When you find yourself planning your next sunny holiday in Mexico, be sure to look beyond the bounds of the Cancun hotel zone to get a truly dynamic experience of the Mexican Caribbean. I had the fantastic fortune of visiting Quintana Roo, with the opportunity to discover some magnificent and truly memorable places, both within and outside of the all-inclusive programme.
The first day of my recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I began with an afternoon in Akumal, encountering rescued animals from the region, exploring the rich jungle of the grounds, discovering overgrown sinkholes, and taking refuge in a cavernous cenote for a swim during a brief tropical shower.
Offshore, I came face-to-face with marine wildlife while snorkeling in El Cielo off Playa Palancar on Cozumel. Crystal clear blue water made it possible to appreciate exquisite reefs, turtles on the move, and curious fish that swam along right next to me. While on the island, the new eco restaurant at the Anemona de Mar Beach Club served an impressive and “exclusively natural” assortment of fresh seafood dishes, as one of the most unforgettably delicious meals I’ve ever had while travelling.
Keeping the stunning Caribbean sea in-sight, I ventured to the splendid town of Tulum, where the jungle meets the beach and ruins from the Mayans can still be uncovered. I experienced the luxury of the Maria del Mar boutique hotel, with its private balcony jacuzzis, and enjoyed a delectable dish at the on-site restaurant, Mina. Even if you’re not staying in Tulum, it’s more than worth a day trip to appreciate a lucious and intimate, yet lively, take on the Mexican Caribbean hotel strip.
In-land –– or more accurately, underground –– I was fortunate to explore some of the extensive cave network beneath the Mayan Riviera region, with a remarkable tour of Rio Secreto. The combination of walking and swimming through the porous rock channels and chambers was a workout that I truly didn’t feel, with my attention consistently captivated by the striking stalactites, the clusters of nestling bats, and an extraordinarily rare sighting of a blind fish that has evolved to live without eyes. This beginners’ cave diving experience is a must-do for anyone touring around the Mayan Riviera.
When I wasn’t indulging my adventurous side, I was oh-so-lucky to be pampered by Mexico’s most luxurious hotels and resorts.
The unparalleled Grand Velas welcomed me into their Grand Class, granting me two days of the most spoiled treatment I may very well ever receive in my life. The suite was gorgeous, spacious and embellished with special treats daily, from a monogrammed robe upon my arrival, to sweet deliveries of macarons, cake pops, and even a fully edible chocolate portrait of myself. If it weren’t for my eagerness to discover the nature and the archaeological history of the area, I would have blissfully spent all day soaking in my ocean-view plunge pool, sun-tanning within the Zen Grand and rejuvenating myself with as many of the spa treatments on offer as I could barely reasonably justify. It’s an understatement to say that it was difficult to leave Grand Velas –– even as a person who typically prefers to rough it while travelling.
I ended my stay in the Cancun area at the Grand Oasis’ Pyramid all-inclusive resort. My stay started on a high note when I discovered the spectacular caliber of the regular evening entertainment in the atrium of the hotel. The overhead lights dimmed, the smoke machines began clouding the space, and brightly colored spotlights illuminated aerial acrobats in fantastical neon costumes, performing moves I’ve only seen performed by Cirque du Soleil. Each night, after its amazing performance, I visited a different on-site restaurant at the Pyramid, including the highest-rated dining experience in Cancun for a “techno-emotional” meal at Benazuza. At the Grand Oasis, I also had my first experience eating in complete darkness at the quite theatrical Black Hole. The host accommodated my dietary requirements with ease, affording me a confident and comforted curiosity while I tasted the marvelous mystery dishes.
Needless to say, it was a physical and spiritual shock to my system once I disembarked from my breezy Interjet flight and stepped back onto home soil and into chillier temperatures. The good news is that this vacation demonstrated to me just how convenient a trip it is to visit the Mayan Riviera. With so many recurrent flight deals, adventure and luxury are accessible on a whim, and even a few days’ escape to Mexico are enough to completely refresh and reinvigorate.