There are several side roads along the Riviera Maya that lead to amazing beaches, hotels, and private homes, and I have explored nearly all of them. Here is a very comprehensive list of Riviera Maya beaches in order of driving distance from Cancun to Tulum. Also see the list of the top 23 things to do in Riviera Maya.
1. Malacara Beach: this small but beautiful white-sand beach is only about 15 minutes away from downtown Cancun on the road to Akumal. There are no facilities at the beach, but there is a small grocery store and restaurants near the turnoff to the highway.
2. Playa del Carmen: this is the main beach in Cancun and it is quite large with many amenities. You can find cheap hotels here near the boardwalk and shopping area.
3. Sayil Beach: this is another small but beautiful beach about 20 minutes away from downtown Cancun on the road to Mahahual.
4. Xpujil Beach: this is a small but beautiful white-sand beach close to Tulum ruins.
The Riviera Maya, after all, begins just south of Cancun and extends all the way to Tulum, a distance of around 85 miles. So, if you're staying in Cancun, you won't be driving to Playa del Carmen bars or dining in Tulum. Instead, you'll want to head north to where the action is! The two places are very different. Tulum is a small town with an enormous cultural impact; Riviera Maya has lots of beaches but no real center. It's more of a vacation destination than anything else.
You can reach both cities by bus or car. There are also a few flights that fly directly between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but they're expensive.
Playa del Carmen is the main city of the Riviera Maya, so most travelers end up here. It's got plenty of restaurants and bars, along with stores selling swimsuits and beach gear. You can also find music festivals and carnivals in Playa. But if you're looking for culture, you'll have to go elsewhere.
The Riviera Maya consists of several towns and cities across three states: Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Campeche. They're all quite different from each other, but there are some similarities due to their history.
The Riviera Maya has a lot to offer, from natural caverns with blue water (cenotes) to Tulum and all of the popular parks like Xcaret, Xplore, and Xel-Xa. The Riviera Maya, on the other hand, is enormous (better to say long), stretching all the way from Cancun airport to Tulum in the south. There are many smaller towns along the way with their own charms that can't be found in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. The Riviera Maya has beaches that are better for surfing than others, while Cancun is more suited for tourists who want to party nightlife.
Generally speaking, the Riviera Maya has a quieter atmosphere, but it also has less to offer in terms of activities. You won't find any ziplines in Playa del Carmen or Tulum, for example. The only exception is in Akumal where there is an array of surf schools that will rent you equipment if you ask nicely. Akumal is also home to one of the best aquariums in Mexico so check out what's new before you go! Cancun, on the other hand, has plenty of things to do including theme parks, zip lines, and golf. It's up to you how much time you want to spend doing activities and how long you want to stay at each location.
If you're looking for a relaxing getaway, the Riviera Maya isn't a bad choice. There are lots of small towns to explore and some interesting culture to see.
The Riviera Maya is a must-see for anybody trekking through this region. Not only are the beaches some of the greatest in Mexico, but this area also has beautiful ruins and spectacular cenotes. The towns here are lively with plenty of activities to keep you busy.
If you're looking for a quiet getaway, then look elsewhere because the Riviera Maya is not that kind of place. However, if you can handle the crowds then this is definitely the place to be during your trip. Book yourself an accommodation room with a view!
Visit the website of Discover Mexico to find out more about this unique region.