72 hours in the Riviera Maya

Oh 72 glorious hours in the Mexican Caribbean. Sun, beaches, outdoor dining, Mayan culture and more history than you could ever imagine. Deciding what to do and how to do it is a challenge when you don’t know your way around. But with the help of a local (pointing to self) 72 hours in the Riviera Maya is full of fun and adventure!

First 24 hours in the Riviera Maya


Once you have checked out the beach near your vacation rental, hop in a rental car and head to Coba, one of the best Maya ruins where you can climb the pyramid and take in the spectacular jungle views.

If you are staying in Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen, have a local breakfast on the road at Los Arbolitos, a quick stop taco place just off the highway at Puerto Aventuras. Grab a fresh juice or Horchata while you are at it.

If you are leaving from Akumal or Tulum, grab some tacos on Hwy 307 across from the Tulum Ruins parking lot. With your bellys full,drive south to Tulum, take the Coba road to the ruins and hire a mayan limousine (chauffeur driven tricycle for 5 USD) to take you around the ruins. The ruins, including the climb up the pyramid, will take you about 2.5 hours. If you are hungry again, there are a few great restaurants right around the Lagoon. Yucatecan cooking is easily found, and you won’t be disappointed, The other choice for lunch is to wait until you hit Tulum, and have lunch on the beach at Que Fresco, just a few kilometers south on the Tulum beach road.

Next stop, the Tulum ruins. You will be hitting the ruins mid afternoon so you will have missed the busloads of tourists that hit the Tulum ruins at 11 am. A stroll around the Tulum ruins will take about an hour. The ruins have the most spectacular beach view so it is worth the visit.

Get yourself back to your original destination and find a local restaurant for a great dining experience. Take advantage of the many patios and outdoor dining experiences in your town. In Playa del Carmen, check out Carboncitos, Piola, Sur, or for some beachfront super inexpensive dining, La Tarraya could just hit the spot. Fresh ceviche, whole fish, fajitas or filet of fish are some of their specialties.

If you are in Akumal, dine at Lol Ha and check out their salsa dancing. In Tulum, we love Posada Margharita for beach side, simple dining.

Have a night cap, meet some locals and head home to prepare for the next 24 hours in the Riviera Maya.

Day Two – Your next 24 hours in the Riviera Maya


Get out in the sea and take in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. We love snorkeling or diving first thing in the morning. Hook up with a local dive center and get out there. Most morning trips gather at 830 am and leave by 9 am so stop by a shop around 815 am. If you want to book the night before, most shops are open till at least 6pm if not til 8 pm.

Once your trip is done, head to Soliman’s Bay for your lunch. Chamico’s is a beachfront shack that serves ceviche and fresh fish. Guacamole and pico de gallo can be ordered at this simple but truly great little restaurant. Your table is on the beach, you have full access to the sea, and you can linger as long as you wish. This is truly heaven on earth; great food, great views, great snorkeling and very, very private. Cool thing is you will meet some interesting people, both travelers and locals,  who are always happy to swap experiences and stories, if you want.

For the evening, we are heading to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Walk for a while and check out the shopping, restaurants and cocktail lounges. Check out the roof top terrace at Hotel Cacao (corner of 30th street and 5th Avenue) and if you are in Playa on a Thursday night, the outdoor art show Caminarte, is on 5th Avenue. Talk to local artists, check out their pop up galleries, and just admire. You cannot go wrong on 5th Avenue for dinner, so pick a restaurant and enjoy. We love heading to Fusion on the Beach (6th Street and the beach) for some live music, fire dancers or the live performance of the evening after dinner.

Day Three – Your final 24 Hours

UNESCO Heritage National Park, Muyil, Riviera Maya Mexico

Take in a yoga class this morning and a healthy breakfast. Mexico has some great breakfast entrees to keep you going for most of the day. After a quiet but lively start to the day, head to the Sian Ka’an biosphere for a boat tour of this UNESCO Heritage National Park. The best tours that run throughout day are accessed in Muyil just south of Tulum. There are two companies just a mile south of the Muyil ruins that have 2 hour boat tours through ancient mangrove canals. See small Mayan ruins, learn the history of the area and float through the fresh waters of the lagoon. When your boat tour is over, head to the Tulum beach road for a late lunch/early dinner. Mateo’s,Restaurant is great choice, Que Fresco, or if are looking for something to eat around 530 pm, and if you missed Posada Margarita the other day, it is a great way to watch the sea and have a great meal.

It is a hard task to fit everything into your 72 hours in the Riviera Maya, but over these three days we have suggested activities that provide a great overview and basic lay of the land. Next time you come for a visit you can take a closer look at each area and spend some time strolling through a city of your choice so you can get to know it a bit more intimately.

What would you do if you had 72 hours in the Riviera Maya?

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