The Riviera Maya
Cancún may be the name everyone recognizes, but for many people—especially repeat visitors—the best of Mexico’s Caribbean coast is the Riviera Maya. Stretching more than 130 kilometers (80 miles) south from Cancún to Tulum, the Riviera Maya is home to fast-growing cities like Playa del Carmen, low-key towns like Puerto Morelos, and tiny beachfront settlements like Tankah Tres.
The Maya Riviera boasts megaresorts and tiny bed-and-breakfasts and is flanked by the world’s longest underground river on one side and the world’s second-longest coral reef on the other. And of course the Riviera Maya has the same spectacular beaches Cancún is famous for; in fact, many of the Riviera’s beaches seem to have gotten even wider and more glorious than ever.
There’s plenty to see and do, much of it do-it-yourself: go snorkeling in freshwater cenotes and lagoons, help release newly hatched sea turtles into the sea, explore little-visited Maya ruins, or spend the day at a family-friendly ecopark.
For party hounds, Cancún still has a lock on over-the-top nightspots, but there are plenty of places to cut loose in the Riviera Maya, especially lounge bars, beach clubs, and resort nightclubs. (Besides, you can always hop a shuttle to Cancún or join a club crawl if you really need a Dady-O fix.)
With so many options, the main trouble here may be fitting it all in. Then again, when you’re vacationing in a place as beautiful as the Riviera Maya, doing nothing may well be the highlight of your trip!
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition