Riviera Maya

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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.

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.

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.

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ˆTotal 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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