Riviera Maya was on my travel bucket list for a while. It´s one of the most popular holiday destinations around the world, right?! How could an avid traveler miss it?! Now when I´m back from my Mexican vacation – I´m ready to share all the details: is the resort stay in Mexico a good idea? and what can you do to make the most of your stay?
Traveling to Riviera Maya
Mexican Riviera/ 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 say: 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 get-away. 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, get bitten by fearless Mexican mosquitoes [lol]…
But at times, you might have mixed feelings about your Mexican vacation. Riviera Maya is so pretty that you realize it´s a place somewhere far away from the authentic life in the rest of the country. So, as you might have imagined, a brief visit to Mexico gave me a “wanderlust attack” to explore more of the Mayan history and culture, as well as the country of Mexico outside of the Yucatan Peninsula…
Traveler vs Tourist
As it was my first trip to Mexico, I went for a classy resort stay: comfortable, safe and carefree vacation. In other words, in 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 “collectivo” (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 in the States, in Playa del Carmen I felt completely 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. If we would have come for the beach only – that 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 travelled 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 there were many.
So, 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, music, with incredible performances, dances, and colors)
The Perks of Being a Tourist
While soaking in a pool of a wellness center I actually caught myself thinking “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 on all year round”.