While various tourist hotspots would like to lay a claim to the sobriquet, when the word, “Riviera” is mentioned in a conversation regarding travel, the mental image typically drawn is one of classic European luxury- of high titles and old money. This is because, for at least a century, “Riviera” has almost invariably meant the French Riviera.
For over two decades now, Riviera could just as easily refer to the snow white beaches, sacred cenotes, and wondrous ruins of the Riviera Maya. Thousands of savvy travelers annually flock to this Caribbean haven once haunted by notable pirates such as Jean Lafitte, spurring this once quiet stretch of the Yucatan to develop some truly captivating activities and vibrant nightlife.
Still, for those looking to vacation at a slower pace, the Mayan Riviera can still turn up some old world gems. This guide to the Riviera Maya will seek to identify key destinations along the coast, and help distinguish one from the other so that your next vacation has the ideal destination.
Cancun – More than just a spring break destination
Known the world over as a party goers port of call, Cancun is all of that and more. Five-Star accommodations, World Class Spas, Golf, Fishing Excursions, Chichen Itza, and a party that doesn’t stop until…well…no one knows when it will end, we just know it hasn’t yet.
Choose Cancun if
You came ready to party. While it does possess a softer, more sensual side, Cancun is best experienced by the energetic crowd who have no desire to keep a regular schedule, and who are at their absolute best when they are going with the flow.
Viator VIP’s Complete Chichen Itza Experience. No other guided tour allows you the ability to bypass the serpentine crowds awaiting entry or grants its guests the capacity to watch a spectacular light show in the observatory after eating a spectacular lunch in the Mayaland Resort.
Offering six bedrooms in 4,000 square feet, Azul Villa Esmeralda boasts a beachfront pool, gym, spa, home theater, and personal staff, and private chef. A short stroll down the private beach will bring guests to the Azul Beach Resort, where they can take advantage of all of the amenities offered there, such as the Private Temazcal Spa Experience.
Tulum – Stylish, Calm, and Friendly
The antithesis of Cancun, just a few decades ago Tulum was the quaint Mexican fishing village that time forgot. While it has developed a great deal since then, that identity is still evident in the soul of Tulum. Life moves at a slower pace here, and the only Spring Breakers you will find are those who had too much to drink the night before and took the wrong cab. Building codes here seem not to allow for horizon obscuring resorts; cell service is sketchy at best, and the hottest nightclub in town closes at sunset.
Choose Tulum if
You are in the market for family fun and adventure, with its picturesque Mayan ruins, cave, and cenote diving excursions, and kite surfing lessons, Tulum is the place for you.
The Cenotes. These are astonishing watering holes that have always been sacred to the Maya. Once you explore the underground system of grottos and waterways, you will understand why. These offer a truly unforgettable experience.
Miramar Tulum is a 4,000 square foot beach house that provides five bedrooms, a rooftop deck offering a 360-degree view of Tulum’s majesty, and a private pool overlooking a private beach. Just a mile and a half from the world famous Tulum Ruins, the Miramar is perfectly situated for seclusion and inclusion.
Playa del Carmen – Trendy & Exclusive
Something of a hybrid, Playa del Carmen is a cross between the bustling Cancun and the laid-back vibe of Tulum. As was the case in Tulum, strict city ordinances keep the horizon from being entirely commercialized while, like Cancun, cruise ships regularly dock here, so there are tons of tourist attractions.
Choose Playa del Carmen if
You’re traveling with a group of mixed personalities, or you like a small shot of the nightlife, just to keep things interesting. Somehow, Playa del Carmen- the third largest city in Quintana Roo- has obtained a heady European glow, and is like a slice of the Mediterranean in the Caribbean.
Guayaberas Dex order. A traditional Mexican-style shirt, this venue specializes in offering the most comfortable, authentic guayaberas anywhere on the Yucatan. They also sell a wide variety of handcrafted accessories to go along with the guayabera. Top off your shopping excursion with a trip to Chez Celine, for the best French cuisine anywhere in Mexico.
Beach House is an aesthetically modern four-suite luxurious retreat that snuggles the shore of this idyllic stretch of Playa del Carmen. Guests can decide whether to soak up the sun on the surf or while lounging at the pool. Located securely within the confines of a luxury gated community, this beach house makes for an unforgettable base, in a memorable location.
Isla Mujeres – The Quiet Getaway
The lesser known of the destinations on this list, Isla Mujeres, or, the Island of Women is a genuine quiet retreat. Where Cancun is the boisterous and hasty neighbor, Isla Mujeres is the more tranquil and treasured one. Isla Mujeres promises to deliver. As of now, this is island life as it was in a simpler time.
Choose Isla Mujeres if
Your ideal vacation involves laying on the beach, tropical breeze in your hair, tropical drink in your hand, and a tropical outlook on life.
Though smaller than its siblings, Isla Mujeres still boasts the usual activities of snorkeling, scuba diving, and delicious authentic dining. For a truly unique Isla experience, however, look no further than Garrafon Natural Reef Park. Kayaks, dolphin dives, snorkeling, zip lines, the list goes on and on.
Villa de la Vida is a 4,500 square foot, five bedroom villa featuring unique architecture, an infinity pool, and cantilevered ceilings. Situated on the southernmost point of Isla Mujeres, the Villa de la Vida offers majestic views, private gates, high privacy walls, and loads of ultra modern appeal. This villa is perfect for those on a romantic getaway looking for a sense of togetherness amongst the isolation.
Regardless of personal appeal, any destination on the Riviera Maya promises unbelievable excursions and unforgettable excitement. In short, it is hard to go wrong with this blissful stretch of the Yucatan. You can make this trip even more right by booking an exclusive luxury vacation with Time & Place.