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Gallery of Animals of the Riviera Maya

Animals of the Riviera Maya

Animals that live in the Riviera Maya in Mexico Gallery

There are a lot of different animals here that you will not see at home. We have started a collection of photos that we have taken while out and about and wanted to tell you about some of  the animals that live here and where you can best see them. We will continue to add to this gallery so check back.

Flamingos in Mexico

Flamingos are native to Mexico and are unlike any other birds. Flamingos naturally live in lagoons or large shallow lakes. Their long legs allow them to wade out into water to feed that other birds cannot reach. Flamingos are a social animal and you will always see them together with other birds.

Where to see flamingos in Mexico?

In their natural habitat there are three places especially where you can see these birds in the Yucatan Peninsula. Isla Holbox is the closest location. Rio Lagartos is a natural area at the tip of the peninsula where you can take a boat tour to see these birds. Celestun is on the other side of the peninsula and is a well know for it’s boat tours to see flamingos in their natural habitat.

You can see flamingos in several locations in the Riviera Maya. Xcaret has an aviary and near the entrance you will see these graceful birds.  In the Playacar section of Playa Del Carmen there is the Xaman Ha Bird Aviary. This small bird park is seldom visited by guest to Playa but does afford you the opportunity to see flamingos and other tropical birds.

Animals of the Riviera Maya


Animals of the Riviera Maya

Flamingos at the Grand Occidental Xcaret resort.

Iguanas of the Rivera Maya

Iguanas can be found all over the Riviera Maya. They like dry and rocky habitats. In Playa Del Carmen you can see them scurry under sidewalks in holes just outside of the downtown. The Mayan ruins in Playacar are a favorite hangout for iguanas. In fact every ruins you go to visit, you will see iguanas. If you are a little nervous around them, don’t worry. They are very skittish and will run away from you, so you are never in danger of having one sneak up on you.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

The granddaddy of all Iguanas

Butterflies in the Yucatan Peninsula

Butterflies work hard pollinating plants here. At certain times of the year you will notice thousands of them fluttering around highways and rural roads. The Orange Yellow Sulphur butterfly is very common and feeds on nectar found in fruits and flowers. You will especially notice butterflies on the road between Tulum and Chemax, Yucatan. This is the road that take your to Coba ruins.


Orange yellow sulphur butterflies

Tarantula Spiders in Mexico

There are currently listed 66 species of tarantulas in Mexico. Mexico is number two in the world with the amount of different species. Tarantulas hunt at night and eat grasshopper and other small insects.

You can see tarantulas often crossing the road in the Yucatan Peninsula. We see many in the Zona Maya and the road to Holbox ferry.

Grey Fox in the Riviera Maya

We captured this grey fox on video when we were visiting Calakmul Mayan ruins. These foxes like to eat fruit, insects and small animals like rodents. The foxes like to live in logs, or burrow into the earth and make a home.


This is a very large moth. This moth is about the size of an adult hand.

moth yucatan Mexico

Large moth


Tapirs are native to Mexico and are the largest land mammals in the Yucatan. They can weigh from 150-400 kilos (330-880 lbs.). Since they are so large there are not too many predators. Only crocodiles and jaguars will attack tapirs. Humans have not been too good to these animals and they are vulnerable to going on the endangered list. It is illegal to hunt them in Mexico. These animals are more active at night and like to live near water so they can swim and cool down.

Rarely will you see them in the wild. This photo was taken at Xcaret part where this one lives.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

This is a Tapir. They can be found in rural areas here. They are a solitary animal. This one lives at Xcaret park and you can see him daily.

Tropical Fish

Snokeling and diving are great ways to see the sealife. Cozumel is the most famous place to snorkel and dive but you can also see the aquarium at Xcaret. Here you can see fish, jellyfish and many other animals that live in the ocean near us.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

Aquatic sea life.

Red Legged Hermit Crab

These guys live near the beach. You can find them in more remote beaches in the area like the south end of Play Del Carmen or Xpu Ha Beach.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

Red Legged Hermit Crab


Scorpions have a bad reputation but the good thing is you probably will not run into one here. Most scorpions like to live in hiding and are not agressive creatures. In the center of Playa Del Carmen will not have a good chance to see any of these. When it rains they like to come in to get dry and one of the only times we have seen one. The one in the photo below was crossing a sidewalk on 5th Avenue outside of the center of Playa Del Carmen near 60th Street.

Animals of the Riviera Maya


Pelicans and Seagulls

Seagulls are found all up and down the coast. Here is an interesting fact: did you know that seagulls can drink both fresh water and salt water? They have a special gland that helps remove salt  from their bodies.

The species of pelican most commonly found here is the brown pelican. It is one of the only pelicans that can dive into the water for food. When they come up the water drains out the sides of their bill and then they swallow their prey. In Playa Del Carmen you can see these birds usually from 12th Street to Constituyentes Avenue on the beach. This is the same area where the fishing boats are. Lucky birds get a lot of spare fish here.

Animals of the Riviera Maya


The Central American Agouti

These cute little fellows are seen running in the woods and grassy areas. They are nervous around people and not very approchable. They look for nuts and fruits and like to live in burrows among stones and logs. In Playa Del Carmen you can usually see these in Playacar. If you stay at one of the resorts in the Mayan Rivera you will see these around the resort usually in the early morning hours or at dusk.

Animals of the Riviera Maya


Jamaican Fruit Bats

These bats are larger then what many people are used to seeing. They work hard eating fruits and spreading seeds in nature. You can see them at dusk swooping in and out of trees, especially ones like the capulin trees with small red fruits. If you are walking nearby they might just fly very close to you. Just remember, bats help us keep nature going and work hard at night to do so.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

A Jamaican fruit bat flying at dusk.

Ghost Crabs

Ghost crabs live near the beach and are knicknamed “sand crabs”. They mostly are active at night. Their pale color gives them the name “ghost crab”. They can actually change their color to match surroundings but unlike other animals that can do this, they can only do it slowly. They live on land but do need to moisterize their gills, so they will dig into moist sand or run into the water. They however cannot spend too much time in the water because they will drown.

You can see these crabs in more remote beaches like Xpu Ha.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

Ghost Crab

Social Flycatcher Bird

Below is the social flycatcher or X’takay in Mayan. These birds are seen all over the Rivera Maya and are very easy to spot because of their yellow underbellies. They nest near water spots and sing all day. They like to eat small berries.

You can see these birds all over the Riviera Maya.

Animals of the Riviera Maya

Social flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)

Speckled Racer Snake

We saw this beautiful snake in Playacar. These snakes are non venamous and fast movers, usually away from you. They average 30-40 inches or 76-102 cm. They like to live in vegetated areas near water because their main prey is frogs. We saw this one with a mouse in it’s mouth.

Animals of the Riviera Maya


What is your favorite animal in the Riviera Maya? Have you seen some of these? Let us know in the comment section below.

17 Comments on Gallery of Animals of the Riviera Maya

  1. Thank you. I am holidaying just outside Playa del Carman and have spotted the agouti with baby foraging outside my room. I have also seen a beautiful creature called a raccoon but it is certainly not like the raccoons in my garden in Vancouver. I am also enjoying thebeautiful birds around the resort but can only name two: grackle and pelican.

    • That is so nice you have been observing nature here! We just saw a new animal here the other day. It was a very small fox that ran across the road. It is always nice to get out and see nature and the animals!

      • Hello, while honeymooning on the Riviera, my wife and I were sitting on the seaside wall @ our resort. The sun was down; very little (if any) light was still visible, when we saw…….something. It appeared black, and VERY fast, and ran along the wall/beach until we lost sight of it. It wasn’t very large, but big enough for both of us to see it in almost dark conditions…….I’ve been wondering for 8 years what the heck it was… Thoughts ?

        • Mr.Yucatan // July 6, 2016 at 3:23 AM // Reply

          It might have been an ocelot. This is a type of small cat that looks like a miniature jaguar. They are fast and rare to be seen. This animal does live in the Yucatan Peninsula. Maybe you were lucky to have seen this.

  2. The raccoon typeanimals are coati and are all over the resorts.

  3. This is great, thanks so much for this post! I have a question. I will be living in playa del carmen soon and am very scared of spiders. Do you happen to see any in the city? If so, how big/dangerous are they? Thanks!

    • Hello and welcome soon to Playa! There are not that many spiders living in the city. It will depend however what part you live in. Most people live in the downtown and that area is pretty sanitized including less mosquitos. There are parts of the city that are practically up against the jungle. The one animal we are sure you will love is the tailless scorpion. It looks like a scorpion with daddy long legs legs. It is actually harmless and very good to have around for eating other insects. These are usually around water tanks or closed spots. We have only seen one in 5 years. As for tarantulas we have never seen one in Playa but have seen them cross the road going to Holbox on the tip of the peninsula. So all in all you have not too much to fear.

  4. Giulia Orlando // September 1, 2016 at 1:20 PM // Reply

    Hey Mr. Yucatan, thanks for your reply! I’m sorry but by downtown, what do you mean? Do you mean e.g. the area of Zazil ha? thanks!

  5. Giulia Orlando // September 1, 2016 at 1:56 PM // Reply

    ok thank you! and even outside this area, were there any talks of any poisonous spiders e.g. brown recluse, black widow or hobo spider? or just harmless but still scary-looking spiders?

    • Hello Giulia
      If you look at a map of Playa Del Carmen, especially a satellite map, you can see the areas where there are natural areas. Houses near to these will have more creepy crawlers. This is the tropics and they all belong here and serve a function in nature. Even if it is just to scare you. After living in the center of Playa for years I have never seen a big spider. Outside of the center there are areas where these can be found.

  6. Hello Mr. Yucatan, thanks so much for your response. Your website is very helpful, as always! have a nice day 🙂 Giulia

  7. Hi we are travelling to the grand occidental xerat in april. My wife has gone into panic regarding the sighting of a few pythons. Are there any dangerous snakes in that area and should she be worried.

    • No you should not be worried about snakes. We were in the Rivera Maya for 4 years and did not see one. Since then we have seen about 5. And that is with all the exploring we do and often in remote areas. Most of the snakes are in more natural areas. Occidental Xcaret is a nice hotel that is close to the ocean. The trails are very wide and you are likely not to be surprised at the site of any snakes. The main animals at that hotel you have to watch out for are flamingos. If you hate the sight of these awful pink calm birds, then you might want to book somewhere else. The hotel has some that live on the property. Otherwise you will enjoy your time there.

  8. Hello, I’m doing a project for my Spanish class. I was wondering what you think the most interesting animal you’ve seen in the area

    • Hello. We have t say the racer snake we saw because it was such an electric blue color. It was also carrying a mouse in its mouth, so it had just caught something. That would be the most interesting animal we have seen here in the Riviera Maya.

  9. Jane Soward // October 8, 2016 at 4:21 PM // Reply

    The fox video was a good catch! We have lived in the Rivera Maya for 10 years and never saw one.

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