Staying in Riviera Maya means staying on the water: you’ll want to take advantage of the beach as much as possible. Hundreds of hotels line the coastal corridor in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but some face man-made lagoons — not the Caribbean Sea, many are plagued by seaweed, and others occupy small and rocky beachfronts. Our reporters vetted more than 200 Riviera Maya hotels to locate the ones with the best beachfronts. Take a look at our picks for the top beach hotels in Tulum, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Playa Paraiso, Playa Maroma, and Akumal.
The beach at this all-suite luxury property is superior to many in the area, with soft white sand, calm waters, and a lack of seaweed. The stunning Puerto Morelos hotel has 103 incredibly spacious rooms with huge balconies or patios. Though many have full kitchens, there is only one on-site restaurant, El Faro, which serves international and Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- but the menu can get repetitive, especially for those on the all-inclusive plan. There are three beautiful pools, including one for children and one for adults that has a swim-up bar. The hotel offers free parking and Wi-Fi, and has an excellent on-site gym, but the tiny spa is a bit of a letdown.
Located on one of Riviera Maya’s most coveted beaches, the ultra-luxurious Esencia oozes Mediterranean elegance and style. The former estate of an Italian duchess has a great location right on Xpu-Ha beach, a two-mile, postcard perfect stretch of white sand 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. There are a few hotels on the same beach but it is never crowded. Waters here are pretty calm and clear, and there is good snorkeling nearby. The beach has thatched huts with padded loungers, bar service, free use of towels, snorkeling equipment, and toys for kids.
One of Riviera Maya’s most sophisticated properties, the Grand Velas is a gorgeous, 80-acre all-inclusive set on a white-sand, 1,000-foot-long beach. It features 491 top-notch suites spread out in three different buildings (two family-friendly, one adults-only), all with their own stunning pool complexes, gyms, and restaurants. The hotel is right on a gorgeous white-sand beach a few minutes north of Playa del Carmen. It features tons of loungers, several cabanas, and bar service from early in the morning until sunset. There are also two restaurants a few feet from the sand, and a couple of poolside bars for those who want to sit at a table instead. The beach has been awarded the Clean Beaches certification of the Environment and Natural Resources department of Mexico.
The five-pearl Banyan Tree Mayakoba -- directly on a wide white-sand beach -- is one of Playa del Carmen's most sought-after resorts. Set on beautiful beachfront grounds teeming with lush greenery, lagoons, and mangroves, the resort comprises 118 stylish villas complete with private pools set in lovely gardens and large, luxurious bathrooms with rainfall showers and outdoor bathtubs. The grounds also offer several public pools as well as a gorgeous stretch of white-sand beach, while an array of features includes a high-end spa, a plethora of outdoor activities (golf, tennis, snorkeling, and eco tours), and fantastic dining -- though food and drink are notably expensive.
Rosewood Mayakoba is a gorgeous, peaceful retreat within the resort community of Playa Del Carmen, set on a mile-long stretch of beach. Though it features an extensive children's program, the resort largely attracts couples with its serene atmosphere, upscale restaurants, and spa. The 128 suites feature attractive contemporary decor -- picture clean lines, white walls, and rich woods -- as well as high-tech amenities and private outdoor plunge pools. They have an open-air vibe, with many floor-to-ceiling windows, and the overwater lagoon suites have swim-up access. Plus, suites include freebies such as Wi-Fi, fresh fruit, and bottled water. Seaweed debris along the beach keeps the Rosewood from being flawless (although they diligently attempt to keep it clean by sending staffers to rake it away), but otherwise this hotel is top-notch -- for guests willing to pay top dollar.
This upscale 65-room boutique between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos has a beautiful setting on a white-sand beach, amid a jungle preserve. Contemporary roomsare equipped with original artwork, furniture from the hotel’s own workshops, king bedsand either a terrace or a balcony. The great amenities on offer, including three pools, upscale dining, a wonderful spa, and a gorgeous beach, make this a solid pick, but prices are quite steep; other luxury resorts in the area may offer better value.
Located on the Riviera Maya, south of Cancun, the 412-room Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun is a romantic, adults-only all-inclusive resort. The soft, white-sand beach is an oceanside haven, with non-motorized water sports -- including windsurfing, ocean kayaking, and snorkeling -- available right on the sand. The beach is lined with palapas and sunbeds, and there is a bar with adult-sized swings for guests to enjoy along with their cocktail of choice. Beachside massages are offered, and private cabanas with Balinese beds suspended on ropes are available for rental. Some of these cabanas even have treehouse-type roof terraces with sunbeds on top.
This small, service-oriented beachfront boutique has a quiet spot on the southern end of the Hotel Zone that remains in walking distance to restaurants, bars, and shops. The mid-range Encantada is strongly focused on preserving and sharing local culture: Its restaurant serves authentic regional dishes; its bar pours local craft brews and liquors and hosts local music nights; and the property uses regional artisanal goods throughout. The eight spacious, eco-friendly guest rooms have no air-conditioning or TVs, but they do have fans and private furnished terraces.
The 310-room Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso is a Las Vegas-style, adult-only resort on the Riviera Maya. The luxury all-inclusive is part of the five-hotel Iberostar complex, and guests at this hotel may use the amenities at all five properties, some of which are family-friendly. The high-end experience starts with champagne upon arrival, and continues with premium liquor, fine dining, a full-service spa, and several pools, including one dedicated to tranquil relaxation, and canoes, catamarans, and jet skis available on the beach. The opulent decor incorporates marble and mosaic floors, glass chandeliers, modern artwork, and artisan-crafted furnishings. The lush, landscaped grounds complete the picture. Rooms are large and upscale, with jetted tubs, glass shower stalls, and personalized minibars.
The Viceroy Riviera Maya is a seriously upscale resort set on stretch of lovely white-powder beach with a pier, a 15 minutes' drive from the Playa del Carmen town center. Nestled in a lush rainforest setting, the chic, rustic villas are awash with deluxe touches, and private patios feature heated plunge pools and alfresco "moon showers." Although rocky in places, the beach has white-powder sand and turquoise waters; it makes an attractive backdrop to the serene pool area and sea-facing restaurants. While families with kids should look elsewhere (children under 14 are not allowed) couples looking for a secluded, romantic retreat -- who aren't afraid of splashing the cash -- will be sure to find it here.
Guests can step right out onto the sand from the ground-floor units at this 20-room, adult-only hotel in the heart of the Hotel Zone. The beachfront restaurant, Ziggy's, has great food (and a generous free breakfast with fresh juice and smoothies), and the small size allows for lots of personalized attention from the staff. Charming rooms combine rustic and modern elements, and all have ample outdoor space and ocean views. Property features are impressive for a boutique, and include a pretty, meandering pool, outdoor whirlpool, and daily yoga classes. Free Wi-Fi and parking add to the value, although year-round mosquitos can be an issue. This is one of the best options at this price point.
Almost all of the 26 rooms at the rustic-chic Alau have beachfront access and views. The upper-middle-range property -- which has hosted the likes of Richard Branson -- blends a tropical beach experience with an eco-lodge atmosphere, and there is a heavy focus on minimizing its ecological impact on the surrounding environment. The rooms have outdoor space and most have great ocean views, but the entry-level Bali Huts really are little more than huts with beds (and no AC). There are daily yoga and windsurfing classes on the beach, bike rentals, and two attached restaurants, plus pets can roam freely. Free Wi-Fi and parking add to the value, although year-round mosquitos and limited cellular reception are issues.
Directly on a white-sand beach, just a few minutes north of Puerto Morelos, this adult-only resort lives up to the Excellence name, offering the standard amenities of the luxury chain: multiple attractive pools, numerous dining options, dozens of activities, and a solid spa with beachside treatment huts. The abundance of marble and columns throughout the property might be a bit too ostentatious for some, but it's definitely impressive -- as are the rooms. The rooms feature hot tubs and open bathrooms, which shouldn't be a problem for most visitors choosing an adult-only resort. All have terraces or balconies, and a gorgeous stretch of beach is right outside the door.
This adult-only luxury all-inclusive with 507 rooms appeals to both 20- and 30-something couples. A particular draw of this resort is its proximity to the nightlife of downtown Playa del Carmen, especially bustling 5th Avenue, with the party-oriented will appreciate. But the gorgeous stretch of beach and the sophisticated rooms with two-person jetted tubs means romantic-minded couples will be pleased here as well. The white-sand beach has a beach bar and abundant shaded day beds.
The luxurious, all-inclusive Palace Resorts’ Playacar Palace is located directly on the beach in the Playacar resort community, next to the Cozumel Island ferry and a short walk to Quinta Avida in downtown Playa del Carmen. Most of the 208 stylishly decorated rooms have balconies offering stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. All come with bathrobes and slippers, a whirlpool, free Wi-Fi, and in-room wine and a liquor dispenser filled with quality brands. The property itself is beautifully grand, yet has a nice intimate feel to it -- especially with the staff that is known for treating guests like family. In addition to beach fun, there’s also an abundance of other on-site activities: table tennis, aqua aerobics, access to a neighboring 18-hole golf course, water polo, karaoke, and live shows nightly. Three restaurants offer international cuisine in both casual and elegant settings -- though for an all-inclusive, the selection can feel limiting.
Located in the southern end of the Hotel Zone, Cabanas Tulum is an upper-middle-range property with tons of extras making it feel like a steal. The 16 spacious, hip rooms have air-conditioning, safes, attractive open-plan bathrooms, and furnished terraces, but no TVs. Extras include personal yoga mats, outdoor clothes lines, and beach bags. A quiet on-site beach with powdery white sand has loungers and a swing set. Guests can also make use of the small pool, yoga classes, and bike rentals. Or they can head to the off-site restaurant, bar, and beach club where a free breakfast is served.
The 1,031-room Caribe & Beach is a mid-range all-inclusive resort located right on a white-sand beach just south of Playa del Carmen. It is the least luxurious of the three properties in the Barcelo complex, but offers two huge pools, six restaurants, and a long list of activities for all ages. The hotel caters mostly to families -- with great kid-friendly features such as a kids’ and teens' clubs and rooms that can accommodate up to five guests -- but it is also popular with couples and groups.
The Royal Hideaway is a member of exclusive hospitality consortium Leading Hotels of the World, and as such is one of the most luxurious properties in the area. It features upscale rooms with high-end amenities, a full-service spa with great treatments, several pools, and the best food around. The hotel is located right on a white-sand beach, considered to be one of the best stretches in the area. It features lots of loungers and bar service. It is adjacent to other hotels' pools, but it is normally quiet, as most people stay by the infinity pool, which has music and bar service.
Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Perla is one of the best adult-only, all-inclusive luxury resorts in Maya Riviera. This chic property is located directly on the Caribbean, but the patch of white sand is narrow and it's a bit far from downtown Playa Del Carmen. No kids allowed means the gorgeous swimming pools remain calm and serene; there's a swim-up bar and waiter service, but guests tend to be seeking peace and quiet rather than a rowdy party scene. Even the most affordable rooms have marble floors and free minibars stocked daily. An upgrade means access to a semi-private swim-up pool and/or butler service. A huge variety of all-inclusive restaurants and bars get high marks for quality and service. The spa is romantic, with a water ritual, sexy day beds, and an expansive treatment menu.
The 540-room Valentin Imperial Maya is an adult-only, all-inclusive luxury resort set in an exclusive area of the Riviera Maya known as Playa Secreto. The draws here are the long white-sand beach, massive main pool with two swim-up bars, lazy river (select rooms have swim-out access), quality food, lively entertainment, beautiful grounds, and full-service spa and fitness center. Rooms have traditional, earth-tone decor, and all haveoutdoor space -- some have ocean views, though they can be obstructed by vegetation on lower floors. There are 11 bars where top-shelf liquor is included, and seven a la carte restaurants where reservations are not required (though Privilege Package guests can make reservations to avoid a wait).