Is Riviera Maya worth it? – This holiday destination in Mexico has been on my bucket list for a while. Now when I´m back from my Mexican vacation – I´m ready to share all the details – so, is Riviera Maya worth it? is the resort stay in Mexico a good idea? and what can you do to make the most of your stay?
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Traveling to Mexico: Is Riviera Maya Worth It?
Mexican Riviera or Riviera Maya is a great choice for all those who´d like to combine lazy beach time with adventures and historical sightseeing. No need to highlight that the Mayan cultural heritage is impressive. You could read all about it and watch thousands of documentaries – but only at the Mayan Riviera, you get the feeling you´ve really stepped into the history. And in the meantime, white sands and blue waters remind you of your actual location – the magical Caribbean.
What did I love in Mexico?
It is simple: The Mayan heritage + Caribbean paradise.
Mexico is an ideal choice for those who seek to combine cultural exploring with a lazy beach getaway. The Riviera Maya is like an oasis of tourism: full of international shops, hotels, and parks. Yes, you´re in Mexico – you could try typical foods, visit the sites, experience flora and fauna, and get bitten by fearless Mexican mosquitoes [lol]…
If you want a short answer to the question is Riviera Maya worth it? – Then it is a yes. But at the same time, this Mexican vacation hasn´t made it to the list of my favorite trips. Riviera Maya is so picture-perfect that you realize it´s like an island for tourists set far away from the authentic life in the rest of the country … scams are waiting for you around every corner, and even though the Yucatan Peninsula is considered to be safe, it´s not the European-kind-of-safe I am used to.
Traveler vs Tourist
As it was my first trip to Mexico, I went for a classy resort stay: a comfortable, safe, and carefree vacation. In other words, on this trip, I went from level “traveler” to level “tourist”, which made my inner explorer and adventurer quite disappointed and my inner lazy life lover quite happy [lol].
You can´t even imagine how many resorts for any taste and budget there are at The Mayan Riviera. Mexicans themselves claim this part of the country to be safe, so even if you choose a resort stay, you can still take a minibus, called collective (they stop nearly by every resort entrance), and move around.
Playa del Carmen
We only did a “collectivo” bus day trip to Playa del Carmen, although I wish we had more time to explore it. The famous 5th Avenue looked like a great place to hang out, enjoy fine dining, and even party all night long for those who came to Mexico in search of “fiesta”… As Playa del Carmen is a Resort Town you can meet people from all over the world and it´s so easy to blend in.
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You know that first thing everyone warns you about right after your airport pick-up in Mexico – the safety issues (or at least it was our case coming from Europe). While it is true that you can´t move around Mexico the same way as you do in Europe or the States, in Playa del Carmen I felt relatively safe. Except for the vendors with their funny comments no one has ever even tried to approach us. The moment the local shop owners heard us talking Spanish, we were immediately bumped with offers like “Jefe, compra diamantes para tu reina!” – that was to my husband offering to buy diamonds for his “queen” (not that I mind), or “Mas barato que Mercadona” – cheaper than Mercadona (the cheapest chain of supermarkets in Spain) or even “el veneno para la suegra” – a poison for your mother-in-law [lol]. Mexicans have a great sense of humor, don´t they?!
My picture-perfect beach, where are you?
When I often refer to this trip as a “lazy vacation” people think we´ve stayed at the beach all the time. Well, you know, the beach was honestly the only drawback of our time in Mexico. So if you are looking for paradise beaches and thinking whether Riviera Maya is worth it? – It is not. Well, unless you come from the North Pole and your expectations are low. If we had come to Riviera Maya for the beach only – it would be a disappointment (at least for me).
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I might be biased here, as I currently live in Benicassim, one of the best off-the-beaten-track beaches in Spain. Also, I’ve traveled several times to Ibiza, The Canary Islands, Cyprus, and the Greek Islands. I’ve already lost track of all the pretty beaches I’ve visited lately, but those I saw at Riviera Maya were quite average…
So, as you can imagine, my expectations were initially too high. However, at the Mayan Riviera, the first thing that caught my eye were beaches covered with seaweed (they clean it constantly, but still…not exactly a picture-perfect paradise beach). A few locals told me it was quite an issue in the Mexican Riviera. The government did some petroleum or oil extraction works nearby and this caused the seaweed excess. I don´t know whether it´s an actual reason behind the problem. Also, there might be other good beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula, for sure. However, those I´ve seen simply didn´t live up to my initial expectations.
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And I know – I just made it sound like the Mexican beaches are not good. They probably are, especially when you don´t wake up with the beach views in your daily life. And I still believe that Mexico is a great choice to bring home both – a nice tan and wonderful cultural memories. I simply expected a bit more – that´s it.
Cool Things to Do at The Riviera Maya
The good thing here is that Mexico has actually so much more to offer. These are some of the activities, that you could perfectly combine with a resort stay:
- Chichen Itza (If visiting Chichen Itza make sure you plan everything in advance. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza is always crowded: try going early in the morning to avoid the buzz and the sun)
- Tulum (If it rains – there is no place to hide, I know that cause we got completely wet [lol]. Learn from my mistakes -take an umbrella just in case)
- Ek Balam (An archeological site in the middle of the jungle where you can climb to the top of the Acropolis for postcard-worthy views)
- Cenotes (You can´t leave Mexico without visiting at least one: cenote diving is awesome)
- Xcaret (One of the best entertainment parks in the world, with a focus on Mexican culture, traditions, history, and music, with incredible performances, dances, and colors)
The Perks of Being a Tourist
Is Riviera Maya worth it? – For me it is. While soaking in a pool of a wellness center I actually caught myself thinking that sometimes even if you don´t get to see the authentic face of the country, being a carefree tourist often feels great”. I mean, seriously, this gym in the jungle though! It motivated even me! I ended up working out EVERY DAY – and for the record, it´s the only vacation I even considered going to the gym [lol]. So that´s already a reason enough to visit Riviera Maya. No wonder, most people never leave resorts during their stay. We all should indulge ourselves every once in a while, why not?!
Mexico: Yes or No?!
Definitely yes. I already caught a magical-mysterious vibe of this country while reading Carlos Castaneda´s “The Teachings of Don Juan” on the plane. And my only regret is – I wish I had more time to explore the Mayan sites, but it was simply impossible just in one week.
By and large, this vacation was quite different from my typical trips full of intense sightseeing and crazy travel choices, like Icelandic Ring Road in 5 Days[lol]. But I´m so happy I was able to touch the history of the Great Mayan Civilization and experience a bit of Mexican culture. Plus I´m thinking of making a poster with this gym in the jungle to remind myself that such “zen places” exist… [lol]
Riviera Maya is what I call “a vacation mode all year round”.
- Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda, Booking, and Hotellook
- Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide and Viator
- City breaks&sightseeing: Go City helps to avoid multiple entry fees and paper tickets
- Travel Insurance: find the best trip insurance plans via VisitorsCoverage, EKTA, and Insubuy
- Flights: To find the best deals I like WayAway and Aviasales
- Airport Lounge: Get independent airport lounge access worldwide via Priority Pass
- Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via RailEurope, Omio, and Busbud
- Car rental: To find the best deals I use Rental Cars, Discover Cars, and GetRentalCar
- Transfers: For individual transfer services I like Kiwitaxi
- For Foodies: Eatwith is great for finding culinary experiences with locals
- Cruise Reviews: To find the best cruise offer I check out Cruise Critic
- Suitcases&Luggage: To eliminate problems of early arrivals/late departures I find helpful Radical Storage
- Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: AirHelp is useful for all flight cancellation or delay claims
- To avoid roaming fees I use Airalo eSIMs around the world
- Budget-friendly stays: Check Hostelworld to find the best deals around the world
- Events: To find the best offers I use Ticketmaster and TicketNetwork
- Renting Bikes: to find motorcycles, scooters, quads, and bicycles I use BikesBooking
- Package Tours: head to CheapOair, Expedia UK, Tourhub, and loveholidays
- For Bloggers: To monetize my blog I use Travelpayouts