Far be it from me to bash Cancun—oh, what the heck–don’t you honestly think it’s getting a little tired, sad and run-down? After a recent visit to the Riviera Maya, a measly 1/2 hour drive from Cancun’s international airport, I’d say this Rising Star has it allllll over Cancun.
The main town, Playa del Carmen, once an old fishermen’s village, has morphed into a cosmopolitan Mexican/European resort town that offers great shopping,and a variety of fun bars and restaurants. The whole 75 mile coast line of Riviera Maya is gold-booming with luxurious beachfront resorts, but happily they have lots of room to breath along the 75 mile coastline. And you can’t ask for peachier weather….year round temps average 77 degrees.
There is no shortage of new prestigious international hotels springing up, but local charmer, Paraiso De La Bonita won my heart–maybe because the Mexican architect/owner built it as a present for his beloved wife. Each of the 90 luxe beachfront suites are tastefully decorated with antiques, draped in luxurious fabrics and filled with treasures collected by the owners during their travels around the world, and don’t even get me started on the wonders of their 22,000-square-foot -like thalassotherapy center and spa.
Added Value: Paraiso has moved light years beyond ” all-inclusive” and prefers to provide “Endless Privileges™” for their guests. The list of these exclusive services, focusing on luxury, wellness and relaxation fills a whole page, so your every need should be met.
Xcaret, one of Mexico’s most important theme parks, where for one price you can easily spend a magical day (and night) wandering the 200-acre eco-theme park viewing indigenous wildlife, swimming with the dolphins(extra charge but so worth it), snorkeling in underground rivers, endless flora an fauna, checking out the various exhibitions and at night watch a lavish folkloric dance show -preceded by a sophisticated food and wine tasting in their new wine cave built to showcase fine Mexican wines.
(The Xaloc 2006, Tempranillo, Santo Tomas, Santo Tomas Valley, B.C. was sheer nirvana.)
For the mildly daring, they recently discovered Rio SECRETO, the longest underground river in the area, which now offers extremely well-run tours. You’ll scrunch into their wet-suit and then walk, swim and crawl through natural caverns, pools and streams, exploring amazing thousand year old rock formations, while your guide, (ours was exceedingly knowledgeable and also engagingly passionate about his work,) teaches you about this amazing underground world.
If you want to go off campus and eat outside of your hotel ( and even if you get lazy and don’t want to) I’m telling you that you’ll be sorry if you don’t…Go to Yaxche, in the heart of Playa del Carmen. This is the real traditional Yucatecan-grandma-must-be-in-the-kitchen-deal.(The menu is even has headings like My Grandmother’s Favorites, Medicine of the People and Offerings to the Gods.) Try the Cochinita Pibil (smokey axiote and sour orange marinated pork,) Pescado tikin xic (fish baked in banana leaves) or for Mayan with a twist,try the shrimp in relleno negro, a spicy black sauce traditionally served with turkey. Indoor/outdoor dining.
Since we have Mexico to thank for the gift of chocolate, any chocoholic worth her bittersweet will make a beeline over to Ah Cacao chocolate café. Try a luxurious Malteda (milkshake), chocolate espresso, or their killer-rich brownie. But after you’re sated, you might want to think of someone besides yourself and load up on gift bags of toasty savory Ah Cacao Nibs.