Top 10 Things To Do on the Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen is located on a pristine stretch of coastline on the eastern Yucatan peninsular, known as the Riviera Maya. The Riviera Maya offers world class accommodation, unique natural wonders, beautiful beaches and historic treasures which make it a popular vacation destination for people from all over the world. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Things To Do to assist you with you next visit.

1. Experience the Unique Vibe of Playa del Carmen

Riviera Maya Playa del Carmen

‘Playa’ as it is known by the regulars, is a cosmopolitan town on the Caribbean Sea, securing a special place in the hearts of all who visit. Sparkling waters, fantastic restaurants, lively night life and friendly people are just some of the possible reasons why this town is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Riviera Maya.

2. Swim In a Cenote

Natural, geologically formed pools filled with cool clear fresh water are scattered all along the Riviera Maya. Known for their refreshing, healing qualities, swimming in a cenote is an absolute must for visitors. Our favorites are Cenote Azul, Cristallino and Dos Ojos (Two eyes).

3. Snorkel with Sea Turtles

Riviera Maya Akumal

The protected bay of Akumal is the feeding ground for a number of sea turtles. All year round, these majestic creatures feed on grasses growing from the sandy sea floor and don’t seem to mind inquisitive visitors watching them eat. Snorkel gear can be hired onsite.

4. Step Back in Time at Coba

Riviera Maya Coba

The ancient Mayan city of Coba makes a great day trip from Playa del Carmen. Take a guided tour and learn about ancient Mayan prophecies, hire bicycles to explore the vast grounds, then climb to the top of the main pyramid and imagine yourself as a powerful Mayan king surveying a great kingdom.

5. Chill out in Tulum

Riviear Maya tulum

The beaches of Tulum are famed for their underdeveloped shores and turquoise waters. Grab a good book, spread out a towel and soak up the laid back vibe.The Mayans who inhabited the city in ancient times certainly had good taste in real estate!

6. Dive the World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef

The waters off the Riviera Maya are home to one of the world’s most spectacular reef systems. Most dive companies are located in Playa del Carmen or the nearby island of Cozumel, and can arrange a tour to suit you.

7. Celebrate the Day of the Dead at Xcaret

Day of the Dead Playa Del Carmen

Xcaret is an ecological themed park offering excellent activities all year round, but its ‘Festival of Life and Death’ in early November is not to be missed if your visit coincides. Funerary exhibitions, ghoulish face painting, excellent theatrical performances and a variety of food stalls are just some of the highlights of the festival to mark the famed ‘Day of the Dead.’

8. Discover Untouched Natural Treasures at Sian Ka’an

South of Tulum, discover ‘Paradise on Earth’ at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a protected area of untold natural and ecological beauty. Take a boat ride through the lagoon to discover manatees, dolphins and unique bird life, then feast on fresh lobster at a water front restaurant in the tiny town of Punta Allen.

9. Become a Beach Afficianado at Xpu-ha and Xcacel

playa del carmen beach club

Discover the lesser known beaches of Xcacel and Xpu- ha south of Playa del Carmen, then decide which is your favorite. Is it the natural, rugged beauty of Xcacel, or the laid back beach bars and aquamarine waters of Xpu-ha? You decide.

10. Slip into ‘Mexico time’ in  Puerto Morelos

Riviera Maya Puerto Morelos

A sleepy fishing village just north of Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos retains a relaxed atmosphere whilst offering great restaurants and one of the best English book stores on the Mayan Riviera. Pick out a great book then read it over fresh ceviche or seafood tacos and forget about having a ‘To Do’ list at all.

For more information on transport options and tours for the above activities, contact our concierge service.

Mexico Espectacular at Xcaret

Xcaret is an ecological theme park, located just six kilometers south of Playa del Carmen. It offers a wide range of natural and cultural activities such as swimming with dolphins, admiring unique animal life and snorkeling through an underground river.

My visit to Xcaret, however, was for one reason only, to see the ‘Mexico Espectacular’ show that had been recommended to me by a Mexican friend. I figured that if a local thought the show was worth seeing, it would have to be something special!

On entering the park I was greeted by these amazingly colorful flamingos and parrots and just had to stop for a photo with these beautiful creatures.

playa del carmen activities

The ‘Mexico Espectacular’ show begins every evening at 6 pm, so after a quick tour of the park, we made our way to the impressive open-aired theater. Despite being so large, it was already filling up, so we secured some seats near the back with a clear view of the stage. Shortly after, the lights fell and the large crowd was hushed into silence, holding flickering candles which shone through the darkness.

Mexico Espectaular at Xcaret

To our left, high up in the seating area, a group of musicians dressed in traditional Mayan costume began drumming and playing music, setting the scene for the performance. The stage was bathed in light and the first performers took to the stage in impressive tribal dress.

playa del carmen activities

Next came the highlight of my evening, a reenactment of an ancient Mayan ball game. I have visited a few ancient sites such as Chichen Itza, but could not imagine how the players would have successfully moved the ball through the stone rings on the outer walls of the court without using their hands.

playa del carmen hotel activities

But there on the Xcaret stage, right before my eyes, the ball was skillfully passed back and forth between the opposing teams using their legs, hips, shoulders and heads, but not their arms or hands. When the first team got the ball through the ring, the crowd went wild, including me as I was so impressed that it was actually possible!

The ball game was worth the ticket price in itself, but that was just the beginning. Over the next couple of hours we were treated to a visual and musical spectacular; a smorgasbord of traditional Mexican dance, music and colorful costumes.

playa del carmen activities

The crowd must have consisted of many Mexicans as well as tourists, because they clapped and sung along with their favorite songs, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.

playa del carmen hotels activities

My mind boggled at the sheer number of performers that rotated onto the stage throughout the night. Either it was a very large cast or they were extremely efficient costume changers!

playa del carmen hotels activities

Either way, I was so impressed by the quality of all the performances, as well as the wonderful live music played throughout the show.

playa del carmen activities

playa del carmen hotels activities

Even our very own Caribbean coast was represented!

It really was a magical night that surpassed any expectations I had. A celebration of Mexican culture and history, from the ancient Mayan era to the modern day, I can thoroughly recommend Xcaret’s ‘Mexico Espectacular’ show to any visitor to Playa del Carmen. A theatrical extravaganza in a world class venue, it’s hard to believe that it runs every single night of the year… but it does!

Tip: The Mexico Espectaular show is included in the price of all Xcaret tickets, and runs every evening from 6 pm. The ‘Xcaret at Night’ ticket allows entrance to the park from 3pm and costs US$59. Full day passes start at US$79.