Fringed by a lush jungle and washed by the tranquil Caribbean Sea, the Riviera Maya Beaches are among the best in Mexico, mostly deserted, and when the sargasso weed is not invading, the best spots to swim and enjoy the refreshing water. In this post, I will tell you about my favorite beaches in the Mayan Riviera and how to get there.
The first time I came to Mexico, I spent 6 months working as a tour rep, and I would drive up and down the Riviera Maya to visit my guests vacationing in some of the hotels along the coast. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I would stop by one of those hidden bays to enjoy the soothing view and cool down. Fast forward 15 years, those pristine beaches are certainly less deserted but still charming and appealing.
WHERE IS THE MAYAN RIVIERA LOCATED
Although it’s easy to include Cancun in the Mayan Riviera, it is wrong. In fact, the Riviera Maya is that stretch of beach that begins in Puerto Morelos and ends in Tulum. It’s lined by the Carretera Federal, also called Route 307 that crosses over the entire state of Quintana Roo, from Cancun to Bacalar.
I am sure that staying in one of the stunning hotels in the area will discourage you from going out to explore, but I assure you, if you love beautiful beaches, the beaches of the Riviera Maya will make your trip worth it.
All along the Riviera Maya, different side roads make their way through the lush vegetation and leading to amazing beaches and private homes and hotels. Regardless, remember that beaches in Mexico are all public.
I have explored all of them and I am now telling you what are my favorite Riviera Maya Beaches.
THE TOP 5 BEACHES OF THE RIVIERA MAYA
Puerto Morelos is a very laid back, quirky village, with nothing but a wide beach and an easy lifestyle. Many expatriates prefer it to Tulum or Playa del Carmen for their second home for its more peaceful and not pretentious lifestyle.
The beach is great, sandy and wide, but the water can be a disappointment if you expect the usual turquoise Caribbean sea, as it is often murky and weedy for the first 50 mt.
However, snorkeling is great as there is an almost untouched coral reef at about 300 mt from the coast. Fishers are available to take you for a reasonable price. Also, do not forget that Puerto Morelo is also home to La Ruta de los Cenotes, a road towards the mainland that is lined with the magical cenotes, a blessing for the Yucatan Peninsula, the ancient sinkholes used by the Mayan for their ceremonies and now a source of income for locals, and refreshing lakes for all. They are just a few miles from town, and I will tell you all about it in another post.
Paamul is a hidden treasure that I have discovered a few years after I arrived in Cancun. It’s located 20 km from Playa del Carmen, and 50 from Tulum. It’s a spectacular bay where a community of expatriates has established their motorhomes and built their nest around them. There is also a nice hotel, Paamul Hotel, rustic but comfortable and very convenient as all the rooms are beachfront. Certainly a great weekend getaway.
Coming from the Carretera Federal you will see the Paamul Hotel sign. You can turn into the unpaved road and get to the hotel parking lot.
The beach’s access is completely free during the week, and you can use the hotel facility if you eat a meal in the hotel restaurant, which is right on the beach and offers delicious plates. (vegan and vegetarian options available).
During the week you have to pay 100 MXN per person but you can use it as a credit for the restaurant. So it’s basically free as well as during the week.
Xpu-ha is one of my favorite Mayan Riviera beaches. It’s located a few miles past Puerto Aventuras and about 28 km from Playa del Carmen.
it was my favorite Sunday escape when I used to live and work in Playa del Carmen about 15 years ago. It was deserted back then, with only a little shack where they served the best guacamole ever.
Now it’s a very well known beach with busy beach clubs and hotels. However, it’s still a great spot to enjoy the Caribbean sea. Also, being the beach so long and wide, you can still find isolated and tranquil spots. I would suggest you should avoid weekends, though.
If you wish to stay there there are a few hotel options.
Esencia – luxury elegant property, for those who love to splurge.
Serenity Glamping – for those who love adventure and comfort
Catalonia Royal Tulum Beach Resort and Spa – All inclusive adult only luxury property
Akumal is for sure the most popular and visited beach because this is where you can swim with the turtles without them being kept in captivity.
A few years ago, you could just go and swim on your own with a mask and fins. Nowadays there is a rule in place. They set up a specific area, which is where normally turtles hang out, and in order for you to swim there you need to pay an authorized guide, which will cost around 300 MXN.
The group needs to be less than 6 people and stay in the water no longer than 1 hour approximately. Also when you spot the turtles you need to keep a distance of 3 mt and you can stay no longer than 5 minutes.
However, if you wish to swim on your own, you still can, outside the designated area, and you still have the chance to sea turtles.
Hotels in Akumal Beach
Akumal Caribe – mid-range property right on turtle beach
Akumal bay Beach and Wellness Resort – on Turtle beach but far from the most crowded part – luxury property
Secret Akumal Riviera Maya – All-inclusive Adult only luxury property, has a private entry- the hotel is not on Turtle beach.
A pristine white sand stretch of beach with easy access to the blue water and small natural swimming pull with less current, suitable for everybody but mostly for families.
To have access to this beautiful white beach you need to pay a fee to the hotel TAN KAH ( which is not the Tankah Inn, close to Casa Cenote, it’s another one, without the “inn”). The cost is only 150 pesos or about 9/10 USD and you can have access to a cenote they have in the premises, and beach facilities. You can have lunch in the Restaurant of the property which is not included in the access fee).
DIRECTIONS It’s situated right before the Tulum Ruins, coming from Cancun. The sign is easy to see. You cannot miss it.
HOW TO GET THERE
BY CAR is the easiest way, and you can find here interesting info on how to drive in Mexico and where to rent a car.
BY BUS, either from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, you can easily take the small white van ( COLECTIVO) it will cost from 20 to 40 pesos depending on the distance. Arriving from Cancun, you will need to change in Playa del Carmen. Ask the driver where you need to stop before departure, and he will drop you off on the side of the road. You will need to walk a little to reach the beach, except Akumal, which is right there. All the others are at about 1 km distance. Casa Cenote is a bit too far. You will need to take a taxi. It’s not possible to go by ADO because they won’t stop on the Carretera Federal.
BY TAXI – Although much more expensive, this is the easy way. You don’t have to drive and you can choose your pick up and drop off, besides it’s a door to door service. Make sure you agree on the rate before, and you get the taxi number. Do not pay in advance, ever.
For Further Reading
- 35 Mexico travel tips that you need to read before traveling
- The 39 most unique places to visit in Mexico
- How to get to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum
- 3 great tips on how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- 8 fun facts about Cozumel