20 Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Riviera Maya, Mexico
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Turquoise ocean water sparkling at your feet, fresh white sand along the shores of the beach, thick green vegetation and palm trees wherever one looks, and a glass of your favorite drink in hand—all of this make for a picture-perfect holiday at the beach.

Hawaii and the Maldives are there, but to get the perfect out-of-the-box feel, you need to find other gems spread across the globe; otherwise, where is the fun in traveling?

Riviera Maya can prove to be the quintessential escape land or beach paradise you have been searching for.

It's an excellent place to get some much-needed solace from the everyday humdrum of 9-to-5 life and the chaos of the crowded world in general.

One cannot possibly imagine a better tourist spot than this, as Riviera Maya is officially known to exist primarily in the tourism sector in Mexico territory.

Riviera Maya is known as the "resort and tourism district" of southern Cancun in Mexico and was initially called the "Cancun Tulum Corridor."

Hence, one can only imagine the endless list of attractions and experiences this district has to offer.

These are the best things to do in Riviera Maya, Mexico:

Visit the Marine Paradise That Is Xcaret Park

People swimming at Xcaret Park
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This magical place is located at the Carretera Chetumal-Puerto Juarez 282.

Xcaret Park is a theme park that opens into the waters of Riviera Maya.

The entire park has one after the other things to do and areas to visit.

It's home to animals and birds, such as the pelican, flamingo, and red macaw.

Xcaret Park is often called Mexico's sacred paradise for its obvious scenic bounty.

Red macaws at Xcaret Park
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Opened in 1990, this park represents the biodiversity and cultural finesse of Mexico.

There are underground rivers here, and tubing is very common.

They have their own beaches, and people often go birdwatching and swimming almost everywhere, from the lagoons and the rivers to the pools.

There is a scenic watchtower that rotates and a tropical jungle trail, too.

Xcaret Park comprises several restaurants, pavilions, art galleries, aquariums, miniature caves, waterfalls, small cottages, extensive and well-maintained gardens, and much more to discover.

Kayaking at Xcaret Park
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Explore the Unforgettable Cenotes Dos Ojos Reefs, Caves, and Caverns

Cave diving in Tulum Riviera
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Dos Ojos is one of the top attractions to visit in Riviera Maya.

There are geological jewels for you to spend your day admiring.

Take a guide, and you can explore the deepest crevasses of the planet.

Swimming and scuba diving are only some of the things you can expect to do here.

Cave diving at Cenotes Dos Ojos
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Take your swim fins and dive in to see the coral formations, a world full of fish, different species, and other sea creatures.

The caves and hollow formations that easily allow people to enter are also a wonder to witness.

You can also go boating in the area.

Underwater cave at Cenotes Dos Ojos
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Visit the Breathtaking Tulum Archaeological Zone

Tulum archaeological site
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The Tulum Archeological Zone, also known as the Tulum Ruins, is known for its scenic beauty.

Apart from this, this attraction is of immense historical and archaeological value.

Tulum, a town in Riviera Maya, was originally a part of the pre-Columbian walled city of Maya that was used as a port of Coba.

Aerial view of Tulum Archaeological Zone
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This area gracefully holds up the coastal remains and ruins of that age-old history.

The ocean is located nearby, and from the 12-foot-tall cliff, you can see the stony piece of architecture still standing erect, white in its shade.

It's a humbling treat to watch the blue waves of the water that add to the picturesque view here.

The ruins at Tulum Archaeological Zone
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Enjoy an Interactive Experience at Croco Cun Zoo

Iguana at Croco Cun Zoo
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Located in Puerto Morelos, Croco Cun Zoo is not your ordinary zoo.

Unlike other zoos, you don't just get to see animals from afar.

Croco Cun Zoo is often called the petting zoo because at this place, you can literally hold and touch the animals.

This place is also a rehabilitation center for animals and a rescued zone, so it is bound to soften your heart.

Along with the animals, the area also features a full-fledged jungle.

Don't be shocked if you get to hold a baby alligator, a boa snake, chameleons, a baby chimp, lovebirds, or rainbow macaws with your own hands.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Akumal Beach

The waters and sand of Akumal beach
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Located in the small town of Akumal, this beach should be on your bucket list if you are traveling to Riviera Maya.

Akumal Beach is a much-preferred beach for visitors who want their solace and calm from the world instead of a noisy beach filled with people and loads of activity.

Wooden sign of Akumal Beach
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The beach sand is a major source of attraction here, owing to its powdery white hue and stark cleanliness that is well-maintained.

Going for a swim is totally an option, and spotting starfishes or angels or sea turtles swimming with you is always a possibility.

Other activities like paddle boating are also quite popular here.

Turtles swimming on Akumal Beach
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Visit the Awe-Inspiring Rio Secreto

The beautiful Rio Secreto Cavern
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The mysticism starts with the name itself, Rio Secreto.

Once you reach there, you might feel like you've discovered a secret water cave.

This place possesses the precious underground river of Mexico, which is one of the rarest geographical possibilities on earth, depending on the geological conditions of the area.

The coral formations hang from the cave in sharp cone shapes all around, and the water reflects the trapped sunlight into the cave walls, giving the entire location a film set-like view.

These rivers and caverns are as old as time gets.

Fall in Love with the Blue Yal-Ku Lagoon

People on the water of Yal-Ku Lagoon
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Everybody loves blue lagoons, and this is as scintillating and blue as a lagoon gets.

Located in Akumal, the Yal-Ku Lagoon is another natural blessing on earth.

People are obsessed with coming here with their families and floating in the blue waters.

Wooden railing to swim the waters of Yal-Ku Lagoon
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You will find green patches of vegetation between the waters, amplifying the lagoon's scenic beauty to another level.

Don't forget to take your fins so you can go for a deep swim.

While you are at it, you might just spot a native toucan with a beautiful yellow beak on a branch beside you.

Daytime view of Yal-Ku Lagoon
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Tour through Aktun Chen

Snorkeling at Aktun Chen
Fraguando, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another mind-blowing pocket of nature awaits you at the Aktun Chen caves and caverns.

Once you go down the hole, the entire under area is bound to spark your eyes with its soft caramel coral rock formations and cobalt blue water sparkling with sunshine trapped in between the walls.

Rock formations in Aktun Chen
Fraguando, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When visiting Aktun Chen, you can swim with a thousand fish all around you—only a few things on earth can possibly be better than this!

On land, you can enjoy other activities like animal watching or zip-lining.

You can also go boating in the waters here.

Explore the Cenotes at Kantun Chi Eco Park

A wooden lounge chair surrounded with plants at Kantun Chi Eco Park
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This all-in-one eco-park is located in the municipality of Puerto Aventuras.

The Kantun Chi Eco Park is filled with water caves, and what makes it unique is that even inside the rock formations, there are ethnic sculptures made out of rocks that increase the aesthetic value of the area.

These caves can be reached after a five-minute walk from the jungle.

The beautiful caverns of Kantun Chi Eco Park
NickSpinder / Shutterstock.com

You can go for other activities like snorkeling or paddle boating.

There are restaurants that serve traditional Mexican food, along with shows that will entertain you.

This park alone has four to five cenotes for visitors to explore.

Swim in the Waters of the Mystic Gran Cenote

The waters of Gran Cenote
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This beautiful and cozy spot is located on the highway to Coba.

Gran Cenote is a perfect location for you and your family to spend a fun-filled and enthralling day at Riviera Maya.

There is a single water cave where all of you and your dear ones can swim together, sometimes with beautiful sea turtles.

View from Gran Cenote's underwater
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The swimming area stretches across 140 meters.  

Above, there is an entire area of more than 100 meters with a beautiful wooden bridge and other spots like a garden, where you can relax with your family by the water pocket and take beautiful pictures.

Plants and trees at Gran Cenote's garden
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Have a Fun-Filled Day of Snorkeling at the National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos

When visiting the district, it's a must to set aside time for one of the most loved activities to enjoy at Riviera Maya: snorkeling.

Snorkeling adventures are available for people of different ages and levels of expertise, ranging from amateurs and toddlers to adults and professional snorkelers.

There are creatures to witness in those waters, from stingrays to octopuses.

This is a reef area with another beautiful white beachside, with greens all over the periphery.

You can go on a mini-speed boat ride here, too.

You can also unwind by sitting in the resting area with beach chairs that give a perfect view of the blue sea.

Get Thoroughly Charmed at Akumal Monkey Sanctuary & Rescued Animals

Akumal Rescue Sanctuary & Rescued Animals will prove to be a heartwarming place that you and your family will cherish forever.

The sanctuary aims to rescue hundreds of animals, especially wide variety of monkeys from different parts of Mexico.

It's home to various types of monkeys, from spider monkeys to Capuchins.

It does not end here because you can also see other creatures like gorgeous pink flamingos, shining snakes, and an array of birds, from green parrots to green beaked toucans.

You can hold and feed most of the creatures, and the monkeys seem to be extremely friendly, along with ducks and boa snakes.

Walk and Shop along the Colorful Quinta Avenida

People walking along Quinta avenida
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Situated around Playa del Carmen, this landmark will help you get the city's true aura and authentic flavors to know it better.  

Quinta Avenida is located here, which can be called one of the coolest streets in Mexico, with an overpowering array of goods to buy, stuff to eat, and things to do.

Liquor stand at Quinta Avenida
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Ask for what you want to buy, and you will find at least one shop selling it, from jewelry to paintings to souvenirs to the most incredible fabric and bohemian-style clothes.

You can even find antiques and painted cars here.

Colorful sombreros for sale at Quinta Avenida
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Enjoy Thrilling Dolphin-Watching at Dolphin Discovery Tulum-Akumal

Dolphin at Tulum Akumal
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Dolphin Discovery Tulum-Akumal is a beloved animal zone with a specialty in dolphins.

Here, you can perform lots of activities like going boating with your family on the waters.

Guided boating tours are also provided to take you to the prettiest and most active areas in terms of sea creatures.

Apart from this, there are plenty of water sports you can enjoy here, which is always a real treat for families.

The most exciting part, however, is that at Dolphin-Discovery, you are allowed to swim along with the dolphins within the marked water boundaries.

Lose Yourself in the Pleasures of the Kaan Luum Lagoon

Aerial view of the gorgeous Laguna Kaan Luum
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Another favorite attraction in Tulum and Riviera Maya, the Kaan Luum Lagoon is one of the coolest lagoons here.

The most attractive thing about the lagoon is its stunning color combination.

Welcome sign of Kaan Luum Lagoon
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At the beginning of the beach, the waters are very light and green to minty in color, but as you look beyond or go deeper, the waters become dark to ultramarine blue.

The waters are not so deep, hardly up to the waist; hence, you and your kids can easily go for a nice swim.

There is also an extremely aesthetic and long wooden bridge above.

Swing sets built on Kaan Luum Lagoon's water
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Look into the Water World through Cenote Chaak Tun

The view from inside Chaak Tun Cenote
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Your trip to Riviera Maya must end with a visit to an out-of-the-world cavern or cenote, as they call it in Mexico.

Cenote Chaak Tun has repeatedly proven to be a traveler's favorite over the last two decades.

The waters of Cenote Chaak Tun
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Located in Playa Del Carmen, this cenote is said to have one of the most high-end and professional environments, services, guides, and staff.

Snorkeling should be a must on your list while you are here.

You will come to know a lot about Mexican marine life here, all while swimming amid sea creatures and beautifully alive plantations.

Plants in Cenote Chaak Tun
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Explore Xel-Há Park

Dolphins jumping from the waters of Xel-Ha Park
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Xel-Ha is a natural water park and one of the best theme parks in the area.

Strap in for an entire day of fun, snorkeling, food, drink, and lots of adventure!

The waters of Xel-Ha Park
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You can go snorkeling for as long as you want and see the magic and beauty of the sea with your own two eyes.

There’s also a scenic lighthouse and several caves in the area you can visit and explore.

Beach huts and chairs at Xel-Ha Park
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Experience the Amazing Zip Lines

Zip Line at Riviera Maya
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If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Xplor has one of the best zip line parks in the entire world.

Discover the freedom of flying, the wind against your face, and the rush of excitement in your blood as you zip down their route.

The circuit is more than 2 miles long, and its highest point stands at 49 yards high.

You’ll land in a pool of water that’ll surely wake you up if the trip down didn’t do that enough.

The water is nine yards deep, so you won’t have to worry about having a hard landing.

Make a Hammock Splash

Hammock zip line at Riviera Maya
Jareth Ley / Shutterstock.com

If zip lining isn’t fun or exciting enough for you, have you tried hammock zip lining?

It’s not as demanding as normal zip lining, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless.

More than that, hammocks may just be the signature item of Riviera Maya, so you’re combining culture and adventure into one activity!

Once you land in the water, you’ll leave the area through a small cavern path.

While there, you’ll get a glimpse of a prehistoric environment, so make sure to take in as much of it as you can.

After all, you’re not going to see something like that anywhere else.

Steer a Raft on Your Own

The underground rivers of the area, which are the result of millions of years of erosion, are the perfect place for rafting and exploration.

Put on your adventuring gear and get on a raft to go through these mysterious and prehistoric caverns; you can do it on your own or with a partner.

Show off your navigation and coordination skills as you propel the raft through the waters yourself.

You’ll pass by narrow paths and unique geological formations, so make sure to be careful while going on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Drive Amphibious Vehicles

Riding Amphibious vehicles at Riviera Maya
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Get the chance to drive an amphibious vehicle for miles through the terrain and feel like you’re on a cross-country adventure.

Pass through hanging bridges and flooded caverns like in your own Indiana Jones movie.

And, you’ll also be treated to spectacular and awe-inspiring views of the jungle; it’ll definitely be more than enough to take your breath away.

The tour consists of two circuits, each of which has five kilometers, so there’ll definitely be more than enough to see and do while you’re exploring.

But remember that you need to be over eighteen and a licensed driver to be at the wheel, so make sure you have the appropriate documents needed.

Final Thoughts

The beaches of Riviera Maya are a magic of their own, and there’s really no substitute to experiencing them first hand.

The shining waters, the clear blue skies, the wonderful scenery, these are just small parts of what makes this place so amazing.

As for the others, those are something you’ll have to discover for yourself when you finally visit.

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