Puerto Morelos

Mexico: Riviera Maya and Yucatan travel guide

To the point Want to travel to Mexico? Here's our guide to must-see places in Riviera Maya and Yucatan.

Updated our February 3, 2023 article with new activities and more money-saving tips.

Mexico - Riviera Maya

Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, only 20 minutes from the Cancun International Airport. Formerly a small fishing village, tourism is now the main source of cash flow for its citizens.

The village is divided in two. The first is La Colonia, located just off Route 307, the Riviera Maya’s main road from Cancún to Tulum. This part is a little more authentic, with low-cost local restaurants, street food stalls and more rustic houses. There’s also a huge Chedraui, a large-scale grocery store well known in Mexico.

On the other side of Route 307, the only road for three kilometers crosses a large swamp before arriving on the “port” side at the seaside. This part is a little more touristy as there are many hotels, souvenir stores, a phenomenal amount of restaurants, and of course, the white sand beach stretches for miles.

Besides swimming in turquoise water, Puerto Morelos is known for diving and snorkelling. Close to the shore, you’ll find a large coral reef where many multicolored fish live side by side. It is also possible to go out on the high seas to practice fishing. If you’re not interested in the water, the many stores, restaurants and beach clubs are waiting with open arms for you to have a good time.

Puerto Morelos

My favorites in Puerto Morelos:

In all, I’ve spent the equivalent of five months in Puerto Morelos over the last few years, which tells you how much this village charms me, even though it’s becoming increasingly touristy and not as “secret ” as it used to be. Some highlights not to be missed during your visit:

  • Punta Corcho: delicious seafood restaurant, excellent service, tasty and surprising cocktails at higher but reasonable prices. Try ceviche with tahini or grilled octopus;
  • Al Chimichurri: go to the back terrace hidden from the street for a magical evening atmosphere. All the meats are succulent, accompanied by chimichurri, and to drink, I particularly appreciate the sangria;
  • El Nicho: for brunch, this is the place to go, with fantastic benefits and the most colorful back terrace;
  • Lauros: every evening, a band takes to the stage while you enjoy your meal in a Molcajete, a hot volcanic stone. Choice of meats, vegetables, cheeses, to be enjoyed with a cold beer;
  • Diver’s Lodge: I love this beach club, because the service is excellent, the mojitos are good and the music is always excellent;
  • Hotel The Fives Oceanfront: a brand-new luxury hotel just three years old, The Fives Oceanfront is located at the quietest end of the beach, has an infinity pool with the most beautiful view, and has modern rooms.

Isla Holbox

This increasingly popular peninsula is located on the other side of Cancún, about 2 hours away by car and a few minutes by ferry. The ADO bus goes daily to Chiquilà from where one of the two boats leaves to take you to Holbox.

Depending on the time of year, Holbox can be a pleasant and relaxing island or a muddy and rowdy one. That’s because the streets are actually sandy paths, and there are plenty of hotels where people party!

You can walk, ride an electric golf cart or bike, enjoy the beach, and the shallow wave-free sea, take pictures for Instagram, admire the many colourful murals, and just enjoy life.

Don’t hesitate to book an excursion to Holbox Island to enjoy the beach or visit the village.

Holbox 1

My favourites in Holbox:

  • Colibri: I liked this restaurant where they serve a mix of authentic and North American cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff is friendly and the food tasty;
  • Street art: the streets of Holbox are dotted with magnificent, colorful frescoes depicting the fauna, flora and people of Mexico. You’ll find it hard not to photograph them all.


I also want to tell you about the Yucatan Peninsula which is less often visited, but easily accessible with the ADO buses or by renting a car from the Cancún airport.


This small town, classified as a Pueblos Magicos, is simply beautiful and is best visited on foot. From its central square, you can admire the San Gervasio cathedral, sample from the food trucks, and enjoy spontaneous entertainment by street entertainers.

The most colourful street in Valladolid is Calzada de Los Frailles, where your camera will come in handy.

Valladolid 1

My favorites of Valladolid:

  • Cenote Zací: right in the center of town, you can swim in a cenote! There are also some wonderful cenotes within 30 minutes of Valladolid, including the popular Cenote Suytun ;
  • Parque Central Francisco Canton: a must-see especially at the end of the day where visitors and locals gather to dance, eat, and just enjoy the last few moments of the day.


The capital of the Yucatan region, Mérida is a great historical city. The central square remains a lively and very nice place to visit. Many guided tours, some of which are free, depart from this location.

You can also visit the Museo Casa Montejo, which traces the history of the most prominant family in the region. Do you like markets? I love them, and in Merida, there is the Mercado Lucas de Gervès; you can find fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, and just about everything there.

If you love Mexican cuisine, you can’t miss this gastronomic tour of Mérida.

Merida 3

My favorites in Merida:

  • Eat the famous Pollo Pibl at Chaya Maya Casona ;
  • Evening shows in the parks: several thematic evenings are held in one of the city’s parks; music, traditional dance, and all kinds of entertainment can be found there.

Rio Lagartos

On the northern tip, not far from Holbox, Rio Lagartos is a pretty fishing village.

Its greatest attraction: a swath of pink flamingos in January. It’s also a great stop to taste the local seafood caught in the early morning just off the coast.

Opt for a tour of the lagoon by boat or go to Las Coloradas, pink, turquoise, copper, and green salt marshes.

Rio 1

My favorites in Rio Lagartos:

  • Watch flamingos from the shore;
  • Enjoy the sunset from the rooftop of the Rio Lagartos hotel with a good cocktail.

Mexico - Excursions and activities

Mexico Travel Guide

Here are two Ulysses guides to other places and activities:

Deux guides de voyage Ulysse sur le Mexique, Cancun et la Riviera Maya

Saving money when traveling

Foreign currency transactions

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, choose a credit card with no conversion fees. That’s 2. 5% savings per transaction!

Discover all our tips in our guide to saving on foreign currency transactions.

Here are some cards with no conversion fees:

Aeroplan Points

To reach Cancún or Tulum, you can use points from the Aeroplan loyalty program. A minimum of 12,500 points is required for a one-way economy flight from Montreal, according to Air Canada’s points predictor.

Our Aeroplan beginner’s guide shows you all the tricks to quickly earn points on your daily expenses.

Flexible points

Many loyalty programs offer the possibility of converting your reward points into account credit. You’ll save on travel expenses. Popular programs include :

Marriott Bonvoy

There are several ways to earn Marriott Bonvoy Rewards points. The easiest way is via credit card.

American Express offers two credit cards linked to this loyalty program:

Each of these cards allows you to earn Marriott Bonvoy points directly through your daily spending, as well as through welcome offers.

You’ve spotted a hotel that isn’t a Marriott: there are several ways to save money.

How can I save on independent hotel reservations? Many tips are listed in our guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

When to go to the Riviera Maya?

Winter is the most pleasant season, according to the Ulysses guides. Hurricane risk is high in September and October.

Why go to the Riviera Maya?

This region offers a wide choice of hotels and activities for young and old. The Riviera Maya is easily accessible via Cancún and Tulum airports.

Does Cancun offer all-inclusive hotels?

There’s no shortage of all-inclusives in and around Cancún. Some are adults-only, such as the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun and Blanc Spa Resort Cancun.

What's the best destination in Mexico?

It all depends on your tastes. The Riviera Maya remains a destination of choice, offering many attractions for the whole family. From sublime beaches and parks to archaeological sites such as Tulum, your vacation will be both relaxing and enriching.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
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From Quebec to faraway lands of adventure, Maude, who we know from her travel blog MC Globetrotteuse and her web columns, has always been passionate about travel. When she's not in a trendy café working, you can bet that you'll find her outside. From her forays into Indonesian communities to early morning hikes to Mexico's paradise beaches, she knows how to find the little treasures and share them to help you make the most of your stay. A planning queen and sailing enthusiast, Maude never stays put for long.

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