5 Great Beaches to Visit on the Riviera Maya

Stretching from along the eastern edge of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, from Cancún in the north to Tulúm in the south, the Riviera Maya is one of the world’s top vacation destinations.

White-sand beaches, turquoise Caribbean waters, palm-tree lined shores…the region’s natural beauty is unmatched. And the tourism-oriented development, which started in Cancún in the 1970s, makes this a modern, clean, and safe area to visit.

It’s a center for watersports—scuba diving and snorkeling at the Mesoamerican Reef just offshore is a major draw. But if you’re more into relaxing in a lounger at a beach bar…with cold drinks on hand at a moment’s notice, you can have that too.

Of course, it’s not just a center for tourism. Thousands of expats, from the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and Europe have settled on the Riviera Maya, drawn by many of the same benefits as tourists but also others that make long-term living comfortable. The cost of living is low—a couple could live comfortably on $2,000 a month. The healthcare here is world-class and low cost. And Mexican residence visas are easy to qualify and apply for.

You’ll find plenty of beach towns and seaside villages, from over-the-top and bustling to low-key and quiet. And thanks to a warm climate year-round, you can be active and outdoors any time you want, day or night.

The “big three” most well-known towns when it comes to the Riviera Maya are Cancún (famed for its hotel zone packed with all-inclusive resorts), Playa del Carmen (it’s sophisticated downtown packed with dining, shopping, and entertainment is a favorite), and the bohemian, barefoot flair of Tulúm.

But there are also smaller, mostly residential communities that are quieter…and definitely worth a visit, including Paamul, Soliman Bay, and Akumal. Then there is Puerto Morelos, a fishing village that has become a favorite of snowbirds, especially those from Canada.

Plus, there are plenty of real estate options, from ultra-luxury to budget, and everything in between. It’s possible to find a two-bedroom condo in the heart of Playa del Carmen for $135,000, while an on-the-beach one-bedroom condo in Akumal’s Half Moon Bay might set you back $120,000.

Wherever you choose to live on this stretch of coast, you can bet you’ll have fun in the sun.


Akumal is best-known for excellent snorkeling—keep an eye out for sea turtles.


Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen’s beachfront is busy and bustling.


Soliman Bay
Soliman Bay, mostly residential, is little-known and little-visited.


The white-sand beaches of Tulúm—plenty of places to lounge.


Puerto Morelos
The malecón in Puerto Morelos is a great place to stroll.


There is a restaurant on the beach in Paamul—enjoy lunch with a view.


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