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13 Wonderful Things to Do And See in the Riviera Maya

Traveling to the Riviera Maya? Here are the best things to do and see in the Riviera Maya including Cenotes, Mayan Pyramids, Biological Reserves, and more!!!

The Riviera Maya is Mexico’s number one tourist destination by far and there are way too many attractions here that it might feel overwhelming for first-timers and frequent visitors alike.

Luckily, here’s a guide to the 13 best things to do and see in the Riviera Maya in my personal opinion after spending many months living in Cancun (and honestly, please skip Cancun, I mean it Haha).

Ready to visit the Riviera Maya’s best sights? Here we go!!!

The 13 Best Things to Do and See in the Riviera Maya

Visit Chichen Itza, the New 7th Wonder of the World

Known as one of the new wonders of the world, Chichen Itza (often pronounced Chicken Pizza by tourists) is THE most beautifully crafted Mayan Pyramid. It is also the busiest and most expensive of them all.

Located near Valladolid, Yucatan, Chichen Itza can be reached by car from any point of the Riviera Maya in under 3 to 4 hours depending on departure points and traffic. Bring tons of water and a hat!! You’ll need them for sure!

Also, every year during the Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza, there’s a magnificent astronomical event in which the shadow of the serpent at the base of the pyramid “moves” as if it was crawling. Those Mayan sure were some excellent astronomers!

Entrance fee: 70 MXN (3.5 USD) plus an additional Yucatan Government fee of 172 MXN (8.5 USD) for foreigners and 92 MXN (4.5 USD) for Mexicans. Free on Sundays for Mexican nationals and residents.

Droning allowed?: Yes. Special (and very expensive) permit required from INAH. Must do it at least one week in advance.

Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World
Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World

Scuba Dive or Snorkel in the Epic Cozumel Island

From Playa del Carmen (check out this cool Playa del Carmen for Digital Nomads Guide!), you can take a very convenient 1-hour ferry ride to the island of Cozumel, known as THE best spot for diving and snorkeling in the Riviera Maya by far.

The underwater world of the Riviera Maya will delight you in every single sense with its diverse marine life and color. Last year we went on a full day snorkeling trip and we absolutely loved it.

However, if you have the time (and skills), I definitely recommend you to embark on a diving liveaboard. Night dives for the win!

Entrance fee: Free (diving itself will cost you extra of course).

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required.

Swim in the Dos Ojos Cenote of Wonders

A Cenote is a natural sinkhole of groundwater found very commonly in the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan peninsula. Some of them are caves while others are more like open spaces.

In any case, swimming in them is one of the best experiences you can have in the Riviera Maya and the Cenote Dos Ojos, located near Tulum, is one of my favorite ones by far.

I mean, just take a look at the color of the water!!! Crazy uh? For an extra fee, you can even dive into the underwater cave system!

Entrance fee: 350 MXN (17.5 USD)

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required. But it’s a dark cave. Why would you want to drone inside a dark cave?

Things to do In the Riviera Maya
Every Steph floating in the Dos Ojos Cenote

Spend a Day of Adventures and Culture at the Xcaret Park

The Xcaret Park will marvel you with a full day of crazy unforgettable adventures although it also features many diverse cultural shows in which you can witness what is it about Mexico that makes it one of the most unique countries in the world.

The price might be a little bit steep but it is definitely worth it for the amazing value you will get. Xcaret Park is located a few minutes south of Playa del Carmen and you can easily get here by ADO bus.

Looking for more adrenaline rush? Then a visit to Xplor is a must! Zip-lines, off-road driving through caves, and much more, will make your Riviera Maya adventure super extreme my friends!

Entrance fee: 99.99 USD for Xcaret and 129.99 USD for Xcaret Plus.

Droning allowed?: Yes. Special permits required. Just ask in advance.

See the Mexican Pink Lakes AKA Las Coloradas

The Pink Lake of Mexico is a living example of the dangers of Instagram to tourism. After an article went viral and everyone wanted to visit, there are now very strict limitations such as no drones and no swimming at the Pink Lakes.

That being said, they are still beautiful to take some out of the world photos so it’s not a huge loss if you ask me. Prepare your pink floaty and well…don’t actually put it in the water or the security guards will escort you out of the premises.

PS. Be sure to arrive in the morning or noon to ensure the sunlight will turn the water pink. During the afternoon the color of the water will start to change to normal once sunset approaches so plan accordingly!

Entrance fee: Free.

Droning allowed?: No. Although you can take off from a reasonable distance and still see the Pink Lakes from above.

Things to do and see in the Riviera Maya
The Coloradas Pink Lakes

Meet the Iguanas of Tulum and Explore the Ruins

The ruins of Tulum are some of Mexico’s best pyramids and are conveniently located very close to Playa del Carmen and Tulum town making them the ideal choice for people that don’t have the time or patience for the 3-hour drive to Chichen-Itza.

Here you will find many friendly Iguanas (don’t worry, they’re harmless!!!) as well as the impressive ruins of this Mayan city overlooking the pristine waters of the Riviera Maya. Unmissable!

PS. If you want an alternative eco-friendly experience, how about some fancy glamping (glamorous camping) at Tulum town with Harmony Glamping?

Entrance fee: 70 MXN (3.5 USD). Free on Sundays for Mexican nationals and residents.

Droning allowed?: Yes. Special (and very expensive) permit required from INAH. Must do it at least one week in advance. But…you could always rent a boat (or take a snorkeling tour that stops near Tulum ruins) and take off from there.

Experience the Chill Vibes of Playa del Carmen

If you’re looking for nightlife but want to avoid the extremes of Cancun, then Playa del Carmen is your best choice for a base to explore the Riviera Maya since it has a very convenient location to all of its attractions.

Plus, it is said that you can find cuisine from anywhere in the world here so it’s perfect if you’re craving for a plate from back home after your 2-week taco “diet”. The beaches of Playa del Carmen have beautiful white sand although they do get super crowded quite easily.

My best tip? Find yourself a nice hotel with a rooftop and just chill with your friends or loved ones for some pre-drinks before the big parties. I definitely recommend the Illusion Boutique Hotel and ask to be placed on the last floor. Best ocean view ever!!!

Entrance fee: Free.

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required.

Things to do in the Riviera Maya
Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya

Answer to the Call of Nature in the Cenote Nicte-Ha

At the entrance of the ticket booth for the Cenote Dos Ojos you will be given the option to pay the entrance fee for more Cenotes that are located nearby. And while it might be tempting to try to visit them all, my recommendation is to just focus on the Nicte-Ha Cenote.

This open air Cenote is just plain beautiful!!! Featuring amazing vegetation and wildlife (I really hope you’re not afraid of tiny frogs and tortoises), here you can just float and relax while you forget about all the problems in the world.

Don’t forget your colorful bikini for that ‘gram photo and enjoy the least claustrophobic cenote of them all!

Entrance fee: 100 MXN (5 USD)

Droning allowed?: Yes. Unofficial tip to the person in charge of watching the place. Sometimes you can fly for free if no one is around.

Behold the Wildlife of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Sian Ka’an is my personal favorite place of the Riviera Maya in terms of untouched nature and diverse wildlife. Here you can watch crocodiles, manatees, dolphins, sharks, mantas, sea turtles and countless bird species all on the very same day!!!

Take some Dramamine for the bumpy road between Tulum and Sian Ka’an and enjoy a beautiful boat ride followed by some epic snorkeling and finally, hearty seafood lunch at Punta Allen before returning back to your hotel.

Oh, and did I mention how you can actually see more than 7 different colors of water here? The Riviera Maya never ceases to amaze my friends!

Entrance fee: Free but requires a tour.

Droning allowed?: No at the Biosphere itself (think of the birds!!!). Yes at Punta Allen. No extra fee or permit required.

Crocodiles at the Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Crocodiles at the Sian Kaan Biosphere

Feel the Weirdness of the Cenote Calavera (Skull)

This cave Cenote is definitely one of the most off the beaten path ones. Granted, it is just a normal sinkhole but its main attractive is how it is oddly shaped like a human skull when seen from above.

The Cenote Calavera is rarely visited in the mornings so this is your best shot for taking a photo without anyone in the background!!!

Would you dare take the staircase to the depths of this creepy Cenote?

Entrance fee: 100 MXN (5 USD).

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required.

Explore the Ruins of Coba and Zipline through Mayan Jungle

Unlike Tulum or Chichen-Itza, the ruins of Coba are the only ones of the entire Riviera Maya that you can actually climb and oh my, that sure is a long and steep climb, my friends! 120 steps and 42 meters (137 feet) tall on a sweaty sunny day? Challenge accepted!

And after you accomplish it how about relaxing for the rest of the day kayaking over beautiful lakes and zip-lining through the Mayan Jungle followed by an authentic ceremony by a Mayan priest?

With Alltournative you can enjoy all of this in the same day. Who wants to zip-line over a Cenote? Me me me!!!

Entrance fee: 70 MXN (3.5 USD). Free on Sundays for Mexican nationals and residents.

Droning allowed?: Yes. Special (and very expensive) permit required from INAH. Must do it at least one week in advance.

The Mayan Ruins of Coba. Things to do and see in the Riviera Maya
The Mayan Ruins of Coba

Treat Yourself to an All-Inclusive Resort in the Riviera Maya

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: real travelers don’t stay at all-inclusive resorts!!! But hear me out for a second: there’s a big difference between resorts that cater to foreigners only and resorts that cater to everyone.

During my stay at the Gran Bahia Principe Tulum I was able to enjoy authentic Mexican food, cultural shows that display Mexico’s amazing heritage, excursions to the Mayan Ruins, and much more really set this All-Inclusive resort apart from the competition.

Plus, how about having a private beach from where you can fly your drone?

Entrance fee: Varies depending on the season.

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required (but I recommend you to do it early in the morning to avoid bothering other guests).

Have an Unforgettable Time in Holbox Island

Holbox Island is to many what Tulum and the Riviera Maya used to be a few decades ago: no real roads, a few properties here, and a lot of untouched natural beauty. A real hippie paradise if you ask me.

To get to Holbox Island from the Riviera Maya you’ll have to take a bus to the northernmost tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and from there take a quick ferry ride to paradise.

Trust me, when you arrive, you’ll never want to leave these comfy hammocks over the ocean!!! What more can you ask of life, my friends?

Entrance fee: Free.

Droning allowed?: Yes. No extra fee or permit required.

How to Get to Holbox from Cancun
The Man of Wonders at Holbox. 28. Single. Call me maybe?

When is The Best Time to Visit the Riviera Maya?

Weather-wise, December to May is considered to be the best season to visit the Riviera Maya since it is mostly dry. June to August sees some occasional rain but nothing major to worry about at all. Prices drop a lot from September to November so this is considered to be the best time to visit usually.

No matter what, you will always have the guarantee of at least some hours of sunlight daily so just visit whenever you hear (and wallet) desires to.

Usually, I recommend travelers to spend at least 2 weeks to see every major highlight on this list although, in theory, you could rush it in one week if you’re super short on time.

And yes, drinking a coconut a day is the best for keeping the beer belly away (or so I’ve heard)!!! Who wants to drink a Corona? Or two…or nine.

Finally, remember that you can make a booking for any Riviera Maya hotel or hostel via our Affiliate Link of Wonders! Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours. Sweet deal, uh?

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the best things to do and see in the Riviera Maya. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Have you ever been to the Riviera Maya? Would you like to? What were some of your favorite things to do and see in the Riviera Maya? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Until next time, my friends!

Things to do in #RivieraMaya #Mexico #Cancun #Tulum #PlayadelCarmen #Cenotes #ChichenItza
Things to do in Riviera Maya