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Where to Stay in Riviera Maya in 2023 | Best Areas

Where to Stay in Riviera Maya in 2023 | Best Areas

The Riviera Maya is one of the most popular regions in Mexico among tourists, and once you look at a picture, it’s easy to see why.

This beautiful stretch of coastline on the Yucatan Peninsula boasts stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and many things to discover, from Mayan ruins to cenotes, which are natural swimming holes.

There are several towns and popular resort areas dotting this stretch of coast, so deciding where to stay in Riviera Maya means choosing between several different options. This guide can help make that choice easier.

Why You Should Visit Riviera Maya in 2023

An wooden arrow signage saying Riviera Maya, and in background is a sea and mountains with trees.

Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

The Riviera Maya is a gorgeous stretch of coast on the Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Sometimes, people include the famous resort town in their grouping of Riviera Maya. The area includes remote coastal areas as well as famous resort towns such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

The natural beauty of the Riviera Maya is the main attraction. The area has miles and miles of pristine beaches and perfectly blue Caribbean waters.

The scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities off the coast of Riviera Maya are some of the best in the world. The natural world is also spectacular inland as well, with lush jungles and hidden cenotes to explore.

The Riviera Maya’s stunning history is something that you should explore while you are here, even if all you think that you are interested in is a beach vacation. This area was important for the Maya civilization and it still has spectacular ruins such as the ones at Tulum, or a bit further away at Chichen Itza.

Take a day to explore the awe-inspiring pyramids and cities the Maya left behind. Today, the Riviera Maya is famous for the bohemian, hedonistic culture of its towns. Tulum is a global destination for hippies and alternative culture, and the place to go if you want to try out some beach yoga or other alternative lifestyles.

Meanwhile, Playa del Carmen is the opposite, offering sophisticated European bars, restaurants, and scenery.

The towns along the Riviera Maya are so diverse that you can have a completely different experience just by staying in one area, then moving a few miles away. That is why deciding where you will stay in the Riviera Maya is such an important choice.

The 5 Best Parts of Riviera Maya

Where to Stay in Riviera Maya map in vector format featuring the best areas of town

  1. Cancun: Best area for first-time visitors, nightlife, and resorts
  2. Tulum: Best area for beaches, alternative and bohemian vibes, Mayan ruins, and relaxation
  3. Playa del Carmen: Best area for elegant travel and resorts
  4. Puerto Morelos: Best area for budget travelers and more authentic experiences
  5. Akumal: Best area for families, relaxation, and to get away from the crowds

The Best Areas & Hotels in Riviera Maya

Riviera Maya has so much to offer visitors that your vacation depends greatly on where you stay. Whether you want to be in the middle of all of the parties or just have a quiet beach vacation with your loved ones, your choice about where to stay will be very different.

To make sure that you don’t make the wrong choice when planning your vacation, follow this guide to find the best areas for you.

1. Cancun

Luxurious hotels built on white fine sands, and small huts can be seen on the shore facing the wavy sea.


People dispute whether or not Cancun is part of the Riviera Maya or not — some definitions of the region say that it only starts just south of Cancun’s city limits. However, the city is so iconic and defines the Riviera that it would be a shame not to include it.

Cancun has everything that travelers might want out of visiting the Riviera Maya. The beaches are stunning. You can choose from popular party beaches or more secluded coves and lagoons for swimming.

The transportation links with the rest of the world and with the rest of the Riviera Maya are excellent, making it a great base for exploring the rest of the region.

The town of Cancun is very popular with tourists thanks to its many amenities, which makes sense since it is the largest town in Riviera Maya. You can go shopping for souvenirs in boutiques or go on adventure tourist excursions such as ATV rides.

You can party the night away at beach clubs and bars — Cancun has some of the best nightlife in Riviera Maya. However, some people find the hustle and bustle overwhelming.

The nightlife in Cancun can get very rowdy, especially around spring break time for American universities. If you were hoping for a quiet vacation without many other tourists around or just prefer an early bedtime, then one of the other towns in the region is a better choice for you.

The popularity of tourism has taken a toll on the city and problems such as heavy traffic may ruin your vacation.

Things to Do

  • Take a day trip to the world-famous ruins of Chichen Itza.
  • Get a dose of culture in an unexpected place at the Underwater Sculpture Museum at MUSA.
  • Swim in the pristine waters of Playa Norte and Playa Delfines.
  • Join the party crowds along Punta Cancun or in Downtown Cancun.
  • Take the kids to the Xcaret Park theme park.

Where to Eat

  • Try local street food and join the locals when shopping at Mercado 28.
  • Have Mexican food with live music at Xoximilco.
  • Venture to the Puerto Juarez neighborhood for seafood at Kiosco Verde Marisqueria.
  • Have a traditional Yucatan lunch at Loncheria El Pocito.

Cancun Budget Hotels

  • At the surprisingly affordable Azcapri Villa Boutique & Spa, stay in a comfortable, homey environment that still offers hotel amenities such as a pool.
  • At The Yellow Capsule Experience, guests stay in small capsule rooms and share bathrooms and hallways with their fellow guests. Meet other travelers at the cozy lounge.

Cancun Mid-Range Hotels

  • The JW Marriott Cancun Hotel & Spa offers guests extremely comfortable rooms, access to amenities such as a spa with Mayan treatments, and a great location right on the beach.
  • The Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort is not just for golfers, although the course is excellent. You’ll also get to enjoy the pool and family-friendly facilities.

Cancun Luxury Hotels

  • It’ll be hard to leave the Nizuc Resort & Spa; there’s nowhere else where you can experience a private dock, pool, and beach, pampering in the spa, and world-class cuisine in six restaurants just steps away from your door.
  • The adults-only Atelier Playa Mujeres offers guests their own private beach, pool, and many other amenities. Some upscale suites even have their own hot tubs!

See All Hotels in Riviera Maya

2. Tulum

A woman holding her summer hat, standing on a rock at the shore while facing the raging waves on the beach.

Bucha Natallia/Shutterstock

Tulum marks the other end of Riviera Maya to the south. Like Cancun, it is a very popular tourist destination. However, Tulum is much smaller and has a more laid-back atmosphere than Cancun.

It also has a distinctive bohemian vibe, with many hippies, yoga studio owners, and alternative people making their way here over the years. Tulum has one of the best stretches of beaches along the Riviera Maya, which is definitely saying something.

Playa Paraiso, Playa Ruinas, and others are popular destinations for swimmers, snorkelers, and anyone who loves the beach. If you want to swim in a different atmosphere, Tulum is also close to several beautiful cenotes, such as the ones in Punta Laguna Nature Reserve.

The focal point of Tulum is the historic Maya city of Tulum. Check out the awe-inspiring pyramids and buildings, all perched on a jaw-dropping location at the edge of a cliff.

Another important historic, cultural, and natural site in Tulum is Sian Ka’an, a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve where you can explore reefs, mangrove forests, and Maya ruins.

Tulum has many of the amenities you would want from a tourist town, such as restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. However, some people complain that it’s become too touristy in recent years, and that travelers in search of a more authentic experience should move on.

Things to Do

  • Take a yoga class at one of the many yoga studios or on the beach.
  • Swim in the waves of the many beautiful beaches, such as Ziggy’s Beach.
  • Visit the Tulum ruins and take in the amazing Mayan ruins.
  • Join the crowds at the bars and clubs downtown for a laid-back take on Riviera Maya nightlife.

Where to Eat

  • Have retro Mexican specials from the state of Puebla at Cetli.
  • Have tacos guisados, or tacos filled with stew, at Doña Paty Tacos de Guisados.
  • Taste amazing dishes made with heirloom corn at Negro Huitlacoxe.
  • Have dinner in the jungle at Gitano.

Tulum Budget Hotels

  • Simple, welcoming Trece Lunas offers guests air-conditioned suite, loft, and bungalow. accommodation and shared amenities such as a patio and a pool.
  • The surprisingly affordable Suites at TreeTops Tulum has spacious suites, a pool, and free access to a nearby fitness center and spa.

Tulum Mid-Range Hotels

  • The relaxing, eco-friendly KAN TULUM melts into the surrounding jungle, thanks to its architecture. Relax by the pool, meditate in the lush garden, and start your day off with a plant-based breakfast.
  • The Botanica Tulum is a great hotel in the city center, complete with a pool and comfy rooms, but previous guests were most impressed by the staff.

Tulum Luxury Hotels

  • There are many luxury resorts in Tulum, but only the Wakax Hacienda has its own cenote on the property. Other amenities include a pool, lush garden, bar, and upscale rooms, with some options including private pools.
  • The adults-only Hotel Bardo is perfect for a couples’ retreat, thanks to romantic touches such as a serene garden, pool, and activities such as cycling.

See All Hotels in Riviera Maya

3. Playa del Carmen

Aerial view on many boats near the shore, where several hotels building are erected on fine white sand with coconuts.

Sandra Lublinn/Shutterstock

Elegant Playa del Carmen is like Cancun’s mature big sister. It has all of the amenities that you would get in Cancun, such as beautiful beaches, high-end resorts, and nightlife, without much of the wildness.

Thanks to Playa’s popularity among European tourists and cruise ships, it also has a distinctive European atmosphere that blends nicely with the local Mexican culture.

Playa del Carmen has a reputation among upscale travelers, thanks to its spot on the PGA tour circuit and its many high-end resorts (although there are slightly more affordable options if you are willing to stay further away from the beach).

The town is also a popular cruise ship port, and you can take a day trip to a nearby destination such as Cozumel even if you are not on a cruise. The town of Playa del Carmen itself doesn’t always get as much hype as the beach, but it is charming in its own right.

Walk down the famous Quinta Avenida for bars and souvenir shops but also galleries and upscale restaurants. Calle 12 is a popular nightlife spot.

Playa del Carmen is great, but it is not the most authentic destination. It is also a bit expensive, even though you can find budget options if you look hard enough.

Things to Do

  • Check out the Frida Kahlo Museum on Quinta Avenida.
  • Spend all night at the clubs on Calle 12.
  • Bask in the sand of pristine Playa Punta Esmeralda.
  • Stroll through Parque Los Fundadores where you’ll catch performances of Mayan dances if you’re lucky.

Where to Eat

  • Have brunch at the popular La Cueva del Chango.
  • Try authentic Mexican food at El Sangha-Rito.
  • Try vegan food at popular café The Pitted Date.
  • Enjoy dinner on the beach at Zenzi.

Playa del Carmen Budget Hotels

  • Heaven Hotel is a simple, elegant option in Playa del Carmen, where guests can enjoy air conditioned rooms, pools for adults and kids, and a commitment to sustainability.
  • Hotel Ambra may be an affordable hotel, but it has plenty of amenities including a spacious pool.

Playa del Carmen Mid-Range Hotels

  • The elegant Antera Hotel & Residences offers guests amenities you would expect from any resort, such as free breakfast, with special touches such as a rooftop pool with a view.
  • Previous guests rave about the Aalada Playa del Carmen, which is quiet despite its central location and boasts elegant design and a beautiful pool.

Playa del Carmen Luxury Hotels

  • The luxurious Hotel Xcaret Arte is the perfect place for an indulgent vacation, thanks to all-inclusive packages that include bike rentals, breakfast, and more. Each room has its own hot tub.
  • Guests at Palmaia — The House of AiA Wellness Enclave All-Inclusive can enjoy several pools, a spa with wellness treatments, and holistic wellbeing classes such as yoga, all in a natural setting.

See All Hotels in Riviera Maya

4. Puerto Morelos

Aerial view on boats docked on the pier with crystal clear water and white sand.

Diego Prato/Shutterstock

Puerto Morelos feels like a completely different place from the rest of Riviera Maya. Where the other towns are touristy, Puerto Morelos retains its local touch. Where the other towns are becoming more and more expensive, Puerto Morelos remains affordable, making it very popular with budget travelers.

Puerto Morelos still has beautiful, sandy beaches like the rest of Riviera Maya, although the beaches are far less crowded. You can also go swimming in cenotes.

The wildlife and marine life here are beautiful and you can take an excursion to an amazing coral reef just a few hundred feet off shore. The town of Puerto Morelos is adorable as well, full of locally owned restaurants, traditional fisherman’s houses, and unique attractions including kid-friendly places.

If you want a luxurious travel experience, you should probably go elsewhere in the Riviera Maya, but if you’d like a more local feeling, this is your best place to stay.

Things to Do

  • Marvel at the crocodiles in the Crococun Crocodile Zoo.
  • Snorkel in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System National Marine Park.
  • Drive the Ruta de los Cenotes and hit some of the most spectacular swimming holes in the area.
  • Have beautiful beaches such as Playa Puerto Morelos all to yourself.

Where to Eat

  • Have fresh seafood at Cocteleria el Sazon Jarocho.
  • Try traditional Mexican micheladas, a type of cocktail, at Las Micheladas del Semaforo.
  • Enjoy traditional cuisine at Lola y Moya.
  • For a special night out, treat yourself to dinner at Al Mare.

Puerto Morelos Budget Hotels

  • Rent an apartment at Abbey del Sol aparthotel, and you’ll get to enjoy a stylish outdoor pool, sun terrace, and extra touches such as a barbecue.
  • The laid-back Hotel Amar Inn has air-conditioned rooms and bungalows, breakfast, and a chill vibe including a pool with hammocks for lounging.

Puerto Morelos Mid-Range Hotels

  • Nestled in the lush rainforest, you will feel one with nature at the Lunita Jungle Experience. Quirky details such as dreamcatchers meld with thoroughly modern amenities such as WiFi.
  • The Oom Bubble Boutique Riviera Cancun is the most unique place to stay in Puerto Morelos. All guests stay in their own bubble suites, have private gardens, and can swim in the pool.

Puerto Morelos Luxury Hotels

  • The adults-only Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya All Inclusive is a swanky resort with a full-service spa, activities such as kayaking for guests, and even a stretch of private beach.
  • The all-inclusive Grand Residences Riviera Cancun pampers guests with the resort’s very own market, pools, a gourmet restaurant, free museum tickets for Cancun, and superb details such as complimentary insect repellent.

See All Hotels in Riviera Maya

5. Akumal

Aerial view on a long beach where hotels can be seen beside crystal clear waters, white sand, and trees off shore.

Alexey Oblov/Shutterstock

Akumal is a lesser-known town in the Riviera Maya, but travelers in the know flock here every year. The town is much quieter than Tulum and Playa del Carmen, making it a great destination for relaxing with the family.

It is between the two towns and a short drive away, so you can still enjoy the best they have to offer. Akumal has beautiful beaches and pristine waters; in fact, no other town has such a high population of green turtles just off its shore.

You can go scuba diving, snorkeling, or just relax on the beach. Kids will also get a kick out of nearby Xel-Ha Park, a natural water park, and the gentle waters of the beach.

Akumal doesn’t have as many things to do as some of the other towns on the beach, so more active visitors may get bored. However, if you just want to relax after a stressful time, this is the best place to go in Riviera Maya.

Things to Do

  • Drive out of town to the Xel-Ha ruins and the Xel-Ha water park.
  • Swim with green sea turtles at Akumal Turtle Beach.
  • Head into the jungle and meet some furry friends at Akumal Monkey Sanctuary.

Where to Eat

  • Try surprisingly delicious Italian favorites at Taverna Akumal.
  • Start your day off with freshly baked goods at Turtle Bay Bakery.
  • Enjoy authentic local seafood at fisherman-owned La Cueva del Pescador.

Akumal Budget Hotels

  • Homey El Ultimo Maya welcomes guests with colorful air-conditioned rooms, services such as a currency exchange, and a fun bar
  • The colorful Del Sol Beachfront has simple yet comfortable rooms, a great terrace with hammocks for relaxing, and a location that can’t be beat

Akumal Mid-Range Hotels

  • Villa Morena Boutique Hotel Ecoliving is popular among guests in Akumal, thanks to its sustainable mission (the hotel is powered by solar power), romantic thatched bungalows, and great location in the jungle
  • Panther Bay Boutique Hotel is small but mighty, with amenities including a pool with a deck, business center, and bike rentals included with the accommodation

Akumal Luxury Hotels

  • The adults-only Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya has amazing amenities, including a beauty shop and night club besides the standard pool and fitness center, and a spectacular private beach
  • If you are brave enough to go au naturel, the Hidden Beach Resort Au Naturel All-Inclusive is one of the most highly-rated resorts in Akumal, with organized activities, a swim-up bar, and even a lazy river

See All Hotels in Riviera Maya

So, Where Should You Stay in Riviera Maya?

🍹 Best for First-TimersCancun
🏖️ Best for BeachesTulum
🏨 Best for ResortsPlaya del Carmen
💲 Best for BudgetsPuerto Morelos
👪 Best for FamiliesAkumal

The Riviera Maya has something for everyone. Although it can be overwhelming, Cancun is a great place to start your exploration as it has everything you would expect from the Riviera Maya — beautiful beaches, activities, and great nightlife.

Tulum has some of the best beaches along the Riviera Maya, along with a hippie vibe that makes relaxing on the beach fun.

Playa del Carmen also has beautiful beaches but is more known for its elegance and upscale resorts. The lesser-known towns along the Riviera Maya are also gems. Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun, is an affordable, less touristy alternative, while Akumal is a quiet favorite among families and resort travelers.

Wherever you stay in Riviera Maya, it is sure to be the vacation of a lifetime. Happy travels!