Best Mayan Riviera Beaches
The Mayan Riviera is a stretch of immaculate Mexican beaches spanning the towns between Puerto Morelos in the north and Tulum in the south. The pristine shoreline features aquatic activities, luxury resorts, soothing spas and vivacious nightlife.
Puerto Morelos is considered to be the gateway to the Mayan Riviera. Its warm, welcoming beaches match the temperament of its people. The main beach is in the center of town, with smooth, natural sand and cerulean waters. To the north and south of this are smaller, private stretches of sand belonging to resorts. The Ocean Coral & Turquesa Beach Resort is a 5-star hotel located to the north of Puerto Morelos. The modern accommodations offer old-fashioned pampering and service, as well as some of the best sand and sun in the Riviera.
The reef surrounding these idyllic beaches is a protected national marine park and houses tropical fish, dolphins, turtles and corals. It's the perfect place to snorkel and appreciate the natural beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Playa del Carmen
A beachside city that grew up just south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen is now the primary tourist destination in the Riviera. La Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, is the main pedestrian throughway, and it's flanked with restaurants, boutiques, luxury shopping and nightlife. The street runs parallel to the ocean, making it a popular meeting place after a day spent soaking in the sun.
The beaches are most populated along Fifth Avenue, where many resorts are located. The crowds taper off the farther north you go from this bustling city center. Many resorts are not only beachside, but they have rooms that all offer views of water, be it the lagoon tributaries or the crystal Caribbean.
One affordable accommodation option is Hotel Kinbe, which is located just off Fifth Avenue. It features lush gardens and fantastic views, and you'll be only steps away from the hum of Playa del Carmen's nightlife.
Xcaret, located just south of the center of Playa del Carmen, is an eco-archaeological park brimming with culture, nature and adventure. The beach here is perfect: sugary, white sands meet the warm, crystalline waters of the bay. There are plenty of beach loungers in the shade of the palm trees, as well as inner tubes for rent if you want to lounge in the calm waters.
Lazing on the beach is the most relaxing activity Xcaret has to offer. Turn the adventure up by scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, diving in the underground rivers, exploring the coves of the lagoon, floating down Paradise River or taking a guided shark tour.
On dry land, you can tour archaeological sites, enjoy a Mexican wine tasting and take part in Xcaret's nightly performances, which combine traditional Mexican food, dance and theater.
Xel-Ha Inlet and Ruins
Mexico’s Xel-Ha ruins, part of the Xel-Ha Lagoon Eco-Park, is located between 2 Maya archeological sites -- Akumal and Tulum. The lagoon was a popular trade port between towns along the coast and to Cozumel. Some structures still have painted hands and other drawings of the Maya.
Angelique800326, Wikimedia Commons
Akumal features some of the most stunning beaches on Earth. Offshore reefs protect the silky, white sand and filter warm water currents through the coastal caves and subterranean rivers.
In the Maya language, Akumal means "place of the turtles." This natural refuge is still a popular spot for sea turtles to lay their eggs; see them between the months of May and November on the beach at Half Moon Bay. The protected reef is a favorite snorkeling and dive site. The Akumal Dive Shop has all the gear you'll need and is easily accessible from the main road entering town.
While enjoying Akumal's natural beauty, consider staying at the eco-friendly Del Sol Beachfront. Its green policies are kicked up a notch during the turtles' nesting season. Lights are removed from all the balconies, and the security guards are all environmentally certified to assist turtles nesting on Vista del Mar's stretch of beach.
Tulum is the only archaeological site located along the Caribbean shores in the Mayan Riviera. More than 60 structures can be viewed within the massive walls that protect the ancient Mayan city from the sea. The principal structures of the ruins include the city square, the Temple of the Descending God and the Temple of the God of Winds. Within the city square is El Castillo, which was used as a lighthouse, standing alone on the bluff and offering stunning views and a sense of historical awe.
There is a small beach beside the Temple of the Descending God where you can swim and sunbathe beneath this ancient city — the same beach where Mayan trade ships would have docked at Tulum centuries ago.
Our list of the best beach resorts in Mexico.