Riviera Maya region of Mexico offers everything a traveler could want

I’ve been to a large part of Mexico over the past 30 years, and had spent a week in Cancun back in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I spent anything more than a day in the Caribbean coastal region of Mexico between Puerto Morelos in the north and Punta Allen in the south that is officially known as the Riviera Maya (or Mayan Riviera in English.)



We got a kick out of the coati, a type of Mexican raccoon that was prevalent at the Grand Mayan.

riviera maya is a great place to stay, whether you are looking for modest accommodations, or a 5-star all inclusive resort

Two friends and I booked a one-week visit to the Grand Mayan Resort and enjoyed exploring this part of the Yucatan Peninsula. The resort is part of the Vidanta ‘vacation ownership’ program, which to me, was the only negative. (That will be the subject of a future post, but be forewarned that the salespeople at this resort are relentless.) The location is excellent–just a short cab ride from Puerto Morelos and a slightly longer ride to Playa del Carmen, keeping us busy exploring everything we could fit into that all-too-brief seven day stay.


My friends and I really enjoyed our visits to Puerto Morelos in the Mayan Riviera region of Mexico.

It was unanimous that we enjoyed Puerto Morelos to Playa del Carmen, as Puerto Morelos is smaller (with a population of roughly 10,000) and more authentic to the Mexican tradition than Playa del Carmen, which a much larger city with a population of approximately 200,000 and much more commercialized. But both were fun to visit.


We enjoyed checking out the Alma Libre Libros Bookstore in Puerto Morelos.

Both of my favourite meals during our visit were in Puerto Morelos. The beachfront location at Restaurante Pelicanos couldn’t be beat, and it was cool to be able to walk out on the pier to speak to fishermen who had just returned from a deep sea sportfishing excursion. Check out the teeth on that catch!


A popular excursion in Puerto Morelos is to go sport fishing for a catch like this.


Check out the teeth on this barracuda fish!

And we also really enjoyed our lunch at La Pepita, where we had grilled shrimp with salad and rice for just 150 pesos (about $10 Canadian dollars) each. This was a fabulous fresh-caught feast with great service and live entertainment in a simple setting, just a block from the beach.


We loved the grilled shrimp served at La Pepita in Puerto Morelos.


We enjoyed being serenaded by the musician who visited us during our lunch at La Pepita.

And don’t think I forgot about the chocolate, while basking away in the Mexican sun. We enjoyed a visit to Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe in Playa del Carmen, and sampled the brownies, the Mayan chocolate bar, and the Frio Mocha (iced cafe mocha) that featured espresso coffee mixed with Ah Cacao’s delicious chocolate. The shop also sells bags of Mexican coffee to take away and enjoy in your room or take home as a gift or souvenir.


One of the best places to go for chocolate in the Mayan Riviera is Ah Cacao.


Ah Cacao’s Mayan chocolate bar features just the right blend of chili peppers and spices.

Have you been to the Mayan Riviera? What was your favourite part of the experience? Let’s share travel tips, as that’s how I learned of Ah Cacao–from one of you wonderful readers. 🙂 Thanks as always for reading, and please remember to subscribe, like, or share to help me keep Chocolatour high in the rankings with anyone interested in chocolate travel.




















Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

83 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    It’s my home away from home and someday I will spend months rather than weeks in Puerto Morelos. You won’t go hungry and can dine in five star restaurants or out of the back of a can on a side street. Each experience will be equally delicious.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Laura, and welcome to Chocolatour! I envy your ability to return to Puerto Morelos year after year for increasing amounts of time. My goal/dream/intention, is to retire away from winter permanently. But I’m not quite sure where yet!

  2. Alok says:

    Wonderful place! Mexico is such like a beautiful place and Mayan Rivera is particularly striking.

  3. Saurabh says:

    Thanks for the share. Mexico is a really wonderful place. It’s like a Dreamland!

  4. I haven’t been to Mexico yet, but it’s on the list. I usually read about Cancun or Mexico City. I haven’t heard much about the Rivera Maya region. It sounds pretty fun though.

  5. Chocola tour is one of the best blogs, I always read its post and love to read. In this post, you share much information about Mexico and that really important. Mexico has many wonderful places for travel. I want to spend some time with my family in this country. If have any information about Where to stay in Mexico in cheapest coast? please reply me.

  6. Michele says:

    looks like a great place to spend some time especially the food available (I will take the fish after the teeth have been removed)

  7. kumar says:

    Interesting place and nice topic about about Mexico. After reading the above topic iam very much interested to visit place. In short i definitely will travel to that place.

  8. Thanks for sharing! Your trip to Mexico seems amazing and the photos are the best! Wish I could visit Mexico someday!

  9. Amazing detail and destination for the Riviera Maya, It feels like that we just have a trip.

  10. Maria Hernandez says:

    Thanks for sharing! I like your blog. Mayan Rivera is a great place for a getaway.

  11. Puerto Morelos looks like a lovely place in the Mayan Rivera. A great place for a quiet getaway, something we would really love. I loved the part about being serenaded by a local musician during lunch. Finally, I was on the lookout for chocolate and there it appeared in its tantalizing best.

  12. Yukti says:

    Riviera Maya looks like an exotic resort with all amenities and surrounded by beautiful nature. I loved the decor of Alma Library and it looks perfect for book reading. Chocolate tour sounds interesting and I would also opt for it.

  13. Shaily says:

    I never heard of Maya Riviera before but it looks like an amazing place to enjoy your vacation. You’re right the region offers everything a traveler could want. I loved reading your experiences – the fish catching, the grilled shrimp, Mexican raccoons, the musician, the bookstore, and delicious dose of chocolate – looks like my type of holiday. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  14. neha says:

    I can clearly see the reason behind the popularity of riviera maya region of mexico. Who won’t want to be pampered in an all inclusive resort with 5 star facilities. And add to that all the delicious sea food. And a visit to the raccoons!! Something there for the adventurous soul!

  15. If they are anything like our raccoons, they can be quite a pest and sometimes destructive! Yikes! Although they’re cute, I wouldn’t want one climbing up my leg! 🙂

  16. I loved visiting this area of Mexico! Puerto Morelos was near the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun where I stayed and I also remember having a great lunch there! Would love to go back. I haven’t seen the Mexican coatis that you saw at your resort! What a cute pic!

  17. Indian sandstone exporters says:

    Amazing detail and destination for the Riviera Maya, It feels like that we just have a trip.

  18. I’ve never been to Mexico but Riviera Maya really looks like a great place to visit. That fantastic food and the chocolate from Ah Cacao in the Mayan Riviera! I’m sold! 🙂

  19. Sue Reddel says:

    This looks like such a fun spot to visit. I’ve never seen coati before. They look adorable! I love the fresh and affordable seafood in Mexico those shrimp look so yummy.

    • Hi Sue. I’m honest in telling you that I’ve not met a Mexican destination I didn’t enjoy. Except for the border towns, and I haven’t been to those in many years so can’t speak of their state today. Have a great long wkend! 🙂

  20. This is one of our favorite places to visit! It’s so wonderful that you enjoyed your time there. Those teeth on that barracuda are HUGE! Definitely not something you’d care to run into under water, lol. This wonderful post makes me want to go back ASAP and enjoy the delicious food and time under the water. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Cat Khanh says:

    Thanks for sharing! Your trip to Mexico seems amazing and the photos are the best! Wish I could visit Mexico someday!

  22. Hi Doreen, I’m very curious to read your next post so I can find out what a “vacation share” is. I presume it’s something like a timeshare? I hate pushy salespeople; they can ruin a vacation!

  23. Denny George says:

    Riviera Maya region does seem enticing. The beaches seem pristine and the seafood remarkable. The teeth on that Barracuda will haunt my nightmares for nights to come

  24. Doreen — I have not been to that part of Mexico. A girlfriend and I spent 3 weeks in Mexico many years ago (before we were both married) and had an absolutely wonderful time. I also visited a few years later with my husband. Alas, I also got sick both times, so I’m afraid my vacation plans don’t include Mexico anymore. I’ll have to be content with fond memories.

    • Hi Jeannette. The standards in Mexico have greatly improved over the years. In many places, you can now drink the tap water, and there is way less danger of getting stomach upset. I, too, had gotten sick back in the 80’s when I visited Puerto Vallarta. And it was from a very nice resto! But I’ve spent a considerable amount of time there over the past 2 years and have eaten the street food with no repercussions. Plus we now have easy access to meds that very quickly deal with any upset. So I bet it would be safe for you.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Riviera Maya region of Mexico offers everything a traveler could wantMy Profile

  25. Always interested in a winter escape – and this looks like a beautiful and delicious one!

  26. This looks and sounds gorgeous. We have not been to Mexico, but this certainly inspires some ideas, especially when the weather is being so persistently dreary.

  27. Claire says:

    The seafood looks absolutely mouth-watering *drools*

  28. Catarina says:

    Love Mexico, your pictures and the look of the food. Would love to go there now to escape the cold winter.

  29. I really hope to get to Mexico in the next couple of years. One of the (many) reasons I want to go is that I love Mexican food – I’m not sure about those big fish but the shrimps look lovely and fresh.

  30. Eric Marquardt says:

    I would recommend making the Riviera Maya (state of Quintana Roo) an annual destination and not a bucket list. Puerto Morelos is just a short ride from the Cancun airport. Prices are very reasonable. The reef out front of PM is a maritime national park! Check out Layla Guesthouse too. I was there last Oct. and can’t wait to go back!

  31. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    Anytime, Doreen!

  32. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    So glad to be part of the 3 musketeers, or maybe chocolateers is more apt, on our trip to the Riviera Maya last year. It brings back warm memories on a day like today that’s overcast in the GTA, but thankfully snow has melted. Trips like that are a tonic for the spirit!
    Love the pic of the coati and remembering you following them stealthily to get that perfect shot. Well done!

  33. The Riviera Maya sounds fascinating! Love the view of the beach and the chocolate sounds absolutely heavenly! 🙂

  34. Perri says:

    The Riviera Maya looks absolutely beautiful, with so many things to see and do I can see why you’d recommend it for a perfect holiday. The food looks delicious too, I would love to eat all the yummy local sea food and the traditional Mayan chocolate!

    • Hi Perri and welcome to Chocolatour. I don’t think we had one bad meal in the Riviera Maya for the entire week we were there. Mexico on the whole, is a great destination for foodies. 🙂

  35. Wow, putting Riviera Maya on our bucket list. You have beautifully brought out the soul of this place through your photos. Really enjoyed reading your post!

  36. My travels in Mexico are so limited; I truly must put Mexico higher on my Bucket List. I really enjoyed you narrative about Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos; so many adventures. And yum on the chocolate too! 🙂

    • Hi Marilyn. Yes, I think the key is to search out the personality of the resort or destination that best suits your own personality, as I think that can make or break a vacation. I hope Mexico shows up on your radar soon. 🙂

  37. The Riviera Maya is filled with wonderful sights and spectacular hotels. I’ve also enjoyed a nice chocolate snack at Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe in Playa del Carmen! Yum, yum. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that the area is having cartel problems currently.

    • Doreen says:

      Yes, it does seem that Playa del Carmen is not the safest at present. As mentioned, while in the area, I would choose Puerto Morelos and felt much safer there.

  38. Riviera Maya has wonderful sprawling resorts on the beach; the perfect antidote to winter!

  39. Thanks for your reply – confirmed, those were amazing photos taken on your iPhone !!
    Could not find where to sign up for your blog.
    Please will you do it for me as I would like to know what you are doing and see your amazing photos.

  40. Ah, more reasons to make another trip to Mexico after too many years away. I don’t like faces on fishes that I eat, though!

  41. Lord says:

    Doreen, this makes me want to visit Mexico soon! Que bello! Now I’m craving for seafood. 🙂

    • Hello Lord and thanks for your comment. Mexico is an incredible country. So many different things to see, and many different sub-cultures to explore. And, yes! the fresh seafood is amazing. 🙂

  42. Janet May-Hewson says:

    Hi Doreen. Did you talk to the owner st Alma Libre Bookstore. Unless it has sold recently, I think the owner is Canadian who retired to this area. Gorgeous beaches. Love the area.

  43. jane says:

    We were just in the Mayan Riviera in November after 30 years ourselves, and were amazed at the growth in the area, the new airport terminal in Cancun, etc (oh, and the Vidanta vultures are right there at the exit of the baggage claim, so yes, unless you want to get talked into a timeshare, pass by them quickly and insistently!)

  44. I’ve only passed through Playa del Carmen briefly on a cruise stop day trip to Tulum ruins, but would love the chance to experience more of the Riveria Maya region. Puerto Morelos sounds like a place I’d enjoy.

    • Hi Donna. Yes, we, too, had passed thru Playa on a day trip via a cruise. But I’d never spent time there until last year. Would definitely like to go back and stay in Puerto Morelos. There aren’t fancy hotels there. But there are a few nice and small hotels right on the beach, and I think the rate was only $65/night.

  45. Carol Colborn says:

    Just spent 3 weeks in Cozumel and sampled an all-inclusive day in Ventus at Puerto Morelos. My husband regrets not going to Ah Cacao especially because of that bag of coffee for taking home. My regret is for the chocolates!!!

  46. Beverly says:

    Was snorkeling available at your vacation destination? Seeing all those colourful fish close up would be an awesome experience.

  47. Thiết Bị Sự Kiện says:

    Riviera Maya is a wonderful land.
    When reading your posts, I was really excited and would like to enjoy a vacation in Riviera Maya

  48. Doreen,

    I recently visited the Riviera Maya, spending time all along the coast – and then going across to Merida. !!
    Absolutely loved your photographs, they were the BEST !! You are obviously a great photographer but may I ask what camera you are using ?
    Much appreciated,

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