The 125-mile stretch known as the Riviera Maya, is situated along the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It stretches from Cancun International Airport in Puerto Morelos to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a small town near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. The largest towns are Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulum.
Cancun International Airport is located 11 miles north of the Riviera Maya. An airport in Playa del Carmen can accommodate smaller planes. A number of carriers including Mexicana, AeroMexico, American Airlines, Delta, Continental, Northwest and U.S. Airways fly from North America to Cancun.
Things to Do
Mayan archeological sites can be found throughout the Riviera Maya in Tulum, Cobá, Xcaret, Xaman-Ha, Xel-Ha and Muyil with the sites in Tulum and Cobá the most important and complete.
The Great Maya Reef is the second largest reef system in the world and offers many options for diving and snorkeling. Along the coastline divers can find cenotes, which are sink holes created when pieces of land above the subterranean rivers collapsed millions of years ago. Filled with clear, tranquil water, the cenotes were considered sacred by the Mayans. The entrance and exit of the Riviera Maya's underground rivers often lead to caverns, an underwater world filled with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as waters with no current and great visibility.
Nature tours, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, jungle trekking, bird watching, deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, boat trips and sailing abound. Aktun-Chen and Xunyaxchen are ideal for eco-adventurers, with many caves and lagoons to explore.
The Playacar Club de Golf is an 18-hole Robert Von Hagge-designed championship golf course. Puerto Aventuras offers a nine-hole course and the Mayan Palace Resort in Playa ParaEDso offers an 18-hole golf course.
Bottled water is recommended. The official currency of Mexico is the Peso ($1.00 USD = 10.50 MXP), but U.S. dollars and travelers checks are accepted; credit cards are often not accepted in small establishments.
Two main highways run through the Riviera Maya: one parallels the coast to Tulum and then turns inland; the other runs from Tulum to Cobá. Along the coastal highway, there are roads that turn toward the beach or into the jungle. Transportation between towns and beaches in the Riviera Maya is easy. Buses run regularly from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and Tulum, stopping at points of interest on the way. Taxis and tour buses are plentiful. For longer trips, small planes leave from Playa del Carmen and there are ferries from Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Calica to Cozumel.
International telephone service is available in many of the towns. To place a call from the U.S. to the Riviera Maya dial, 011-52-984 plus the seven local phone numbers.
Travelers must have a valid passport to travel to Mexico. The Riviera Maya is on Central Standard Time. Electricity is 110 volts, 60 cycles, just like in the U.S.
There are a variety of tour operators that plan fully escorted trips to the Riviera Maya.
Apple Vacations offers a variety of hotel options in their tours, ranging from budget to five-star resorts. Many of the hotels they use in the Riviera Maya are all-inclusive resorts (ranging from high-end luxury to more family-friendly, budget-friendly resorts). They pay 10-15% commission. Travel agents can call 800-727-3400 or visit www.applevacations.com.
Travel Impressions pays 11-15 percent commission. Their tours offer a wide range of hotel options, from moderate to deluxe luxury. Travel agents can go to www.travelimpressions.com or can contact Chief Marketing Officer John Hanratty at 631-845-8000 for bookings.
Intrepid Travel, www.intrepidtravel.com, offers a variety of Mayan trips ranging from 15 to 22 days. Commis-sion is 10 percent. Agents can contact Jacquie Burnside, vice president of sales and marketing (310-305-7979; [email protected]).
Pleasant Holidays pays 10 percent commission and offers many options for families and budget-conscious travelers. Agents can call 800-448-3333 or go to www.pleasantholidays.com. Hotels There is a diverse variety of hotels in this region, but most travelers prefer the all-inclusive options. Secrets Capri (www.secretsresorts.com; +52 984-873-4880), part of the AM Resorts chain and a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, is a five-star all-inclusive that is especially popular for destination weddings and honeymoons. While the Riviera Maya region in general is a hotspot for destination weddings, Secrets is unique in that their beach-front wedding venue has a private, intimate feel. Wedding Coordinator Sherline Zuñiga ([email protected]; +52 984-873-4880 ext. 636) is extremely patient and accommodating. Make sure to request the Oceanfront Junior Suites or more spacious Honey-mooner Suites for wedding parties or couples. For such a large resort, Secrets has a personal feel, and unlike most all-inclusives, the specialty restaurants don't require reservations. It's adults-only, which is also a bonus for those couples not looking for kids to be hovering near the pool and restaurants. Contact Tanya Velasco, director of sales, at [email protected] or +52 984 873 4871. Commission is 10 percent.
For families, Iberostar's (www.iberostar.com) four neighboring resorts (Paraiso Maya, Paraiso Lindo, Paraiso Del Mar and Paraiso Beach) are a good option. There are activities for kids and a variety of restaurants. The Maya and Lindo are the more high-end of the family-friendly resorts, while the Del Mar and Beach have more attractive price points for families. For a more upscale, adults-only stay, the Iberostar Grand (which just opened in March 2007) is a great option. Book the ocean-front rooms which offer unobstructive views of the Caribbean Sea. Commission is 10 percent. The travel agent contact is John Long ([email protected]).