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There’s no doubt Cancun and the Riviera Maya are the most popular vacation destination in Mexico and all Latin America. This strip of beachfront in the state of Quintana Roo has taken the competition by storm both locally and around the world: its accessibility, adventure possibilities, remarkable culture, and seriously privileged location are a gift for anyone exploring overseas living. Before you decide to put down roots, consider the area’s assets and unique history.

What was once considered way too far off-the-beaten-path has become a magnet for individuals, couples, and families who are seeking something different in the Mexican Caribbean, something with more of a Mayan flavor, something that offers a unique mix of adventure, relaxation, and renewal. As late as the 1960s, this region was an isolated string of coco palm plantations. No roads meant communities were connected by jungle pathways and coastal small boat traffic.

Today, Riviera Maya hosts over six million visitors in 2019 (preCovid) and that number is only growing as the region welcomes travelers from all cultures and all backgrounds. Riviera Maya itself is a triple play for tourists, bringing together the best of Mexico, the astounding Zona Maya, and the Caribbean all in one place. It all started in the 80s when visitors would come on day trips from Cancun to visit the breathtaking archaeological site of Tulum, built on a bluff overlooking the sea.

 Riviera Maya For Travelers

By the 90s the area was booming with big investments in resorts, infrastructure, and attractions. These manmade enticements—shopping, canopy tours, eco-adventure parks, zoos, and, of course, the stunning resorts—became an added level of “wow” for travelers who were already drawn by the area’s many cultural and natural wonders. The Mayan archaeology and the contemporary Mayan communities with their living language and traditions, together with the beaches, the reefs, the awe-inspiring cenotes, the dense jungle, and the wildlife all come together to offer visitors once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Living here means exploring an assortment of beach towns, cities, islands (Cozumel), and resort “enclaves”. Each has advantages and certain drawbacks to consider. The opening of a new international airport (being built at a location between the city of Tulum and the archaeological site of Coba), and the controversial “Tren Maya” railroad project promise better access to the more remote areas of southern Quintana Roo state.

For a fuller understanding of this region, consider a 1-2-1 Consultation. It’s free and can get you off on the right foot for planning your new life in Mexico.