Wondering what to pack for the Riviera Maya? This ultimate packing list breaks down what to wear for a comfortable trip to one of Mexico’s best beach destinations.
Are you gearing up for a thrilling adventure to the Riviera Maya and finding yourself a bit stumped on what to pack? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Packing for a new destination can feel like a puzzle, especially when you’re not quite sure about the climate and local norms. That’s where I come in to save the day (and your suitcase space)!
I spent a year living in the Riviera Maya and have over 2 decades of Mexico travel experience. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about packing for this region.
Trust me, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I remember my early trips, where my suitcase was a jumble of ‘just in case’ items. But over time, through a lot of trial and error, I’ve refined my packing list to a T – focusing on a blend of comfort, style, and practicality.
This post is your golden ticket to smart packing for the Riviera Maya, tailored specifically for my fellow solo female travelers. I’ve got you covered with tips and insights on what to bring to make your Riviera Maya vacation easier and more comfortable.
Where is the Riviera Maya?
Mexico’s Riviera Maya refers to the stretch of coast between Cancun and Tulum in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Popular Mexican vacation destinations, including Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum, and Puerto Aventuras, are all part of the Riviera Maya.
Riviera Maya Climate
Generally speaking, the climate in Cancun and the Riviera Maya is exactly what my Canadian dreams are made of. Hot, humid (but not too humid), with just enough breeze for the palm tree fronds to rustle and create a delightful tropical soundtrack for the beach.
More scientifically… the Riviera Maya has a tropical climate, with temperatures averaging around 80-85°F (27-29°C) year-round. You’re pretty much guaranteed warm weather at any time of year.
There are really only two seasons in this region: rainy (wet) and dry.
May through October is the rainy season, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in September and October.
The wet season just so happens to be the hottest time of year, with temperatures averaging in the 80s, even when it rains. And when it rains, it pours. Often, the showers last only 20 minutes, but sometimes they last for an hour or more. Usually they happen in the afternoons, so it’s a great excuse to enjoy happy hour while you wait for them to pass.
The hottest months of the year are July and August, with average highs of 90°F and lows of 77°F.
The dry season runs from November through April. During this time, the humidity levels are slightly lower, and precipitation is less regular. These comfortable temperatures coincide with the region’s high season, which kicks off in late November and begins to wane around April, after Mexico’s Easter holiday. If you like good weather, the dry season is the time to visit.
December and January are the coolest months, with daily highs of 82°F and lows of 68°F.
Riviera Maya’s hurricane season lasts from June 1st through November 30th, so be mindful of the potential for storms if you plan to visit during this time. Purchase travel insurance in case you’re forced to cancel your trip!
Ultimately, breathable clothing, sun protection, and quick-drying fabrics are always wise choices in the Riviera Maya, as it’s hot and sunny all year long.
Traveling soon? Don’t forget to buy travel insurance for Mexico. Insurance gives you peace of mind, knowing you can get the help you need if anything goes wrong. SafetyWing is the provider that I recommend.
What to Pack for Riviera Maya
As you formulate your Riviera Maya packing list, consider where and how you will be spending time on your trip. What types of activities will you do while you’re there? What types of dining establishments will you visit?
Then, think about what you feel most comfortable in and determine what will be most practical based on all of the above.
Here’s what I recommend packing. But this is just a starting point. Use this list as a reference and adapt it to suit your lifestyle and preferences.
Clothing & Shoes
Between the white sand beaches, the incredible Maya ruins, and all the cenotes begging you to jump in, you’ll inevitably spend tons of time in and out of the water in the Rivera Maya.
Lightweight clothing made from quick-drying, breathable fabrics is key. Supportive sandals are likely your best bet for functional beach and jungle footwear.
In the evenings, you’ll likely want to hit up some nice restaurants, chill at a beach bar, or try your hand at salsa dancing in a drop-in class. Make sure you pack some cute outfits for these occasions– sun dresses are an easy way to go.
Here’s a detailed look at what I would take for one week in the Riviera Maya.
Packing a few different pairs of shorts will ensure you always have a dry pair when you need one. It’s also handy to take a few different styles so you can mix and match your outfits a little. I suggest taking:
- One pair of biker shorts – You’ll have no trouble finding yoga classes to join in Playa del Carmen or Tulum, so having a pair of biker shorts will come in handy. Plus, they’re comfortable for everyday wear, too! You can’t go wrong with Lululemon’s Align shorts, but this dupe from Amazon is great, too!
- One pair of linen shorts – These linen shorts are lightweight and breathable, making them a comfortable option for hot weather. They’re perfect for wearing to the beach as a swimsuit coverup or lounging in the evening after a day in the sun.
- One pair of athletic shorts – For active adventures in the Riviera Maya, breathable, quick-dry athletic shorts will come in handy. Whether you’re roaming the grounds at an archaeological site or hopping on a colectivo for a day trip, these will be comfortable and functional.
Take at least two swimsuits on your Riviera Maya vacation. Putting on a wet swimsuit is literally one of the worst feelings in the world, so it’s always nice to have a spare!
Consider taking a couple of different swimsuit styles with you, too.
I like to have one bathing suit that offers adequate coverage and support for active adventures like snorkeling, cenote swimming, or body surfing and another that’s more minimal for sunbathing.
I’m a big fan of Left on Friday (LOF) swimwear. They make swimsuits that are both comfortable and functional, and the high waist options are great for those of us who prefer a little more coverage. They’re spendy, but they’re an investment piece. They come in tons of fun colors and styles, so you can mix and match.
I have the Hi Hi Bottoms and the Pool Days Top. I was surprised and delighted to find that their D+ line of tops actually fit me. If you have a large chest, I’m sure you know the struggle of trying on a DD top that’s actually more of a C. Not with LOF– they’re legit!
Related Reading: The Best Swimsuits for a Mexico Vacation
A swimsuit coverup is an essential item to pack for the Riviera Maya. This button-down dress is a great option. A tunic-style coverup is another good pick. A colorful sarong is another classic way to go.
Tank tops and t-shirts are ideal for the Riviera Maya’s hot weather. It’s pretty much always hot and humid, so opt for light, breathable fabrics.
And these are great basic tank tops.
Take at least one long-sleeve shirt, too, to cover your shoulders in case you get too much sun.
Dresses are great for both day and night in the Riviera Maya. I usually wear shorts and tank tops when I’m out and about doing active things during the day and then slip into a comfortable dress in the evening for dinner. I’d pack at least two dresses for a one-week trip to the Riviera Maya.
A classic sundress is always a good choice. And a maxi dress offers a little more sun (and mosquito) protection. If you’re planning to visit any high-end restaurants, make sure you pack a dress for the occasion.
Tip: Sticking with dark colors makes it easy to fool people into thinking your comfy cotton sundress is much fancier than it actually is.
Pants & Leggings
There’s a good chance you won’t wear pants or leggings during your Riviera Maya vacation, but they are good for wearing on the plane or during long, air-conditioned bus trips.
A pair of loose cotton or linen pants is also a practical addition to your packing list. They can help you ward off insects in the evening.
A light sweater, sweatshirt, or jacket
It’s always a good idea to bring a warm outer layer. After all, you never know when you’ll be trapped in an air-conditioned building! If it’s too hot to wear, you can always use it as a pillow on the plane!
I usually dress very casually, so this sweatshirt is what I would go for! But a cardigan or a light jacket would work well, too. Choose whatever will mix well with the rest of your wardrobe!
Sandals are essential for a Riviera Maya vacation! If you’re planning to be active, go with a practical pair of Chacos. If your vacation is more of a simple hotel-pool-beach rotation, take a comfy pair of slides or flip-flops that you can slip on and off easily.
Sneakers are a good idea for days when you expect to do a lot of walking. Unless you’re a total sandal veteran, it’s a good idea to give yourself proper arch support by bringing a pair of trusty, comfortable shoes.
These Allbirds runners are sustainably made and breathable. With hundreds of reviews raving about how comfy they are, you can’t go wrong!
If you’re a carry-on traveler, you know well that toiletries can quickly eat all of the extra space in your bag while adding a ton of weight.
I’m always tempted to skip packing most of them and just buy everything when I arrive in Mexico. But… over the years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t save me any money to do so, and it takes a ton of time.
Here’s what I recommend packing.
- Reef-safe sunscreen: You can buy it in Mexico, but your selection and prices will be better back home. Many places in the Riviera Maya mandate that you wear biodegradable sunscreen to protect the local ecosystems. I’m a fan of Sunbum products! They also have a face stick, which is handy if you’re planning to spend lots of time on the water.
- Moisturizer – Long days in the sun, salt water, and chlorinated pool can be punishing on your skin, so a good moisturizer is essential. Pack your favorite one from home.
- Facial cleanser – Washing sunscreen, salt, and sand off at the end of the day will be a big relief for your skin. This is my go-to face wash because it’s really gentle but effective.
- Lip balm with SPF – Chapped lips are the worst, so don’t skip this! I use this one, but any lip balm with sunscreen will do!
- Shampoo & conditioner – Solid shampoo and conditioner bars are awesome when traveling. They don’t count against your liquid allowance, and they won’t leak all over your bag!
- Toothpaste & toothbrush – Pack whatever you normally use. Pick up a travel toothbrush holder if you don’t already have one. I use this one!
- Deodorant – Reliable deodorant is essential for the hot weather. Solid deodorant is the easiest for travel. If you forget to pack it, you can pick it up at any store in Mexico. Dove and Nivea are two of the most popular brands.
- Tweezers – If you don’t already have Tweezerman tweezers, get some! They’re the best.
- Prescription medications – If you take any prescriptions, bring them in their original bottles just in case you get stopped by customs.
- Insect Repellent – The bugs come out in full force as soon as the sun goes down. I swear by this brand because it really works (yes, it has DEET). I wore it on a jungle hiking trip in Costa Rica and got very few bites. I know DEET is bad, but…you know… desperate times…
- A mini first aid kit: Having a little homemade first-aid kit will save you a million trips to Walmart to pick up basic supplies. It’s now one of my travel essentials. Here’s what I include:
- Tylenol or ibuprofen for headaches
- Bandaids for small cuts
- Hand sanitizer because public restrooms aren’t always well-stocked
- Chewable Pepto-Bismol tablets in case of an upset stomach
- Disinfectant wipes to clean cuts
- Polysporin for treating cuts or bug bites
You never know when you might need any of this stuff, and it’s nice to have it on hand before you find yourself in need. Plus, when you bring things from home, you can choose your favorite brands and purchase what you are familiar with and confident in.
- Sunglasses – When you’re next to the ocean, the glare of the sun is only amplified. Make sure you protect your eyes with a pair of stylish shades!
- Purse – A crossbody purse is ideal for Mexico, so your valuables are closer to your body and harder for pickpockets to access (though this isn’t a huge concern in the Riviera Maya). I still like to err on the side of caution, though. For ultimate protection, consider an anti-theft purse!
- Belt bag – An alternative to a crossbody purse (and perfect for minimalist travelers) is a belt bag. These are awesome on public transportation and other crowded spaces. I also like that they don’t dangle or get in the way during active adventures.
- Sunhat – Protect your face from sunburn and keep the glare off the pages of your book while reading by the pool. This one rolls up, making it easy to pack in your suitcase. If you’re more of a bucket hat girlie, this one is cute!
- Travel towel – Travel towels are great for beach days because they’re lightweight and quick to dry. I have this one!
- Beach bag – A beach bag is an essential item to pack for the Riviera Maya! I have this one, and it’s the perfect size. You might also consider packing a wet bag to toss your wet swimsuit in so it doesn’t soak everything else you’re carrying.
- Earplugs – Mexico can be really loud, especially during holidays or if you’re staying anywhere near the nightlife. Pack a pair of earplugs, and you’ll sleep peacefully!
You probably won’t be inclined to spend a ton of time staring at a screen while you’re vacationing in the Riviera Maya, but there are a few handy electronic items that you should remember to pack.
Staying connected is key, even when you’re on vacation. Your cell phone will come in handy for calling taxis with WhatsApp or communicating through Google Translate.
Buy an eSIM through Airalo online, and you’ll be connected to local data as soon as you step off the plane.
When you use an eSIM, you don’t have to change your physical SIM card, meaning you don’t have to worry about stashing it in a “safe place” you’ll immediately forget about.
If your phone isn’t eSIM compatible, head to the nearest convenience store once you reach your Riviera Maya destination. Oxxo and X24 are two of the most popular ones in the area.
You can pick up a TelCel SIM card for about $150 MXN. You can add data in any increment over $20 MXN. I’d start with $200 MXN and top up as needed.
Waterproof phone pouch
If you’re heading to the beach on your own, having one of these waterproof pouches to stash your phone and money will give you peace of mind while you swim. They’re a little dorky, but it’s a lot better than having your valuables swiped!
Kindle (or eReader)
Reading by the pool is easier with a Kindle because the brightness adjusts to accommodate the sunlight. It’s much more comfortable than staring at the pages of a book. Plus, you can fit hundreds of books on your eReader, so you never run out of options!
I love my Kindle because it’s connected to my library account, and I can borrow ebooks for free!
Having one will save you from spending tons of money on beach reads at Hudson News.
A GoPro camera is an awesome way to capture all of the active adventures you’ll partake in while visiting the Riviera Maya. Having a waterproof camera will enable you to film clips of snorkeling excursions, cenote dives, and so much more!
If you’re the type of traveler who can’t resist documenting their trip, you’ll be glad to have one of these cameras.
Don’t forget to bring chargers for the electronics you bring. Most accommodations in the Riviera Maya are modern enough to have three-prong outlets, but there’s a small chance they won’t.
Some places still have two-prong outlets. Something to keep in mind. Double-check photos of your hotel room or Airbnb if you’re not certain of the outlet types.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
There have been a few really depressing news stories over the past few years of families on vacation in the Riviera Maya and Mexico City who passed away due to carbon monoxide leaks in their accommodation.
Since many Mexican buildings don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, consider bringing your own for peace of mind.
I don’t know much about these devices, so I highly recommend doing additional research before putting all of your faith in one.
My standard advice for Mexico is to take a travel pack. But, if you’re on a resort-style vacation where you’re not moving places frequently and don’t plan to spend much time on public transportation, a roller bag will be just fine.
My go-to roller bag is the Monos Carry-on Pro. I’ve had it for about a year and it’s the perfect size for a week-long carry-on trip. It fits in the overhead bins of most American Airlines. It’s well-made, stylish, and comes in tons of fun colors. I picked Terracotta, obviously!
My favorite travel pack is the Osprey Farpoint 40. I’ve had it for 8 years and have taken it all over Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the US, and it’s still going strong. The frame is light and flexible, and the body expands and contracts nicely, making it manageable in transit. I love it.
💡 Packing Tip: If you struggle to cram all your things into your carry-on suitcase, packing cubes are a great way to condense items further. Plus, they make it so much easier to find things in your luggage!
Additional Items to Bring to Riviera Maya
I wanted to include a few more useful things you might want to pack for the Riviera Maya. These items are easy to overlook but will undoubtedly come in handy during your vacation.
- A safety pin or paper clip – You’ll need a pointy object to open the SIM card tray if you purchase a physical SIM card.
- A water bottle – You can’t drink the tap water in Mexico. Reduce single-use plastics! Most accommodations have garrafones (large bottles of filtered water) available for guests to refill their bottles. Pack your favorite reusable bottle for your trip. I suggest Nalgene because they’re nice and light.
- A tote bag – I take my Baggu shopping bag everywhere. It’s great for getting groceries, trips to the lavandería, and carrying extra items that don’t fit in my suitcase at the end of the trip! They fold up into a tiny pouch so you can pop it in your purse or daypack in case you need it.
What do People Wear in the Riviera Maya?
The Riviera Maya is very much a beach destination. While many locals are forced to dress fairly conservatively to go to work, you’ll see a ton of beach wear and resort wear everywhere you go.
If you’re the type of traveler who wants to live in a swimsuit and cutoffs, you certainly won’t be alone in the Riviera Maya. Of course, it is Mexico, so some men are a little more vocal than you may be used to back home. Just ignore them.
There are plenty of high-end restaurants in the Riviera Maya that might enforce a dress code. Just be aware of this in case you’re planning to eat somewhere especially nice. A nice sundress will probably be sufficient for places like this.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is wearing. Just pack whatever you feel most comfortable and confident in for your Riviera Maya vacation.
More Tips on Packing for Riviera Maya
Packing for Riviera Maya activities
As you formulate your Riviera Maya packing list, make a quick list of all the types of activities and day trips you’re hoping to do. Do you have appropriate clothing for each of them? Ask yourself what would be most comfortable for each excursion and pack accordingly.
Dress codes at all-inclusive resorts
Sometimes, all-inclusive hotels have dress codes at their on-site restaurants. If you’re staying at one of these resorts, peep their website ahead of your trip and see if they mention it. Usually, a nice dress is sufficient to satisfy the requirements (basically, they don’t want guests in there in swimwear).
For more tips on packing for an all-inclusive, check out my packing list for a Mexico resort.
Packing for water activities in the Riviera Maya
This area of Mexico is a veritable wonderland for anyone who enjoys water sports. You can do it all. From jet skiing to parasailing, snorkeling, diving, boating… the list goes on.
If you’re prone to burning or want to be extra cautious, a rashguard offers excellent sun protection.
Riviera Maya Packing FAQs
What money should I take to Riviera Maya?
The local currency anywhere in Mexico is Mexican pesos, so plan to use them when you arrive. You can use your debit card to get money from local bank ATMs or ATMS in the airport. Just be sure you’re using one associated with a bank so you don’t pay exorbitant fees.
You will be able to use your credit card in many places throughout the Riviera Maya, but you’ll need cash for smaller transactions.
Taxi drivers typically don’t accept cards. And you’ll need cash for tipping resort staff, paying for local transportation, and dining out at smaller restaurants.
Larger businesses usually accept credit cards.
There’s a common misconception that you should spend US dollars when you’re in the Riviera Maya, and that just isn’t true. You can use USD, but you’ll get a terrible exchange rate and locals prefer to deal with pesos anyway. Use dollars if you need to, but plan to take out pesos.
For more money tips, check out this article.
Can you swim in the ocean in Riviera Maya?
Yes you can! The water in the Riviera Maya is the most idyllic shade of turquoise…. Unless you happen to hit it during a sargassum bloom, in which case it can look a little ruddy.
Sargassum is a type of seaweed that gets swept onto the shores of the Riviera Maya by ocean currents. It isn’t present all the time, but it can be very oppressive when it’s around. It washes up on the shore in huge heaps and makes the prospect of swimming in the ocean unappealing.
But don’t worry, you can always swim in cenotes instead!
What is the hottest month in Riviera Maya?
July and August are the hottest months in the Riviera Maya, with daily highs around 90°F.
- Tips For Your First Trip To Mexico
- How to Get From Cancun to Playa del Carmen and Tulum
- The Perfect 5-Day Playa del Carmen Itinerary
- 18 Incredible Things to Do in Riviera Maya, Mexico
- 6 Awesome Things to Do in Tulum
Mexico Travel Planning Resources
🌡️ Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! Healthcare in Mexico is affordable for minor ailments, but travel insurance will give you peace of mind if an emergency arises. Plus, you can add coverage for trip interruption, theft, etc. Get a quote from SafetyWing.
🏨 What’s the best way to find accommodation in Mexico?
I use a mix of Booking, Airbnb, and Hostelworld.
💸 How should I exchange money in Mexico?
Use local ATMS to withdraw cash. US travelers should open a Charles Schwab bank account because they’ll refund ATM fees at the end of the month.
Travelers from outside the US should open a Wise account to secure the best currency exchange rates.
📱 Where can I buy a local SIM card in Mexico?
Pick up a Telcel SIM card at any convenience store. Or, buy an Airalo eSIM online so you’re connected as soon as you land.
🗣️ Do I need to speak Spanish in Mexico?
No, but it definitely helps you feel more confident and connected.
✈️ What’s the best way to find affordable flights?
I use Skyscanner because it makes it easy to compare rates across different travel days.
🚖 How do I find a safe airport transfer?
I recommend GetTransfer for airport transfers anywhere in Mexico.
🚗 What’s the best way to find rental cars in Mexico?
I recommend Discover Cars because they aggregate prices across rental car companies, making it easy to find competitive rates.
🚐 How do I book bus tickets online in Mexico?
🤿 How do I find cool activities and tours in Mexico?
🇲🇽 How can I experience Mexico like a local?
Solo female travelers can hire a local female guide through Greether. Greeters will tailor tours based on your interests— it’s basically like experiencing a destination with a local bestie!
🧳 What’s the best luggage for Mexico?
Unless you’re staying at a resort, a travel pack is recommended. I’ve used this one from Osprey for the last 8+ years.
👯♀️ How do I connect with fellow travelers in Mexico?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!