Maya Riviera Beaches
Photo by Mauro Barea
Playa del Carmen | Puerto Morelos | Cancun | Cozumel | Akumal | Tulum
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Mexico's most famous resort on the Riviera Maya (also known as the Mayan Riviera), Cancun, is appallingly overbuilt but nevertheless home to fine, white sand beaches,
warm shallow waters, cool strong drinks and everything else a tourist might need except real ethnic
colour, style or unspoilt serenity. For that tourists used to head 20 miles south to...
Puerto Morelos, Excellence Beach.
Photo by Tony Hisgett
...Puerto Morelos, a fishing village and resort halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Maya Riviera. The town is small, with just two main streets but offers most facilities that undemanding travellers require of a beach holiday - fine sand, warm water (usually about 27C), and for a great bonus, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef just 500 meters offshore for snorkelling or diving.
Inland from Puerto Morelos, many cenotes line the road to Central Vallarta, some with excellent swimming, snorkelling or even diving in crystal water; one of the best is Boca de Puma, which has pleasant hiking trails through the forest too.
And if Puerto Morelos doesn't suit, jump a bus down to...
Playa del Carmen.
Photo by Haakon Krohn
...Playa del Carmen, a once tranquil beach village which is steadily becoming a mega-resort, but with more care and less in-your-face concrete than Cancun. The population has doubled in the last five years, most of those being in the service industry related to 4 star all-inclusive Maya Riviera hotels that are springing up everywhere like strangler weeds.
And when all the tanning, drinking and wild night moves get too much head for the dock and take a ferry to Cozumel island...
Cozumel island's Punta Sur where the beaches are unspoilt and dazzling but the rips are frequent.
Cozumel is 30 miles (48 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide island, very flat and just 12 miles (20 kms) from the Mexican mainland at Playa del Carmen and 36 miles (60 kms) south of Cancún.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are two of Cozumel's main attractions due to its lively coral reefs, especially those in the south part of the island.
If you're the type of diver wowed by dramatic underwater topography, Cozumel is sure to please with its colorful walls and towering coral spires that define the dive sites found off its hugely popular southwest coast. But fish geeks also find a lot to love here — a profusion of fish life that's the envy of other Caribbean destinations. Whether you're deep at sites like Palancar and Tormentos or in the coral gardens and sand flats at sites like Colombia Shallows, Cozumel's reefs explode with a diversity of fish species from tiny pikeblennys to all manner of angelfish, grunts and snappers to the elusive and endemic splendid toadfish.
Scuba diving in Cozumel.
San Miguel de Cozumel port, dock for a squillion cruise ships as well as ferries from Playa del Carmen.
A deep sea pier was built in the 1990s for cruise ships to dock in Cozumel's town of San Miguel, causing great damage to the reefs; San Miguel is now a regular stop on Caribbean cruises and the local jewellery shops are booming while the coral gets chewed by ship's screws and attacked by varied unpleasant contaminants.
Cozumel also offers tourists a few unimpressive Maya sites, swimming with dolphins and various other marine activities.
Akumal, 62 miles (100kms) south of Cancun on the Maya Riviera.
Between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Akumal is a much smaller beach resort area with a good selection of modest, all-inclusive hotels and totally stunning white sand beaches washed by crystal waters that make for excellent snorkelling and diving.
Sea turtles lay eggs on Akumal's beaches at night throughout the nesting season (June to October) and swim in the main bay during the day. The hatching season runs from June to November, the hurricane season.
Tulum, Mexico, the beach and part of the old Maya temple. More Tulum
Photo by Wolfgang Sauber
The 'Mayan Riviera' is the creation not of Lord Montezuma in the 16th century but of a smart marketing man at the end of the 20th century and implies tradition interspersed with sensational beaches. Unfortunately the reality is mostly depressingly artificial, with much of the Maya culture delivered by the fun-but-fake Xcaret theme park, snorkelling in the massive natural aquarium of Xel-Ha, and wandering the cenotes and ruins around Cobá.
Still...the seas are warm and often genuinely azure, the coral is kaleidoscopic, the various pyramids are awesome, prices are inexpensive and local people generally relaxed and pleasant.
Furthermore, while the kids loon around in Xel-Ha dad can play golf on one of half a dozen courses or go Deep Sea Fishing while mum can go snorkelling or scuba diving with one of the many dive centers along the coast.
La Riviera Maya is on the north-east cost of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Best Weather in Riviera Maya is December - May
This peak season experiences high temperatures around 82F (28C) with occasional rain showers.
Prices in both airfare and hotel increase dramatically at this time. Late June is very hot but cheaper, so be prepared to try the off season if you want a bargain vacation.
weather is in the hottest and most humid months, July - September, with an insect
problem for added bad tidings. Hurricanes can be a threat in the summer and early autumn and even if they don't strike with force there may well be rough seas, poor water visibility, seaweed on beaches and cloudy skies.
Christmas and Easter attract huge numbers of holidaymakers from both
inside and outside the country, especially at beach resorts, so book way ahead and expect to be surrounded by hordes of sun seekers.
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