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There’s no ailment that seawater and sunshine can’t fix…
More and more Australians are cottoning on to the sheer joy to be found in holidays in Mexico, discovering the country’s colourful culture, tantalising cuisine and spectacular scenery. And while Cabo is often top of the list for foreigners visiting Mexico, we have another option – after all, how can you go past the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean?
That’s exactly what you’ll find on the Riviera Maya, the stretch of Caribbean coastline on Mexico’s north-eastern Yucatán Peninsula.
Beginning at the town of Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun and extending to Tulum, the 135-kilometre long Riviera Maya (formerly the ‘Cancun-Tulum corridor’) is a sun-seeker’s paradise, with an average year-round temperature of 25 °C and a seemingly never-ending stretch of crescent-shaped white sand beaches.
There are also plenty of top-notch restaurants and a pulsing nightlife, zen-inducing spas and yoga retreats as well as excellent shopping and and some noteworthy golf courses.
What to Do
The Water Way
The Riviera Maya is known for its coastal and water activities, including snorkelling and scuba diving. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest coral reef in the world and spans the entire length of the Riviera Maya continuing down to Guatemala, and there you’ll see thriving marine life like tropical fish, stingrays and even whale sharks.
Add jet-skiing, swimming with dolphins and sailing to the mix and you’ve got a week’s worth of holiday right there, but for been-there-done-that water babies, there’s no looking past swimming in the Yucatan’s cenotes (natural underground water reservoirs), of which there are thousands.
These cenotes also connect to the two longest underwater cave systems in the world: Sac Actun and Ox Bel Ha, which once supported the Maya civilisations and today remain the only natural sources of drinking water in the area.
Much of the region inland of the Riviera Maya is still not developed, making it a great destination for nature explorers and eco-tourism enthusiasts. You’ll find plenty of spots to relax away from the madding crowds, and with a flat terrain covered by low tropical jungle, it’s ideal for activities like horse riding, zip-lining and guided jungle tours.
To the south, Tulum is home to the must-see 13th-century ruins of Maya. Perched on a 12-metre-high outcrop above a white-sand beach, the Maya ruins are a glimpse into Tulum’s ancient history as a walled Mayan trading port city – one of the last built and inhabited by the Maya and one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites around. Inland, the Cobá archaeological site has pyramid-shaped temples with views over the surrounding jungle that you can climb, if you’re up for delving deeper into the history of ancient Mayan civilisation.
Everything is so close on the Riviera that it’s always a good idea to turn your Maya Riviera holiday into a mini roadtrip. You can easily hop from one town to the next as you drive down the coastline, with enough time to have breakfast in Puerto Morelos and finish the day with a candlelit dinner in Tulum.
Playa del Carmen was once a sleepy fishing-village but today it is the largest town on the Riviera, with a a cosmopolitan offering of shopping and fine dining. ‘Playa’ is also the Riviera’s wildest city and you’ll find plenty of good nightlife options if you want to hit the dance floor.
A short ferry ride away is Cozumel, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean and an excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkelling, thanks to clear water that offers visibility of up to 200 feet. In the centre of the island is jungle and some lagoons, including Chankanaab Lagoon, a natural aquarium with more than 60 species of tropical fish, crustaceans and corals.
Where to Stay
What’s better than a luxurious stay at a stunning resort in a tropical location like the Riviera Maya? One that’s all-inclusive, of course. We’ve found the very thing at Zoëtry Paraiso De La Bonita Riviera Maya. The resort’s Endless Privileges package has been designed for the type of high-end traveller that usually steers clear of all-inclusive resorts, in a total reimagining of the concept.
The complimentary inclusions cover lavish accommodation, daily in-suite sparkling wine and fresh fruit, unlimited top-shelf spirits, 24-hour in-suite gourmet dining, complimentary worldwide calling, laundry services, specialty experiences, no check-in or check-out time, maid service three times daily, 24-hour concierge services, twice-daily refreshed in-suite mini-bar, luxurious Bvlgari bath amenities, unlimited Wi-Fi, a welcome bottle of tequila or rum upon arrival, daily afternoon tea time with live plant infusions and a complimentary 20-minute wellness experience or fitness consultation. Plus, around the resort, enjoy cocktails, fine wines and premium beers in any of the resort restaurants, bars and lounges.
You can also upgrade your all-inclusive experience by opting for Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita’s all-new Impression Club – a private villa-style experience designed for those seeking absolute exclusivity.
In this tier, expect a secluded, villa-style hideaway positioned in a remote area of the resort, with a seawater infinity pool with views of the turquoise ocean and a private beach furnished with Bali beds. The expansive suite also offers sea views and has sparkling a private plunge pool on your very own furnished terrace complete with a private outdoor shower.
An on-demand private chef is available whenever your tummy grumbles, and a devoted butler will also be at your beck and call.
Not to mention, two of the resort’s restaurants are exclusively for Impression Club guests: Chef’s Table and Dragons, while La Bonita Bar and Elefante Lounge serve only top-shelf spirits to Impression guests.
Zoetry is also a wellness-centred resort, and home to the 22,000 square-foot, award-winning Thalasso Center & Spa – the first of its kind in North America. Thalassotherapy treatments use freshly heated seawater, seaweed and marine mud that infuse the skin with minerals and nutrients to eliminate toxins and promote wellbeing.
The spa itself, tucked between a lush mangrove forest and secluded white sandy beach, focuses on the ancient concept of Sanitas per Aqua (SPA) – Latin for ‘health through water’ – a tranquil, holistic wellness retreat that combines relaxing Thalassotherapy, special native Mayan treatments, skin care, massages, body wraps and other treatments.