The Riviera Maya opens up a world of amazing things to see and do! It is natural to want to cover as much ground as you can while still being able to stick in a little bit of relaxation by your hotel pool or the ocean.
I would like to share with you my ultimate day trip, which takes you to the beautiful cenotes, eco-friendly beaches of Akumal and blissful Tulum! This day trip combines exploration, relaxation and amazing food!
My husband created this little makeshift tour, and it was one of the first adventures I had while visiting the Riviera Maya (before living here). And now whenever we have family or friends visiting we are always sure to make the same rounds!
To give yourself the most freedom on this trip I do recommend renting a car. Getting around in the Riviera Maya is pretty easy with bus transportation and van service but having a car will give you the most freedom and convenience.
I would suggest waking up early and having a good breakfast before heading out! The earlier you leave the better, but if you leave Playa del Carmen or Cancun by 10 am or Cancun by 9:15 am you will have plenty of time to enjoy a full day!
The first stop (about 15 minutes away from Playa del Carmen), takes you to some of the most beautiful cenotes in the area. A cenote is a natural fresh water sinkhole. They are stunning to the eye and incredibly refreshing to swim in – especially on hot days! There you are surrounded by nature in its purest form. There are a few different cenotes located on this path, each with different features. My absolute favorite is cenote Cristalino! Every cenote has a small entrance fee but it’s not that expensive and totally worth it! Cenote Cristalino is a bit more expensive but more organized and offers more for the price. They offer life jackets, snorkel gear (at a small extra cost), cleaner bathrooms and picnic areas. And it features a nice jump off point for those who are looking for a little bit of a thrill. Other amazing options are Cenote Azul and Jardin de Eden. All of these choices are great for swimming and cliff jumping. When I say cliff jumping I mean about 10 feet high!
We tend to spend a couple hours swimming in the cenote before heading off to Akumal! Akumal is only another 15 or 20 minutes south of the centotes. You will want to make sure you enter Akumal from the right hand side of the highway which takes you to the beachfront of Akumal. At the entrance you will find yourself in a small little village where you are able to park. The village itself is quite charming and you can find small cafes and shopping options. Here you are only steps away from the beach. Akumal is a beautiful beach town known for the amazing sea turtles. This is a very eco sensitive area as this is where the turtles lay their eggs before being released into the ocean. This part of Akumal features very calm waters which is perfect for snorkeling. I highly recommend anyone visiting Akumal brings along snorkel gear as the sites under the sea are amazing. The most well-known adventure in Akumal is to swim with the giant sea turtles. If you bring your own snorkel gear it is completely free. If you don’t have snorkel gear with you, it can be rented for a small fee. You will also find plenty of fish and a sting ray or two. The beach itself is super relaxing. Just find yourself a spot under the palm tree and relax. If you are hungry there is a great restaurant under a palapa right on Akumal beach, or you can jump back into your car and head a few minutes down the road to the famous “La Buena Vida” restaurant where you can enjoy a great meal, cocktails and a beautiful view of Akumal bay.
Shopping, Mayan Ruins, Relaxation
Once you have had a couple of amazing hours in Akumal it’s time to head on to Tulum! Tulum is typically known to tourists for the history of the Mayan Ruins but it is also very well known for having the most pristine virgin beaches. Tulum is a special town with a very Bohemian feel. If you are interested in seeing the Mayan Ruins I suggest that being your first stop before heading to the beach as you want to make sure you have sufficient daylight. It doesn’t take very long to walk around. You can do this with a tour guide or go out on your own. After visiting the ruins you head down to the well-known bohemian path of beaches where you will find plenty of small boutique hotels, cabanas and beach clubs. My favorite is “OM” beach club which is a further ways down along the route. It has been famously known for their bench overlooking the ocean which says, “The only chair you will remember for the rest of your life.” Perfect spot for picture taking! At the beach club you will find comfortable beach chairs, umbrellas and a full food and bar menu! Happy Hour normally starts after 5 pm! Although the sun does not set over the ocean you will still experience a beautiful view while the sun is getting ready to go down, as the sky turns beautiful colors over the ocean. Once the beach day has come to a close I recommend heading into the central part of town just to walk around, have dinner or have a coffee or ice cream in one of the small cafes.
Then, you will head back North on the high way back to your destination. If you are staying in Playa it will be about a 45 minute drive. If you are staying in Cancun it will be around 90 minutes. For those of you who do take this trip I certainly hope you enjoy every second of it! Eat, drink, swim, relax and soak up the beautiful Caribbean sunshine! That’s what vacation is all about!