Playa del Carmen vs. Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya are the best gems of the Mexican Caribbean. From their natural and cultural charms to ancient history, it has seen nothing but fame. The region of Riviera Maya is Mexico’s blueprint for tourism success.
Playa del Carmen vs. Riviera Maya

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Playa del Carmen, in case you don’t know, is part of the Riviera Maya. It is the beating heart of the most exciting region of the Yucatan Peninsula. The rest of Riviera Maya is dotted with draws that are perhaps the perfect ingredients for a successful tourist destination.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a clear example of what a Mexican paradise is. This treasure in the Mexican Caribbean is one of the most beautiful, thrilling, vibrant, and dynamic places in all of Mexico. It is often referred to as the beating heart of the Riviera Maya.

Playa del Carmen, is one of the coolest neighborhoods on the Riviera Maya. It is noticeably populated by wealthy expats and a sizable number of visitors from Asia to Europe. You can spend your days relaxing at upscale shops, taking advantage of the beach, and exploring some of the amazing dive sites around. After dinner, dine at classy places and then hit the clubs.

What Makes Playa del Carmen Unique?

La Quinta Avenida

The main beach of Playa del Carmen runs along the Quinta Avenida. It is a chic avenue filled with diverse charms that serve as the city’s main artery. One of the best areas in the city for nightlife and international delights is the avenue.

You can find numerous street performers, eateries, lodging options, and apartment buildings here. The city’s best bars also flank the entire stretch. The pedestrian street is dotted with boutiques and specialty businesses to be the best area in the Playa.

It’s easy to block off a whole day to leisurely wander down the cobblestone street. It has a very authentic, yet romantic, feel to it. Imagine walking a block over to take a dip in the ocean, and then enjoying the many street performers entertaining crowds after dark. Or, ordering a fancy acai bowl at one of the many health-conscious cafés.

La Quinta Avenida is without a doubt Playa del Carmen’s most popular tourist attraction. Be advised that it can get very busy during the week and on the weekends.

The avenue extends 4 miles (6.4 km) northward from the intersection of La Quinta Avenue and Avenida Juárez to the edge of the Grand Riviera Maya Golf Club. Even though it is free to go down the street, think about bringing some money. Just in case you want to stop for a short bite or to buy anything as a souvenir. Each store and restaurant operates within specific, set hours.

Rio Secreto

Playa del Carmen and the neighboring areas are situated on a porous limestone landmass. It is home to miles and miles of vast underground caverns. The Rio Secreto, commonly known as the Secret River, is frequently hailed as one of the best-kept secrets on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is a subterranean wonder well suited for daring explorers.

A system of partially submerged caves known as Rio Secreto connects to Quintana Roo’s longest underground river. This quite unique cenote, with its vibrant turquoise waters, attracts swimmers and snorkelers. It is big enough to feel like you have the place to yourself. Thousands of stalactites and stalagmites will definitely be seen above you as you swim in the 600-meter-long river (1,968 feet).

A car can take you from Playa del Carmen to Rio Secreto in 20 minutes. The distance from Playa del Carmen to this location is roughly 3.7 miles (6 kilometers). In some packages, transportation is included.

You have two options for transportation: alone or as part of a tour. Rio Secreto is open daily from 8 AM to 3 PM. You can book either directly through the website of the attraction or through other additional tour providers.

Playa del Carmen Beach

The city’s main beach, the Playa del Carmen Beach, is one long stretch of continuous white-sand beach. The Playa’s various beach clubs and resorts cut up the expansive Playa del Carmen Beach into sections. In front of the region’s widest beach is the Playa del Carmen Arch, which acts as a landmark for Parque Fundadores.

You’ll likely pass the beach at Parque Fundadores while strolling along La Quinta Avenida. It is located next to the bustling roadway. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the huge arch sculpture that has been built at the beach’s main entrance.

It usually has a lot of tourists because of how close Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is to it. There are a lot of beach clubs nearby that rent out sun loungers for a few pesos. It also has a ton of amenities and is located in a convenient position near the ADO bus stop and the ferry to Cozumel.

Although entry to the beach is free, you must pay extra to rent a lounge chair or other beach accessories. You can also try your hand at windsurfing and paddleboarding in the Caribbean Sea. And that’s on top of having fun on the full-size volleyball court.

Xcaret and Xel-Ha

Aside from the beaches and other natural features, Playa del Carmen also has man-made marvels for amusement and pleasure. There will always be intriguing things to do in the city, you can be sure of that.

Two theme parks in the city add to the state of the region’s appeal as a travel destination. Two of the largest theme parks in Quintana Roo and the entire Yucatan Peninsula are Xcaret and Xel-Ha.

Both experts and visitors have compared Xcaret to a big outdoor “eco-park”. It is home to an aviary, a dolphin aquarium, and a turtle sanctuary. It also has a beach perfect for swimming, diving, and snorkeling.

The park also offers a range of activities, such as scuba excursions, shark swims, stingray encounters, and speedboat rides. Stay the day at Xcaret and enjoy the evening activities, which include performances showcasing the Mayan heritage of the area. In Xcaret, there are a few restaurants.

Schools of tropical fish, dolphins, and turtles can all be found in the inlet and lagoon that make up Xel-Há. It is a natural aquarium where visitors can swim and snorkel. During your stay, you can engage in a variety of outdoor pursuits. This includes biking, zip-lining, and encounters with manatees and stingrays.

In the Children’s World in Xel-Ha, there is a rope climbing area and a wading pool with slides. From the 40-meter-tall (131 ft) Scenic Lighthouse, you can see Xel-Ha Bay and the Caribbean Sea in exquisite detail.

Riviera Maya

The magnificent Mayan Riviera starts just a little bit south of the famous Cancun. The Mayan Riviera is still one of the top tourist destinations in all of Mexico. This is mostly thanks to its tranquil beach villages, boho-chic boutique hotels, and delicious local cuisine. Plus, it has unique historic ruins and hidden jungle treasures.

The tourist corridor attracts sun-seeking tourists by the millions. It has famed ruins, the second-largest coral reef, and powder-puff white-sand beaches on offer. The Riviera Maya tempts visitors with an astounding array of well-preserved Mayan ruins. Not to mention, an array of world-class dive sites. And it also has entertaining cenotes in addition to its beautiful beaches. You won’t ever run out of stuff to do, to put it simply.

What Makes Riviera Maya Unique?

Coastal Icons

Riviera Maya boasts some of the best insular features. The region boasts beautiful coastal stretches and the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean. But thanks to the local culture and its Mayan roots, the shores, and interiors of the riviera are dotted with icons that put the region on the map.

From the boho-chic streets and shores of Playa del Carmen to rustic and quaint Akumal, you can never run out of places to marvel upon. Here are the icons of the great Riviera Maya:

Playa del Carmen

The Riviera Maya’s core, Playa del Carmen, serves as the best place from which to explore the rest of the area. Even while this well-known town draws lots of tourists, it still has some of its local charms. The majority of visitors base themselves in this area of the Riviera Maya. The city has vibrant nightlife, all-inclusive hotels, and stunning beaches.


Tulum, which was formerly the location of a significant Mayan city, is now one of the Riviera Maya’s most well-known cities. It has developed into a unique beach town that is a fantastic base from which to explore the Riviera Maya.

The town has a focus on well-being with a wealth of yoga, meditation, and healing treatments. This is a perfect balance with its fantastic restaurant scene and cool parties.

Tulum town (Tulum Pueblo) is a destination in itself. It boasts gorgeous boutique hotels, acclaimed restaurants, and a carefree luxurious atmosphere. But the eponymous ruins, which have existed here for millennia, are what gave the town its name.

Its iconic El Castillo stone tower, set on a rocky cliff overlooking the azure lake, will instantly bring to mind the image of this place.

The ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulum, which are positioned on top of a cliff with the Caribbean Sea in the background, must be seen while you are there. The walled port city of Tulum was crucial to the Mayan empire’s prosperity. It now draws thousands of tourists each year and is one of Mexico’s major archaeological sites.


A short ferry trip separates Playa Del Carmen on the Riviera Maya from the laid-back Caribbean island of Cozumel. The west of the island is home to exquisite white-sand beaches, and snorkeling and scuba diving are world-famous on the island.

One of Mexico’s largest islands, Cozumel is by far its most well-known due to the fact that it is one of the biggest cruise ports in the nation. And with good cause; Cozumel is stunning.

The national government has designated most of the island as a protected area, so a large portion of it is still undeveloped and covered in nature.

Cozumel is one of the best diving locations on earth since it is perched on top of the Mesoamerican Reef, one of the biggest barrier reefs in the world.


The picture-perfect Riviera Maya destination of Akumal is a sleepy beach town. It is situated halfway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Akumal also called the “Place of the Turtles,” is a well-liked day trip for visitors to the Riviera Maya.

Akumal is the ideal location for swimming and animal viewing because it has a stunning lagoon and 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) of immaculate beach.

Beautiful white-sand beaches, warm Caribbean waters, and a coral reef with resident turtles are just some of the fascinating things in Akumal. It also has five unique bays in this area. Each has clear waters, shady palm trees, and an abundance of top-notch bars and eateries for nighttime entertainment.


The Riviera Maya’s forests stand over a network of underground caverns and tunnels. Most have been carved out by a web of underground rivers throughout the years. The ground has caved in some areas, creating a passageway to freshwater rivers and tunnels for people to walk through.

These apertures or natural sinkholes are called “cenotes” in Mexico. And several of them can be found all across the Yucatan and Mayan Riviera.

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to hundreds of cenotes, many of which are close to the Riviera Maya. One of the most well-known cenotes is Gran Cenote, an open-air cenote located within an underground network of tunnels and caverns. Additionally, the Cenote Dos Ojos twin sinkhole draws both divers and swimmers.

One of the nicest cenotes in Playa del Carmen, Cenote Azul, is ideal for families because it has shallow water and an open swimming area. Some of the nicest open-air cenotes close to Tulum include Cenote Zacil, Cenote Carwash, and Casa Cenote.

Cenotes play a significant role in Mayan culture since they are seen as the gateways to the underworld by the Mayans. Regardless of what you believe, there are still many of these stunning natural wonders in Mexico that you can see and swim in.


You can expect to find interesting remnants of its past. It is the cradle of the mysterious Mayan civilization and the central hub of ancient Yucatan. The shores and interiors of the famed riviera are dotted with ancient ruins that add to its allure.

No matter what town or city in the Riviera Maya you’re staying in, you’re sure to find tours that will take you around many of the region’s ancient icons.

One of the most famous and defining draws of the region is the Tulum ruins. Tulum, one of Mexico’s most well-known ruins, is a fantastic site to begin your tour of the Riviera Maya. The ruins of Tulum are set atop rocky cliffs, high above the Caribbean Sea’s blue waves.

Another beautiful group of ruins that played a significant role in the Mayan empire is located farther inland from the ruins at Tulum. The remains at Coba depict a former Mayan metropolis. It boasted the biggest system of stone causeways (raised stone highways) in the entire known Mayan world.

If you could spare a three-hour drive deep inside the Yucatan, you can also access the famous Chichen Itza. The most exquisitely carved Mayan Pyramid is Chichen Itza, one of the modern wonders of the world. Additionally, it is the priciest and busiest of them all.


Covering the gorgeous coastline south of Cancun to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, you can expect to find a treasure trove of beaches. Plus, these stunning white-sand beaches front the famously breathtaking Caribbean Sea. From the white-sand stretches of Playa del Carmen to Punta Allen, here are some of the best beaches to hit in Riviera Maya.

Playa Pescadores

Playa Pescadores is well renowned for its soothing warmth, plush beaches, and inviting seas. It is the ideal location for relaxing or having fun on the beach. Along with beach games like volleyball, there are also some watersports accessible here.

But because of the quiet, clear seas, snorkeling is particularly well-liked. East of Tulum, experience it all for yourself.

Playa Akumal

The beautiful Playa Akumal beach is located in the same-named town. It is known for its tranquil sands, watersports activities, and native turtle population. Given that Akumal means “land of turtles,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a lot of turtles about.

It offers activities for everyone. Check out snorkeling with sea turtles in calm ocean waters, and eating and drinking at a variety of casual restaurants along the sand. You can also explore luxurious shops and old-world hotels. For beach enthusiasts, it resembles an entertainment park.

Playa Ruinas

You can discover the history and the gentle sands of the Caribbean coast at Playa Ruinas. It is, as its name suggests, close to some significant Mayan ruins. Tulum, once a significant Mayan region, is one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations for history enthusiasts.

The Playa Ruinas beach is home to numerous well-preserved ruins that date all the way back to the 13th century. Numerous more pyramids and ruins can be seen lining the grassy walkways just above the sand. The clifftop Castillo looks out over the wide ocean.

Even if the ruins are amazing, you don’t have to spend the entire day gazing at them. Join other beachgoers along the seashore by making your way to the cliff’s base. You can even swim north to the adjacent Boca Paila Peninsula because the waters are tranquil.

Riviera Maya or Playa Del Carmen – Which Is Better?

Playa del Carmen is but a city in the myriad of towns and cities within the Riviera Maya. it is arguably better, thanks to the more accommodations, thrills, and charms it offers. Playa del Carmen alone cannot stand against the total charm of the Riviera Maya.


Playa Del Carmen vs. Riviera Maya Hotels

Playa del Carmen is home to many of the Riviera Maya’s best hotels and resorts. So, when it comes to the range and quality of accommodations, Playa del Carmen is top. However, Playa del Carmen is just a mere part of the Riviera, the region offers more options.

Playa Del Carmen vs. Riviera Maya Resorts

The same as hotels, Playa del Carmen may offer the best in quality, but it doesn’t offer the range that the entire Riviera Maya offers.

Playa Del Carmen vs. Riviera Maya All-Inclusive Resorts

Riviera Maya has quite the roster of all-inclusive resorts on its shores. However, when it comes to quality and quirks Playa’s tourism game has created a better roster around the shores of the boho-chic city.

Is Riviera Maya and Playa Del Carmen the Same?

Playa del Carmen is located within the entire stretch of the Riviera Maya. So in a way the Playa is basically part of the Riviera.

Where are Playa Del Carmen and Riviera Maya?

Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya are located in the southeastern reaches of Mexico. It is situated in the state of Quintana Roo, right along its coasts that front the Caribbean.

Playa Del Carmen to Riviera Maya Distance

Playa del Carmen is located within Rivier Maya. It is considered to be the beating heart and the main spot in the entire region.

How to Get to Playa Del Carmen From Riviera Maya

You can traverse all of Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen by taxi, bus, or rental car. The Playa is located within the Riviera Maya so getting around is quick and easy.

Taxi From Riviera Maya to Playa Del Carmen

Taxis are one of the most common modes of transportation across the Riviera Maya. Playa del Carmen is already within the Riviera, in fact, it is arguably the most jam-packed city in the region.

How Much Is a Taxi From Riviera Maya to Playa Del Carmen?

Taxis usually cost around 8 to 11 USD, one way.