Fun Things To Do At Riviera Maya [On A $150 Budget]

Fun Things To Do At Riviera Maya

In August 2017, we took a trip to Riviera Maya on the East Coast of Mexico for the first time. At the top of our wish list was to swim with whale sharks. This has been a bucket list item for a while, and there aren’t too many places in the world where you can do this.

We decided to jump at the opportunity and are glad we did. Rivera Maya is one of the few places we visit outside the United States yearly.

Riviera Maya is a beautiful tourist destination on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The region boasts pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, lush jungles, and a rich cultural heritage. This guide will show you some fun ways to have a fun time in this classy paradise.

Fun Things To Do Rivera Maya

Riviera Maya is a beautiful destination with a wealth of activities to suit all kinds of travelers, and there are plenty of fun activities to do here. Here’s a guide on fun things and places to do at Riviera Maya.

1. Take a Jungle Tour

The lush jungles of Riviera Maya are home to various exotic wildlife, including monkeys, parrots, and iguanas. A guided jungle tour is fun and exciting to experience the region’s natural beauty.

One of the most popular jungle tours in Riviera Maya is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve tour. The reserve is a protected area that covers over 1.3 million acres and is home to various plant and animal species.

The tour takes you on a journey through the reserve’s mangroves, lagoons, and tropical forests, and you can observe different types of birds, crocodiles, and other animals.

The jungle tours allow you to hike through the dense forests, observe the wildlife, and learn about flora and fauna of the region. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a popular destination for jungle tours and is home to over 300 species of birds.

2. Swimming With The Sharks

After an hour of boat rides through the Gulf of Mexico, we reached where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet. This is an area that is popular with sharks. This is because the meeting of the two currents causes the plankton to rise to the surface, hence being a nice lunch spot for the sharks.

So many other boats were headed in the same direction; it felt like we were all on a pilgrimage to experience something truly spectacular. And we weren’t disappointed! The excitement started to build as we became closer and closer to a large group of boats, and suddenly our guides started pointing out to the ocean and positioning people to jump into the ocean. We immediately spotted sharks to our left, right, and all around us. There were so many in the area that day!

We were given a signal to jump into the water when our turn came around. As soon as we jumped in, we saw a large whale shark and started swimming alongside it. Whale sharks move at around 2 miles an hour and are very gracious with their movements. We snorkeled next to it for a couple of minutes before it was time to let another pair experience the sharks.

We were given a second chance in the water, and this time was even more spectacular! The sharks often feed vertically, also known as “Standing on their Tail.” This is where they stay in one position for a while as they suck in the plankton. It’s a great position to see the sharks as they are stationary. We were so lucky with our second sighting!

3. Visit The Isla Mujeres

After much adrenaline and excitement, we took the boat back towards the mainland and stopped at the beautiful Isla Mujeres for a quick swim and a Ceviche lunch.

Isla Mujeres is Spanish for “Women Island,” around 8 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula coast. It’s a tiny island, 4 miles long and 650 meters wide. We didn’t make it onto the island but had a great time swimming in the crystal-clear waters surrounding it. We even spotted a starfish underneath us.

Visiting Isla Mujeres is a fantastic way to spend time in Riviera Maya. The small island is located off the coast of Cancun and is known for its white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a popular day trip destination for you to Riviera Maya, and there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained for a full day or even longer.

The stop was a nice touch to the day and was a great way to relax before heading back to shore. If we return to this part of Mexico, we’d love to spend more time on this beautiful island.

4. Go Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Riviera Maya is an excellent destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. The region’s clear waters, coral reefs, and diverse marine life make it a popular destination for both experienced divers and beginners.

The crystal clear waters of Riviera Maya are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. The colorful marine life and the stunning coral reefs are a sight. You can also try swimming with dolphins, stingrays, and other sea creatures.

One of the most popular dive sites in Riviera Maya is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, also known as The Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, stretches over 600 miles along the coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras and is home to a vast array of marine life, including colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, and sharks.

No matter what time of the day you hit this reef, it will remain captivating.

5. Swim in a Cenote

Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock. The cenotes in Riviera Maya are filled with fresh, cool, and crystal-clear water, making them a perfect place to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive.

The cenotes in Riviera Maya come in different shapes, sizes, and features, each with unique beauty and characteristics. Some cenotes are open, while others are partially or completely covered by a cave, allowing visitors to swim and explore underwater cave systems.

One of the most popular cenotes in Riviera Maya is the Cenote Dos Ojos, known for its crystal-clear waters and incredible underwater cave system. The cenote features a series of tunnels and caverns where visitors can swim and explore the underwater world.

Another popular cenote is the Cenote Ik Kil, located near Chichen Itza, a large open cenote with a picturesque waterfall surrounded by lush greenery.

The water in the cenotes is often cool and refreshing, making them an excellent option for swimming and snorkeling.

6. Take A Trip With EcoColors Tours

EcoColors is a tour operator located in Cancun that offers a variety of tours from parks to beaches in the Riviera Maya and other parts of Mexico.  Our day trip was run by EcoColors Tours, which has been operating Whale Shark tours for over 18 years.

They were one of the first tour operators to run this excursion, so we felt safe!

They run tours daily, so it was easy enough for us to book on the day of our choice. The staff was very professional and friendly. They did everything they could to make us feel safe throughout the trip.

After a quick introduction and set-up with the wetsuits, we were loaded onto the boats. The guides were well-informed and gave us many interesting facts about whale sharks.

They also warned us that we wouldn’t be guaranteed to see the sharks. But they did promise to do their best! This disclosure is also on the website, and they recommend taking the tour during the most active part of the season, which is mid-June to August. Sunny days are better than cloudy days for visibility because sharks tend to surface when the sun is out.

7. Relax on the Beach

The beaches in Riviera Maya are some of the most beautiful in the world, and there is something for everyone, whether you are looking for a lively atmosphere or a peaceful and secluded beach.

One of the most popular beaches in Riviera Maya is Playa del Carmen. This beach is located in the heart of the town and is easily accessible from many hotels and resorts. The beach has soft, white sand and clear turquoise waters perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

For those looking for a more secluded and natural beach experience, Xcacel Beach is an excellent option. Its pristine waters, soft sand, and abundant marine life protect this beach. The beach is also a nesting site for sea turtles; you can observe these magnificent creatures during the nesting season.

With their crystal-clear waters, soft sand, and abundant marine life, the beaches of Riviera Maya are a must-visit destination for any beach lover.

Simply relaxing on the beach is one of the best things in Riviera Maya. The region boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and there’s nothing quite like soaking up the sun and enjoying the tranquil sounds of the waves.

8. Go Fishing

With its clear waters and abundance of fish species, Riviera Maya is an excellent destination for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you prefer deep-sea or fly Fishing, many options cater to all skill levels and interests.

 The region’s warm waters are home to various fish species, including marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado, and snapper, making it a prime location for sport fishing.

There are many options for Fishing in Riviera Maya, including fishing charters, fishing tours, and private guides. These options range from half-day trips to multi-day excursions and cater to all skill levels, from beginner to experienced anglers.

9. Explore the Mayan Ruins

The Mayan ruins in Riviera Maya are one of the region’s most popular attractions and for a good reason. These ancient ruins offer a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of the Mayan civilization, which flourished in the region for over 2000 years.

Riviera Maya is home to many ancient Mayan ruins, including the famous Chichen Itza and Tulum. These ruins offer a fascinating insight into the Mayan civilization and its history.

Exploring these ruins is a great way to learn about the culture of the region, its people, and its architecture. The Chichen Itza, for instance, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Its iconic pyramid, the Kukulkan, is a must-see attraction. You can climb to the top and get a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. Overall, Visiting these Mayan ruins is an unforgettable experience that offers you a unique opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Mayan civilization.

10. Sleep In An Overwater Bungalow

Sleeping in an overwater bungalow in Riviera Maya is a truly unique and unforgettable experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. These bungalows offer the opportunity to sleep over the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, with stunning views of the surrounding tropical scenery.

Several resorts in Riviera Maya offer overwater bungalows, each with unique features and amenities. The bungalows are typically designed with luxurious interiors, from private decks to outdoor showers and glass-bottom floors, allowing guests to observe the marine life directly beneath them.

Staying in an overwater bungalow is not just about the luxurious accommodations but also the experience of being surrounded by the natural beauty of the Caribbean Sea.

From your bungalow, you can snorkel, swim, and paddleboard, all while enjoying the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean.

Tips For Enjoying Your Stay At Rivera Maya

Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or just looking for a peaceful and relaxing experience, visiting the cenotes in Riviera Maya is an experience you won’t soon forget.

If you plan to take a trip out to see the whale sharks, here are some of our top tips.

1. Reserve Your Booking In Advance

When researching online, we found many companies offering whale shark tours. We ended up booking through Viator, a company owned by Trip Advisor that works with local tour providers worldwide to coordinate online bookings.

We generally prefer to book through reputable sources or recommendations from friends, family, and respected travel agencies, especially when traveling to a new country or city. It gives us added peace of mind while traveling. Itinerary planning can be tough enough, and it’s one less thing to worry about knowing that the tour is legit and trustworthy.

2. Book A Small Group Tour

As mentioned, many different tour options for swimming with whale sharks exist. Still, we opted for the “Small Group Tour” operated by EcoColors, mostly because it was a smaller and more intimate group.

Ten people were on our tour, including a small crew of tour operator staff. We took turns jumping into the ocean with a partner (and, of course, the sharks!). Due to the small size of the group, the number of sharks, and the number of boats on the water, we were each given two jumps into the ocean.

3. Take Sea Sickness Medication

Our tour guide warned us of the high possibility of getting seasick on the water. We decided it was best to stop by a local pharmacy, where we picked up some Dramamine medication. This helped; however, we still managed to feel a bit sick. The rough waters had an effect!

4. Opt For The Wetsuit

You must wear a flotation device, a wetsuit, or a life vest during the ocean swim. We spoke to other people in our group who had done the experience before, and they recommended the wetsuit option.

We were happy with the choice as well. Even though it cost $15 extra, it allowed us to get closer to the sharks and swim much faster. I’d only recommend this if you’re a good swimmer. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with a life vest.

5. Pack Appropriately

We filled our day pack with travel towels, a change of clothes, sanitizing wipes, water, and, most importantly, our GoPro. You do not want to miss the opportunity to capture this incredible experience! The boat gets pretty wet, so we recommend you pack Ziploc plastic bags to protect your belongings from water damage. The boat has little shade, so stay hydrated and wear a hat.

Another important thing to note is that you can’t use sunscreen on the water. This rule protects the animals and the sea from pollution, so it’s best to cover up if you’re sensitive to sun exposure.

We agree this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and another major bucket item ticked off. If you’re in the Cancun area, we highly recommend it!

Have you been lucky to swim with whale sharks or visit Rivera Maya? Share your experience in the comments section below! And if you have any questions or comments, let us know. We are happy to provide additional tips.

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