10 Best Riviera Maya Resorts for the Dreamiest Vacation South of the Border
Whether you prefer expansive all-inclusives or secluded wellness-centric stays, there's a Riviera Maya resort that will meet your travel taste
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Relaxing at Riviera Maya resorts
Spanning around 80 miles along the Mexican Caribbean, the Riviera Maya is world-renowned for its stunning stretches of sand, clear-blue waters, spectacular Mayan archaeological sites, cenotes (natural sinkholes filled with water that ancient Mayans considered sacred) and lush landscapes full of mangroves, lagoons and tropical jungles. All in all, it’s safe to say this gorgeous stretch of coast offers something special for every type of traveler. So while you get ready to sit back, relax and enjoy the postcard-worthy surroundings, the only thing you’ll really need to worry about is where to stay when in town. Travelers can take their pick of some truly incredible Riviera Maya resorts, including some of the most amazing all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.
It’s worth noting that the popular beach vacation destination is just south of Cancún, so depending on which area you stay in—more on that in a bit!—it’s an easy one- to two-hour drive from Cancún International Airport, where most travelers fly in and out. Whether you’re visiting for an entire week or embarking on a short but sweet weekend getaway, there’s no denying that the region makes for a fun-filled trip complete with plenty of warm-water beaches perfect for sunbathing and swimming.
While planning a trip can be overwhelming, we’re here to help. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and narrowed down our top picks for the best Riviera Maya resorts—though you’ll have to keep reading to find out more!
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What’s the best area of Riviera Maya to stay in?
Whether you’re looking to stay in a bustling resort town or somewhere a bit more secluded, the Riviera Maya has it all—and ultimately, narrowing down the best place to stay here comes down to the type of vibe you’re looking for.
If you’re anything like me and prefer to stay somewhere central (and close to dining, nightlife and attractions), Playa del Carmen is your best bet. What’s more, this beach town is Riviera Maya’s most bustling, and it’s where you’ll find some of the region’s best all-inclusive resorts. Its main strip, Fifth Avenue, is dotted with bars, restaurants, nightclubs, shops and other entertainment offerings. Playa del Carmen is also home to several large luxury resort complexes, which offer a more secluded and exclusive vibe. (Oh, and did I mention it’s less than an hour from Cancún International Airport?)
That said, while Playa del Carmen is a fun place to make your home base while in town, the beaches—and hotels—can get crowded, especially if you’re traveling outside of the low season and shoulder season.
Tulum is another popular place to stay in the Riviera Maya. It’s here where you’ll find some of the best white-sand beaches with the clearest water—along with some incredible Mayan ruins. The town is also home to an array of luxury boutique properties that are primarily geared toward grown-ups, so it’s especially great for couples craving a romantic weekend getaway. (Spoiler alert, not all Riviera Maya resorts are massive and filled with families!)
Another option is Puerto Morelos, a quaint town that’s famous for its fishing and snorkeling opportunities; it’s about halfway between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. Despite its picturesque beaches and turquoise waters, Xpu Há, which is situated between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, flies under the radar (for now, at least). Other options include Akumal (featuring colorful coral reefs and sugar-sand beaches) and Puerto Aventuras (a residential complex and resort that just so happens to be the second-largest community in Solidaridad Municipality after Playa del Carmen).
Is it better to go to Cancún or Riviera Maya?
Both Cancún and Riviera Maya are beautiful beach destinations, but deciding between the two can be tricky. Keep in mind that Riviera Maya is bigger than Cancún, since it comprises several different resort towns. Since the Riviera Maya is so vast, it also boasts more hotel options. While there are some great all-inclusive resorts in Cancún, you may find more variety across Riviera Maya resorts.
Also, keep in mind that if you travel to Cancún around spring break time, you may encounter some rowdiness.
How we chose the best Riviera Maya resorts
Finding the best Riviera Maya resorts was, put simply, no easy feat. To start, most travelers flock to Riviera Maya for the pristine stretches of sand, and for this reason, it was important to select only those hotels with beach access—which, as a longtime Riviera Maya vacationer, I know is a must. I’ve been to the region several times as a child, teen and now adult; I’ve also traveled here with my parents and siblings, as well as with my spouse and a handful of other families on some epic group getaways. So when handpicking these hotels, it was important for me to include a selection of resorts that would be suitable for travelers of all ages and abilities.
Of course, it was also important to feature a combination of traditional and all-inclusive resorts. Bonus: Each pick has a minimum of four-and-a-half stars, and several of them even have perfect five-star ratings!
We also aimed to feature Riviera Maya resorts across all budgets, which is why you’ll notice such a wide range of price points, from as low as $200 to well over $1,000 per night. And since some people love sprawling resorts, while others prefer a smaller, more intimate hotel, size was another important factor to consider when compiling this list. We also looked for properties that offered amenities like kids clubs, all-suite accommodations and non-motorized water sports.
Have we got your attention yet? Keep scrolling to view all the best Riviera Maya resorts for every type of traveler.
It’s safe to say that the Rosewood Mayakoba is one of the best resorts in Riviera Maya. Located within the 620-acre Mayakoba resort complex and flanked by winding lagoons and a mile of white-sand beaches, this oceanfront oasis is well worth a spot on your hotel bucket list. All 129 suites feature plunge pools, spacious outdoor showers and decks for lounging alfresco; meanwhile, the personalized butler service is an incredible bonus.
If you’re able to lure yourself away from your private pool—it’s worth it!—consider soaking up the sun on the beach or checking out other resort amenities, such as a championship golf course and non-motorized water sports. There are eight restaurants to choose from, and I got the chance to sample some signature dishes from the resort’s oceanfront beach clubs, Aqui me Quedo and Punta Bonita, as part of a pop-up in New York this summer. Some personal favorites include the mixed seafood ceviche, shrimp tacos and corn ribs—which are even more delicious and refreshing when paired with signature cocktails like the Zapotaiquiri (featuring rum infused with pineapple, lime, grapefruit and celery).
While the kids are at play at the Rosewood Explorers Club (activities include cookie-making, yoga, biologist-led boat tours and scavenger hunts), Mom and Dad can visit the stunning spa, which is designed around a cenote and located on its own private island (yes, really!) for optimal R&R.
- All accommodations (suites) have private plunge pools
- Complimentary amenities include non-motorized water sports and personalized butler service
- Postcard-worthy surroundings featuring lush mangroves, lagoons and ocean views
- A stay here is pricey—over $1,000 per night, sans food and drink
Best adults-only all-inclusive
TRS Yucatan Hotel
With all-suite accommodations, 24/7 butler service and an array of on-site activities and amenities (but more on those in a bit), the oceanfront TRS Yucatan is among the world’s best adults-only all-inclusive resorts. At the swanky Helios Beach Club, which is set along the resort’s private stretch of sand, guests can relax in style on a plush Balinese bed while sipping cocktails and listening to live music. Not one for relaxing? You can wade into the water or embark on a scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking or windsurfing excursion.
Those who prefer to stay off the sand can head to one of eight pools, hit the spa or grab a bite (and perhaps another drink) at one of six bars and six restaurants. (PSA: The lobster is included without any additional upcharge!) From there, the fun continues into the evening with activities like cabaret shows, canoe rides and live music performances.
After a fun-filled day and night in paradise, travelers can retreat to their sleek suite, equipped with a deep soaking tub and a private balcony overlooking the mangroves. Tip: For an even more luxe experience, book a room with a private pool or outdoor Jacuzzi. Best of all, taxes and gratuities are included in your all-inclusive room rate, so feel free to leave your wallet at home, though don’t forget your passport!
- Caters to only adults
- Taxes and gratuity are included, as are specialty food items like lobster, which typically cost extra at other all-inclusive resorts
- Private beach club plus eight pools offer ample space to lounge without feeling crowded
- Luxuriously appointed suites with private balconies and soaking tubs
- Restaurants can get crowded, especially during the peak season—which means you may encounter a bit of a wait or delay
- The property is expansive, so be prepared to walk, as golf cart transportation can be difficult to come by, especially in the busy season
Auberge Resorts Collection is renowned for its uber-luxe properties, and Etéreo is no different. The hotel is ideally situated within the luxury Kanai resort development, which is set on a pristine stretch of sand along the Caribbean Sea and among protective mangrove forests. The 75 accommodations range in size from 875-square-foot studios to nearly 4,000-square-foot three-bedroom suites, and all have postcard-worthy ocean views, soaking tubs and private terraces. A majority of the rooms in this luxury resort also feature private pools and/or rooftop terraces.
Outside their rooms, guests can take their pick of three sparkling swimming pools or lounge on the private beach. Despite the tranquil ambiance, the resort offers a handful of child-centric activities, most notably at the kids club, which features paddleboarding and kayak races, crafting, scuba lessons and more. The on-site SANA spa is noteworthy for its one-of-a-kind offerings and amenities: a cenote-inspired pool, a Mayan clay room and treatments like Mayan-inspired healing energy rituals.
When hunger strikes, head to one of three sit-down restaurants: Itzam, the main restaurant serving contemporary Mexican fare made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients; Che Che, an open-air outdoor eatery that dishes out Japanese-Mexican fusion; and El Changarro, a lunch-only seafood spot located on the beach. Guests also have the option to order drinks and light fare by the pool; Chu Chu, the on-site food truck, serves coffee and pastries in the morning, snacks in the afternoon and cocktails into the early evening.
- You get a lot for the price: Rooms start at an ultra-spacious 875 square feet, and most have private pools and/or rooftop terraces
- Gorgeous private beach
- Three swimming pools—one for only adults, one for families and one for children
- Only three restaurants
- Yes, this is a splurge, but rates can climb to over $1,000 per night and are not all-inclusive
Best all-inclusive for families
Hotel Xcaret Mexico
I’m one of many folks who love Xcaret Park for its fun-filled, action-packed attractions, including three underground rivers surrounded by mangroves—perfect for a refreshing, scenic and adventure-filled dip!—plus premium experiences like spectacular dolphin encounters. (It makes a great day trip, regardless of where you’re staying in Cancún or Riviera Maya.) But those searching for an extra dose of fun for the whole family can actually stay at one of three Xcaret-branded properties, including the signature Hotel Xcaret Mexico, one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya.
All in all, it’s pretty much impossible to be bored here, which means families of all ages will find something fun to do. Resort activities like yoga, non-motorized water sports and tennis are all complimentary, but the hotel takes things one step further by including several off-site excursions. As part of the company’s All-Fun Inclusive program, guests gain unlimited access and transportation to Grupo Xcaret’s seven-plus parks and tours. Ferries to Isla Mujeres and catamaran tours are also free of charge, as is transportation to and from the airport.
Despite how large the resort is—Hotel Xcaret has a whopping 900 suites spread across five buildings (one of which is adults-only)—it never feels overly crowded. There are several pools (including a kids pool with slides, a waterfall and a rock-climbing wall), 10 restaurants (don’t miss Ha’, overseen by Michelin-star chef Carlos Gaytán) and eight bars.
Among the Riviera Maya all-inclusive resorts for families, Hotel Xcaret Mexico shines with activities for all ages. The Xiquillos Kids Club is ideal for younger kids, while the Xiipal Family Club is best suited to slightly older kids. Beyond the beaches and the pools, guests can explore enchanting rivers and inlets. Meanwhile, wellness-seekers can carve out an afternoon to enjoy the Muluk Spa, where they can indulge in Mayan-inspired services in treatment rooms housed in caverns.
- Value-packed amenities and on- and off-site activities for parents and kids of all ages
- Rooms equipped with Jacuzzis add an extra-luxe touch
- 18 bars and restaurants offer plenty of variety
- The massive resort may be overwhelming to those craving a more intimate ambiance or boutique stay
Best for foodies
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
At the 206-acre Grand Velas Riviera Maya, the food is the star of the show. Though it’s fringed by white-sand beaches and a tropical jungle, this property truly stands out for its eight restaurants, including five gourmet options that serve mouthwatering cuisine from around the world, making it one of the best Riviera Maya resorts for travelers who like to eat their way through vacation.
Piaf serves haute French fare in a swanky setting, while Frida is the perfect place to sip cocktails, listen to live music and nosh on tacos. Bistro, a casual breakfast and lunch spot, offers everything from omelets to quesadillas. Guests can head to Chaka for breakfast or dinner to enjoy global cuisine (options range from tropical fruits to sushi) and Lucca for decadent homemade pasta and other Italian staples. For a unique experience, snag a table at Cocina de Autor and thank me later. The one-of-a-kind restaurant is known for its edible works of art, like foie gras with corn and green tomato and fresh seafood served with seaweed, truffle and black olives. Also, don’t sleep on Azul, the beachfront buffet with everything from tacos to sushi to pizza.
While the food here is excellent, don’t forget to take advantage of other amenities, including a 90,000-square-foot spa, a kids and teens club, three swimming pools, six stylish bars and non-motorized water sports. Last but not least: All 539 suites are incredibly spacious, with the smallest clocking in at 1,100 square feet. By the way, if you find yourself out on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, consider the brand’s Los Cabos location, which is one of the best Cabo all-inclusive resorts.
- There’s an abundance of restaurants to choose from, including five gourmet offerings, plus six premium bars
- The all-suite accommodations have private balconies and Jacuzzi tubs, and they’re each over 1,000 square feet
- The 90,000-square-foot spa is the largest in the area
- Some restaurants are open only to guests 12 and older
Best for families with small children
Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya
For your next family vacation, consider Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya. With a plethora of kid-friendly activities and amenities, including a six-acre water park with more than 20 slides, this one-of-a-kind property is among the best Riviera Maya resorts for young families. Little ones will have the opportunity to meet their favorite Nickelodeon characters during bucket-list-worthy activities like getting slimed (yes, really!). For something a little less, ahem, messy, you can take the kiddos to Club Nick (a kids-only hot spot with a giant ball pit and a two-story slide) or Plaza Orange (which hosts fun-filled dance parties).
Otherwise, consider a family kayaking adventure or tennis match. If your kids are picky eaters, you can breathe easily knowing there are plenty of child-friendly options here, with six restaurants and four food kiosks (plus, for the grown-ups, three different bars). For a worth-it splurge, rent a plush cabana, treat the kids to a character breakfast or dinner, and indulge in a little self-care at the spa.
Perhaps the best part of staying here is knowing that each accommodation (with the exception of the signature suites) has swim-up access and enough room to comfortably sleep families of five (and there are not one but two bathrooms!). To take your stay to the next level, spring for one of the signature suites, which are themed to your favorite Nickelodeon shows, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob Squarepants. They also have private pools and butler service.
- Designed top to bottom with young kids in mind
- Complimentary on-site water park
- Accommodations designed to fit families of five (complete with two bathrooms), featuring either swim-up access or private pools
- It can get crowded here at peak times, such as during holiday breaks and the summer months, when school’s out
- Likely won’t appeal to adults without young kids
Best for romance
Palafitos Overwater Bungalows
You don’t need to jet off to French Polynesia for a romantic getaway complete with overwater bungalows—instead, hop on a plane to the Riviera Maya! It’s here where you’ll find Palafitos Overwater Bungalows, easily one of the world’s most romantic resorts. Think of this as a hotel within a hotel (the bungalows are part of the larger El Dorado Marona resort, which means guests have access to amenities there too).
The beautiful bungalows feature glass-bottom floors, so you can spot vibrant marine life without stepping foot outside, an indoor hot tub for two, private infinity pools, a spacious terrace complete with lounge chairs and an outdoor shower, a ladder that takes you right into the turquoise waters below your bungalow and more. Elite Overwater Bungalows offer dedicated butler service, while two-bedroom Presidential Overwater Bungalows are even more spacious, with a full kitchen and common area.
In addition to all-inclusive dining, you’ll get amenities like exclusive beach beds, custom beach picnics and in-bungalow breakfasts, pre-dinner drinks and gourmet bites. Make your vacation all the more memorable by visiting the Náay Spa, which offers signature treatments, such as the Tequila Ritual (an exfoliating body treatment that uses a combination of tequila and melon extract followed by a nourishing clay wrap and a 30-minute massage) and a sunrise couples massage, which takes place on the beach.
Notably, this is an autism-certified property, and it features an autism concierge. Which means this doesn’t just make for a truly romantic trip; it offers an inclusive, autism-friendly vacation too.
- Private overwater bungalows provide an idyllic, romantic setting
- Accommodations come complete with private pools, glass-bottom flooring and indoor Jacuzzis
- All-inclusive drinking and dining
- Autism-certified resort with an autism concierge
- With rates close to $2,000 per night, the bungalows are quite expensive
Best for wellness
Palmaïa, The House of AïA
Searching for a restorative wellness retreat in Riviera Maya? If the answer is yes, look no further than Palmaïa, The House of AïA. This luxury oceanfront spa resort, which is all-inclusive, offers elegant all-suite accommodations: Choose from swim-out suites, oceanfront suites, family suites and meditation suites. When guests are not relaxing in the jungle-surrounded spa—where offerings include ayurvedic treatments, Temazcal ceremonies and restorative massages—they can be found along the resort’s secluded stretch of sand or swimming in one of the sparkling infinity pools.
Meanwhile, as part of the Architects of Life wellness program, guests can partake in yoga, guided meditations, sound baths, astrology sessions, cacao ceremonies and (so much) more. Given the property’s focus on health and wellness, it makes sense that the chef-prepared cuisine is designed to nourish the body—which is why most menu items are plant-based (think: soy-marinated watermelon poke bowls and smoked carrot toast). Food is served at four restaurants, and there’s also a poolside food truck.
Last, don’t miss the buzzy beach club area, which offers a laid-back ambiance, plenty of communal seating, live music and delicious concoctions that range from green juices to refreshing cocktails.
- State-of-the-art wellness programming featuring sacred ceremonies, yoga, meditation and astrology—to name a few
- The oceanfront locale means guests have plenty of room to roam and lounge, no fighting for a spot on the sand
- All-suite accommodations
- All-inclusive resort
- The (mostly) plant-based offerings may be a turn-off for picky eaters
- While there are some children’s activities, the property isn’t really geared toward kids, so those with active kiddos may not be able to make the most of their stay
Barceló Maya Beach
Part of the Barceló Maya Grand Resort complex, Barceló Maya Beach is an affordable beachfront hotel located along a 1.25-mile-long stretch of sand in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Those who book the all-inclusive rate can enjoy meals and snacks at three on-site restaurants and drinks at the three on-site bars. Entertainment options abound, and guests also have access to facilities and amenities at the other properties within the complex. This means you’ll pretty much never have to fight for a seat by the pool, a personal pet peeve of mine—and one that’s all too common in popular beach destinations like Riviera Maya. Guests can also enjoy access to the kid-centric Barcy Water Park (Pirates Island Water Park access is also available, albeit at an extra cost).
The true star of the show here, in my opinion, is the sprawling U-Spa Wellness and Fitness Center. While not directly on-property (it’s next door at Barceló Maya Beach), it’s the perfect place to retreat to should you need a break from the beach—or perhaps even from your own family (speaking from experience here!). The hot stone massage definitely doesn’t disappoint, but if that’s not your thing, you can take your pick of dozens of other offerings, including facials, body wraps and flotation therapy. Any treatment here is worth booking solely for the sumptuous spa amenities, most notably a restorative hydrotherapy circuit.
Other highlights include a kids club, state-of-the-art sports facilities (think: basketball, tennis, mini golf, volleyball, giant chess, pool and ping-pong) and two escape rooms (for an extra charge). Those craving more adventure can take advantage of complimentary non-motorized water sports, like snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing and taking out a Hobie Wave or water tricycle; however, most require reservations in advance.
- Choice between standard and all-inclusive rates, the latter of which is available for as low as $200 per night
- Beautiful beachfront location
- Access to services and facilities found throughout the Barceló Maya Grand Resort complex
- The resort has been only partially remodeled, so while all the rooms are comfortable, some are dated
Best boutique hotel
Travelers looking for a boutique stay—as opposed to a big-name resort—will love Hotel Esencia, which is located in the quaint town of Xpu-Ha, between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The Mediterranean-style property, which was the mansion of an Italian duchess in its former life, is spread across 50 lush acres surrounded by beautiful gardens. The focal point of the hotel is the Main House; from here, footpaths lead to 47 suites (each with private terraces and some with private plunge pools) and four villas.
Just steps away from the unspoiled stretch of sand that the hotel occupies is a reef sanctuary, where you can spot colorful fish and, if you’re lucky, sea turtles. In addition to three restaurants and three bars (one for juice, one for coffee and one for cocktails), you’ll find a wide array of complimentary amenities, like tennis, water sports gear, a health club overlooking the on-site cenote, sunrise yoga, morning coffee and pastries, afternoon tea and a chauffeur-driven car service.
Those looking to splurge can enjoy a treatment at the thatch-roof spa or book the property helicopter for VIP sightseeing tours. And while there’s no doubting the fact that this property is luxurious, it’s not at all stuffy: Instead, expect warm, welcoming and bespoke service befitting its small size, which makes it feel all the more exclusive.
- Smaller property lends the hotel a personalized and exclusive feel
- VIP services and amenities, including chauffeur-driven car service and swanky afternoon tea
- Located on a private stunning swath of sand
- Accommodations are all luxury suites and villas
- Families with young children may be bored here, as there is no kids club