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Riviera Maya

Where are Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen?

Riviera Maya beach
Resorts lines the beaches along the Riviera Maya coast. © Scott Bateman
Riviera Maya is a popular tourism district that lies between Cancun to the north and Tulum to the south on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

Where it is located is subject to debate. Although the district technically starts well south of Cancun, the resorts start appearing just south of the city and continue for dozens of miles.

The district is packed with all-inclusive resorts that line Highway 307, which snakes from one end of Riviera Maya to the other along the coast.

Playa del Carmen is the most important city in Riviera Maya. It is a major tourism destination in large part because of Fifth Avenue, one of the top shopping and dining destinations in the Caribbean.

The city lies just to the west of Cozumel, the largest island in Mexico. Western Caribbean cruise visitors to Cozumel often take a ferry across the water to dine and shop in Playa del Carmen.

The city is 68 kilometers or about 42 miles south of Cancun.

Getting There from Cancun


Anyone who plans to stay at one of the numerous all-inclusive resorts will likely fly into Cancun International Airport and either take a resort shuttle or, more likely, rent a car to get to the resort. (Renting a car is often less expensive than taking a resort shuttle and also offers the freedom to visit area attractions such as Playa del Carmen or the Mayan ruins in Tulum.)

They will find it quick and easy to exit from the airport parking lots and get onto Highway 307. The highway is a straight shot south and has few stops along the way.

By one definition, Puerto Morelos is the start of the Riviera Maya district. It lies 38 kilometers or 24 miles south of Cancun.

But the massive resorts start showing up before Puerto Morelos and continue to line the highway all the way south of Playa del Carmen and into Tulum.

The distance from Cancun to any resort varies greatly because the semi-official definition of Riviera Maya -- going from Puerto Morelos to Tulum -- is about 97 kilometers or about 60 miles long.

Speed limits along Highway 307 range from 40 to 100 kilometers per hour or about 25 to 60 miles per hour. So plan on 30 to 90 minutes to reach the resort depending on its location.

Be aware of the fact that speed limits can change abruptly with little warning and that police often will ticket rental cars driven by foreign visitors who overlook speed limit changes.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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January 30, 2015
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