Riviera Maya Weather

The Riviera Maya (often called the Mayan Riviera) consists of the coastal portion of the state of Quintana Roo from Cancun in the north to Tulum in the South. The peninsula largely consists of a shallow limestone shelf with few elevation changes, covered by jungle and tropical vegetation. Because of the porous nature of the limestone geology, and despite the large amount of rainfall, there are no surface rivers, but rather underground rivers and cenotes (sinkholes) which provide drainage and recreation for locals and travellers alike (see our section dedicated to cenotes).

 

The climate in the region is warm and humid all year. There are two main seasons — the wet season from June to November and the dry season from December to May. No need to pack jackets or scarves, or for that matter, even pants, no matter what time you are visiting. The average annual temperature is 27c (80f), and this can easily reach the mid-30s (mid-90s) in the summer months. Annual rainfall is about 1.5 meters. Having said that, January and February can be a bit windy, and thus it can get a little cool on the beach in the evenings, so a windbreaker during this time would not be totally unwarranted. During the rainy season it’s always a good idea to have a poncho and/or umbrella handy, as afternoon thunderstorms can pop up with little warning; luckily, absent an organized weather system, these cloudbursts end just as quickly, the streets dry out, and the party continues.

 

The area is prone to tropical storms in the wet season (the official hurricane season is June 1 to 30 November 30), and statistically at least one hurricane hits the area every year. The last one to cause serious problems was the category five Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which made landfall directly on top on Playa del Carmen and caused significant damage.  Local legend suggests that there is one category five hurricane every 10 years, meaning the area is probably due another serious event soon, although meteorological data seems to make this claim a bit dubious.

Regarding hurricanes, this local sailors’ poem is as good a guide as any,

 

“June, too soon,

July, stand by,

August, look out you must,

September, remember,

October, all over.”

 

Our personal adaptation to this poem would be “October, not over!”

 

The Riviera Maya enjoys a humid tropical climate, and gets lots of rain, which begs the question: Mosquitoes? Well, yes, but with some qualifications. You won’t find the bird-size mosquitoes of Alaska, but in areas away from urban zones which are not regularly sprayed (certain parts of Tulum, for example), mosquitoes can eat you alive in the wet season. So in addition to a windbreaker, poncho, and perhaps an umbrella, mosquito repellent is a virtual must for your travel kit.

 

The bottom line is, there are few other weather-related problems which might spoil your travels. Yes, tropical systems do occasionally move through, but no worries about snow, ice, earthquakes, forest fires, or tsunamis. (OK, a meteor hit here a few million years ago, destroying 90% life on Earth, but you pay your money and take your chances.)