Family Vacation Tips

Where is the Riviera Maya?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 2, 2013 3:30:00 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Riviera Maya  The Riviera Maya is a top family vacation spot. If you've been searching online trying to plan a family vacation, no doubt RIVIERA MAYA or MAYAN RIVIERA has crossed your computer screen.  Right about now, you may be asking yourself...Where is this Riviera Maya?

To get started, please know the words Riviera Maya or Mayan Riviera can be used interchangably to describe this very same area.

The Riviera Maya is an area in Mexico located on the Yucatan Penisula. As you can see from the map here the Yucatan Penisula of Mexico juts out into the Gulf of Mexico just south of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  It is located on Mexico's eastern or Caribbean side.  Just like Florida and Alabama are states in the United states, the Riviera Maya is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

riviera maya map  If we were to zoom into the Yucatan Penisula map of Mexico a little bit closer, the area known as the Riviera Maya is actually the northern tip of this Peninsula. I t is an area of coastline that stretches for about 115 miles. Cancun airport and the Cancun Hotel zone are located at the very top or nothern most point.  Most folks consider the end of the Riviera Maya to be the city of Tulum. Others say it stretches to the border Mexican border with the country Belize to the south.

If you're from the East coast, think of the Jersey Shore. When folks say they are going "down the shore" they are talking about the area between Asbury Park and Cape May. As you drive south along the Garden State Parkway, all of the Jersey shore towns are off to your right. In Mexico, if you say you're heading to the Riviera Maya, you start in Cancun and head south down highway 307 to one of the many beautiful resort communities along this gorgeous stretch coastline.

The word Maya or Mayan that is associated with this geographic area pays homage to the indigenious culture that reigned over this area from 2000 BC until the Spanish arrived from Europe. Mayan art, architecture, mathematics and astronomical calendars still present some of the world's greatest mysteries to researchers and historians. Decendents of the Mayans still live in area communities here today. Visitors can walk back in time and visit the ruins of the great Mayan pyramids and civilizations at places like Tulum, Chichen Itza and Coba.

The biggest draw when it comes to the Riviera Maya is their beaches. GORGEOUS beaches! (no comparison here to the Jersey shore!). White sand and the bright blue waters of the Caribbean is why tourists flock to this area of Mexico.  The Riviera Maya is far more laid back than the high rise hustle and bustle of Cancun.  The hotel zone of Cancun is far more touristy and Americanized.  The hotels in the Riviera Maya are not allowed to construct buildings taller than the palm trees. Here you will find sprawling resorts flanked by jungle and mangroves on one side while hugging the beach. Most of the resorts in the Mayan Riviera are all inclusive. This means you pay one price upfront and your family's room, meals, drinks (alcoholic & non), daily entertainment, tips and taxes is all included in one price. There is a great selection of family friendly Riviera Maya Resorts. Its not unusual in Riviera Maya to see monkeys, iguanas and tropical birds and this is something the kids absolutely love.

Another great vacation feature of the Riviera Maya is all the fun and adventure it offers families. Water sports abound here.  Just offshore along the Riviera Maya is the Playacar reef. This is one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, second only to the great barrier reef of Australia (and a lot closer to home!). Snorkeling and scuba diving rank high on everyone's "to do" list that visit here. The jungle here offers cenotes which are caves that offer even more unique diving and snorkeling experiences. In addition there are zip lines, quad tours, hiking, biking and ecological parks for your family to enjoy.

Of course safety is always a primary concern for any family vacation. To many inexperienced travelers, the word Mexico doesn't seem to belong in the same sentenence with the word "safe".  Take another look at our first map here.  The majority of drug problems and violence in Mexico takes place along the border towns between California thru Texas. The Riviera Maya and Yucatan is far away from this area.  This is like saying no body should visit anywhere in the United States because we have gang violence in LA.  Tourism is a huge revenue maker for the Mexican government and tourism areas like the Riviera Maya are very well protected. I say this not just as a travel agent but as a mother who has traveled here MANY times over the years. I've visited with my kids and I often visit as a woman alone when I go to review hotels. Never once have I ever been made to feel worried or unsafe. Truth be told, the exact opposite is true. Mexico offers some of the warmest and best hospitality known the world over....so if you're considering a family vacation to the Riviera Maya - GO!!! The only warning we have for you is that you may not want to ever take your family any place else!

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Topics: Family Vacation Destinations

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Vacationkids.com Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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