We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Riviera Maya or Cancun?

Level Contributor
223 posts
10 reviews
Save Topic
Riviera Maya or Cancun?

Hi, first time to Mexico could anyone tell me which is best and maybe the differences between the two.

Me and my husband are in our 40's not big party goers, We want to see what Mexico has to offer, the sites etc. Prefer to be in more natural surroundings rather than a resort that has got hotels and top of hotels.

Any help is much appreciated.

Destination Expert
for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Cancun
Level Contributor
23,632 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

"Best" is subjective; I don't know that one is "better" than the other but they sure are different!

Cancun is a city; it's where the airport is located. I don't know the official boundaries of the "Riviera Maya" but to me, it means anywhere south of Cancun all the way down the coast to Tulum. The largest town (city?) along the way would be Playa del Carmen.

I've never stayed in Cancun itself but have seen it described many times as very similar to South Beach - very built up (high rise) and glitzy. I always think of it as a spring-break hangout too (although that may be a rather jaundiced view). To me Cancun is party-party-party although I know there are some very nice, upscale resorts here that don't have that reputation or vibe. Nevertheless, I have a hunch that this is not what you're looking for.

As you head south, many of the resorts are more remotely located - in other words, if you want to frequent bars, restaurants and shops that aren't part of your resort, you'll need to take a taxi or some sort of other motorized transportation. If you want to be a bit closer to the "action", then opt for accommodations either in or close to Playa del Carmen.

Many resorts in the Riviera Maya are on fabulous beaches; some not so much. If a good beach is important to you, then you'll want to check that very carefully before booking anywhere.

From the description of what you're looking for, I'm thinking that Tulum might suit. Tulum is pretty rustic and there are no all-inclusive resorts. There are some very picturesque ruins there and a lovely beach.

Tulum is a bit of a trek from the airport though - about 90 minutes or so.

One last thing - the word "resort" is used slightly differently in this part of the world. I know that you mean it to refer to a geographical area - e.g. Malaga in Spain is a resort town. Here, "resort" generally refers to a SINGLE, albeit sometimes sprawling, hotel with its own restaurants, bars and entertainment and the accommodations are usually sold on an "all inclusive" basis. In fact, it's so totally self-contained that you could easily spend your entire vacation on-site and never leave (although, IMHO, that'd be a bit of a waste 'cos you'd miss so much!). If you plan on spending a lot of time sight-seeing and travelling around the region, then all-inclusive may not make financial sense for you - why pay for those great facilities and all that food and booze if you're not going to be there to enjoy them? On the other hand, if you're looking for a fair amount of laid-back, chill time at the beach or pool with some intermittent touring around, the budget-controlled, no-brainer ease of an all-inclusive might be just what you're looking for.

Hope this helps and happy researching!

Edited: 07 December 2011, 12:17
waterloo ontario
Level Contributor
575 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

I agree with the post above. if you want to see the most of what Mexico has to offer go as far away from Cancun as you can. Tuluum, Chicha Itza, Xel Ha (not sure of the spelling of any of them) are further than Playa Del Carmen so if your resort is past Playa Del Carmen then your travel time each day to the sites is that much shorter.

Detroit, Michigan
Level Contributor
7,706 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

Wow Llisa! Excellent.

Level Contributor
223 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

Thank you all so much for your advice.

We have gone and done it Grand Palladium Colonial & Kantenah in Akumal. I hope its a good choice, the reviews look brilliant. April 2013 for our 23rd wedding anniversary (a long way off i know) but we are already sorted for next year.

Akumal sounds just perfect............

Sooooooooh excited already.

Edited: 07 December 2011, 20:32
Level Contributor
1,999 posts
23 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

while this may not be popular on this forum if you truly want to see what MEXICO has to offer...head west to puerto vallarta! a vibrant older mexican city where the mountains meet the sea. a true walkable city with resorts, excellent dining, shopping, culture and people. it also has many smaller towns and villages both north and south. it does lack the beautiful blue hues of the caribbean though. i love both coasts for different reasons but find the east coast more geared toward AI and isolation. jmo

Edited: 07 December 2011, 23:48
6. Re: Riviera Maya or Cancun?

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 08 December 2012, 10:16