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Mexico: Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox

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On Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the Caribbean Mayan Riviera refers to the stretch of uninterrupted pale golden sands running south from the purpose-built resort of Cancún to Tulum, home to the celebrated cliff-top Mayan ruins. The coastline is followed by a close-to-shore barrier reef rich in undersea marine life; offshore are leisure-destination islands such as Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Small resorts and former fishing villages cater for visitors, notably the family-friendly Playa del Carmen. There is plenty to see and do on the Riviera Maya, including outdoor activities, marine parks and diving opportunities. Within easy reach are several ruined Mayan cities buried away inland in rainforest, including the grand pyramids of Cobá.

Isla Holbox is only about 75km from Cancún, but worlds away from the glitz of that burgeoning resort. If even super-chic Tulum is a bit too trendy for your liking you can head for Isla Holbox, a low flat new-agey island separated from the Mexican mainland on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula by a shallow azure lagoon which attracts migrating flamingos. With virtually no vehicles permitted on the island, the streets in the lazy village are made of sand, and you get around in golf buggies. There’s a virtually uninterrupted stretch of powder white beach on which to sunbathe, but there is scope for other activities: whale-shark viewing is some of the best in the world (Jun-Sep) and the island is popular for kite-surfing.  Because it has not been readily accessible, the island’s tourist infrastructure is in its infancy but new establishments are creating possibilities for yoga retreats and spas. The island is a good choice for everyone from romantic couples to families.  

Our holidays to Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox

View all holidays
Colourful mexican food

A Taste of Mexico

Private journey

14 days from £3,756pp

Taxis in Mexico City

Eagle: Aztecs, Mayas and conquistadores

Group tour

15 days from £2,398pp

Mestizo dancers in Merida.

Value Mexico: Mayan Yucatan and coast

Private journey

8 days from £986pp

Beach at Esencia

Luxury Mexico: Yucatan in style

Private journey

12 days from £3,385pp

Things to do in Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox

beach

Visit Tulum Mayan ruins

Whale shark

Swim with whale sharks


Underwater gallery

Visit an underwater sculpture gallery

Cenotes

Visit the Yucatan's colonial haciendas and bathe in limestone cenotes

Our insider tips for Caribbean coast: Riviera Maya and Holbox

Kathryn

Kathryn Glover

Stretching back on the sands at sunset on the beautiful beach in the shadow of the photogenic ruins at the still relatively unspoilt village of Tulum.
Ileen

Ileen Baiden

Snorkelling with a multitude of rainbow-coloured tropical fish in the calm limpid waters of the eco-park at Xel-Ha.
Angela

Angela Fernandez

Enjoying an ice-cold happy-hour margarita in a pavement café in lively, family friendly Playa del Carmen, serenaded by a mariachi band. Sounds tacky, but in fact it can be great fun if you’re in the mood!
Claire Milner

Claire Milner

A splurge at one of the secluded luxury boutique hotels set in their own tropical grounds on secluded bays down the coast.

What our experts say

From Europe, it is a long way to Mexico. So try and combine a visit exploring the Yucatán with a few days on the beach to relax. Tulum and the Riviera Maya offer great beaches with a decent infrastructure, and the less developed stretch of coast at Holbox is now quicker and easier to get to now that a new road from Holbox to Playa del Carmen has been opened.

Rafe Stone

Rafe Stone

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