Things to do in Riviera Maya

Things to do in Riviera Maya

David Durán

The best way to reach Riviera Maya in Mexico is by flying into Cancun, but don’t let that scare you off so easily. Yes, Cancun is known as a party destination and is typically overflowing with a fascinating mixture of college students, first-time international travellers from the U.S., as well as cruise ship folk. But that being said, the airport is ultra convenient and jumping in a rental and driving right out of there is typically pretty easy. Just a few kilometres outside of Cancun begins the stretch of all-inclusive hotels that make up a good portion of Riviera Maya, and although there is a mixture of high-end to budget saving types of all-inclusive properties, Mr Hudson recommends avoiding all-inclusive hotels, all together. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of one hotel and not want to leave the property, but Riviera Maya and the surrounding areas have some pretty spectacular things to see, all relatively nearby, so in order to make the most out of your experience, making the time to venture out of your hotel is the best way to go.

Spa day – you’re going to need it

We all need some relaxation time, and whether you opt to take it at the start of your trip after a long flight, in the middle of the trip for a recharge or at the end of your holiday, the spa is a must. Be sure to book in advance at Banyan Tree Spa and combine the Rain Forest experience with a treatment. The Rain Forest is a private experience for solo guests or couples and is a hydrothermal circuit compromising of alternating hot and cold thermal cabins. Guests are guided through the circuit with a spa attendant to ensure maximum results and to avoid prolonged exposure within the cabins. It’s something unlike anything else and really is a soothing way to get you in spa mode. Afterwards, guests are led to a private overwater cabana where spa treatments begin with a ritual food scrub and wash. The Banyan Tree Spa has a variety of treatments and packages available to choose from.

Dinner and drinks at Mayakoba’s newest hotel

Mayakoba is a planned resort community consisting of four luxury hotels on the Riviera Maya, and the newest addition to the group is the Andaz Mayakoba, Hyatt’s hip lifestyle brand, catering to a sophisticated yet fun demographic. The modern design and clean lines of the Andaz are impressive at first sight, and the property itself is beautifully spread out. There are four restaurants at the Andaz. Mr Hudson recommends OllaCeviche, a casual, fresh seafood open-air restaurant located on the beachfront of the resort. Be sure to pair your meals with any of the tequilas or mezcals from their abundant collection. For something a bit more casual, visit OllaTaco, another open-air concept that offers authentic regional dishes and elevated street food with a selection of tacos, tortas and other Yucatan specialities, all expertly paired with local beers.

What to see in Riviera Maya

Tulum is a resort town on the coast of the Riviera Maya, about 130km from Cancun. Additionally, there’s a Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park, which overlooks the ocean. The ruins are mostly base structures, but there are still some buildings left standing, thanks to a massive on-going restoration process. At the entrance of the park, tour guides who speak various languages are available to guide you through the grounds, and to provide information on what took place there, what each structure was used for, and to explain what has been restored and what is original. Beyond the ruins located on a cliff, down below via a set of stairs is a gorgeous beach with turquoise waters – said to be one of the most picturesque beaches in Mexico. After exploring the ruins, head down for a beach day and enjoy some homemade fresh fruit popsicles typically sold by vendors on the beach.

Head to an island and dive underwater

Cozumel is a Mexican island off the coast of the Riviera Maya, easily reached by ferry or tour boat from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. It’s a popular cruise port, so the little town is often filled with tourists, but what makes Cozumel extraordinary is Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, where there are diving spots around a section of the Mesoamerican Reef, making it one of the best snorkelling and diving spots in the area. Additionally, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte is a collection of submerged sculptures, and makes for fascinating underwater images. Marine life lovers can also bask in the glory of Chankanaab Eco Park, which surrounds a lagoon with underwater caverns, home to dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. Your hotel can prearrange trips to Cozumel, or one can simply head to town and pick a tour from the various booths selling packages.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Blend in with the tourists, even if just for one night

5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen is the major avenue filled with t-shirt shops, souvenir stores as well as big-box retailers. There are tonnes of bars, restaurants and hotels, as well as people. 5th Avenue is the place to go to party all night, and although it can be off-putting, heading there for a night can be a good time! If you are hoping for an authentic Mexican restaurant, visit Aldea Corazon; it has a stunning patio that surrounds a natural cenote. Among the madness of the shopping and bars is the sleek and modern Thompson Playa del Carmen, a great refuge for upscale cocktails and people watching.

Where to stay in Riviera Maya

Going back to the planned private resort community of Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba is Mr Hudson’s choice for where to lay your head at night. The resort is made up of all private villas, each with the minimum of a private heated swimming pool. Each oversized villa feels like a home and makes it hard to want to leave the property, but resist the temptation and make some time to see what’s outside of the gates. The resort is connected to the additional three resorts by bike pathways as well as waterways, which offer boat service to and from each property.

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