Destination Review . . . Riviera Maya, Mexico
Explore the Timeless Caribbean
The Mayan Gold Coast
Riviera Maya -- where ithe warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean embrace a 75-mile stretch of white sand beaches. Riviera Maya is one of the most spectacular tourist destinations in the world. Guests will enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Maya Coral Reef which is the second largest in the world. Mayan archaeological sites abound and the ecological diversity and the warmth of the local Maya combine to attract discriminating tourists in search of adventure, relaxation and fun. The average yearly temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit ensures a dream vacation in any season.
The Riviera Maya begins approximately 18 miles below the Cancun International Airport and follows the coast south to Punta Allen. It consists of the beach towns of Tulum and Punta Allen. The resort communities of Playacar, Puerto Aventuras and Akumal feature European Plan and All-Inclusive Hotels, which are also found in the beach communities of Playa del Carmen and Tankah.
Fly to Cancun and enjoy a scenic drive south to fascinating Riviera Maya, with its unspoiled pristine beaches, tropical jungles and ancient Mayan ruins. Snorkel in crystal clear turquoise waters. Enjoy the best values under the sun as a vast array of fabulous new all-inclusive resorts. Also known as the Cancun Tulum corridor, this nearby area of lush, natural coastline from Cancun south to Tulum is home to several attractions that should not be missed on a Cancun vacation. The 100 km stretch known as the Riviera Maya is in the middle of the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. Here the towns are smaller and there are fewer tourists with miles of solitary virgin beaches, sparkling white sand and crystalline turquoise waters. The second largest reef system in the world, the Great Maya Reef, runs along the coastline and an unrestrained jungle surrounds the towns and beaches. In this part of the Mexican Caribbean full of exotic tropical animals peering or flying through the branches, there are many places to explore. A unique and complex underground river system flows beneath the surface and visitors with magical caverns, caves and cenotes (sinkholes). There are also hundreds of archaeological sites, remnants of the incredible and timeless Mayan civilization, and a spectacular and plentiful marine life.
Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is located 41 miles from Cancun, easily accessible by bus, taxi or car, Playa del Carmen is not only the main port for departure to Cozumel but a quiet resort village with lovely beaches and casual shopping, in short, a place to relax. Thirty miles further down the coast lies Puerto Aventuras, a perfect backdrop for a leisurely vacation. Continue south to Akumal, a nature lover's paradise. The resort areas of Riviera Maya offer spectacular snorkeling and diving, intriguing Mayan history and an array of fabulous new hotels. The short ferry ride to Cozumel takes around 25 minutes and is approximately $6.00 per person round trip. For those who get restless, Playa is home to an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge.
Welcome, Explore the Timeless Caribbean
Soft, white-sand beaches are nestled along waters sparkling in the glorious sunshine. The air is fresh and the people are warm and welcoming. Come share the adventure and romance of Riviera Maya, a thriving tourism mecca along the Yucatan peninsula’s eastern shoreline. With a natural beauty enhanced by the vibrancy of Mexico, Riviera Maya captivates visitors like no place else in the Caribbean…Jutting into the sapphire waters if the Caribbean Sea, the Yucatan peninsula is Mexico’s “playa” playground. Visitors flock to its Caribbean shore to sooth their souls and bask on beaches – which are rated as some of the most beautiful in the world. From top to bottom, the peninsula’s eastern shore is dotted with sandy beaches that are as white as sugar.
Right in the middle of this natural beauty lies Riviera Maya, boosting a prized stretch of these treasured beaches. They are not ordinary, narrow strips of white sand. Much of the seafront is laced with wide, sweeping beaches. And, in some areas, the warm sand extends from sea to roadways. Some beaches are secluded and solitary, where the only footprints are those of sea turtles. Although the beaches are an obvious attraction for sun-seeking vacationers, Riviera Maya is much more than beach. It’s said to be the fastest growing area in Latin America and the fastest growing tourism area in Mexico. This is a place where memories are made, and next year’s return is already planned.
A few years ago Riviera Maya was virtually unknown, just a coastline of sleepy fishing villages tucked along the Caribbean shore between Playa del Secreto and Punta Allen. Today, it is the newest and most desirable destination on the Caribbean’s horizon. Vast improvements have been made to roads and infrastructure, and there are excellent police, medical and emergency services and transportation facilities. Unlike many resort areas, visitors find the environment hassle-free, safe and alive with fascinating attractions. And, it’s close to the United States.
If you haven’t been to Riviera Maya, you’ll find it about a half-hour south of Cancun’s international airport. The coastal resort area (Riviera) extends southward along the shoreline for nearly 72 miles (120 kilometers), ending at Punta Allen. The center of this coastal zone is due west of Cozumel on the coast of Mexico’s youngest state, Quintana Roo.
Inland, Riviera Maya loops to the west through Quintana Roo, encompassing some of Mexico’s prized archaeological sites, natural reserves and lands inhabited by the Mayan civilization. These ancient Maya archaeological sites are popular attractions today. Descendants of this mysterious civilization still inhabit the Yucatan peninsula, and they are an integral part of Riviera Maya’s appeal. Many of these warm, friendly people work within the tourism industry, contributing to the success and popularity of the area.
Like Mexico itself, Riviera Maya is an explosion of colors and diversity. A tempting sea sparkles with a soothing blend of turquoise colors. Coconut palms sway in the warm, seductive breeze. Powdery white sand blankets the endless beach. A bright tropical sun illuminates the day, painting a golden tan on those below. Skies are clear, the air is fresh. Like its people, the year-round climate is warm and inviting. Vibrant lands are rich with natural history and ancient cultures.
The region is made up of small independent communities working side-by-side to make this “Riviera” an extraordinary tourist destination. Each community is a resort destination, each with its own unique personality and appeal. This diversity provides visitors with numerous possibilities in the range of accommodations and activities. There is something for everyone, activities for every interest and accommodations to suit every budget.
From north to south, Riviera Maya is a potpourri of hotels and resorts ranging from charming seaside inns and palapas, to beachfront condominiums and luxurious five-star hotels. Don’t expect high-rise hotels or hustle and bustle like nearby Cancun. Everything here is laid back and relaxing. Even the resorts sprawl lazily along the sun-kissed shore, sometimes hidden within a forest of coconut palms. All of the properties do their best to reside in harmony with nature. In fact, most visitors would never believe there are more than 21,000 hotel rooms in the area. This philosophy of keeping everything natural is part of what makes Riviera Maya so special.
While resorts and hotels are an integral part of everyone’s vacation, so are activities and recreational options. Once again, the choices are exceptional. Adventure, excitement and new experiences unfold every day. From sea to shore, above and below, there are things to see and do.
Above ground you can walk through history and discover ancient temples from which Maya priests tracked the movement of the sun, the moon and many visible planets and stars, creating a succession of amazingly accurate calendars.
Adventure-seekers can trek in pristine jungles, photograph exotic wildlife, swim with dolphins, snorkel in natural aquariums, kayak through primitive waterways in the famed biosphere reserve and explore the finest eco-archaeological theme parks in the world. For sporting enthusiasts there is golf, horseback riding, fishing, windsurfing, sailing and day trips to other exotic points of interest. Shoppers can walk until they drop, finding great values in silver, gold, earth stones and an array of handsome boutiques. All of this is at your fingertips, and it’s easy getting from here to there.
Below the earth’s surface is a unique and complex river system that flows through massive caves and caverns. Occasionally the earth opens at the surface where cenotes (sink holes) have formed. These river systems are said to be the longest of this kind in the world. The cenotes allow entrance to the underground rivers that are a prime attractions for snorkelers and qualified scuba divers wanting to explore world-renowned systems.
Another natural phenomenon is found offshore. Paralleling the Riviera Maya coastline is the Great Maya Reef, part of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Attracting divers and snorkelers from all over the globe, it is proclaimed to be unrivaled in its spectacle of exotic marine life and coral formations.
Above or below the surface, days are filled with enticing options for everyone. Nights are equally rewarding. There are plenty of excellent restaurants with menus to please any appetite. Good food has always been a tradition in Mexico, just like tequila. And, in Riviera Maya, you will find plenty of both. Magical nights climax with the sounds of strolling mariachi bands. Smartly dressed in their traditional costume, they set the tempo until late-night discos turn up the volume.
Nights can be as lively as you want. If you prefer quiet and romantic, a moonlit stroll on the beach can be a perfect end to a fun-filled day. Like the days, nights are special too.
This is Riviera Maya. Come, see why it is special. Enjoy the Mexican Caribbean. And, as always, bienvenidos!
Riviera Maya is the perfect destination for travelers interested in nature and the environment. The following is a partial list of some of the most representative and/or intriguing animal life to look for:
AMPHIBIANS: Red-Eyed Tree Frog – Green with yellow-spotted underside, large ruby-red eyes; lives in trees or pools in low-elevation wet forests.
REPTILES: American Crocodile – Large grayish, brown, or olive crocodile. In the Yucatan, they cab be found up to 13 feet in length. Green Sea Turtle – Medium to large sea turtle with dark brown, gray-greenish heart-shaped back. Lays eggs on beaches. Spiny-Tailed Iguana – A large lizard with a tan, olive brown or grayish body and darker cross-bands on body and tail. Grows to 4 feet including tail. Lives in rocks and trees.
BIRDS: White Ibis – Large, white wading bird with thin, downward-curved bill. Grows to 2 feet. Found in rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes. Jabiru Stork – Said to be one of the largest birds in the Western Hemisphere with a wing-span of up to 7 feet. Black head and huge black bill, red ring at bottom of neck. Occasionally seen in Sian Ka’an. Keel-Billed Toucan – A large, mostly black bird with yellow face and chest and amazing rainbow-colored, keel-shaped bill. Found in tree canopy at forest edges.
MAMMALS: Yucatan Black Howler Monkey – Large, long-haired, all-black monkey with long prehensile tail. Known for its throaty roar. Found in wet and dry forests, usually high in the trees. White-Nosed Coatimundi – A large dark or reddish-brown raccoon-like mammal with a long white snout and a very long, faintly-ringed tail. Found region-wide on the ground and in trees. Central American Tapir – Large mammal with brownish, black or grayish short, often sparse hair. Horse-like head with large over-hanging upper lip. Grows to 6 feet long and more than 400 pounds. Found in wet and swampy forests. Jaguar – The largest cat of the Americas. Yellowish body with distinctive black ring-shaped spots. Large, muscular head. Grows to 6 feet plus tail.
More than just sun, surf and white-sand beaches catch your attention in Riviera Maya. Like the brilliant Caribbean Sea, shopping sparkles. In shops you’ll find just the right gifts and souvenirs to create delightful memories of your Mexican Caribbean holiday…
Brilliant turquoise seas, sugar-white beaches and Maya archaeological sites are part of an unforgettable travel experience. Add great shopping to the mix and you have a world-class vacation. Shops throughout the region offers a tempting array of goods in all sizes, shapes and colors.
Playa del Carmen is the region’s busiest shopping area. Day or night, hundreds of people parade by storefronts on popular 5th Avenue. There’s a wealth of souvenirs with a Mexican flavor; something for everyone. Choose from brightly decorated pottery and glassware or try on a selection of casual or trendy name-brand clothing at affordable prices. Browse through whimsical souvenirs and t-shirts. There’s glittering jewelry of every description and designer clothing and fragrances. Hand-painted Christmas ornaments, pewter picture frames and serving pieces, wooden boxes and bowls, terra cotta figures and rough-hewn stone pieces are popular gifts.
Streets intersecting 5th Avenue abound with shops and street vendors displaying sombreros, pareos (sarongs), guayaberas (pleated and embroidered men’s shirts), Panama hats, colorful serapes (blankets) and hammocks. Quiet courtyards off the Avenue reveal art studios selling paintings, embroidered wall hangings, carved and painted wall decorations, and masks of jaguars and other sacred creatures.
Storekeepers beckon you from doorways, waving their arms towards the entrance. They call out things like “hey honeymooners, check this out,” and “senor, senorita, come inside just for a Mexican second.” It’s all part of the fun and a unique shopping experience that’s pure exhilaration. Begin your treasure hunt by discovering Mexican silver. Its unique, bold shapes are instantly recognizable. Make sure your selections bear the .925, .950, .970 stamp that symbolizes sterling quality. Silver necklace displays in the broad windows of Santa Prisca Fine Jewelry.
The rate of exchange is subject to fluctuation. Purchases may be made in Mexican pesos or U.S. currency, credit cards or traveler’s checks. Currency may be exchanged at any bank or Exchange Bureau (Casa de Cambio), and most hotels. Rates may vary. Monex in Playa del Carmen’s Plaza Antigue offers good rates and a full range of international banking services. Banks in Playa Del Carmen usually offer the best exchange rates. American Express in conjunction with Western Union now accepts wire transfers to its Playa del Carmen office. Cash advances can be obtained using American Express and other credit cards through an ATM machine at most banks. If you’re changing currency over US$300, American Express also offers some of the best rates. Pesos may be converted to foreign currency at the Airport Bureau of Exchange upon departure. At the time of printing the exchange rate was US$1 equals 10.55 pesos.
International departure tax from Cancun Airport is approximately US$40, but the rate is subject to change. The tax must be paid in cash. No credit cards or checks are accepted. Most airline tickets currently include the departure tax. Emergency contact information is required by some airlines prior to departure. Due to changes in security policies there may be additional security taxes and procedures.
110 volts/60 cycles is standard. You may need an adapter as some Mexican outlets cannot accommodate polarized and three-prong plugs. Any dual-voltage appliances or laptop computers can require an adapter.
Visitors from the U.S. must carry proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport. For European visitors, a valid passport and visa is required. Visas can be issued for either 30 days or three months. European visitors requiring a visa extension should apply in person to the immigration office in Playa del Carmen. Visitors from other countries please contact the nearest Mexican Government Tourist Office for entry requirements.
Spanish is the official language. In the tourism industry, English, German and Italian are also widely spoken.
Hospitals and modem medical facilities are found within the region. Playamed in Playa del Carmen (Edificio Profesional, Carretera Federal Esq. Calle 28, col. Ejidal, tel.: 984-87-93143/55) can provide several services and attend to medical emergencies. Hospiten Cancun (Ave. Bonampak Lote 7, Cancun, tel.: 01-998-88-13700) is a private hospital that accepts medical travel insurance and offers dialysis, hysiotherapy/rehabilitation and 24-hour emergency service. Check with your hotel front desk for other local medical facilities. There are doctors on call at many major hotels and resorts, as well as drugstores that provide pharmaceuticals. Visitors carrying prescription medication or needles need to bring an authorization letter (in English or Spanish) from the pharmacy or doctor or a leaflet containing a description of the medication.
The population of Riviera Maya is approximately 150,000 residents comprising mainly Mexicans.
Ports of Entry
Cancun is the primary port of entry for landside visitors. Visiting yachts should contact the Mexican Government Tourist Board for ports of entry, customs and immigration. Yachtsmen will find excellent marina facilities in Riviera Maya at Puerto Aventuras. The international port of Calica provides services for commercial vessels and some cruise ships.
IVA tax is 10 percent in the state of Quintana Roo and usually is already included in restaurant and bar bills, room rates and shopping prices. Check with the hotel or store clerk and waiter to inquire whether the tax has already been added.
The country code for Mexico is 52. When placing calls within Quintana Roo, a 3-digit area code plus seven additional digits are dialed. Drop the 3-digit area code and dial only seven digits when making local calls. A charge is normally added to international calls when calling from your hotel. Ask your hotel operator about their charge policies before placing a call.
Central Standard Time. Mexico observes daylight saving time.
Tipping is voluntary. Usually 10 to 15 percent is generally acceptable at restaurants. In some cases, a gratuity may be added to your check. It may not be stated on the menu. This practice varies with establishment. Be sure to ask before paying the bill. Inquire and tip accordingly.
Potable water is readily available at many of the tourist locations. Bottled drinking water is available throughout the region.
The religion is predominately Roman Catholic although some of the local population practices the Mayan religion.
Telex, facsimile, cable, radio, television and telephones can be found in the larger towns. Cellular phones can be rented and service is readily available through the local telephone company in Mexico. If you want to arrange service before you travel to Mexico, check with you local provider about international service, internet, e-mail and long distance services available for reasonable rates throughout the Riviera Maya at internet cafes and some hotels. Credit cards can be used to place overseas phone calls or telephone cards for 30, 50, 100 or 200 pesos can be purchased at Exchange Bureaus.
Most major credit cards are widely accepted at hotels and resorts. However, some retail stores, restaurants and bars may not accept credit cards. Gasoline purchases are usually made with cash. It is always best to inquire before making any purchases.
Why not enjoy your wedding in a place where dreams do come true? Boasting a stunning natural beauty, the Riviera Maya is where an increasing number of couples are choosing to say “I do.” Choose a ceremony by the shimmering Caribbean Sea, under a gazebo surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, or another romantic setting. Create the picture-perfect day you’ve always dreamed about…
Lucky couples from around the world have experienced the special appeal of a Mexican Caribbean wedding. With proper preparation, you too can begin your married life in a most memorable way.
Wedding venues in the Riviera Maya can accommodate a quiet ceremony for the couple alone, or a pull-out-the-stops extravaganza for 1,000 guests. Regardless of your wedding party size, you will find an array of properties ready to accommodate the friends and loved ones who are traveling to share in your joy. Small parties may prefer an intimate small hotel, private villa or condominium. Larger groups will find the grand resorts appealing, or they may opt for a number of small locations for more privacy.
Professional wedding planners eliminate much of the hassle and guesswork in your arrangements. They are familiar with the best venues for ceremonies and celebrations and have good working relationships with reputable suppliers. Your planner will stay with you through the entire affair, from the time you sign the paperwork until the last guest leaves. Ask your hotel to recommend a planner or consult your travel agent or the Internet. All-inclusive properties generally have a staff person who coordinates events on the property.
Thanks to technology, working with a Riviera Maya-based planner is easy. Using the phone and the Internet, they will collect all the necessary information, prepare a proposal, and share photos of details such as venues, flowers, decorations and table settings. The wedding planner can arrange every element, from hiring a professional photographer and caterer to scheduling massage and hair appointments. Plan to arrive at your destination at least three days before your ceremony to allow time to personally inspect the sites, review your arrangements and arrange the necessary paperwork.
Your ceremony’s setting can be as traditional or exotic as you choose. The most popular venue by far is the beach. Natural theme parks such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Tres Rios and Aktun Chen offer peaceful lagoons and lovely grottos filled with tropical foliage. If you prefer an indoor or covered area, many restaurants and hotels have private banquet rooms, shady palapas and other special-event facilities. Some villas in the Playacar area offer secluded walled gardens with sparkling swimming pools. No ceremonies are allowed at the ancient ruins scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, but some permit taking photographs of the wedding party there.
Decorations take full advantage of the area’s natural bounty. Wreaths and garlands of tropical flowers adorn the altar. Paths are lined with coconuts and blazing torches. Dinner tables and chairs are dressed in color-coordinated coverings and topped with votive candles or lanterns.
Some hotels can arrange authentic Maya weddings conducted by a local shaman. This solemn ritual requires advance preparation by the shaman, who studies the signs and portents and counsels the couple. For an even more unusual experience, consider a service in a dramatically lit limestone cave or even an underwater event in the depths of a cenote.
Once you’ve said, “I do,” it’s time to celebrate. Enjoy a serenade by a mariachi band in brilliant traditional costume or the simplicity of a solo guitarist. Cocktail buffets or seated dinners often feature succulent Caribbean lobster and shrimp or grilled chicken and meats with a lavish display of side items. Mexican bakers are noted for preparing delicious, traditional wedding cakes decorated simply with colorful, live flowers and tropical fruits. Later, you can kick up your heels with a DJ spinning your favorite tunes.
Planners recommend you begin preparations for your special day at least a couple of months in advance, to ensure that your desired venue is available and you have time to fully consider all your options. You’ll create so many happy memories, you just may want to return next year for your anniversary.
Waiting Period: It takes at least three working days before the wedding to arrange all of the necessary paperwork.
DOCUMENTATION: (1) Proof of citizenship: Original birth certificate (and two photocopies) and a valid passport or driver’s license (and two photocopies). A valid passport or driver’s license and visa for Europeans. In case you do not have a passport, the birth certificate needs to be translated into Spanish and confirmed by the office of External Affairs in your country of origin. (2) Tourist I.D. and two photocopies (tourist card obtained upon arrival at the airport in Cancun). (3) Medical exam with blood test results including HIV, RPR (social diseases), blood type and a medical certificate issued in Mexico. Exam must be taken the same week as the wedding. You must have a medical certificate in Spanish, so it is better to have the blood test taken locally. (4) Completed application form with home address and occupations of the bride and groom. (5) Divorce Certificate (if one or both are divorced). (6) Name, age, nationality, home address and occupation of four witnesses for the ceremony (can be provided locally). Witnesses should have proper identification. If the witnesses are not from Mexico, they must have valid passports, visas and tourists cards.
Arrangements: Costs for getting married vary depending on the venue, number of guests and extent of arrangements. All payments are made directly at the hotel. The Civil Registry in Playa del Carmen’s city hall building, near Avenida Juarez, charges several hundred U.S. dollars for getting married in the office and a higher price for getting married outside of the municipality. All weddings must take place Monday through Saturday. You must be 18 or older.
Golf has become one of the greatest attractions in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The amount and quality of the existing courses – and those under construction – has attracted more and more of the world’s golfers to the Mexican Caribbean.
The area’s golf courses combine magnificent natural scenery situated in tropical jungles or on the shores of the Caribbean Sea with lagoons, cenotes or mangroves, all surrounded by the tropical turquoise-colored sea and impressive remains of the Mayan civilization. Courses dot the landscape from Cancun southward along the coast, including a course on the island of Cozumel, all designed by renowned architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Robert Von Hagge, and Isao Aoki.
Just like other courses throughout the world, Cancun’s courses offer promotional packages and a variety of services, like rental of clubs, carts, shoes, or tips from the club pro and a pro shop.
Eco-tourism is man returning to the natural world and Cancun is the threshold of the Mexican Caribbean, a zone only for those looking for something different and far from the beaten path.
Kayaking at night under the star in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, watching a jut-jut bird, or pink flamingoes, toucans and other beauty and exotic colored birds, snorkeling the Great Mayan Reef and watching awe struck as a whale shark drifts by…and this is only the beginning of the adventure! Open the door and let’s learn together to strike a balance between our enjoyment of nature and its conservation for future generations.
Over 3,000 years ago the ancient Maya left the remains of their marvelous culture for posterity in the middle of the jungles and/or on the shores of the shining turquoise-colored sea of the Yucatan Peninsula. Today many of these cities have been explored by archaeologists and have revealed the architectural, artistic and astronomical achievements and feats of engineering of this great civilization, one of the most enigmatic to have populated the Earth.
Can is the doorway to the Mayan World. It is ideally located to easily reach the main ceremonial centers: Tulum – 79 miles, Chichen Itza – 120, Ek’Balam – 87, Coba – 104. You can also visit the archaeological zones of Ixchel on Isla Mujeres, San Gervasio on Cozumel or El Meco and El Rey in Cancun. There are programmed tours in different styles and combinations to all these sites almost every week of the year.
To book your Riviera Maya Vacation call toll-free: 877-380-4142 or email: [email protected]