It may be one of the best known and most popular tourist spots in the world for beach lovers, but the question for most people is where to stay in the Riviera Maya? Read our suggestions plus we added a few other places nearby.
Located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico this hotspot is famous for the annual invasion of party loving Spring Breakers crossing the border and letting their hair down in and around Cancun.
But don’t believe it if you have read that you should avoid the area based on the antics of these College students for a few weeks every year. Even during Spring Break there are parts of the Riviera Maya that allow you to enjoy this beautiful area without the mayhem.
There are many reasons that this part of Mexico attracts tourists of all types, all year round. Whether you are a luxury, sun seeker or a backpacker looking for bargains in Paradise, a history buff eager to visit the ruins of ancient civilizations or a foodie ready to sample one of the world’s great cuisines, the Riviera Maya has something for you.
And it’s definitely not just the All-Inclusive Resorts and beaches of Cancun that you have on offer. Move a little further afield and you will find an incredibly diverse area offering Caribbean Islands, secluded coral reefs, quaint fishing villages, cultural sites and so much more.
You will find some information below about which area would be best for you and some of the best accommodation options from our friends at Hotels Combined. (*we earn a small commission from any bookings you make from clicking our links and appreciate your support)
What will you find in this article?
*The places of the Riviera Maya
*Which place is best for you?
- Best place in the Riveira Maya for budget travelers
- Best place in the Riveira Maya for families
- Best place in the Riveira Maya for active couples
- Best place in the Riveira Maya for romance
- Best place in the Riveira Maya for luxury travelers
Places of the Riviera Maya.
Is Cancun just for the party crowd?
For years Cancun was considered one of the world’s great party spots, and for many it still is. A place for heavy drinking, inappropriate behavior and dance parties. And somewhere that could make anyone over 30 feel like they are too old to be part of the “in” crowd.
Recently the powers that be in Mexico’s tourism industry have concluded that they were limiting the appeal and income potential with that reputation and spent considerable time and money on reinventing the area as a place also suitable for more sedate travelers and families.
When it comes to choosing somewhere to stay in Cancun you should be prepared for total confusion. There are so many options that you could spend weeks trying to compare and decide. I know this from personal experience.
The first decision to make is whether to stay in the town itself, known as the Centro or to head to the home of countless accommodation options further out in the area called the Hotel Zone.
Staying in the Centro may seem a little strange when you have so many beachfront options at hand but for some it may be the perfect option. I spent a few days in the Centro because it gave me better access to the public transport system, better (less tourist priced) restaurants, local markets and a chance to see how the locals go about their daily routines.
Accommodation in Cancun Centro
Most places you travel are filled with overpriced hotels and expensive boutique guesthouses but Cancun is totally different. It is harder to find an expensive option rather than a hidden gem. Try these great value options.But Cancun is really about the spectacular beaches and so 99% of you will be looking to stay in the Hotel Zone.
Looking for something with a view that won’t break the bank? How about these Cancun beachfront bargains?
Or if you have managed to escape the kids and want a more peaceful vacation these Cancun beach Adults Only options are sure to please.
Further south in Playa del Carmen?
In some ways PDC is a milder, smaller version of Cancun. Originally little more than the place to catch a ferry to Cozumel, it has become a trendy, beachside town popular with families and backpackers alike.
Packed with shops, galleries,restaurants and nightclubs, the lively 5th Avenue is a fun place to hang out at any time of day or night. And a number of Hostels and Guesthouses can be found in and around the area as well.
There are many Resorts available outside of the town center which tend to be more “grown up” than those found up the coast in Cancun, focusing on family activities or a quieter, child-free experience rather than just partying.
Have you heard of Puerto Morelos?
Not nearly as well known as its more famous neighbors listed above, Puerto Morelos lies roughly half way between the two.
Beginning life as a sleepy fishing village it has grown but never really changed its personality. Somehow managing to remain true to its roots even as All-Inclusive Resorts started to spring up on the outskirts of town.
It remains a quiet option with a variety of accommodations for those interested in fishing, snorkeling or scuba as it is a simple task to find a willing boat owner ready to take you out to visit the stunning reefs lurking off shore.
Head on down to Akumal.
About 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen this sleepy town offers a fairly limited choice when it comes to hotels, shops and restaurants. But shopping and eating are not the main focus of people looking to visit or stay in Akumal.
The town is famous for its colony of sea turtles that are regularly to be found swimming just of shore. It is an amazing experience to grab a snorkel and join these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
Tulum is more than just an awesome Mayan ruin.
Anyone older than about 20 will probably know that Tulum is one of the most impressive of all the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan peninsular. Most people under 20 probably describe it as “that awesome beach I see on Instagram all the time”.
Tulum is definitely an experience of three distinct parts. The archaeological zone featuring the ruins and the one of Instagram’s most famous beaches, the Pueblo or town center where the locals live, and the hotel zone which houses a number of boutique hotels, Hostels and Cabanas.
Get away from it all at Isla Holbox.
There is not a lot to do on this 20 mile long island at the northernmost extreme of the Riviera Maya, unless laying on a pristine beach catching some sun or getting stuck into a good book is your goal.
This car free island has limited accommodation and just a handful of cafes and restaurants but you can snorkel straight off the beach and you may well spot some turtle hatchlings during your visit.
Jump on a ferry to Isla Mujeres.
Less than an hour from Cancun by ferry but a thousand years away in attitude, Isla Mujeres is the perfect escape from the mayhem.
There is plenty to do or nothing at all, whatever takes your fancy. Explore the island on golf carts, swim, snorkel, dive or just chill out feasting on Margaritas and feasting on fresh seafood.
Accommodation is varied and plentiful to ensure a great option regardless your budget and comfort level.
Try to avoid the cruise crowds on the island of Cozumel.
If you prefer your islands a little larger then take the ferry from Playa del Carmen across to Cozumel and experience a Caribbean Island without leaving Mexico.
One thing to note about Cozumel is that it is a popular port on the Caribbean cruise circuit and it is common to see half dozen or so of these massive floating cities unloading thousands of passengers here every day.
The secret to enjoying your time on Cozumel is to head out of town during the middle of the day. Maybe rent a funky beach buggy and explore the island.
Almost all of the cruise crowds have left the island by around three in the afternoon and that is when you get the full benefit of deciding to spend a night or more in this beautiful place.
After the masses have departed you will notice prices drop in the restaurants, bars and shops and the whole place takes on a more relaxed vibe.
Once again plenty of choice when you are looking to find a place to lay your head with everything from friendly hostels and B&Bs to the top All-Inclusive Resorts.
To help make it easier to find the right accommodation for your vacation we have the following recommendations based on your travel style.
It may look expensive here but there is some amazing budget accommodation in the Riviera Maya.
There are a few reasons that people travel on a tight budget, or at least with an eye on the travel budget. Maybe you want to travel for as long as possible or maybe you just prefer to spend your money on what you do rather than where you stay.
The hotel offers bicycle rental, a 24-hour reception and a concierge. There is also a barbecue area on-site for guests to enjoy. Just moments from nearby clubs and bars, this 3-star hotel also allows guests to easily discover the local nightlife.
This comfortable bed & breakfast in Akumal provides free wireless internet, as well as a swimming pool and an express check-in and check-out feature. It features comfortable rooms with a private bathroom and a kitchenette.
Hotel Casa Lupita offers a rooftop terrace, free Wi-Fi and a bike rental. The various amenities this traditional hotel has to offer include a tour desk, an airport shuttle and babysitting/child services.
On-site dining options include a restaurant, which is an ideal spot to have a meal. In the evening, guests are welcome to enjoy a drink in the comfortable lounge bar. Each morning an a la carte or a continental breakfast is served in the dining area.
The best Riviera Maya accommodation for family travelers.
When you travel as a family the most important thing is that there is plenty to keep the kids entertained, because we all know that when the kids are busy, the grown ups get to have some time to themselves.
The following Resorts have plenty kids of all ages, even teens in most cases. They feature some of the best Kid’s Clubs around.
Equipped with free wireless internet in public areas, the resort offers a variety of facilities, which include a Jacuzzi and a rooftop terrace. It provides family-friendly facilities, with room designs and services for families of all sizes, plus a kids club and a kids pool. It also has a fitness center with a swimming pool.
The Moon Palace is a 5-star Resort with a huge number of activities for every member of the family. A huge pool complex features water slides, kid’s pool and a FlowRider. As well as a number of pool bars for the grown ups.
The Resort also provides mini golf, a great kid’s playground, a games room plus a special “Teen’s Zone”. For all of the glamorous girls the Resort also has an awesome indoor area designed to let them show off their modeling skills.
Eco-conscious families will appreciate solar-powered rooms, an on-property windmill and programs designed to protect the tropical environment. This resort just outside Playa del Carmen has three separate resort zones, including a section just for families.
Kids will love the aquapark with 17 water slides, as well as the kids’ club with its rock-climbing wall and trampoline. There’s also an eco-zoo with donkeys, peacocks, and marine turtles, and even mini yoga for kids.
The best Riviera Maya accommodation for active couples.
Whether you are a couple in your 20’s, 50’s or 80’s one of the main reasons to travel to this part of the world is to get active.
With so many water activities to choose from, historic sites to visit, eco adventures and more it’s no surprise so many couples end up here for their vacation.
Below is a selection of accommodation for couples who want to do more than stayed locked in a All-Inclusive Resort stuffing themselves and testing every one of the “free” cocktails on offer.
Ideally situated close to Terminal Foranea de Autobuses Station, this 4-star hotel provides boutique accommodation in Playa del Carmen. It also offers a Jacuzzi, a rooftop terrace and an outdoor pool.
The area surrounding Hotel La Pasion Boutique is popular for its shopping. It is within a 20-minute walk of Playa del Carmen Maritime Terminal, which allows easy access in and around Playa del Carmen.
Guidos Boutique Hotel is located in San Miguel de Cozumel and is close to the area’s tourist attractions. It is ideally close to Cozumel International Airport, which is a 10-minute drive away.
Featuring a private beach and an outdoor pool, Mezzanine Hotel is located in Tulum and provides comfortable accommodation. It also features a diving center, free Wi-Fi and a beauty center.
Situated in Puerto Morelos, Excellence Riviera Cancun Resort Puerto Morelos is within a 20-minute drive of Cancun International Airport and offers a private beach, an outdoor pool and outdoor tennis courts. Some of the popular facilities at this unique 5-star resort include a Jacuzzi and an all-inclusive meal plan.
Excellence Riviera Cancun Resort Puerto Morelos provides a variety of wellbeing amenities, such as a spa, a gym and a sauna. Staff are available 24 hours a day and can assist with booking tours and tickets.
How about some of the best Adults Only accommodation in the Riviera Maya for couples seeking a romantic escape?
The area may be better known for its party scene but if you think there is nowhere for couples to find a little peace and quiet in this piece of paradise then you could not be more wrong.
While there are some great Adults Only Resorts on the beach in Cancun the following options take it to the next level by removing the noisy party crowds almost completely.
Boasting a Jacuzzi, a private beach and an outdoor pool, Ocean Maya Royale – Adults Only is located in Playa del Carmen and offers modern accommodation. Some of the popular features at this themed 5-star hotel include free Wi-Fi and an all-inclusive meal plan.
The area surrounding the hotel is popular for its shopping. The helpful staff at the tour desk are available to book tours and sightseeing trips in Playa del Carmen.
Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun All Inclusive-Adults Only is located in Puerto Morelos and offers a rooftop terrace, free Wi-Fi and an all-inclusive meal plan. There is also a fitness centre with a swimming pool, yoga classes and a basketball court.
This stylish resort offers an on-site fitness center, an outdoor pool and massage services. Staff are available 24-hours a day and can assist with booking tours and tickets.
Those wishing to have a meal and wanting to stay close by needn’t look any further than Kore Tulum Retreat & Spa Resort’s in-house restaurant, which is ideally open each day for breakfast and lunch. A wide selection of dining options are also found in the surrounding area.
A selection of luxury Resorts in the Riviera Maya for those who enjoy the finer things in life.
For those of you fortunate enough to be in a position where money is no object, or for those who are looking for that once in a lifetime luxury vacation reward, there are few places in the Americas that offer so many options at such reasonable prices.
Boasting a rooftop terrace, Banyan Tree Mayakoba is situated in Playa del Carmen and offers unique accommodation. It provides complimentary wireless internet, a fitness room and a golf course.
Located in Puerto Morelos, El Dorado Casitas Royale offers luxury 5-star accommodation, as well as an outdoor pool and a sauna. There is also a gym with an infinity pool. Guests can soak up the outdoors on the terrace or have a beverage at the bar.
Every morning, guests are invited to have breakfast at El Dorado Casitas Royale’s in-house eateries, then later sit down to international and Mediterranean meals at La Isla or Italian cuisines at D’Italia Casitas. Room service is also available 24 hours a day.
Featuring a private beach, Azulik – Adults Eco-Resort & Maya Spa is situated in Tulum and provides unique accommodation.The unique rooms at Azulik – Adults Eco-Resort & Maya Spa have a private bathroom and all the necessities for a comfortable stay. They all offer a mosquito net and a bathtub.
Those staying at Azulik – Adults Eco-Resort & Maya Spa can sit down to a unique dining experience at the in-house restaurant, ideally based for those who want to stay close by when looking to sit down to a meal. There is a variety of breakfast options on offer every day. There is also a selection of beverages to enjoy at the bar, which has a view of the beach.
Have you decided where you are going to stay?
There is such a variety of accommodation in this beautiful part of the world that the decision on where to stay can take weeks of research and plenty of headaches.
We hope that things are a bit clearer for you and would love to hear about your experiences at any of the selected properties above.