If swimming in crisp mineral-rich waters in magical caves, sun salutations on the beach and delicious fish tacos is your kind of thing, then Mexico's 100-mile Mayan Riviera should be next on your travel list. Here's a list of the best of the best, from hole-in-the-wall eateries, to the best snorkeling secret to the most charming hotels.
Viceroy Riviera Maya
Hidden in a small village of Playa Xcalacoco just outside Playa del Carmen, the 41-villa is an adults only seaside refuge extending deep into the primitive Maya tropical forest. Easily one of the most romantic and private resorts in the region, the vibe is laid back yet luxurious. Upon arrival, an on-site shaman will provide a traditional mayan blessing before you are led on a jungle-lined path to your villa. Each villa has its own private plunge pool, a deep soaking tub and indoor and outdoor space. The property provides the perfect environment to fall in love or rekindle love, with spa treatments like the Xaman Ek ritual, a couples treatment designed to create love and harmony. For a special dinner, dress up and do a tasting menu at the resort's fine dining restaurant, La Marea for a contemporary twist on Mexican cuisine.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Bringing Asian hospitality to the idyllic Mayan Riviera, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba is perfect for private getaways, family trips and group events. The property boasts 117 villas, each one over 3000 square feet and complete with a private terrace and pool. The resort is massive, and each villa comes with two bicycles to explore the grounds (which includes a Greg Norman signature 18-hole El Camaleón golf course). Their latest culinary offering is HAAB, a deep-in-the-jungle mystical experience featuring the four sacred elements of water, earth, wind and fire, where guests can relive the superb culinary arts of the ancient Maya civilization.
The newest kid on the stretch, the Nomade Tulum opened its doors in the beginning of the year. The property is located on the main beach of Tulum just steps away from the sea with oceanfront casitas. The property has a minimalist and natural aesthetic and definitely veers more towards eco-chic rustic. There are various workshops and retreats held at Nomade Tulum such as HABITAS, a week long music festival/wellness retreat hybrid that curated a range of programming from morning yoga sessions to sunset beach dance parties.
Cozy lounge at the Nomade Hotel. Photo by @missamychan
This stylish place calls itself a Mexican Taberna and offers mexican seafood fusion dishes. Located right on 5th Avenue with ample outdoor seating and a live DJ, it's a perfect place to people watch. Located on 5th Avenue & Calle 30.
The Octopus Castacan is a must try. They also have their own mezcal, (which won an award for the world's best) called Mezcal Papadiablo.
This oceanfront eatery located within the Rosewood Mayakoba Hotel offers three new distinctive
experiences that give a nod to various culinary capitals in Mexico: the wood-burning pizza oven, a tortilla station, serving fresh, corn tortillas prepared in-house each day; and a new ceviche bar.
Opt for the tasting menu and a tequila tasting. In the evenings you might even catch a live mariachi band.
The Yucatan Peninsula is a huge limestone platform where fresh water runs like rivers through underground cave systems. Part of this land collapsed after the last ice age more than 8,000 years ago, creating sinkholes called Cenotes. The Mayans considered these water holes as sacred and healing. There are both open air and underground cenotes and depending on which one you visit, you can scuba, deep dive, swim or snorkel in them.
A great way to experience the natural wonders and majestic ruins of Mexico is booking an experience with Lobo de Mar (Old Sea Dog who provide action-minded tours. The group just opened a hip hostel in Playa del Carmen and offer private tours focused on sports like free diving, kitesurfing, spearfishing and surfing. They take care of everything from transportation, food, activities and include a photographer to document your experience.
Biurful - To get your shop on, check out Biuriful. The stylish and artsy shop carries beautiful, small batch production design pieces, accessories and fashionable clothing. Located at 5ta Av. entre calle 30 & 32, Playa del Carmen.
Bendito Tulum - This one of a kind boutique is located in the heart of the beach road in Tulum. You won't be able to resist the handcrafted dream catchers and jewelry, all created by local women.
Caravana - Outfit yourself in an airy, gauze poncho or wrap, matched with a braided leather belt at Caravana, where everything is handcrafted by local indigenous artisans using the finest quality materials.
The great part of visiting the Mayan Riviera is that there is something for everyone. If you want to opt for a highly active vacation, there's a sea of hikes, diving spots and kitesurfing options. If you want a more low-key and relaxed holiday, there's gorgeous beaches and sparkling cenotes to lounge around and get some proper R&R. Just remember to pack your sunscreen and do not forget the mosquito repellant (those pests are everywhere)!
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