©istock/SHansche
©istock/SHansche

Navigating the Riviera Maya post COVID

4 minutes to read

Much of the world has been closed down for the past six months due to the current pandemic leaving most of us limited to the confines of our homes, with our wanderlust growing exponentially. Now that most of Europe and Asia has reopened their borders to allow for travel, this wanderlust can be satisfied at last! Of course, times have changed and stricter health and capacity protocol has been implemented for airlines, hotels, restaurants, and national parks to name a few. Most establishments still function at limited capacity and require the use of masks, gloves, and other protective gear for both workers and guests. In the Riviera Maya tourism is opening carefully and slowly. This article will help you navigate travel through the Riviera in times of COVID, and how best to enjoy beaches, cenotes, restaurants, lodging, and internal travel in the safest and most efficient way. 

©istock/LUNAMARINA
©istock/LUNAMARINA

Hotels versus vacation rentals

As of July, around 85% of all-inclusive resorts from Cancun to Tulum have reopened at about 30% capacity. The other 15% is set to reopen between August and October approximately. Since their reopening in June, only hotel guests have had access to the beach as all public beaches are closed to locals and non-guests. Resorts have very strict guidelines on hygiene and distancing for all hotel workers and guests making them very safe for tourists, not to mention the extra bonus of having large swaths of dining rooms, beaches, and ocean to yourself. Furthermore, now that many indoor attractions and night-life options are still closed you can still enjoy musical, theatrical, and cultural entertainment the hotels have to offer. Since resorts have just recently begun opening, they have really great promotions for cheap rooms that you should take advantage of before it is too late!

Tulum, Quintana Roo
Tulum, Quintana Roo
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Zona hotelera, Cancun
Zona hotelera, Cancun
Hotel Zone, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Μεξικό
©istock/SOMATUSCONI
©istock/SOMATUSCONI

For travelers wanting the Airbnb or rental experience, all Airbnb and vacation rentals are available. You may have to take the initiative to ensure hygiene and safety protocol with respective owners and hosts. Condominiums and vacation rentals may be an even safer option as you will be the only inhabitants and many rentals have private pools onsite to enjoy without masks or proximity to strangers. Unfortunately, you will only have to access public beaches to enjoy the Caribbean ocean, and as beaches have only recently reopened, they are quite packed and have yet to be properly rid of seaweed. Do not let this discourage you from coming to visit this summer as there are plenty of options for clean beaches as well as other natural wanders that will keep you refreshed and entertained in the heat.

National parks, cenotes, public beaches

©istock/marako85
©istock/marako85

As of July most archeological sites including the ruins of Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza are still closed to tourists until further notice. Aquatic and cultural theme parks such as Xel Ha, Xcaret, and Xplor have opened at limited capacity. Cenotes are likewise open and are the absolute best option for summertime swimming as they are always seaweed free, fresh, ice-cold water. Be aware that cenotes are privately owned and may not be limiting capacity although most of them will take temperatures of guests before entry, employees will wear masks, and used surfaces will be wiped down.

Xplor Adventure Park, Playa del Carmen
Xplor Adventure Park, Playa del Carmen
Carretera Chetumal, Puerto Juarez Km 282, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., México
Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen
Xcaret Park, Playa del Carmen
Carretera Chetúmal Puerto Juárez Kilómetro 282, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., México
Xel Ha, Quintana Roo
Xel Ha, Quintana Roo
Chichen Itza, Yucatán
Chichen Itza, Yucatán
Chichén Itzá, Yuc., México
Coba, Yucatán
Coba, Yucatán
Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico
©istock/Australian Lifestyle Images
©istock/Australian Lifestyle Images

Public beaches in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum have officially opened. They are quite packed by locals finally able to have fun in the sun after 3 months. Beaches in Playa del Carmen and Tulum have fairly high seaweed loads in the summer, but this changes on a day to day basis. The semi-private beach of Xpu-ha next to the resort Catalonia is always less crowded and guests will have their temperature taken before entering.  The best bets for seaweed free beaches in the Riviera are in Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Cozumel. Travelers not staying in all-inclusive resorts with private beach access should rent cars, scooters, or motorcycles to access these cleaner beaches in order to avoid riskier public transportation. Furthermore, due to COVID, ferries to Cozumel, Holbox, and Isla Mujeres have altered their schedules allowing for far less daily crossings.

Holbox, Quintana Roo
Holbox, Quintana Roo
Holbox, Quintana Roo, México
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Cozumel, Quintana Roo
Cozumel, Quintana Roo
Cozumel, Quintana Roo, México
Xpu ha beach, Quintana Roo
Xpu ha beach, Quintana Roo
Xpu Ha, Q.R., México

Restaurants

©istock/Orbon Alija
©istock/Orbon Alija

Restaurants, bars, and casinos are opened at 15-25% capacity. Most restaurants offer take-out options, and the majority of restaurants in Playa and Tulum are at least partially if not completely out-doors. The permanent Cirque de Soleil show Joya has also reopened. Needless to say, all restaurants, bars, and entertainment facilities are held to the strictest hygiene guidelines for guest and employee safety.

Cirque du Soleil Joya, Playa del Carmen
Cirque du Soleil Joya, Playa del Carmen
Km. 48 Carretera Federal Cancún-Playa del Carmen, 77710 Riviera Maya, Q.R., Mexico

The Riviera Maya opened its doors to tourism at the beginning of June and has slowly and safely begun phasing in access to all natural and cultural attractions. If you are ready to venture out into a Caribbean paradise post COVID, I highly recommend the Riviera Maya. Hotels, theme parks, and restaurants provide safe, distanced options for customers, and the majority of attractions including beaches, cenotes, and aquatic sports by their very nature provide safe, spacious, outdoor activities for cautious, health-conscious travelers. 


The author

Julia Holland

Julia Holland

Hello, I am Julia and I live in Mexico. I came to Mexico as an anthropologist working in Chiapas and I fell in love with this country: the pure and savage beauty of nature, the humility and warmth of the local people, the rich and varied culture. I decided to stay and Mexico is what I call home.

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