In this post, I will tell you what are the 7 best beaches of the Riviera Maya. I should, in fact, say the best beaches of Quintana Roo, as they all happen to be on the Riviera Maya, with the exception of Cancun which has its own spectacular beaches too.
But first of all, where is the Riviera Maya?
The RIVIERA MAYA is that stretch of coast that goes from Puerto Morelos all the way down to Tulum, lined by the Carretera Federal, or Route 307 that starts in Cancun and runs all the way to Bacalar in the state of Quintana Roo.
I know very well that staying in a beautiful hotel normally has the “disadvantage” that you never want to leave it, and you get lazy about exploring the surroundings no matter how many good things you’ve heard about them.
However, what is the point of traveling that far if you don’t go out and explore the place, mingling with the locals, know their culture and history and enjoy the natural beauties?
And then you go back to your hotel, richer, more fulfilled and you will appreciate your tranquillity even more.
By the way, if you can’t decide among the huge number of options of the Riviera Maya hotels, check out my guide on the best hotels of the Riviera Maya.
I am sure while organizing your next vacation in Mexico, you are wondering if the Riviera Maya is safe. It is, but you still need to use the same common sense that you would use anywhere else. You can read my article on Safety in Mexico, which will shed some light on the topic.
All along the Riviera Maya, there are uncountable side roads leading to amazing beaches, hotels, and private properties and I have explored almost all of them.
Here is a pretty much full list of the accessible beaches of the Riviera Maya in order of driving distance from Cancun towards Tulum.
Read also: the 23 best things to do in Riviera Maya.
THE 7 BEST MAYAN RIVIERA BEACHES
Puerto Morelos is a quirky little town, very laid back, with pretty much anything to do if not enjoying the quiet lifestyle.
Although the beach is amazing, the water is not properly what you expect from the Caribbean sea, as it is murky and full of weeds for the first 50 mt.
However, there are fishermen who are willing to take you snorkeling to the coral reef which is about 300mt from the coast.
I love Puerto Morelos most of all for the cluster of beautiful cenotes a few miles from the town, the popular Ruta de los Cenotes.
Located about 15 km from Playa del Carmen going towards Tulum, Punta Venado is actually an adventure park where you can choose among different activities.
However, since I am not particularly fond of motorized sports unless it is necessary (such as a boat ride to reach a dive site), what we like the most about Punta Venado is the beautiful beach.
There is also a huge park where you can do horseback riding and if you have your own mountain bike there is an interesting 5k trail that you can enjoy, riding in the jungle on your own.
When I went it was with my parents and we just chilled on the white sand beach and we took a few walks along the shore. The restaurant offers a variety of choices but we opted for our favorite ceviche mixto and fresh papaya juice. It is a lovely option to spend a full day to spend on another beach.
Paamul, is an interesting place, located 20 km from Playa del Carmen, it is a beautiful bay where a community of people, mainly from the States, settled with they caravan and built their houses around it.
When you arrive from the main road, though, the first thing you will see is the Paamul Hotel, and if you are doing a tour and wish to stay for a night it is a lovely experience even though not luxury per se; then again waking upright on the beach is a total luxury in itself.
The hotel has a choice of accommodation between the cabañas, more simple but more private, as they are located further away from the restaurant and main building, and the deluxe rooms which are a little more “polished” if I may say so.
But you wouldn’t go there for the hotel since what makes it a beautiful place is the beach itself. it is a small bay, quite rocky, but the snorkeling is really lovely. Remember to bring your own masks and fins.
Xpu-ha beach remains the best beach in Riviera Maya and I believe it deserves more attention. This is why I have dedicated a full post about it. It is located right after Puerto Aventuras and about 28 km from Playa del Carmen.
I remember 10 years ago when I used to work in Playa del Carmen and this beach was my Sunday escape. It was wild and free, with very few constructions.
It has become a bit too exploited now, but it hasn’t lost its charm and is still a place where you can find relief from the mad crowd of Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or even Tulum, especially if you go on a weekday, you will really find the place almost all to your self. You can also decide to stay there in one of the amazing hotels and decide to wake up on that spectacular beach every day. Here below is my hotel choice.
Esencia – luxury elegant property, for those who love to splurge.
Serenity Glamping – for those who love adventure and comfort
Catalonia Royal Tulum Beach Resort and Spa – All inclusive adult only luxury property.
Akumal is for sure the most popular and visited beach, and I am not surprised since it is one of the few places where you can swim with the turtles without them being kept in captivity.
The beach is always very crowded, but it is always worth spending a day there.
Besides the stretch of beach is really long and you can really have your space.
When you swim you can easily find yourself alone with a couple of turtles a manta ray and a barracuda just at a few meters from the shore.
I am always in bewilderment at the thought that so many people aren’t really a bother for the friendly Testudines.
Please be aware that they have now changed the rules and you need to hire a certified guide to take you to see the turtles. Check out my Akumal turtle beach post for more information and pictures.
If you wish to have real-time information on events and activities in Akumal you can check out the site AKUMAL NOW , very interesting, done by locals and continuously updated.
Hotels in Akumal Beach (or close)
Akumal Caribe – mid-range property right on turtle beach
Akumal bay Beach and Wellness Resort – on Turtle beach but far from the most crowded part – luxury property
Secret Akumal Riviera Maya – All-inclusive Adult only luxury property, has a private entry- the hotel is not on Turtle beach.
Located in Akumal right passed Akumal beach, it’s an interesting spot to snorkel and swim among mangroves in relaxed and transparent water. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you are in the area. There are several entrances to the lagoon and each of them has its own entrance fee. They all provide you with lockers, snorkeling equipment, and guides, if you wish and at a separate cost and not obligatory.
ENTRANCE FEE: 14 USD for adults and 9 for kids. The lagoon is full of underwater life including the lovely turtles and the local guides can help you to find them and identify the different spices.
DIRECTIONS – You won’t see signs on the main road (Carretera federal). You will need to follow directions for Akumal beach. Once you get there, you will pass it and continue straight, passed different beautiful villas, and a couple of bars and after about a km you will see the first sign of YAL-KU lagoon. If you follow the first one, going left, you will get to the first entrance. From there you can swim all along the canal and up to the sea. It will be easy to go up and a little more difficult to come back because of the currents but definitely doable.
If you continue straight, you will get to the main entrance of the Yal-Ku lagoon, which is located right at the end of the canal where it merges with the sea. You can also rent palapas or have lunch in a cozy restaurant in the jungle.
OPENING HOURS: 9 am to 5 pm
IMPORTANT NOTE- please forget the sunscreen unless you are using an ecological one, as it will damage the marine flora and fauna!
The beach at Casa Cenote
That’s the name of a restaurant on a lovely and quiet beach. The access to the sea is a bit rocky but nothing difficult and you have a great snorkeling experience. There is a Dive Shop in the premises where you can rent your fins and mask if you didn’t bring them with you.
But why is it called CASA CENOTE? you might ask. Well, on the other side of the road opposite the beach there is a beautiful cenote where you can swim in the transparent green waters through the mangroves. And snorkel too. The entrance fee is about 5 USD. After you enter the water you can swim into the canal making its way through the mangroves whose roots are real underwater nurseries, home of thousands of juvenile fishes. A paradise for natural aquarium lovers. This is one of the best open cenotes of the Riviera Maya
DIRECTIONS: As I was mentioning, along the main road that goes from Cancun to Tulum there are different side path that either leads to hotels or public beaches.
This next one that you are going to take is right after Xcacel, on the way to Tulum. There you will see different signs among which CASA CENOTE or HOTEL PAVO REAL, which is probably more visible.
Take that entrance and keep driving.
Right before the entrance of the hotel Pavo Real, turn left and keep going. There is a sort of Security gate just tell them you go to Casa Cenote. You will arrive in about 500 mt.
An amazing white sand piece of beach with easy access to the blue water and small natural swimming pull with less current for the shiest ones 😉
COST: In order to have access to this beautiful white beach you need to pay a fee to the hotel TAN KAH ( which is not the Tankah Inn, close to Casa Cenote, it’s another one, without the “inn”). The cost is only 150 pesos or about 9/10 USD and you can have access to a cenote they have in the premises, beach chairs, and an umbrella. You can have lunch in the Restaurant of the property which is not included in the access fee).
DIRECTIONS It’s situated right before the Tulum Ruins, coming from Cancun. The sign is easy to see. You cannot miss it.
HOW TO GET TO THE MAYAN RIVIERA BEACHES
BY CAR is the easiest way and you can find here interesting info on how to drive in Mexico and where to rent a car.
BY BUS, either from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum, you can easily take the small white van ( COLECTIVO) it will cost from 20 to 40 pesos depending on the distance. If you arrive from Cancun, you will need to change in Playa del Carmen. Ask the driver where you need to stop before departure and he will drop you off on the side of the road. You will need to walk a little in order to reach the beach, except Akumal which is right there, all the others are at about 1 km distance. Casa Cenote is a bit too far you will need to take a taxi.
BY TAXI, it’s the easy way, even though a little more expensive but they will drop you off directly on the beach. TIPS. make sure the taxi has been previously called by your hotel and he’s recommended and reliable, agree beforehand that he has to pick you up at a certain time. Take the cell the taxi driver’s telephone number and the taxi number, take with you the general telephone number for Taxi reservation and your hotel number, just in case your driver doesn’t show up. Don’t pay the taxi driver in advance, just one ride at a time.
- Book your transfers between destinations on the trusted booking platform Bookaway
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without
travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Compare car rental prices at Auto Europe, Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed