The Mesoamerican Reef in Riviera Maya is a Global Treasure — Riviera Maya Blog

The Mesoamerican Reef in Riviera Maya is a Global Treasure

A world entirely different than our own, teeming with every electric color of the rainbow & hundreds of species you won’t find anywhere else on the planet, the Mesoamerican Reef is the very backbone of all things wondrous about Riviera Maya.

The Majestic Mesoamerican Reef in Riviera Maya

When you vacation in Playa del Carmen, a sanctuary of wildlife surrounds you in every direction – but if you only see the surface, you’re missing an entire magical world. That’s because the Mexican Caribbean houses the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, second on the planet only to the Great Barrier Reef. Aptly known as the Great Mayan Reef, and more commonly, the Mesoamerican Reef, a 620-mile ecosystem sprawls right off our shore, from Isla Contoy to the north, all the way south to Nicaragua.

A Rainbow of Aquatic Wildlife

Incredibly, you never have to venture far to snorkel or scuba dive amongst the coral and creatures that call its nourishing environment home. In fact, some places you can reach the reef just a couple hundred yards from shore. As for what awaits beneath the surface or hiding in the mangroves, animals you might encounter include:

  • 500+ fish species in every electric color you can imagine.
  • The world’s largest fish – whale sharks.
  • 65+ otherworldly stony coral species.
  • Endangered sea turtles.
  • 350+ species of mollusk
  • West Indian manatees
  • American crocodiles.
  • Bottlenose dolphins.


The Underwater Sculpture Museum

Though not a natural sight, the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) is a marvelously creative way artists have devised to encourage coral growth, crafting compelling sculptures specially designed to evolve as the wildlife benefits in time. Sunken between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, it truly is an unforgettable sight.

Paradise at Risk

Like many reefs in the world, the Mesoamerican system is very much at risk today. We encourage you to join an organization you believe and help mitigate the negative effects of large-scale agriculture, eroding shorelines, invasive species, and rising sea temperatures.