. For a more educational family experience visit Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, which has historical and natural exhibits about the island. For those on a budget, there is still plenty to do in Cozumel, provided you bring your own snorkel gear. You don't have to pay any entry fee to get onto the beaches since all beachfront is Federal Property with free access to everyone. Plaza las Glorias allows visitors to snorkel as long as they buy something at the bar. Corona Beach has few crowds but good snorkeling. For lots of action you can visit San Francisco Beach or Playa del Sol. You won't find as many swimmers along the eastern beaches due to much heavier surf and a strong undertow. Surfers like to gather at Punta Morena, where the waves are high and burgers are cheap. (Families should take their children to the west coast beaches where the surf is much calmer.) You can also hike along the northern road that starts where the Costera Este Highway ends. The beaches there are wild and beautiful and camping is permitted.

Windsurfing, kayaks and jet skis are available on most of the beaches. However, renting them turns free fun into expensive fun.

Many of the restaurants on Cozumel serve Mexican fare that focuses on seafood. However, visitors can also enjoy French, Italian, Cajun and Yucatecán cuisine. Fast food chains, including KFC, Subway, Burger King and Baskin Robbins, are in abundance in downtown San Miguel. Street vendors sell everything from corn on the cob to fresh orange juice. If you are really lucky you may come across one selling homemade hot tamales.

Cozumel is not a late-night town, since most of its visitors are up bright and early to enjoy the sights or dive the reef. What little nightlife there is on the island is confined to San Miguel. Restaurants along the east coast tend to close at sunset since many do not have electricity. But downtown party goers keep things hopping from the late afternoon until midnight. A few clubs and bars stay open until 2am, along with an elite handful that cater to die-hards and stay open all the way to 5am.

San Miguel
As the only city on Cozumel Island, San Miguel sees a lot of tourist traffic. During the day the city's numerous restaurants and bars are packed with tourists, many from the cruise ships docked at the international pier or day-trippers from the mainland. Reservations are recommended at those places that accept them. It is a good idea to arrive early at those restaurants that do not accept reservations. Lunchtime, particularly if a cruise ship has arrived, can be the most hectic meal of the day. Most of the fine dining restaurants do not open until the evening and do not cater to the cruise ship crowd.

Avenida Rafael Melgar is the most heavily traveled street in San Miguel, so naturally the most popular restaurants are clustered here, many with waterfront views. Jeanie's Restaurant offers hearty breakfasts until 3:30p. Pizza lovers will be happy at Nino's Pizza or at Guido's, where the pasta is also fresh and delicious. Java drinkers and people-watchers frequently stop in at Coffee Bean or Rock and Java Café to enjoy a cup of coffee, delicious pastries or a quick bite.

The island's Italian ex-patriots hang out at La Cucina Italiana (that includes the chef). Be sure to check out Pancho's Backyard for its delightful Mexican menu. Those who like to get off the beaten track will enjoy the innovative cuisine of La Cocay. This small restaurant is considered the best on Cozumel.

Casa Denis, La Choza and El Turix are all recommended for the adventuresome who would like to try Yucatecán dishes like pollo pibil (chicken in banana leaves) or poc chuc (pork steak marinated in a sour orange sauce) and tikinchic (fish in a sour orange sauce). These regional delicacies are world-renowned and shouldn't be passed by.

As for bars, Carlos 'n Charlies is generally the most popular as it is in the center of the downtown party circuit. Margaritas and frozen daiquiris are the most recommended beverages at Fat Tuesday, another open-air bar that has a DJ who keeps the joint rocking. The Hard Rock Cafe is part of the Cozumel party tradition, where having a good time is priority number one and T-shirt buying has become a routine custom. Los Dorados De Villa is known for its impressive tequila selection and generally stays crowded until closing. Neptuno Dance Club is another great place to go dancing. For those who would like listen to hot jazz and smoke Cuban cigars, The Havana Club is just the place.

North Hotel Zone
Just north of San Miguel, there are several fine restaurants worth the 15-minute drive. The Palma Azul beachfront restaurant offers a laid-back atmosphere and casual dining. It's located in the Playa Azul Hotel. Half a block away is the kitschy La Cabana del Pescador, a lobster lover's haven.

South Hotel Zone
For a laid back option to enjoy Mexican food , there's the Hogtown Café.

Eastern coast
When leaving San Miguel, follow the Costera Sur Highway until it turns north into the Eastern highways. Right at the crossroads is the funky Paradise Café, where margaritas and reggae are a way of life. A few miles further at San Martin Beach is Coconut's Bar and Grill. Located on the island's only hill, it has a spectacular view and offers light fare that is popular with divers and casual diners. The highway ends at Mezcalitos Bar & Restaurant, the quintessential beach restaurant on the dramatically beautiful beach of Punta Este. From here it is a short haul back to San Miguel.

Cozumel

State: Quintana Roo

Country: Mexico

Cozumel by the Numbers
Population: 86,000
Elevation: 1 meter / 3 feet
Average Annual Rainfall: 149.1 centimeters / 58.7 inches
Average January Temperature: 22.9°C / 73.2°F
Average July Temperature: 27.2°C / 81°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110-120 volts AC, 60Hz; standard North American two-pin plugs

Time Zone: Central (GMT-5)

Country Code: +52

Area Code: 987

Did You Know?
The Mayans were the first to occupy Cozumel, settling on the island in the 1st millenium BCE. They considered the island to be sacred and dedicated it to Ix Chel, the Moon Goddess. Many temples were built here and were places of pilgrimage, especially by women seeking fertility.

Cozumel is one of the top destinations for SCUBA diving and snorkeling in the world.

Orientation
The island of Cozumel is located just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 19 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Playa del Carmen.

Located in the state of Quintana Roo, on the eastern coast of Mexico, the Riviera Maya extends from south of Cancun to the northern borders of Belize. Its Caribbean coastline showcases pristine, crescent-shaped beaches and clear, blue-green waters that draw visitors from around the world. Here, you can indulge in snorkelling, swimming, scuba-diving and other water-based adventures.

On the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, the waters stay a comfortable temperature year-round, averaging an inviting 27 C. Places like Akumal have clear waters and spacious beaches, offering an ideal place to swim with the sea turtles native to the Rivera Maya.

The area also has the world’s second-largest barrier reef, stretching past the length of the Riviera Maya and on to Guatemala. With mangrove swamps, low tropical jungles and white sand beaches, the area’s natural geography includes vast expanses of beach dotted with caletas (rocky coves). The lush jungles also play host to numerous eco-parks.

The Riviera Maya landscape includes some 100 cenotes (seh-NOTE-ays), a feature unique to the Yucatan Peninsula. These freshwater pools are formed by rainwater that corrodes the limestone found throughout the area. The cenotes also provide a source of drinkable water for the region.

With more than 700 km of underground caves, there are also plenty of opportunities for cave diving, scuba diving and snorkelling.

Cozumel has a history that spans three epochs and three different cultures. During the time of the ancient Maya, the island was known as Ah-Cuzamil-Peten—Land of the Swallows. From 300 CE until the arrival of the Conquistadors in the 15th Century, Cozumel was an important trade and religious center. Merchants came to buy the salt and honey produced on the island. The Maya considered salt and honey more valuable than gold. Historians believe the El Caracol ruin was built as an ancient lighthouse to guide these travelers safely ashore.

Cozumel was also the religious center for Ixchel (Lady Rainbow), the Maya goddess of fertility, pregnancy and childbirth. Ixchel is one of the most important gods in the Maya religious pantheon as she is the mother of all other gods and rules not only over life and death but the moon and bodies of water. Every woman in Mesoamerica was required, at least once in her life, to make a pilgrimage and place an offering on Ixchel's altar. Pilgrims departed the mainland from what is now Carmen Beach and Tulum, making the treacherous channel crossing in open canoes. Today, the remains of Ixchel's altar and ceremonial center can be seen at the San Gervasio ruins.

The island was first discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1518 when Juan de Grijalva who was blown off course on his way back from Cuba. Grijalva's present to the island can still be viewed in the Church of San Miguel. He mentioned the island to Hernán Cortés, who arrived the next year in search of gold. Instead he found two shipwrecked Spaniards. Geronimo de Aguilar and Gonzales Guerrera had been living on the island with the Maya for over 15 years, first as slaves but finally as citizens of the community. Legend has it that de Aguilar was so happy to be rescued that he jumped from shore and started swimming towards the Cortès' ship when it was still 20 miles away. Guerrera chose to remain on the island with his Maya wife and family. Aguilar, bitter about his treatment by the Maya, helped the Conquistadors set up a military base on the island to wage war on them. Guerrera, on the other hand, died defending his adopted community. It is interesting to note that while de Aguilar is considered a hero in Spain, it is Guerrera who is revered in Mexico. His offspring, known as the Mestizo, are considered the founders of the Mexican race. By 1570 most of the Maya population were dead, murdered by the Conquistadors or killed off by disease. By 1600 Cozumel was abandoned.

By the early 17th Century pirates had discovered Cozumel. The dashing Henry Morgan used the island as a stopover during his raids around the Caribbean between 1658 to 1688. Another legend on the island has Jean Lafitte, who caroused the waters near Cozumel between 1814 and 1821, hiding from his pursuers in the safe harbors of the Passion Island. Both pirates were responsible for sinking a number of cargo ships, some of which can still be seen in the briny depths just off the northern shore close to Molas Point Lighthouse (northern lighthouse). Cozumel remained uninhabited until 1847, when 20 families fleeing the Spanish backlash over the Maya rebellion during the War of the Castes settled on the island and founded El Cedral. Many of their descendants are still living on the island. Cozumel soon settled into a forgotten island community.

In the late 19th Century a new candy put Cozumel back on the map. In 1880, a Mexican general, Antonio Lopez de Santa, imported a ton of chicle to the States after noticing the natives of Mexico and Central America chewing this gummy sap from the zapote tree. He gave it to Thomas Adams who tried to create rubber with it but instead came up with chewing gum. When Frank and Henry Fleer coated their gum with sugar and called it "Chiclets," chewing gum became the most popular candy in America and the demand for chicle reached an all time high. Men called chicleros were hired to find the zapote trees and process the sap into gum that was shipped to chewing gum factories in New York. Cozumel again became an important port, with ships stopping to pick up the chicle gathered from all over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize and Costa Rica.

When the Chicleros began clearing Cozumel's jungle, they discovered long forgotten ruins. Soon archaeologists began visiting the island to document the new discoveries. When the market for chicle crashed due to the invention of the airplane and synthetic chewing gum, Cozumel went back to being an almost deserted island. Its only export became copra - the dried kernels of coconuts that contain coconut oil. More on Cozumel's trade and shipping history can be seen at the navigational museum in the Celarain Point Lighthouse.

During World War II, the American military landed on the island and set up a submarine base and airfield. Unfortunately, in the process they dismantled most of the Maya ruins without realizing what they were destroying. In the 1950s Cozumel became a resort town for wealthy Yucatecans who came to the island to fish, sunbathe and escape the heat. A display in the Cozumel Island Museum outlines the history of the founding families and the very first luxury hotels.

In 1961, Jacques Costeau did a dive along the reefs and came away so impressed with what he saw that he introduced Cozumel to the world on his popular television show. In 1974, when Cancun was being built and Quintana Roo was finally a state of Mexico, rather than a territory, Cozumel became a popular dive destination. And after that — as they say — the rest is history.

Located just a short distance from Cancun International Airport, the stretch of land from Punta Tanchacté to Punta Allen (known as the Mayan Riviera) offers many hassle-free ways to get around and explore.

Public Transit in Riviera Maya

The bus system in the Mayan Riviera is reliable and inexpensive, making it one of the simplest methods of transportation available. One fare is only 8 pesos (approximately C$0.80) and buses run along the main highway (Hwy 307) all day, seven days a week.

Colectivos – The Van Caravan

A colectivo is a van transit system offering passengers a way around Mexico’s many winding highways and roads – and in the case of the Mayan Riviera, main Highway 307. You’ll find these vans running every five to 15 minutes, every day of the week between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In the Mayan Riviera, most colectivos are newer style minivans with air conditioning. Colectivos provide an economical mode of transportation, especially for longer distances, offering fixed rate fares around 30 pesos (about US$3) per person.

If you’re staying at a large hotel or resort, you’ll want to avoid travelling by colectivo during peak shift change times (especially around 5 p.m.), where vans become crowded with resort employees. Also, keep in mind that if you’re staying at a hotel or resort near Tulum and looking to catch a colectivo north, the passenger count will continue to grow as you travel past each stop along the way. You’ll find yourself in the same situation if you’re staying in Playacar or near Playa del Carmen and taking a colectivo due south.

Other Bus Travel

You may also encounter a larger Mayab bus stopping to pick people up along the side of the highway. Fares on the Mayab buses cost the same as the colectivos but travel is only between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

You’ll likely also see older, beat-up-looking buses travelling along the 307. Most of these buses are used to transport resort and hotel staff to and from the city. While the cost is the same as a colectivo, visitors are probably best opting to take other, safer modes of tourist transit.

Please note: The Canadian government recommends only traveling by bus or car during daylight hours and suggests sticking to first class buses to ensure safety.

Catching a Cab in Riviera Maya

Be cautious when taking taxis in Riviera Maya. It is recommended that guests only take hotel taxis or those based out of designated taxi stands (sitios). Consulting with your hotel’s concierge before travel can be helpful in determining the best rate. Guests will also often find standard taxi rates displayed in hotel lobbies. But keep in mind that within the hotel zone, individual fares vary depending on distance travelled.

All government-authorized taxis have licence plates beginning with the letter A or B. You can identify these taxis by their company logo and plate number stamped on the side of the car.

Rentals

There are several car rental businesses found in the Yucatán Peninsula. From just outside Cancun International Airport to dealerships in nearly every tourist area, you’re sure to find a rental dealership on the way to your hotel. Feeling adventurous? Rent a motorcycle!

Scooters

Many resorts offer scooter rentals to help you get around town a little quicker than by foot. But beware of the scooter shops along the beaches. Many of these shops rent old scooters that may not be up to modern day safety standards.

Airport Information

When traveling to Riviera Maya, you’ll fly into Cancun International Airport. During your flight, you’ll receive two forms. One is your Customs Declaration Form. The other is your Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners or FMM for short. One Customs Declaration Form is to be filled out per family, while each guest must complete an individual FMM.

In Mexico, there’s a tourism tax of US$20 per person. For your convenience, when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in the price of your airfare.

Arrival – Customs Declaration Form & FMM

Upon arrival at Cancun International Airport, you’ll be guided to the immigration hall where visitors will form a line to meet with a Mexican immigration officer. This officer will ask you for your passport and your FMM and may also ask you a few questions as to the purpose of your trip, how long you will be staying and if this is your first time in Mexico. The officer will then stamp the FMM and return a portion of it to you.

Important: Keep your FMM with you in a safe place at all times during your trip. Mexican authorities can ask you to present this form at any time and you will need this document when you depart the country.

After passing through immigration, you’ll pick up your bags and proceed to customs. A customs agent will ask you for your Customs Declaration Form and ask you to press a button on a traffic light-looking device. A green light means you get to pass through without inspection, while a red light means your baggage will be inspected. Should you get the red light, you’ll need to open your baggage and the Customs Officer will perform a quick inspection.

Once you depart customs, you’ll see representatives from transfer companies, tour operators and timeshare sellers in the corridor soliciting business. If you’ve purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations, please continue through the corridor until you’re outside the airport terminal. There, you will be greeted by a friendly Best Day Travel representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign. Best Day representatives can be identified by their navy blue pants and white shirt with a large navy and red Best Day logo.

Once you’ve found a Best Day Travel representative, identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you’re on your way. A short bus ride and you’ll find yourself in the gorgeous Riviera Maya.

Departure

When departing, you’ll need to provide officials with your signed FMM card. Lost FMMs can be replaced at the airport or at the immigration office before you check-in for your return flight. However, there is a fee to obtain a replacement card.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that all travellers to Mexico get vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus before leaving Canada.

Mexico uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Riviera Maya has a distinct mix of pristine white sand beaches, turquoise Caribbean waters, emerald-green jungles and sprawling archaeological sites. Add the beachside cities and towns and you have an intriguing holiday destination. There are options for every traveller here, from keen-eyed adventurers and families looking for fun, to couples looking to enjoy cozy hideaways and romantic sunsets.

It is not uncommon for visitors to spend a few nights of their Riviera Maya holiday in Cancun. There, you can sample the nightlife, luxury resorts and party atmosphere before (or after) heading south.

Most people who vacation solely in Cancun also take at least a half-day to sample the eco-parks, archaeological sites and Mayan cultural excursions available in Riviera Maya.

Playa del Carmen is a one-hour drive south of Cancun. It is a smaller city than Cancun and even as it grows, it’s retained its more relaxed, urban vibe. Riviera Maya is the midpoint between Cancun and the town of Tulum.

You can use Playa del Carmen as a base from which to go snorkelling or diving at the nearby island of Cozumel. Or, as a starting-off point for jungle adventures, including exhilarating ziplines. Playa del Carmen mixes beautiful beach with urban delights. It has a small but vibrant nightlife scene, hip downtown boutique hotels and upscale beachwear shops.

In Riviera Maya, you can find beautiful beaches and jungle all the way along the coast, but the pace seems to slow the further south you go.

When traveling to Riviera Maya, you’ll fly into Cancun International Airport.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in the Riveria Maya area.

Located just a short distance from Cancun International Airport, the stretch of land from Punta Tanchacté to Punta Allen (known as the Mayan Riviera) offers many hassle-free ways to get around and explore.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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