Best of the Riviera Maya
Puerto Morelos’s Coral Reef: Skip the tourist-trap snorkeling trips in Cancún and Playa del Carmen and go snorkeling where the reef is still healthy, the water uncrowded, and the price unbeatable. Book a tour with a local dive shop or the long-operating fishermen’s cooperative.
Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Avenida: Ever growing yet wonderfully walkable, Playa’s 5th Avenue has block after block of tempting restaurants, hipster boutiques, and lively bars. The ferry and bus terminals are at the busy southern end, while the northern end is cooler and quieter, with a distinctive European flair.
Playa del Carmen’s Beaches and Beach Clubs: Playa’s beaches are already among the Riviera Maya’s most beautiful, and its beach clubs — with lounge chairs and beach beds for rent, wait service on the sand, lockers and changing rooms, even swimming pools and the occasional DJ — make them some of the most enjoyable, too.
Xcaret: The Riviera Maya’s elaborate ecoparks are a hit with parents looking for a safe, active, friendly place to take the kids. Xcaret is the most ambitious of them all, with tubing and snorkeling, an aquarium and animal enclosures, orchid greenhouse, and an end-of-the-day extravaganza performance.
Laguna Yal-Ku: A long elbow of water fed by freshwater cenotes and draining into the ocean, this Akumal-area lagoon is a snorkeler favorite for its colorful fish and jumble of underwater rocks. Curious bronze statues dot the rocky shore, and parking and changing areas make visiting here a cinch.
Playa Xcacel: Just off the highway down an easy-to-miss sand road, this glorious stretch of white-sand beach has nary a beach bed or banana boat in sight. The secret? It’s a major sea-turtle nesting area and protected from development — at least for now.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition