Mayan Riviera: Top Attractions
Maroma Resort and Spa
Thirty minutes from Cancun, this pyramid-shaped temple sits at the end of a jungle road on the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The magical 25-acre property is bursting with lush gardens and exotic creatures. Rooms and suites are housed in individually designed villas, all featuring terraces with hammocks and armchairs for alfresco lounging. The Kinan Spa offers garden and beachfront massages. At dusk, try an ancient Aztec sweat-lodge ritual of healing and rebirth.
Located on 13 acres of lush, tropical foliage, this all-inclusive resort faces the beautiful crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The colonial architecture fuses the styles of Mexico with those of Spain, and accommodations are in two- and-three story villas set amid winding rivers, overflowing fountains, and tumbling waterfalls. Extras include spa treatments, water sports, deep-sea fishing, tennis lessons, and more.
Ikal del Mar
A secluded seaside luxury resort, this spacious and beautiful place perfectly blends into its jungle environs. This eco-friendly retreat doesn't allow motorized vehicles at all, and at night, torches (rather than artificial lighting) illuminate the walkways that twist through the property. An ab-fab spa, pristine beach, and delectable restaurants add to the romantic ambiance. As for the 29 villas, each has a private pool and is crafted from indigenous woods and stones.
Paraiso de la Bonita
This intimate resort on an isolated, sugar-white beach features elegant Mexican architecture and warm hospitality. Rooms are eclectic and filled with antiques. The 22,000-square-foot spa was Mexico's first to feature Thalassotherpy, which uses freshly heated seawater and marine algae to cure ailments and rejuvenate the body.
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
About 80 miles south of Cancun, this 1.3-million-acre area preserves tropical forests, savannas, mangroves, lagoons, coral reefs, and canals. Home to hundreds of species of birds and land and marine animals, the reserve is best visited on a biologist-escorted day trip. These informative eco-adventures will pick you up from your hotel in Playa del Carmen, transport you to the reserve, and take you on a guided boat and birding trip through one of the lagoons.
Centuro Ecologico Sian Ka'an: +984.871.2499, www.cesiak.org
Scuba Dive in Cozumel
Based at Cozumel's Presidente InterContinental, Scuba Du offers diving and snorkeling in crystal-clear, azure waters with fabulous visibility that is sometimes as great as 250 feet. Cozumel's waters are home to more than 250 species of fish, including the distinctive blue and yellow queen angelfish. Some of the best scuba and snorkeling in the western hemisphere is found at the Chankanaab Lagoon and Nature Park, a natural aquarium with a fantastic diversity of fish and living coral.
Scuba Du: +987.872.9500, www.diveguide.com/p4972b.htm
Hidden Worlds Cenotes
A couple of miles south of Xel-Ha Lagoon National Park, Hidden Worlds Cenote Park offers some of the world's most accessible cenote diving and snorkeling. Explore underwater cave systems and rivers and dive the bat cave. Catering to everyone, from first-time snorkelers to advanced divers, this outfit stresses safety and seeks to give clients the adventure of a lifetime.
Additional Info: 984.877.8535, www.hiddenworlds.com.mx
The Ruins at Coba
The eastern Yucatan's dominant city before A.D. 1000, the ruins at Coba are large and sprawling. Dense forest grows between groups of ancient temples and tall Mayan pyramids poke their tops out above the forest canopy. Less reconstructed than the more well-known Chichen Itza, Coba will require a more extensive use of your imagination. Travel agencies at your Mayan Riviera hotel can arrange tours if you don't want to drive.
The Ruins at Tulum
This walled, post-classical Mayan city overlooking the Caribbean makes for quite a dramatic picture. Tours depart regularly from Playa del Carmen, but arrive early to avoid crowds. If you're as interested in the beaches as you are in exploring the ruins, Tulum offers wonderful sandy stretches without the large resorts. It's a great place to relax, read, or float in the calm blue sea.
Holbox Island Bird Sanctuary
Embark on a private adventure by chartering an airplane and guide in Playa del Carmen for a flight north to Holbox Island. After refreshments, travel by boat to Isla PajarosIsland of the Birdsfor some of Mexico's top birdwatching. Flamingos and other exotic birds flock here to feed and nest. After visiting the island, you'll have lunch at Yalahua Spring and tour the town's hammock and guitar workshops.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication