Charming places near Cancun

For those looking for experiences in nature

The state of Quintana Roo has a beautiful Caribbean coast that goes from the south of Cancun to the archaeological zone of Tulum. Considered one of the most beautiful beach destinations in Mexicofamous worldwide. Tropical parks, diving paradises, cenotes, incredible jungle trails and hotels for all tasted and budgets (you can find from very rustic options to luxury resorts). All of these creat what we jnow as the tourist corridor of Riviera Maya.

Continue reading to learn more about the most important sites in Riviera Maya.

1.- Tulum

Located about 80 miles south of Cancun, Tulum is the only walled Maya city and the only one by the edge of the Caribbean sea. Try to visit in the early morning hours if you want to avoid the crowds. Tulum has become one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, people from all over the world travel to enjoy the magic of this small beach town.

Read: Natural places you must visit in Tulum

tulum archaeological site pov
Photo by Pptotravel

2.- Akumal

Approximately 65 miles south of Cancun, or 14 miles north of Tulum, lies the hidden beach of Akumal. A beautiful, crescent-shaped palm-fringed bay at the edge of a dense tropical jungle. Developed by Mexican industrialist and scuba-diving enthusiast Pablo Bush, Akumal is famous for excellent snorkeling and diving.

Read: Akumal, a different destination in Riviera Maya

Akumal beach

3.- Playa del Carmen

The fastest-growing destination in the state of Quintana Roo. Just a few years ago, this former fishing town served merely as a connection for visitors taking the ferry to Cozumel. Nowadays, it has become the second most important city in the state, just below Cancun.  The best part is that Playa del Carmen still preserves a certain small-town charm and bohemian vibes.

Read: 26 places you can visit if you stay in Playa del Carmen

cenote in playa del carmen
Photo by Pptotravel

4.- Xcaret

Xcaret is the most important eco-archaeological park in Riviera Maya. It has more than 50 activities for all ages. One of the favorite spots for travelers is its underground rivers. There is also a wonderful aquarium with exotic marine species and sea turtle nests, an aviary, and excellent restaurants by the beach.

The park features cultural shows with live music, including a fascinating recreation of the Maya ball game, pre-Hispanic music concerts and rituals, and a nightly performance called Xcaret México Espectacular.

xcaret in riviera maya
Photo by Pptotravel

5.- Sian Ka’an

About two and a half hours south of Cancun is the Sian Ka’an Natural Reserve, Mexico’s largest protected area and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Here, visitors can appreciate the region’s varied wildlife while boating or even floating in clear winding canals. Covering more than one million acres, the reserve is composed of semi-evergreen tropical forests, wetlands, savanna, and marine habitats. Not surprisingly, the varied landscape is home to an abundance of birds and animals.

beach in sian ka'an
Photo by Alexander Potnick

6.- Cobá

Archeology explorers, bird watchers (more than 200 species of birds migrate here annually) and nature lovers will want to visit Cobá. It’s located about 30 miles northwest of Tulum. Decidedly unique among Yucatecan archaeological sites, it is the largest (nine square miles), has the tallest pyramid (Nohoch Mul, 122 feet), and has four lakes and numerous stelae — none of which have been found at any other site on the peninsula.

man in cobá lagoon
Photo by Pptotravel

7.- Xel-Há

Regarded as one of the world’s greatest Natural Wonders, Xel-Há provides one of the best experiences in the heart of Riviera Maya. This park with four interlocking lagoons makes swimming and snorkeling superb. There are also jungle trails, a beach (great for exploring, though not for swimming). This place is very near Tulum, so many people visit both wonders in one day.

Read: 25 reasons to visit Xel-Há

woman in xel-há riviera maya inlet

8.- Puerto Morelos

About 18 miles from Cancun is the small coastal fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Its laidback village life is drawing comparisons to Playa del Carmen’s early days as a haven for visitors to the Mexican Caribbean. At Puerto Morelos the region’s barrier reef comes closest to the coast, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling.

Read: 10 cenotes to visit in Puerto Morelos

puerto morelos in riviera maya

9.- Xcacel 

Xcacel beach is located about 40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. This stunning turtle sanctuary is also home to an amazing cenote. Each year, from April to October, hundreds of green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles make their seaward journey to nest along the coast.

The local association in charge of protecting the species, Flora, Fauna & Culture of Mexico, cordon off the area to ensure that no one steps over the buried sea turtle nests. Biologists will patrol the beach, ensuring the safety of any sea turtle that comes to deposit her eggs.

xcacel beach in riviera maya
Photo by Mividaturquesa

As you just read, Riviera Maya is the perfect place to escape from reality and enjoy nature at its best!

To which place would you rather go? Leave us a comment

9 natural places to visit in riviera maya blog