Charming places near Cancun

To connect with nature and fall in love

Quintana Roo state’s 100 miles of Caribbean coastline heading south from Cancun to the archaeological site of Tulum is one of Mexico’s most beautiful beach destinations known worldwide. Tropical parks, snorkeling havens, cenotes, amazing jungle trails and rustic to luxurious hotels create this corridor called the Riviera Maya.

Continue reading to learn more about the Riviera Maya’s most important sites of interest.

1.- Tulum

Located about 80 miles south of Cancun, Tulum is the only walled city the Maya built and the only one by the edge of the Caribbean. Try to visit in the early morning hours if you want to avoid the crush. 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.


Why should you stay off this mind-boggling place, read: 9 reasons to never visit Tulum

Photo by Brittany Deck

2.- Akumal

Some 65 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 brushland. Developed by Mexican industrialist and scuba-diving enthusiast Pablo Bush, Akumal is famous for excellent snorkeling and diving. Expert instruction and equipment are available.

Photo by Sarah Brunell

Are you a snorkeling addict? Read: Best places to snorkel in Riviera Maya

Photo by detourbydesign

3.- Playa del Carmen

The fastest growing destination in the state of Quintana Roo. Just a few years ago, this former fishing hamlet served merely as a springboard 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.

Photo by Rob Gannon

See the Riviera Maya from above, read: Welcome to Cancun: the best views from the plane

Photo by bioleduardo_flores

4.- Xcaret

The most important eco-archaeological Park in Riviera Maya. It has more than 40 activities for all ages, one of the traveler’s favorites’ are its Underground Rivers. There’s also a wonderful Aquarium featuring exotic sea creatures and sea turtle hatchery, Aviary, and excellent restaurants, some right on the beach.

The park has cultural shows with live music, including a fascinating reenactment of the Mayan ball game, concerts of pre-Hispanic music and rituals, and excellent folk dancing and singing.

Photo by Resource hfh

A once in a lifetime experience, read: Underground Rivers in Xcaret: a must-do in Playa del Carmen

Photo by mylifesatravelmovie

5.- Sian Ka’an

About two and a half hours south of Cancun is the Sian Ka’an nature 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 forest, wetland, savanna and marine habitats. Not surprisingly, the varied landscape is home to an abundance of birds and animals.

Photo by Claudia Maurer
Photo by andrei_h

6.- Coba

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

Photo by Ciara Wilson
Photo by Diario Cancún

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 the Riviera Maya. This park with four interlocking lagoons makes swimming and snorkeling superb. There are also jungle trails, a shell-strewn beach (great for exploring, though they are not for swimming). This place is very near Tulum, so many people visit both wonders in one day.

Photo by Grant & Kelly Isaak

One can’t just get enough of this place, read: 4 places in Xel-Há where love is waiting for you

Photo by nathsmadeira

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 tourist-weary 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.

Photo by anakai.sdvl

Imagine chilling in this picturesque place, read: My 6 Favorite Places in the Riviera Maya

 puerto morelos-riviera maya
Photo by hell_spinel

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 Xcacel beach.

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 beaches to deposit her eggs.

Photo by Daniele

Everyone can be part of this, read: Six actions you can do to save the turtles

Photo by Jameshuyyon

As you just read, the 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