Water Based Activities

If spending time in the waves is an essential part of your perfect getaway, then get ready to explore the abundant water activities of the Riviera Maya. The destination’s scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and marine life are among the best in the world.

The myriad of Riviera Mayan beaches offers a plethora of water sports and water attractions to check off some adventures off your bucket list.

This article discusses six of the top-rated water-based activities in the Riviera Maya, all easily accessible from Playa del Carmen.



Exploring the Great Mayan Reef

Also known as the Mesoamerican Reef, the Great Mayan Reef is home to over 66 types of stony coral and over 500 species of fish. It’s an awe-inspiring underwater world to discover. The reef's pristine eco-system and clear-blue waters makes snorkeling and scuba diving two of the most popular water activities in the Riviera Maya.

Stretching over 600 miles from the northern point of the Yucatán Peninsula down to Honduras, the reef runs parallel to the Riviera Maya beaches and coastline. It is the largest reef in the Northern Hemisphere and second in the world only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.


Stay in the luxury of Playa del Carmen and book a day trip through our concierge at Banyan Tree Mayakoba to explore all that the reef has to offer.


Snorkeling in the Riviera Maya

Rejoice a huge variety of marine life snorkeling the Riviera Maya.

Snorkelers are often rewarded with glimpses of stingrays, seahorses, sea turtles, octopuses, and barracudas along with an array of tropical fish.

One of the biggest must-see snorkel sites in the Riviera Maya is the Underwater Museum of Art. The museum opened in 2009 as an eco-project to extend the natural reef system in Cancun, and this unique underwater display features over 500 sunken life-size sculptures.

The natural beaches between Playa del Carmen and Tulum are some of best areas for snorkeling in the Riviera Maya. Natural beaches have the coral reefs where fish love to feed.

Cozumel is also popular if you seek an island getaway —and it’s just off the coast, easily accessible for a day trip from Playa del Carmen.

Dzul Ha reef just off the west coast of the island is a quiet location to spot seahorses and butterfly fish, and it’s accessible within swimming distance from shore. If you are feeling more adventurous you can explore the Columbia Reef and float with giant anemones, crabs, and sea turtles.

Some of the Riviera Maya's larger cenotes also have fantastic snorkeling. The clear water in the cenotes provides excellent visibility for viewing unique underwater life.

The most popular snorkel excursions in Riviera Maya visit multiple sites and include snacks and refreshments. Private trips are available.

Let our Concierge at Banyan Tree Mayakoba help you book your snorkeling trip in the Riviera Maya.


Riviera Maya Scuba Diving

With so many diverse options, Riviera Maya scuba diving is extremely popular with divers around the world. The area offers coral reefs, caves, and caverns, and the chance to swim with ocean wildlife, like turtles and sharks. Some dive operators even offer underwater weddings for scuba diving couples.

Here, we’ll dive into two of the top scuba activities in the Riviera Maya: cave and cavern diving and diving with turtles and sharks.


Cave and Cavern Diving Riviera Maya
The two longest underwater cave systems on the planet are located in the Riviera Maya, making it one of the best areas in the world to try cave and cavern diving.
Caves and caverns offer some of the most thrilling diving in the Riviera Maya. These enclosed spaces for scuba diving are accessible through cenotes, large fresh-water pools that connect to submerged caverns.

Diving caves and caverns is appealing because currents are minimal, and the underwater visibility is excellent.


Diving with Turtles and Sharks

 Share a once-in-a-lifetime experience, swimming with two of the most epic sea creatures.

Akumal is home to the feeding ground of giant green sea turtles. Instead of the white-sand sea floors prevalent in the rest of the Riviera Maya, the sea floor in this area is covered in the sea grass that green turtles love to eat. This makes it a great dive site for turtle-spotting.

If you visit between November and March, you can dive with bull sharks in the warm, shallow waters just a 5-minute boat trip from Playa del Carmen. These sharks can grow up to 8-feet long, and tagging along on a feeding can be quite an adventure to share!



Swim with Dolphins

No scuba equipment is required to swim with dolphins in the Riviera Maya. It’s a fun way to get to know these gentle, intelligent creatures.

Book a private session to swim with dolphins in the Riviera Maya through our Concierge at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, and learn all about these friendly mammals.

The majority of dolphin encounters are offered through aquariums and some are natural aquariums located in eco parks near Playa del Carmen. There are also boat tours from Playa del Carmen that take participants to popular dolphin sites, so that you can watch them swim and play in their natural habitat.


Deep-Sea Fishing in Riviera Maya

Wahoo, marlin, mahi mahi, and tuna are just some of the possible catches while deep sea fishing in the Riviera Maya. It’s also famous for being a hot spot to hook sailfish.

If you get lucky in the water, you can have your catch cleaned and take it with you to have prepared for a meal, or let the crew keep your bounty.

In addition to trolling for fish, most Riviera Maya fishing trips offer refreshments and opportunities to snorkel on day trips from Playa del Carmen.


Riviera Maya Kayaking and Canoeing

Sea kayaking or canoeing is a wonderful way to reconnect on a quiet, eco-friendly excursion.

Hop into a two-person kayak or canoe, taking in the mangrove forests and the hundreds of species of birds that live there. Paddle around the water together and enjoy views of the Riviera Maya beaches and coastline at a leisurely pace.

For a hassle-free holiday to Riviera Maya, let our Concierge provide recommendations on the range activities you can indulge or we can even create a customized excursion just for you, taking care of every detail.

Browse our selection of private villas and intimate dining experiences to enjoy during your stay.


The Mayakoba Escape

Sail the Caribbean Sea in ultimate style and sophistication onboard Mayakoba’s sleek, 55’ Van Dutch Yacht. Explore the stunning Riviera Maya coastline with one of our three charter packages or custom-tailor your excursion.

Depart from the Mayakoba Beach and snorkel in the world’s second-largest barrier reef, famous for its crystal-turquoise waters.

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