The Yucatan peninsula in eastern Mexico has firmly established itself as one of the hottest destinations in world, and enjoying pride of place on the coast is the Riviera Maya. Encompassing 32 kilometres of pristine sands, fascinating ruins, stunning natural beauties and more nightlife than you can shake a hangover at, it's no wonder holiday to Mexico are so popular. Whether your idea of heaven is exploring underwater worlds, stepping back in time or doing nothing all day long on a beautiful beach, you're guaranteed to have an unforgettable time in Riviera Maya. Here's our how-to guide.
Divers don't just have to get their kicks offshore. The magical beauty of the Riviera's many cenotes are a strong enough allure to draw PADI-certified scuba enthusiasts from every corner of the globe. For the uninitiated, cenotes are natural sinkholes which are bordered by cavernously high walls and filled with sparklingly clear freshwater. They make for the ideal spot to explore sub-aquatic ecosystems onshore.
If you're not certified to dive or even that confident a swimmer, don't worry. The lack of tides and the calm tranquillity of the location make cenotes the perfect spot to simply float on the surface and forget all your worries.
The coast here offers unblemished stretches of golden sands, crystal-clear waters as warm as a bathtub, along with the second longest barrier reef in the world. Home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which begins off Cancun and stretches all the way down to Guatemala, the Riviera Maya has some truly world-class diving and snorkelling opportunities.
Alternatively, if you like your holiday to be a little more inactive, there are over 32 kilometres of gorgeous beach for you to lay your towel on and soak up some of that year-round sun.
Located towards the southern end of Riviera Maya, Tulum is a former Mayan stronghold perched atop a set of cliffs on the coast. This walled city is fairly well-preserved and makes for some excellent pictures. Unique among archaeological digs in the country, it offers vistas of both the sea and the city simultaneously.
While Tulum's location is probably its most impressive aspect, there are other sites along the Riviera Maya of more importance. Chichen Itza is far bigger and played a pivotal role in Mayan ceremonies – make sure you brush up on the fascinating history of the Temple of Kukulkan prior to your visit.
Holidays in Mexico aren't complete without exploring some of the stunning local scenery. As well as being blessed with a rich cultural heritage and stunning coastline, the Riviera Maya is also host to an array of natural biodiversity. From swimming with turtles and whale sharks to playing with monkeys and parrots, there are a million and one animals for you to marvel at and interact with along the coast.
One of the best ways to take in and take advantage of all of this flora and fauna is with a guided tour. Night walks, 4WD tours, zip-lining extravaganzas and bus excursions – the well-developed tourist infrastructure covers it all.
Playa del Carmen in the north of the Riviera Maya gives you the best of both worlds. It has all of the attractions and nightlife that neighbouring Cancun can offer, but without the throngs of American college kids coming over for Spring Break. In fact, its secluded location away from the hustle and bustle of tourism makes it the perfect place to find cheap trips to Mexico.
Whether you want to chill with a delicious cocktail, take in some live music or get down and dirty on the dancefloor, there's a venue for it in Playa del Carmen.