The Caribbean coastline comprises a series of islands shaped like a crescent moon, home to white sand beaches and crystal-clear, deep turquoise waters. The area's flat lands are covered with lowland rainforest. The average yearly temperature is 24-25ºC. The climate is dominated by a rainy season from May to November, and within the dry season there is a period dominated by northerly winds, called El Norte, which usually occurs in the months of January and February.
The Mayan Riviera is famous for its large scale all-inclusive resorts and a historical tourism base of smaller boutique hotels as well as the many fine-dining restaurants available. Luxury travel entities have been instrumental in increasing luxury villa rentals and yacht charters in the area. However, these represent but a small fraction of the total tourism accommodation available.
A major attraction throughout the Mayan Riviera are aquatic activities dependent on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the Belize Barrier Reef), the second longest in the world, which begins near Cancún and runs the length of the Mayan Riviera, continuing southward to Guatemala.
The most highly sought after activities include water skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming in cenotes, swimming with dolphins, zip-lining, horse riding, sailing and guided jungle tours. Archaeology is also a big tourist draw in the area, including the popular archaeological sites operated by the National Archaeology Institute, such as Tulum on the coast and Chichen Itza and Coba located some distance inland
The major ecoparks are Xcaret and Xel-Ha, which also include some smaller archaeological ruins as part of their attractions. These natural water theme parks operated by private business consortia, however, attract much larger crowds due to the diversity and range of activities provided, such as swimming with captive dolphins.
Most tourists to the Mayan Riviera arrive through the Cancún International Airport, approximately 50 km (31 mi) north of Playa del Carmen.