1. Go on a jungle adventure
If you’re staying in the Riviera Maya, there are plenty of adventure-filled attractions on your doorstep, including a number of jungle theme parks like Xplor, where you can zip line your way through the jungle canopy feeling like a true Tarzan.
2. Admire flora and fauna
A day trip to the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area and neighbouring island, Isla Holbox makes for a wildlife-filled day for anyone staying on the Yucatán Peninsula. Home to lush jungle and a lagoon, you may spot some of the 150 bird species of tropical birds that call inhabit here including pelicans, herons and flamingos.
3. Spot whale sharks
At certain times of the year, the incredible whale shark can be spotted offshore near Isla Holbox and further down the coast to Isla Mujeres. Seek out a reputable tour group and expert guides will teach you about the importance of protecting their habitat and the work that is being carried out to protect this fascinating species. Using expert guidance, you can also dive in the waters alongside these gentle giants.
4. Ancient cultures
Mexico has an abundance of pre-Hispanic ruins to explore. The iconic Chichan Itza is the largest archaeological city of the Maya civilization and has been a pilgrimage ‘mecca’ for 1,000 years. The 13th Century ruins of Tulum offer breathtaking views of the coast. And inland, Mérida’s colonial history and Uxmal’s lesser known Mayan ruins are well worth a day tour.
5. Eco theme parks
There’s a good-time vibe that flows in the Riviera Maya, helped along by some top notch theme parks that cram wildlife, waterparks and culture all into one. Xel-Ha – a natural Aquarium Park filled with lazy rivers and floating tyres is a big hit for families. And the archaeological action at Xcaret – where the water theme continues, hosts incredible floor shows that leave most visitors wide eyed in awe.
6. Treat the tastebuds
Mexico’s cuisine is so varied, and a product of so many cultural influences, from the Mayan Indians to the French. From tamales (a leaf wrapped dough) and meat-filled carnitas, to tacos and fajitas, food-lovers are in for a treat. Some might try and hunt down the criollo chocolate too. Produced using the criollo cocoa bean once enjoyed by the ancient Mayans, Mexicans call this the ‘food of the gods’.
7. Get the festival fever
Mexico’s calendar is packed with festival activities. From the colourful carnival parades in March, to the action-packed Cancun Dance Festival in May and the famous Day of the Dead festival in November, Mexico’s celebrations showcase a hotch potch of vibrant and colourful cultures.
8. Go shopping in Playa del Carmen
For a bit of retail therapy, the pedestrianised Quinta Avenida, or 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen has a variety of boutique shops and local markets to peruse day or night. This is where local people sell their traditional arts and crafts and the surrounding cobbled streets offer plenty of entertainment and people watching to be done.
9. Dive into mystical cenotes
The Yucatan Peninsula’s variety of reputable diving schools makes it easy to venture into the azure waters and spot all sorts of beautiful marine life. Multi-coloured fish, turtles and moray eels are just some of the species found here. Keen divers will also revel in the area’s spectacular ancient reef that dates back thousands of years. Inland,a tour to the the Mayan Riviera’s underwater caves known as cenotes feels other-worldly. Visitors can dive into these lagoons surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites. It’s truly magical.
10. Visit the underwater museum
Ever been to an underwater museum? This could be your first! Artist Jason deCaires’ life-size sculptures that stand on the seabed between Cancun and Mujeres might seem a little spooky at first. But as a clever artificial reef that’s attracted a whole host of marine life, you’ll soon realise this weird but wonderful sculpture garden is nothing but enchanting.
11. Explore the nightlife
Many well know that the Rivera Maya is known for its bustling nightlife, and Cancun in particular is party central. Coco Bongo’s cabaret, The Mandala’s roof top cocktails and The City superclub are among the hotspots. If strobe lights and 7,000 strong crowds aren’t your thing, Playa del Carmen and downtown Tulum have some hip speakeasies and cocktail bars where you’re sure to find a classic margarita. The party is most definitely here.