All the main tourist towns & areas in the “Mexican Caribbean” are located along the eastern coast of the state of Quintana Roo. This state, along with the neighboring Yucatan state make up the mass of land knows as the Yucatan peninsula.

All the major tourist spots are located in Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Tulum. Riviera Maya is a stretch of land that contains many different cities, villages, resorts, and beaches. We’ll cover all the areas in more detail below.


Cancun is the biggest tourist destination in the Yucatan peninsula. The Cancun International Airport is located here, which is where you’ll be flying into. The main tourist area where all the hotels & resorts are located is just off of the mainland, and is called the “Zona Hotelera”.

Although there’s something for everyone, Cancun features a lot of large hotels & restaurants, and has a reputation as being a party hotspot. As a result, it’s the destination of choice for young travelers looking to party.

Riviera Maya

Also known as the Mayan Riviera, this area includes several cities, villages, and destinations along the Cancun-Tulum corridor. Some of the biggest and most popular municipalities within Riviera Maya are Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Riviera Maya and the cities within it host many large-scale all-inclusive resorts. The areas surrounding these resorts tend to be larger, which helps the area feel less crowded. As a result, the cities and towns in the Riviera Maya have a slower paced and more laid back vibe than the busy Cancun hotel zone.

Playa del Carmen

Often referred to as “Playa” by English-speaking tourists, Playa del Carmen is the biggest city within Riviera Maya. It features luxury residential condominiums, restaurants, boutique shops, hotels, hostels, and a nightlife venues.

Playacar is a residential and tourist development just south of the main city. If you’re looking for all-inclusive resorts or hotels in Playa del Carmen, this is where they’ll be.

Playa del Carmen is a great choice if you want to stay in a city that has the nightlife of Cancun, but still has the laid-back charm of a smaller beach town.


Tulum is a city at the southern end of Riviera Maya, and is quickly gaining in popularity among tourists. There is the town of Tulum itself, and the “Zona Hotelera Tulum” which is 2 kilometers from the town center on the coast. Budget travelers may want to stay within Tulum town, as the Tulum coast tends to be more expensive.

Those looking for something more special should check out Tulum’s hotel zone on the coast. It which features boutique hotels, specialty restaurants, and long stretches of beautiful white sand beaches. Tulum’s hotel zone has a unique “hipster” and “rustic” vibe.