Whether you’re looking for a romantic escapade, family fun in the sun or a girlfriend getaway, the Cancun Riviera offers beautiful beaches, authentic Mexican food and activities to last a few hours or your entire stay. Here, Indulgent TravelingMom Andrea Traynor gives you 6 ways to enjoy the Cancun Riviera.
6 ways to enjoy the Cancun Riviera
Stay somewhere fun.
Walk the Hotel Zone beach.
Do a tequila tasting in Puerto Morelos.
Visit the village for tacos.
Read on for more info!
Why the Cancun Riviera?
More properly called Riviera Cancun, and not to be confused with the Mayan Riviera, this area encompasses more than just the Cancun Hotel Zone. Located in Quintana Roo, a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula and offers more sunshine, white sand and blue water than you could possibly soak up in just one visit. But if you need an itinerary, here are 6 ways to enjoy the Cancun Riviera.
1. Stay somewhere fun.
There are hotels lined up by the dozen in what’s known as Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Here, you’ll find the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun. On a prime stretch of beach, this compact luxury resort is all kinds of fabulous. Although it’s billed as a family resort, I recently stayed here with some girlfriends and it was the perfect grown-up retreat.
We ate and drank like the queens we are and had a blast lounging by the infinity pool. We played in the ocean and performed for other guests as part of the resort’s weekly Jam Session:
I wouldn’t hesitate to take my kids to the Hard Rock Cancun — with its onsite kids’ club for those age 4 and up.
But there’s another resort nearby that’s also really family-friendly: the Royalton Riviera Cancun. It has a waterpark, it’s ideal for strollers and thanks to its seclusion amidst a jungle of mangroves, there’s a private beach just for guests. (Even if the beach here has nothing on the one in front of the Hard Rock, it’s hard to beat this kind of privacy.)
2. Walk the Hotel Zone beach.
When searching for ways to enjoy the Cancun Riviera, is there anything better than sand beneath your toes and warm water lapping at your feet? (No. The answer is no.)
Well, if you love long walks along the beach, Cancun’s Hotel Zone will definitely be your jam. From our home base at the Hard Rock, we could walk for half an hour and still not reach the end of the beach! Beyond great exercise, this also gave us a chance to check out other properties for bucket-listing.
3. Go snorkeling.
I’m a certified SCUBA diver, so it’s not often that I suggest snorkeling as an excursion. However, for a $25 taxi ride into Puerto Morelos down the Riviera Cancun’s coastline, you’ll save a pile of money rather than booking a snorkel tour through your hotel.
Because there’s a great little dive and snorkel shop there called Wet Set. For $25 per person, your adventure includes a life vest, snorkel and mask, the boat ride, cost of admission into an unmarked marine park, and two fully guided snorkel sessions at two different sites.
The water is quite shallow, so it actually feels like you’re snorkeling in an aquarium. And all of the coral is still in fantastic shape, so you’re guaranteed to see lots of sea life. I even came face to face with a big green turtle! It was absolutely the highlight of my time in Riviera Cancun.
TravelingMom Tip: If you have a mask and snorkel that you love, bring them along. The ones Wet Set offers are very basic.
4. Do a tequila tasting in Puerto Morelos.
Once we returned from snorkeling, we walked about 25 feet and landed at Don Ernestos — an open-air, thatched-roof beachfront bar specializing in tequila.
Oh, sure, you can get other drinks, too, but if the owner is there, ask for a tequila education. From reposado to mezcal, we learned what is and isn’t tequila, how it’s aged and why there are different colors. We also ate delicious chicken wings. And all with a salty breeze running through our ocean-tussled hair.
We’re planning on returning later this fall with our kids and spending a day on the beach in front of Don Ernestos.
5. Visit the village for authentic tacos.
Not far from the Puerto Morelos beach is Colonia. This essentially means “the village,” and it’s where the locals live, shop and dine. While there were few tourists around, it still felt completely safe. Of course, it helped that we were with a couple of locals as well as ex-pats who live in Puerto Morelos several months a year.
And this is where you need to eat tacos.
Los Mezquites is a concrete slab of a restaurant in Colonia. There are no doors or walls. It is, almost literally, street meat. And with no more than eight tables and seating for perhaps 8 or 10 more around the grill, we probably would have driven right past it had our hosts not told us it was our destination.
The chef was cooking marinated meat — pork, chorizo, beef, chicken — like a boss. It was non-stop. I asked him how much meat he cooks every day: 40 kilos (that’s more than 88 pounds).
We inhaled three whole tacos and sharing one magical taco-like creation full of meat and melted cheese, it wasn’t hard to understand why the joint is busy from the time it opens in late afternoon until it finally closes down around 4 or 5 a.m.
The bonus? It cost six of us $15 to eat. Not each — total. We paid double because that extra $15 between us is nothing, but it can do a lot for a family in Mexico.
6. Eat churros.
A short walk from Los Mezquites brought us to a series of churros street vendors.
I have had many-a-churros in my day. But nothing like this. Still warm and freshly sugared, they were also drizzled in what must be described as condensed milk heaven. And it was less than a dollar for eight of them.
Needless to say, I’ll be bringing my kids back here, too. After all, I can’t be the only one ruined for churros for the rest of my life.