Take in the beauty, nature and culture of this Mexican paradise
With spring break just around the corner, nothing reads as the perfect holiday destination quite like this beautiful slice of Mexico. Located in the state of Quintana Roo, on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya has long been a popular vacation spot, and for good reason: With long stretches of white sand beaches, endless aquatic activities, historic Mayan ruins, incredible food, world class spas and a thriving nightlife, the Riviera Maya can accommodate every type of traveler. Here are 7 reasons why we keep on going back for more.
1. The Great Mayan Reef
Also known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this stunning underwater stretch that starts near Cancun and extends down the Caribbean coast is a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the most breathtaking, awe-inspiring places to observe sea life in its natural habitat. Second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the best places to gain access is from the small coastal town of Puerto Morelos. A great snorkeling spot because the reef is close to the surface of the water as well as the shore, there are many outfits (like Wet Set) that will take you to all the best spots.
This bohemian chic beachside town has long been an “it” destination for travelers in the know. With eco-resorts, yoga aplenty, world-class restaurants and an overall cool, Brooklyn vibe, Tulum is less than a 2-hour drive from Cancun and worth the trek if only to grab a fresh fruit shake or paleta (Mexican popsicle) at Flor de Michoacán or eat dinner at the uber fashionable, electricity-free Hartwood restaurant.
3. Mayan Ruins
No matter where you’re staying, chances are you’re not too far from a Mayan ruin site and the three most popular ones are Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum. If you’re going to visit just one, make it Chichen Itza, as it’s the largest and most impressive of the lot (and ranks as a top site among all the Mayan ruins). With a substantial amount of archaeological restoration and well cared for grounds, its most recognizable features is a massive stepped pyramid (El Castillo, pictured right) that dominates the ancient city.
3. Whale Sharks
Between the months of March and September, whale sharks migrate to the warm Caribbean waters to feed on plankton. Traveling in groups of up to 100, these majestic creatures are the largest fish in the sea and can measure up to 40-feet. Docile and peaceful, snorkeling with these beautiful beasts is at the same time fascinating and humbling. Solo Buceo offers excellent tours, and don’t forget to wear biodegradable sunscreen (it’s better for the water and the the fish).
For those who are weary of the strong Mexican sun and want to experience something a little more shaded, look no further than the area’s many cenotes, or underwater swimming caves. With clear, calm turquoise waters rich in minerals (and sea life), this soothing, spa-like experience is sure to put you right into relaxation mode. Some worth checking out include Cenote Yokdzonot, Cenote Azul and Cenote Dos Ojos.
A day at the spa is the ultimate vacation indulgence and there are plenty of options here in the Riviera Maya.
7. Cancun Nightlife
While some people come to this area to read a good book on the beach and drink a couple cervezas, others might want to hit the clubs and line up those shots of tequila. If the latter is more your speed, Cancun is the place to be. With bars and clubs on a mini-Vegas scale, places like Coco Bongo have acrobatic shows, neon lasers, showers of confetti and exotic dancers, whereas The City is known for its international DJs and foam parties. If you’re looking for live music, Congo is an open air space with inexpensive drinks and bar-top conga lines to get the party started.