Chronological / Destinations / Mexico

Riviera Maya – North America’s “New Riviera”

The designation “Riviera Maya” is a fairly recent one. For many years, even after the advent and development of Cancun, then Playa del Carmen and finally Tulum, this magnificent stretch of beach along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, was little explored. When I first arrived in that area in 1973, there were a few narrow sand roads leading to some small places where you could find some basic accommodations. Of course, there was the beautiful resort development of Akumal, still in its early, formative years, but after that, there simply wasn’t much happening. Driving down to Chetumal was an adventure on the gravel roads that traversed long, lonesome stretches of undeveloped jungle.

Riviera Maya, Mexico - Lodging
Riviera Maya Lodging


Now the entire strip of land from Playa del Carmen to Tulum has been developed with magnificent hotels, many of which are all-inclusive. Other properties are simply upscale, grand hotels owned and operated by world consortiums, designed to entice passersby, as well as vacationers who have made their reservations online. Many look like backdrops for movie scenes: lush, tropical landscapes with sparkling white sand beaches, brilliant turquoise waters and, of course, ubiquitous palm trees swaying in gentle breezes.

Tulum, Ancient Mayan City, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Tulum, Ancient Mayan City, Riviera Maya


Spas have become standard at many of these hotels; many are offering extensive menus of European-style sophisticated services. These didn’t exist little more than a decade ago. Now, with the public’s increased health consciousness, many visitors fully expect to take care of their bodies in a way that provides a dose of rejuvenation, as well as a way to just soak up the sunshine from their lounge chairs.

This magnificent strip of land is one of the last to be developed along Mexico’s Caribbean coast; the final stretch before the main highway south moves inland, not to re-emerge again until the turn-off to Mahahual, an hour and a half past Tulum, proceeding on south to Laguna Bacalar, and terminating in Chetumal, the last town in Quintana Roo before it borders with the country of Belize.

New hotels are going up all the time, so obviously the existing properties are enjoying a measure of success, even in a very flat economy. The Mexican government has invested a good deal of money in building “bridges” from the beach side of this strip to the inland side, where new support cities are being expanded constantly. Looking toward the future, when the entire area will be developed, the need for support cities is being realized right now. These support cities not only serve the ever-increasing tourism served by upscale hotels, but also provide new opportunities for many Mexican families who come to the area in search of work and a better way of providing for their families.

Mayan Ball Player, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Mayan Ball Player, Riviera Maya


At this particular point in time, the French and Spanish Rivieras have become saturated and, for many, inaccessible, either because of cost or because of the public’s reluctance to travel abroad. Here, in the newly emerging Mexican Riviera, with the proximity of the Cancun airport and the promise of tropical weather, many more people are feeling the lure of a place they believe will satisfy their longings for a tropical vacation.

Although I have seen many dramatic and undreamed-of changes in this area, I still spend part of every year here and understand that what it has to offer, although different from those early years, continues to provide stunning natural beauty in all its myriad forms.

Mexico Tourism, www.visitmexico.com/wb/Visitmexico/Visi_Home?show=regions

Riviera Maya Tourism, www.rivieramaya.com/

Hotels – Adult All-Inclusive, www.realresorts.com/The_Royal_Playa_Carmen/

Hotels – Family All-Inclusive, www.realresorts.com/Gran_Porto_Real/

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