The Caribbean Coast begins just south of the Cancún airport, but the Riviera Maya doesn't officially begin until you get past Puerto Morelos, 22 miles south of Cancún along Carretera 307. Playa del Carmen, 42 miles south of Cancún, is the best-known destination in the Riviera Maya; it's quickly surpassing its neighbor to the north as the largest city in the region. South of Playa the highway passes megaresorts, theme parks, and tiny hideaways until reaching Tulum, 130 miles south of Cancún. The road then peters out into a two-lane rural byway and crowds disappear.
WHEN TO GO
Peak season runs from mid-December to Easter and is busiest around holidays, especially Semana Santa, the holy week before Easter. The staggering heat and humidity in late June, July, and August attract mosquitoes, sand fleas, and hordes of budget travelers. You're best off visiting between November and May, but make reservations way in advance if planning a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's getaway.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cancún International Airport serves as the entry point for the Riviera Maya—though rumors abound of a new international airport around Playa or Tulum. Cancún is served by American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United as well as by Mexican airlines Aeroméxico and Mexicana, and there are flights from nearly every major U.S. city. Large car rental chains such as Budget, Avis, and Hertz have branches at the airport; private taxi journeys run roughly $40–$100 to hotels along the coast. Most high-end resorts offer airport transfers for a fee.
By far the easiest and least expensive way to get around is in a rental car, available in Cancún and Playa. Carretera 307 between Cancún and Tulum is wide, straight, and a bit overwhelming for first-timers. Buses, trucks, and taxis compete in daredevil races to pass drivers who actually stick to posted speed limits (usually 50 to 60 miles per hour). Stick to the slow lanes and you'll be fine. If you're planning to stay put at a posh resort and limit sightseeing to a few excursions, have your hotel arrange a private driver and car.
As well as the main office listed below, the Riviera Maya Tourism Board has a stand in Playa del Carmen near the Cozumel ferry pier and another on Avenida 5.
Main Tourism Board office:
Carretera 307 at Calle 28
Tel: 52 984 206 3150
Tel: 877 746 6292 (from the U.S.)