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Riviera Maya vs Cancun for your next winter sun holiday

Riviera Maya vs Cancun for your next winter sun holiday

It’s getting to that time of year where we’re preparing to hunker down for winter. But, before you do, make sure you’ve got your winter sun holiday planned and booked!

Nothing beats a week of winter sun when we’re in the depths of a cold, wet winter. It gives you something to look forward to during the darkest days and breaks up the long winter season.

I usually visit the Canary Islands for my winter sun holiday. I’m not alone in my holiday choice as over 5 million Brits visited the Canaries in 2022!

But this year I’m planning on travelling a little further for something extra special and I’m plotting a trip to Mexico. My two choices were Cancun or Riviera Maya, so I’ve been doing lots of research to find out which is best for me.

Here’s what I found…

Riviera Maya and Cancún are two really popular tourist destinations in Mexico, particularly with travellers from the United States and Canada. There were 5.6 visitors from the US and 1.1 from Canada travelling to Cancun last year. The number of British travellers to Mexico rises each year as more and more of us discover what a gorgeous destination it is, and also how perfect it is for our winter sun holidays.

Riviera Maya vs Cancun

I’m going to simplify things here…

Riviera Maya vs Cancun? Which one is better for a winter sun holiday?

The answer is probably going to be Riviera Maya as it’s quieter and less hectic. If you like the vibrant nightlife of Cancun then you may choose to spend 2-3 nights in Cancun and then spend the remainder of your holiday in the beautiful Riviera Maya.


  • Cancún is a city known for its stunning beaches along the Caribbean Sea.
  • Cancun has a vibrant nightlife, numerous resorts, restaurants, and shopping centres. It’s popular among younger travellers looking to party. The beaches are beautiful and there’s loads to do and the lively nightlife and variety of bars are a huge attraction! 

Riviera Maya

  • The Riviera Maya is much quieter and is a longer stretch of coastline along the eastern Yucatán Peninsula, south of Cancún. It encompasses several towns and resorts.
  • The Riviera Maya is known for its natural beauty, including pristine beaches, crystal-clear cenotes (natural sinkholes), lush jungles, and ancient Mayan ruins like Tulum and Cobá.
  • Compared to Cancún, the Riviera Maya tends to have a more relaxed and tranquil atmosphere, making it a great destination for couples, families, and those seeking a quieter winter sun holiday.

Riviera Maya vs Cancun: It doesn’t need to be one or the other

Many visitors to the area combine both destinations to get a taste of both worlds! You could spend a few days in Cancun followed by a week in the Riviera Maya.

Have you ever considered a winter sun holiday to Riviera Maya, Cancun?

Here are 8 reasons why I think you should visit Riviera Maya, Cancun, for your next winter sun holiday.

  1. Direct flights to Cancun

Hop onto Skyscanner and look at options for flights from your nearest airport. Flights start to get more expensive during the winter months but they’re still less than £500 from Gatwick with British Airways.

  1. Gorgeous hotels

There are so many beautiful hotels in Riviera Maya to choose from. Whether you want budget, luxury, adult-only, family-friendly, all-inclusive or back to basics. You’ll find it!

  1. Affordable holidays

You might be surprised to find that holiday to Riviera Maya aren’t that much more expensive than a holiday to the Canary Islands!

  1. Great winter weather

The Riviera Maya has a beautiful tropical climate with year-round sunshine and very little rain. Temperatures average 28 degrees C through the winter months.

  1. Picture-perfect beaches

Those white sand beaches and clear blue seas! What more would you want?

  1. Loads of activities

There’s so much to keep you busy while you’re there. While many holidaymakers will spend the majority of their time soaking up the sun and enjoying the delights of the all-inclusive buffet, there’s more to keep you entertained. The blog, Sand in my Suitcase, has lots of ideas!

  1. Great diving

If you’re into scuba diving then the Riviera Maya is a gorgeous place to dive in and admire the underwater world.

  1. Different vibes in different towns to suit your travel style. These are the most popular areas:

Playa del Carmen: Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular towns in the Riviera Maya. It’s known for its lively atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and bustling Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida), which is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. Playa del Carmen is also a hub for water activities and has a ferry terminal for trips to Cozumel.

Tulum: Tulum is famous for its stunning ancient Mayan ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It’s a more relaxed and bohemian town compared to Playa del Carmen and Cancún, with a focus on eco-friendly accommodations and yoga retreats. The beaches in Tulum are known for their natural beauty.

Akumal: Akumal is known for its calm, clear waters and the opportunity to swim with sea turtles in Akumal Bay. It offers a quieter atmosphere compared to some of the more bustling towns in the area.

Puerto Aventuras: Puerto Aventuras is a gated community with a marina and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s known for its luxury resorts, golf courses, and the chance to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery.

Puerto Morelos: Puerto Morelos is a charming fishing village with a laid-back vibe. It has a picturesque town square, a tranquil beach, and a reef just offshore that’s great for snorkeling.

Cenotes Route (Ruta de los Cenotes): This area, located inland from the coast, is famous for its cenotes, which are natural sinkholes filled with crystal-clear freshwater. Towns like Cenotillo, Homún, and Yokdzonot are part of this route and offer opportunities for cenote exploration.

Punta Allen: This remote fishing village is the gateway to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. It’s a place to disconnect from the modern world, explore the reserve’s unique ecosystems, and enjoy a peaceful, rustic experience.

Chemuyil: This small village is located near the Xel-Há ecological park and offers a quieter and more authentic experience compared to some of the larger towns.