Destinations, Travel, travel tips

Beach Camping Along Mexico’s Riviera Maya

The Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, specifically the Riviera Maya that stretches from Cancún to Tulum, is a popular vacation destination that has historic Mayan ruins and beautiful beaches. Since my fiancé and I don’t have much money to spare for extravagant resort experiences (and, frankly, adventure is more our style anyway), we camp in our two-person tent (or individual hammocks) nearly everywhere we decide to vacation. We camped almost every night in our tent along beaches south of Cancún, popularly known as the Riviera Maya. The majority of people we told about our trip to Mexico immediately thought that our idea of camping would be dangerous. On the contrary, it was a lot more lush than we imagined, and we had a great time.


Photo Credit: Google 2016, INEGI

Based on our experience, here are some tips and tricks to successfully beach camp south of Cancún, Mexico, along the Riviera Maya. I must emphasize that we did not backpack this time but had a rental car. If you do intend to backpack (and ultimately hitchhike), utilize public transit and hitchhike along the main roads where English-speaking tourists are more frequented.

Anyway, a rental car was just the style for this trip because we did not have much time to experience and see the many things we wanted to in the small time frame we had. Like most of our trips, this trip was planned only a couple days before we left (check out my article on flying standby to get an idea of our interesting life of travel). However, this trip was unforgettable and one that I highly recommend. So, let’s delve into beach camping Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula along the Riviera Maya.


  • Have your own tent
  • Know basic Spanish (more than basic is preferred)
  • Get pesos
  • Bring toilet paper
  • Bring your own food
  • Leave valuables at home
  • Don’t over pack


Hola – Hello

Adios – Goodbye

¿Cuántos pesos?  – How much pesos?

acampar / acampando – to camp / camping

¿Donde están los baños? – Where are the bathrooms?

¿Donde están las duchas?  – Where are the showers?

¿Donde esta la playa? – Where is the beach?

¿Puedo tener una cerveza? – Can I have a beer?

Gracias – Thank you

Por favor – Please

¿Hay espacio? – Is there space?

Cien – One hundred

Cincuenta – Fifty

(no) Quiero – I want / I don’t want

(no) Tengo – I have / I don’t have

(no) Necesito – I need / I don’t need

Just place ‘no’ in front of verbs to say ‘don’t’

If you have no idea how to pronounce these Spanish words, put these phrases into Google Translate. There is an option to listen to pronunciation.


We landed in Cancún, picked up the rental car, and drove to Walmart to get food and supplies for the next couple days. We ended up staying in a cheap hotel in Cancún for that night before setting south for the beach camping options (cheap Cancún hotel: Motel Costa Express – cheap, had our own single-car garage but lacked amenities, such as a working AC unit and had to request for towels *toallas*). After this night, we headed south to the beaches to camp.


Photo Credit: Google 2016, INEGI

Name: Playa Maya
Price: 150 pesos / person
Facilities: Bathrooms, showers, beach bar, beach
Google Street View Link

We camped in the city of Tulum the second night. Tulum not only has beaches but also Mayan ruins to explore.

Image 1: This was sunrise along the beach outside of the campgroundImage 2: Mayan ruins in Tulum. There is an entrance fee to visit these ruins in Tulum.

There are a couple camping options here in Tulum. The town has a touristy section along Road 15. Road 15 can be accessed from 307, the road you would take to get to Tulum from Cancún. Once you turn off onto Road 15, take a left (instead of a right toward the touristy section) to find camping options. We stumbled upon camping and you might just have to do the same. Keep an eye out for signs that say ‘camping.’

tulum mexico beach camping in Yucatan peninsula
We turned off a dirt road to the right where this sign was. We got lucky and found a great campground because of it.

The site we stayed at was beautiful. The sites were in the sandy jungle so there was a lot of shade. One night’s stay got you access to the campground’s bathroom and shower facilities (otherwise 10 pesos per bathroom visit). The campsite’s beach access also brought you right to a beach bar with drinks and bar food.

campground campsite in tulum mexico beach camping on the yucatan peninsula mexico
Here is our jungle camp spot. This was a only a short walk from the beach.

The vibe of Tulum is very laid back. We stumbled upon a free DJ set that night that was right outside of our campground on the beach and then visited the ruins the next day. Do be aware, these beaches are a bit dirty and full of trash because they are less maintained compared to resort beach outlets.


Photo Credit: Google 2016, INEGI

Price: 150 pesos / person
Facilities: Bathrooms, hot showers, beach bar, restaurant, beach
Google Street View Link

For the third night, we stayed in Paa Mul, a place south of Playa del Carmen. This was my favorite place to camp because of the beach, security guards, and amenities. Although, the camping is not in a cute forest or beach, it is actually in a parking lot. But, the spots are very close to the beach. Furthermore, a security guard watches the tent sites most of the day, which is nice if you want to leave items in your tent without fear of theft. This community is predominantly English-speaking retirees. The facilities have hot showers, there is a bar and restaurant, and the beach is gorgeous. This beach had fairly good snorkeling just right from the beach’s outlet.


Photo Credit: Google 2016, INEGI

Price: 150 pesos / person
Facilities: Bathrooms, showers, beach bar, beach
Google Street View Link

For our last night’s stay, we camped on the beach in Xpu Ha. Xpu Ha is a bustling beach community. Xpu Ha is known for ‘glamping’ but camping in your own tent is also available. Facilities are simple ‘okay,’ but there are facilities at least. Toilet paper ran out midday here so I highly recommend having your own stash just in case.

The campsites are not designated so you can camp wherever, even on the beach front if you would like. Xpu Ha has a couple beach bars, neighbors a big resort, has the clearest water I’ve ever seen, and has a small store on the beach for snacks and basic needs. Overall, it’s a great place to be but can get extremely busy.

Have you camped in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula along the Riviera Maya? Give your camping recommendations in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “Beach Camping Along Mexico’s Riviera Maya”

  1. Hi Madison, Can you please share the info about your rental car; who did you rent from, insurance and deposit info? Thank you!

    1. Hey Desiree! So I have a feeling we used Budget to rent a car in Cancun. When it comes to insurance, we used our own through our bank, which is USAA. Now we did have a bit of a problem with the deposit, and so did a number of young couples there too. The deposit is $1,400 that you need in one bank account. We had to switch some money around, which took a little while, but it ended up working for us. It would have saved us a lot of time if we knew about the huge deposit beforehand. Hope this helps and I hope you have a great time in Mexico!

  2. Did you book a reservation or just show up? My Fiance and I are flying standby to Cancun during the busiest week of January (hoepfully) and I am concerned if we just show up we will be stuck sleeping in our car or renting a hotel room.

    Sounds like you and your SO travel just like we do! Pack camping gear and plan it out a few days in advance. Fly standby and hope for the best!



    1. Hey Kelly! First off, good luck flying standby! I think we went to Cancun the second week of January and had no problem. I do believe we booked a hotel in advance for the first night (but
      Only a day or two in advance) and just winged it for the rest of the time. We didn’t need a reservation for the campsites.

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