Playa del Carmen, Mayan Riviera
When most people think of Mexico they might think of loud Americans with fanny packs heading to Cabo for a cold Corona, but the real Mexico… she’s somethin’ else entirely. Yes, I am enamored with Mexico. Aside from the fact that I’ve fallen in love there on more than one occasion, she’s still, in so many wonderful ways, undiscovered country. Sure, she can dangerous, untrustworthy, and macho, but she’s full of riches. Sometimes I wonder why she suffers so… this wild country of margaritas, ruins, rugged hills, tumbling waves, crystal waters, and more chiles than you can handle. Then I remember… she can’t really be trusted, and if a people can’t really trust themselves, then who can they trust? Ah, yes… other countries may capture my soul, but Mexico, she has mi corazon (y mi Chichen Itza).
This Jaunt will take you to Mexico’s caribe, but stay tuned as we break down Mexico into the breathtaking regions that give the country her rich history and her renegade spirit.
Locals have been known to ask the secret aid of Mayan curanderos (healers) to mend a broken heart or cure a pesky ailment, but visitors flock to the Riviera Maya for the healing properties found in the sweet Caribbean lobster, electric blue waters, ancient ruins, and nightlife teeming with sleek European and South American tourists seeking out the relaxed bohemian vibe.
Situated on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s a land of ancient tradition stretching from Punta Brava to Tulum. Tropical mangroves, exotic chiles, and achiote lend wild flavor to an already lively region of locals and ex-pats. In addition to the cozy port town of Playa del Carmen where Ula Gula (5th Avenue and Calle 10) traps guests with their fresh fish entrees, there are countless Caribbean gems that offer travelers a chance to find seclusion and sophistication away from the throngs of Cancun party-goers.
When to Go:
The best time to visit is during the winter, spring and summer months. Hurricane season is typically summer into fall.
What to Do:
Take in the ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, relax with unique spa offerings, snorkel/scuba in the second largest coral reef in the world, and visit hidden cenotes (sinkholes) or the caves of Aktun Ha with a local guide. Don’t miss dinner at John Gray’s Kitchen in Puerto Morelos (Av Niños Heroes, Lote 6 Puerto Morelos Tel: 998-871-0449) and cocktails in Playa at Fly (5th Avenue), Hotel Deseo, and Om. For brunch, I’m a fan of 100% Natural.
Where to Stay:
Paraiso de la Bonita $$$$$
One word. Gorgeous. One more… DELUXE. Translated from Spanish, “Paradise of a Beautiful Woman” is the ultimate sexy retreat for the hotel connoisseur. The definition of privacy and sophistication, it’s located in Puerto Morelos twelve miles south of the Cancun Airport. From airport pickup in Lincoln Navigators to piano concerts and culinary afternoons with the chef, there are ninety ocean view suites on fourteen acres of beach, mangrove, and gardens. Open courtyards lead to private plunge pools, Bulgari amenities, and fountain filled paths. Reflecting pools make it designed to feel like a five-star private residence rather than a hotel. Mediterranean, Indian, and Balinese artifacts create a decidedly island chic getaway.
Located ten minutes from Playa del Carmen, Maroma is a favorite among my Hollywood friends. A sophisticated, yet rustic hideaway located on a beach front portion of a coconut plantation, it’s among the finest resorts in Mexico. Built in the tradition of a Mexican hacienda, this sixty-four room resort boasts a powder soft white-sand beach named “Top Beach of the World’s 10 Best Beaches” by the Travel Channel and Forbes. Beautiful unspoiled beaches and over a hundred cenotes offer an eco-adventure or exotic escape. Don’t leave without trying the Goddess/God Ritual, two hours of relaxation which begins with the burning of copal, the sacred resin of the Burrsera tree, and ends with chamomile tea poured over your body and a two person Lomi-Lomi massage.
For those who want to get their groove on with the likes of old Italian movie projections set to the beat of local house DJ’s, head to Playa del Carmen and try:
Hotel Deseo (www.hoteldeseo.com) and fellow Habita property, Hotel Basico (www.hotelbasico.com).
I’m a fan of Deseo for drinks, but it could get a bit loud if you’re staying there as well. The bar is right outside the rooms. I stayed at the Blue Mosquito in Playa as well, but wasn’t that impressed. For a fraction of the price, you can stay at any number of spots on Fifth Avenue.
PS. For the true diehard Jauntophile who would rather be in the quaint town of Playa, but doesn’t want to break the bank, I have a list of what I lovingly refer to as ‘secret’ hotels… we’re talking $45-$75/night gems that I have personally scouted out and stayed, but guess what… you’ll have to send an email expressing your genuine interest, otherwise, they’ll become entirely too popular and you know what’ll happen next, don’t you? That’s right… they’ll raise the prices. We simply can’t have that now, can we?
Now Vaya Con Dios!