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A First-Timer's Guide To Riviera Maya

When I hear the term “all-inclusive,” I think of me...poolside, under a big blue umbrella, soaking up the sun and drinking endless margaritas.

I envision myself passed out in a white fluffy bed, slowly succumbing to the inevitable coma that comes from stuffing my face with copious amounts of food from the all-you can eat buffet. I imagine spending my evenings in my Sunday best, dining in extravagance at an a la carte, with absolutely every intention of pretending that the 4 glasses of wine and 3 plates of desserts I just ordered, wouldn’t cost me $260 at home.

Rarely when I think of an “all-inclusive,” do I wonder what lies beyond the 4 walls of the hotel -- that is until now….

The one thing I PROMISED myself, when planning my trip to Riviera Maya, was that I wouldn’t fall under the resort spell.

As an avid believer in experiencing as much of a new place as I can when I travel, I refused to allow myself to get caught up in spending my entire trip to Mexico in my room; so, after giving myself two days of blissful was time to put on my nude Steve Madden sandals and head out for some adventure.

If you’re visiting Riviera Maya and you’re looking for things to do,The Champagne Series has got you covered. I have compiled a list of highlights from my trip to help you plan your perfect day off the resort!

Things to do in Riviera Maya


#1 - Xcaret Park

Xcaret Park is advertised as Mexico’s majestic paradise and it's nothing short of that! As my #1 recommendation in both monetary value and fun, Xcaret is a must see! The park boasts more than 50 natural and cultural attractions (including underground rivers, jungles, Mayan villages, archeological sites, shows, and more) and includes one free buffet lunch * if you buy the plus package. There is so much to see and do, that even though we arrived at 9am (opening hours) and left at 9pm, we still found that there wasn’t enough time to see it all.

TIP: Pick the things that are most important to you and map out your route. The park is huge and it’s almost impossible to finish in a day (like I said...we tried...); so, mapping out a route that covers everything you want to see/do will save you a whole lot of unnecessary walking.

We know with all the attractions available, planning a route is hard! So, to help you with that...I am including some highlights from my day at the park!


  • Torre Escencia (brick route) - The Torre Escencia, or scenic tower, is an 80m landmark that allows you to enjoy the coastal views of the city on its rotational observation deck. The experience only lasts about 5 minutes; but, it is well worth it! I’d recommend hitting this attraction first, because it gets SUPER busy.

  • Hacienda Henequenera (brick route) - Walking through Hacienda Henequenera is like stepping into a literal time machine then being transported into the 19th Century. The architecture, trinkets, and the stunning musical stylings of the mariachi singing in the village square, come together to create an experience you’ll never forget.

  • Snorkeling (green route) - As you stroll down through the park following the green route, you absolutely HAVE to stop by the beach for a quick dip and a snorkeling session. One of the unique things about Xcaret Park is the abundance of activities included in your admission like snorkeling. Dive into the lagoon using the gear provided by the Park and witness the underwater magic of Mexico. The best part is, you get to keep your snorkel as a souvenir!

  • Puente Al Paraiso (white route) - Puente Al Paraiso is part of the Cementerio Mexicano (or Mexican Cemetery) ...creepy I know; but, unlike the dreary cemeteries that we are accustomed to, Puenta Al Paraiso is vibrant, and full of life and colour! It is like something out of the movies and definitely worth checking out!

  • Capilla De San Francisco de Asis (white route) - The Capilla is an open air church reminiscent of the stone ages and is quite possibly one of the most peaceful places I have ever been in my life. Not only is it perched up high, overlooking the jungle, but there is the sweetest music in the background to put you at ease. It is a much-needed escape from all the activity of the park and the perfect spot for a well-deserved nap!

XCARET MÉXICO ESPECTACULAR - After spending all day exploring, I can 99.9% guarantee that by 7pm you’re going to want to head back to the hotel; BUT DON’T DO IT!

I promise you, holding out for just 2 more hours will turn out to be one of the best decisions you’ll make on your trip! Mexico Espectacular is that one-of-a-kind experience you’ll wonder how you ever lived without. Featuring 300 artists on stage, this interactive performance takes you on a journey through Mexico’s history. From its earliest roots, through colonization, and straight into its independence, it is a visual MASTERPIECE from start to finish!

#2 Xplor Park - Sister to Xcaret, Xplor park is an action packed experience full of pure adrenaline and it is another definite Must-Do while you’re in the area. The park is smaller, but there is no shortage of activities. You can go ziplining, driving through underground caves in an aquatic vehicle (driver’s license needed), and swimming in the local cenotes. When you get tired, hit one of the smoothie bars for a quick re-fresh, or the all-you can eat buffet (YUM). For even more adventure, try Xplor Fuego which gives you access to the park at night!

#3 Playa Del Carmen - Just a quick cab ride away, lies the coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen. Home to the iconic Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), Playa del Carmen is the place to visit. Whether you’re checking out the shops along the strip to find souvenirs for your friends, grabbing a street taco to bask in the authentic flavours, or heading to the beach for a quick dip -- there is no shortage of things to do!

Honourable Mentions

Isla Mujeres

Chichen Itza

Coco bongo

There are so many things to do while in Riviera Maya if you ever want to get off the resort; so strap on your fanny pack, grab your camera and get out to EXPLORE!

Don’t forget to check out our last post about our stay at the resort and be sure share all of your adventures with us using our #thechampagneseries and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up!

Happy Travels!


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