Wedding planning - Riviera Maya Resorts and Attractions

Here is a list of my plans for a wedding in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. I've narrowed down my hotel choices and listed all of the main attractions I'm interested in seeing while we are there.

Hi Janice & Julie

Jeremy and I are planning a wedding in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. Hope you guys are excited!

We want to do the wedding before I go back to clinics, so we are aiming for sometime in October. I know its kind of short notice, but we should be able to do it if I can get a wedding date and venue set and a photographer booked by the end of next week, or the week after at latest. Then we will need to get invitations out as soon as possible to give people enough time to book rooms and flights. Jeremy said that Julie offered to do wedding invitations, and that would be spectacular!

So I've been looking at resorts in the Riviera Maya, and I have narrowed it down to 3 of my favorite choices. I would appreciate it if you guys could give some feedback on which you prefer. The Occidental Grand Xcaret is my first choice right now.

1. Occidental Grand Xcaret

Pros: very close to Xcaret Park (can upgrade rooms to a package that includes unlimited access to Xcaret during your stay)
very close to Xplor Adventure Park

Good location for day trips - close to all attractions (maximum drive ~30 min)

largish hotel

40-50% off if we book within the next 35 days -  starting at ~$150 per person with promotional discount. might be able to stack discounts with group booking?


Cons: not on a beach (does have a man made beach on a lagoon, but does not go out to the ocean)
probably not a good snorkeling place (but can snorkel at Xcaret)

2. Now Jade

Pros: close to Cancun Airport

close to Cancun

staff seems really well coordinated

snorkeling off shore - supposed to be close to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef


Cons: Farther away from some attractions (Tulum, Xel-ha, Xcaret) - not as convenient to do day trips (1hr 20 min to drive to Tulum)
30 min away from Playa Del Carmen if people want to go into the city

smaller hotel, may have fewer activities


3. Grand Palladium

4 hotels in the same area (analogous to the Hilton we stayed at in Hawaii)
Grand Palladium Colonial
Grand Palladium Kantenah
Grand Palladium Riviera

Grand Palladium White Sand


Pros: Large hotel chain, has lots of activities on resort if some people prefer to stay on resort
Close to all attractions if people prefer to go off resort (maximum drive is <30 min)
Good location

Cons: Staff seems poorly organized and poorly coordinated
more expensive, starts around $225-250 per person


My first choice is the Occidental Grand Xcaret, since I think it combines a good location for day trips with the size of a larger hotel (not as large as Grand Palladium), but at a more reasonable price. I also like that it is so close to Xcaret, everybody that comes for the wedding would at least visit that park.


What are your thoughts? If there are other resorts that you are interested in, let me know as well. One other consideration that I have is whether they charge a hefty outside vendor fee for off resort wedding photographers, so some resorts may have been ruled out on that criteria.



I'm not sure if you can see this, but I made a google maps with points of interest flagged.


The main attractions in the area that I picked out are:

Xcaret Park

~$80 ticket

Its like a theme park/cultural park built on a mayan archeological site.

Has some smaller Mayan ruins

Has some water rides, natural pools, underground river etc. Has dolphin and shark experiences for extra fee

Has mexican cultural performances, and large cultural show at night


Xel-ha Park
~$80 ticket
natural inlet with great snorkeling (kind of like Hanauma Bay)
set of inlets, lagoons and cenotes, arising from the longest underground river in the world

Has Mayan ruins

snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, sharks, stingrays (some extra fee)


Xplor Park

~$100 ticket

ziplines, rafts, amphibious vehicles, underground river swim

more of an active, exciting park. probably not for parents



I think its national park with minimal admission fee, ~$35 per group if you want a guided tour

walled Mayan city on a bluff facing the ocean

supposed to be a really great archeological site, one of the best preserved coastal Mayan sites (but much smaller than Chichen Itza)

beach by the ruins


Playa del Carmen

Popular tourist city

has a ferry to Cozumel Island

beautiful beaches
shopping district



Akumal beach

small town

endangered sea turtle beach

coral reefs in protected bay, can go snorkeling, glass bottomed boat rides, etc


Chichen Itza

One of the largest Mayan cities. The most visited archaeological site in Mexico

A national park, admission fee minimal ~$20, more for guided tours with transportation

densely clustered architecture in various states of preservation, also showing different styles of Mayan architecture

2-3 hr driving time from the coast 


I think the main attractions I am interested in seeing are Xcaret, Xel-ha, Tulum, and maybe a visit to Playa del Carmen. I would like to see Chichen Itza while I'm there, but since it is up to 3 hr away, it might not be feasible.





white vans that go up and down the coast and stop at all the main attractions along the way. run every 10-15 min. minimal fees, cheapest way to travel


ask for fare prices before you get in



This is mostly what I've done my research on. I contacted the 3 resorts above for availability in October, and should be hearing back from them shortly. I would appreciate if you have any strong opinions on those resorts, or if you have been doing your own research, you can let me know of more leads.

For the attractions lists, I was thinking of making a brochure with the wedding itinerary and short blurbs about all of the other attractions people may be interested in doing while they are there. I was thinking it would be nice if I had a daily plan on the back - like Jeremy and I will be going to Xel-ha on Friday to snorkel, Tulum on Sunday, etc - and let people know they are welcome to come with us if they want, or can stay on resort or do independent sightseeing things. Do you think that would be a good idea? I want guests to feel like they can come explore with us if they want, but not feel obliged to do everything I want to do.



I am looking at this guy for the wedding photographer

What do you think about his style? I would like to hire him for the wedding as well as do an underwater trash the dress with him. He's not cheap, but he's not the most expensive quote I've received either. I'm also leaning towards him b/c his email communication is pretty quick and reliable, and he seems on top of things.

Other photographer options:

Long list of photographer reviews, doesnt really help b/c they are all rave 5 star reviews. I've contacted some, and they are way out of our budget (eg Moments that Matter, Del Sol). If you have time to look through some photographers, and if one really stands out to you, please let me know. I'm trying to find people that will do an underwater trash the dress in particular. I really really want to do that.


You guys are not obligated to do any research if you don't want to. But if you like planning vacations and wedding stuff, it would help me if you gave some feedback if you had the time, but don't feel obligated at all!

I think getting the venue and photographer booked will be a big step. Then I guess the next step is picking a wedding dress? I'll send you pictures and ideas if you want to be included!