Real Estate & Property Information for the Riviera Maya
Mexico’s Riviera Maya has it all: miles of virgin, white-sand Caribbean beaches…turquoise waters teeming with turtles and colorful fish…the second-largest tropical reef system in the world…Mayan ruins…fun cultural events…great restaurants…and natural wildlife and water parks. As a place to spend time, there aren’t many places that rival this stretch of Mexican Caribbean coast, which runs south of Cancún all the way to the hip and cool beach town of Tulúm.
Real estate on the Riviera Maya can be had for a fraction of the price you’d pay in other Caribbean locales. You’ve got a wide choice of Riviera Maya real estate, too, with comfortable and affordable condos, luxurious villas, and everything in between on offer. Here’s what you need to know about buying property on the Riviera Maya.
Where to Buy Riviera Maya Real Estate
The Riviera Maya extends along 80 miles of Caribbean coast, so there are a lot of options for places to buy real estate at surprisingly affordable prices. However, there are three main locations that we particularly rate as top spots where you can buy Riviera Maya real estate at great prices and see strong gains. Those three places are Playa del Carmen, Akumal, and Tulúm. Here’s why.
Playa del Carmen
The first major stop on the highway when you leave Cancún international airport and head south is the rapidly growing city of Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen (often just shortened to “Playa” by locals and visitors) is a buzzing, vibrant, Caribbean city that’s growing all the time and throwing off its humble origins. Just three decades ago, Playa del Carmen was a little fishing village of packed-sand streets and a few guesthouses. Most visitors arrived only to catch a ferry to the nearby island of Cozumel. But that’s all changed, thanks to the new highway built in the early 1990s. It linked Cancun with Playa del Carmen and Tulúm—and has prompted major growth all along the coast.
Now, Playa’s packed-sand roads have been paved. Cool, high-end stores, eateries, and boutique hotels have opened up. In the 1990s, Playa quickly became one of the fastest growing cities in the Americas. Today, it’s a hip beach city.
You’ll find all you need for a full and happy life in Playa del Carmen: modern conveniences like hospitals, big-box stores, galleries, Cirque du Soleil shows, and an endless choice of foods and cuisine from all over the world. You can live here easily full- or part-time base. It’s a quick 50-minute drive to Cancun, so if you need to fly for business or to visit loved ones, the airport is close by. Those Caribbean beaches that were once only home to fishing boats? They’re still as gorgeous as they ever were, except now, in addition to the fishing boats, you’ll also find pleasure boats, jet skis, and funky bars on the shore.
One last thing about Playa del Carmen: If you’re looking for a Caribbean home or condo, right in the heart of the action, you’ll have some great choices in Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen real estate can be very affordable if you know where to look, especially compared to other Caribbean locales. Here’s a sample of some listings on the market in Playa del Carmen:
- A two-bed, two bath condo in a small complex with a pool and social area. The condo has an open-plan layout and a terrace with a BBQ area. The complex is four blocks to the beach and two blocks to Fifth Avenue with its wide variety of cafes, restaurants and bars. Price: $209,000.
- A large home in an upscale community for $390,000. The house features double height ceilings in the master bedroom, a jacuzzi tub, office space and TV room. There’s a total of three bedrooms and four bathrooms. The residential community has 24-hour security, a pool, social area, pet zone and tennis courts.
- A lot, approximately a seventh of an acre in size, a 10-minute drive from Playa del Carmen, in an established community. The lot is priced at $88,450.
The Caribbean doesn’t get much more charming than Akumal. Unlike Playa del Carmen, which is a busy, high-energy city, Akumal is still a relatively small outpost on the Caribbean Sea, with a local town (or pueblo) on one side of the highway and a world-famous beach on the other.
Akumal’s beach is the jewel in the crown of the location, home to wildlife, snorkeling, and quirky little bars and restaurants serving seafood fresh off the boat. “Akumal” means “Place of the Turtles” in the Maya language and the moniker is certainly fitting. Tourists stream to Akumal in the hope of snorkeling with the endangered sea turtles, who favor the warm clear waters in the sheltered Akumal Bay. Tropical fish, exotic corals, and massive rays can all be seen here, too. You’ll also find plenty of cenotes nearby—natural swimming holes that are common and notable about this part of the world.
Akumal is growing in popularity year by year, but land and homes are limited in availability. There simply isn’t as much construction here as elsewhere on the Riviera Maya. Still, there’s a chance to pick up some stunning real estate here, owning a Caribbean pad for a fraction of the price you might expect to pay in such a quaint, charming locale.
Here’s just a selection of the Riviera Maya property available in Akumal at the time of writing:
- A three-bed three bath residence in a small community, steps from a private beach club. With a spacious floorplan and contemporary design, the house has granite counters, stainless steel appliances and a private roof deck with tree-line and ocean views. Price: $499,000.
- An older condo which needs a make-over…but boasts panoramic beach and ocean views through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living area. The two bedrooms have private terraces. The building has two pools and direct beach access. The condo is listed at $360,000.
When International Living founder Bill Bonner visited Tulúm in 1981, he described it as “an exotic, offbeat, beautiful, and very inexpensive place to stay.” He found a low-key, hippie-chic beach destination for a “new crop of flower children” who listened to The Grateful Dead on the radio, stayed in cabins on the beach, and swam naked in the surf.
Today, there are fewer naked swimmers, but that hippie-chic vibe has not only survived but prospered, transforming Tulúm into a destination for a new breed of travelers looking to slow down, relax, and recharge their spiritual batteries. Today, you’ll see beautiful people doing yoga and meditation on the beach; lines of hipsters waiting to get in to fashionably rustic restaurants; and people paying $500 to $1,000 a night to stay in one of the cabins on the beach (which come with no electricity, no running water, no TVs or Wi-Fi).
Then, of course, there are the Mayan ruins on the edge of town, among the most famous in Mexico. Add those to the chilled-out atmosphere, incredible eateries, and the exceptional white-sand beaches flanked by palm trees, and you have the recipe for a seriously desirable Caribbean destination.
Surprisingly, though Tulúm’s cachet is increasing all the time with celebrities seeking a place in the sun that nourishes the soul, Tulúm still offers some extremely affordable real estate options.
Take these property listings that were available at time of writing:
- A solar-powered three-bed home in five acres of jungle with a swimming pool. The home is two lots away from the clubhouse, communal swimming pool and garden beds for growing herbs, fruits and vegetables. The home has an open floorplan, a master bedroom with its own bathroom, walk-in closet, and access to a wrap-around terrace. The two guest bedrooms share a bathroom. There is also a laundry and powder room and the living area opens onto a screened porch. Price: $299,000.
- A condo between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach in an upscale community. The two-bed two-bath condo has two terraces. List price: $200,000.
- A half-acre lot priced at $45,000, in a community with security, bike trails, green space, and underground electricity. You could build a comfortable home on this lot for $100,000 to $150,000.
What You Need to Know About Buying Real Estate on the Riviera Maya
Buying Riviera Maya real estate can be easier and more affordable than you might have imagined; a slice of Caribbean paradise could be yours for a fraction of what you’d pay for a second home on many Caribbean islands.
Still, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind if you’re considering buying on the Riviera Maya.
Title Issues – Make Sure You Can Own That Beachfront Property
The right piece of beachfront land may sound like a great buy. But be careful that you can actually own it. Most countries overseas have a section of the beach related to the high-water mark where you cannot legally own a property.
In Mexico, all residential property purchased by foreigners that is located within 100 kilometers from any international border, or 50 kilometers from any coastline, will need to be acquired through either a Mexican corporation or a fideicomiso (also known as a Real Estate Bank Trust).
The fideicomiso creates a trust agreement for the benefit of the foreign buyer, and the bank takes on a fiduciary obligation to the owner. The owner retains all the benefits of ownership and has the legal right to lease the property, sell the property, and will the property to their heirs.
The one-time cost for establishing a trust is around $2,000. There is also an annual bank fee for the maintenance of the trust. The annual fee is based upon a percentage of the value of the home—$500 to $550 approximately.
There is little consistency with regard to what banks charge for this fee, so it is a good idea to shop around. A home in the $200,000 range will have a yearly fee of approximately $550 per year.
Trusts are currently 50-year documents and they can be renewed at the end of the 50-year term for an additional 50 years. There is no limit to the number of times the trust can be renewed. The renewal fee is currently approximately $900.
Additionally, in Mexico, if land was formerly ejido (indigenous-owned) land, tread carefully. This can be a potential landmine, as someone may be able to lay claim to your property in the future. Ejido land can be titled but it’s a complicated process and your attorney will have to do extra checks to make sure that the title is clear, and everything was done correctly.
Once you have these issues checked out, you can start enjoying your Riviera Maya real estate…and your holding costs will be low. Though property taxes vary by municipalities, on a $265,000 Riviera Maya home, you can expect to pay about $400 per year in property taxes.
Condo fees vary from community to community but are generally much lower than what you would pay at home.
There are some great real estate bargains to be had on the Riviera Maya—but they get even better when you follow the expert’s recommendations.
Ronan McMahon, who is director of Pangea, International Living’s preferred real estate advertiser, has identified some strong moneymaking opportunities on the Riviera Maya for members of his Real Estate Trend Alert group.
In Playa del Carmen, in 2013, he recommended rentable condos from $136,500. Today, one of those condos could list for $230,000. Additionally, an owner could conservatively gross $20,000 in rental income a year on these condos and still use them part of the year as a vacation getaway.
In April 2017, members of his Real Estate Trend Alert group locked down Playa condos from $193,800. Less than three months later, the developer opened up these condos to friends and family. Their price was $255,000 to $290,000. One of those condos could rent for $30,000 to $40,000 a year or more.
It’s not just in Playa where members of Ronan’s group have seen success. Ronan recommended condos in Tulúm in October 2017 where members could buy premium condos for $230,556. In June 2019, a premium condo in the project was listed for $449,000. That’s a whopping $218,444 in gains—and similar condos rent for $32,000 to $35,000 gross a year. That’s how profitable the right real estate deal on the Riviera Maya can be…