In the Riviera Maya, you can spend a luxury vacation in an all-inclusive resort on the edge of the Caribbean, but in addition, the Riviera Maya offers many other things like its beaches, its nature and the archaeological remains of the Mayan culture.
There are many things to see and do in the Riviera Maya, so many that the typical one week tour packages can be a little short, so I recommend you to extend your stay to 15 days to enjoy all that the Riviera Maya has to offer to the traveler.
I’ll tell you about what to see in the Riviera Maya in 15 days, about the all-inclusive hotels and activities, about the visits to the Mayan ruins, about the Riviera Maya with children, etc.
Reasons to travel to the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya is a perfect destination to combine two fundamental objectives for a vacation with relaxation and fun. On the one hand we were looking for a relaxed holiday and at the same time we wanted a fun and active holiday, as we are not the kind of people who spend a lot of time lying on the beach or in the pool.
With this objective of combining relaxation and activity in the Riviera Maya we alternated hotel days with days of excursions and activities in the nature and the ruins of the Riviera Maya
Reasons to extend your stay in the Riviera Maya to 15 days
Typical are the packages to enjoy a week in the Riviera Maya, and they are very good, but if you want to see everything important in the Riviera Maya, you will not enjoy the “super-hotel” all-inclusive and vice versa, if you want to enjoy the relaxation of the hotel and its activities, you will not have time to visit everything there is to see in the Riviera Maya, so it is better to spend 15 days traveling through the Riviera Maya.
10 things to see and do on this 15 day trip to Riviera Maya
These are some of the things I will tell you in detail below that we were able to see and do in our 15 days in the Riviera Maya:
- Stay and enjoy an all-inclusive hotel
- Climbing to the top of a pyramid
- Snorkeling in the Caribbean
- Walking through a crowded mangrove
- See dolphins and giant turtles at sea
- Feeding a crocodile
- Swimming with dolphins
- Bathing in a cenote
- Riding a Mayan bike
- Touring an island in a golf cart
What to see in the Riviera Maya day by day for 15 days
Below I describe what we did and what we saw every day during our vacation in the Riviera Maya, 15 very intense and very fun days.
Arrival to Riviera Maya and accommodation
It was the first time we stayed in an all-inclusive hotel. To avoid any mishaps, we booked with a transportation company, which took us from the airport to the hotel, so after arriving at the hotel and taking possession of the room, despite the weariness of the trip, we were encouraged to explore the hotel: gardens, swimming pools, bars and restaurants.
The exploration of the hotel facilities was done in a swimsuit, of course! and the tour sometimes took us for walks among the gardens, sometimes through the water, inside the pools. We didn’t take long to taste the fruit cocktails, served in small glasses on bars inside the pool, and it didn’t take long to be greeted by the iguanas that naturally inhabited the gardens.
First contact with the Caribbean of Riviera Maya
This trip to the Riviera Maya was our first time in the Caribbean, so after the initial exploration of the hotel, we approached the sea. The hotel belonged to a group of hotels and between ours and the sea there was another hotel of the group. Although there was a small electric train that could bring us closer, the distance was not very far and we preferred not to wait and approach on foot.
Soon, we saw an intense blue color at the end of the road we were walking, not knowing at the beginning and in the distance if it was swimming pool water or sea water… but it was the sea. It was not a myth, in truth the color of the Caribbean is special. It wasn’t a myth either, the sand was very fine and didn’t burn despite the temperature, this I haven’t explained yet. Neither is a myth that everything is super “mounted” with hammocks and umbrellas. We would already see the wild Caribbean later in some of the excursions.
Xcaret Water Park
On the third day we decided to leave the hotel for the first time since we had arrived in Cancun. So we decided to rent a car with the City Car Rental agency. For this, our first getaway, we chose to visit the Xcaret park.
Xcaret is more than just a park, it includes beaches for snorkeling, fields of rope hammocks, an aquarium and several activities among which a partly underground river that is swum.
At night, Xcaret offers an interesting light and music show with references to the Mayan culture.
Although you can hire the excursions upon arrival through the hotel, they carry a high commission and offer a limited number of places per group, so if they are full you are “forced” to choose another excursion. If you want to book in advance, you can do it with a transfer or just a ticket and get to the park by taxi or rental car.
Excursion to Sian Ka’an Reserve in the Riviera Maya
On the sixth day I had an experience of contact with nature that I had not known before. That day we visited the Sian Ka’an reserve in the Riviera Maya, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
The Sian Ka’an reserve is nature in its purest form. After driving through the jungle for two hours to get to Punta Alen, we boarded some boats. We visited the mangrove, where we saw lots of birds like pelicans and cormorants, saw dolphins and turtles in the wild and snorkeled on the incredible coral reef.
After the intense morning, we disembarked at noon in Punta Allen to eat rice with lobster. In the afternoon, back in the SUV, we stop for a small and interesting tour through the jungle to a cenote.
The day trip to the Sian Ka’an reserve is not in the top of the list for tourists traveling to the Riviera Maya, but from my point of view it deserves a place in that list of must-do’s in the Riviera Maya.
Excursion to Tulum
The eighth day was chosen to rent a car with which we planned several excursions during today and three more days. The Tulum ruins was our first contact with the Mayan culture.
After a first moment in which the heat stroke left us all a bit dazed for a while, after drinking and getting our heads wet, we visited the Tulum ruins. Being located next to the sea, the tour also allows us to enjoy magnificent views of the coast.
Bathing in a cenote, the Cenote Azul
The eighth day was not over, after the morning in the ruins of Tulum we decided to stop in one of the many cenotes near the road, the cenote Azul. From my point of view, you have to see at least one cenote if you are in the Riviera Maya for 15 days.
The cenotes were a great discovery for me and my family. Bathing in a cenote is a different kind of bath, a bath in natural fresh water pools among rocks, caves and the vegetation of the jungle. We didn’t do it, but you can also dive in the caves of some cenotes.
An important recommendation is to use some ecological repellent, it is essential in the outdoor or open cenotes. In spite of this, we were stung by some swimsuits and even by some jeans.
On the ninth day we drive north from Playa del Carmen. We couldn’t leave without knowing, at least taking with us a picture, of the famous Cancun. The visit reaffirmed us in the good choice of Playa del Carmen.
Cancun in a great concentration of big buildings on a tongue of land that goes into the sea. We just drove around it, stopped for a drink and at the end of the trip we did find it interesting to climb the big panoramic tower of Cancun, with a beautiful view of the dolphin beach.
If you want to see a bit more of Cancun, we would like to point out that there is an area of narrow streets in the centre with its beautiful square, the archaeological site of “El Meco” and a tequila museum.
Excursion to Isla Mujeres
Very close to that tower is the port of Cancun. There we parked the car and took a boat from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, where we were going to spend the afternoon.
We are on a small but very special island, while the typical thing is to go around Isla Mujeres in a golf cart. We could not refuse, we rented the golf cart as soon as we arrived, next to the port of Isla Mujeres, and we set out to tour the island.
It was a positive surprise how “little” developed Isla Mujeres is from the tourist point of view, compared to nearby Cancun. The tour gave us a vision of a somewhat more authentic Mexico, without the mask of tourism. We saw their houses, their people and spent a very pleasant afternoon that ended with a beautiful sunset.
Excursion to Chichen Itza
On the tenth day we headed to the Yucatan. We visited the impressive archaeological complex of Chichen Itza, one of the most important in the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 and in 2007 the temple of Kukulcan was chosen as one of the new 7 wonders of the modern world.
We decided to hire a guide at the entrance who took us through the grounds of Chichen Itza. We visited the well-known pyramid of Kukulcán, the field where the ball game was played and many other archaeological remains. We also saw some of the ongoing excavations.
Once again, we took advantage of our rental car days.
Off-road in the Yucatan
On our last day, we did a little “off-road” car tour of the Yucatan peninsula, on one of those roads in the middle of the jungle that didn’t lead to any tourist sites. We discovered some very rural villages. We asked its Mayan inhabitants to give us some indications of a place to have a drink, discovering with astonishment that some of them did not speak Spanish.