If you’re dreaming of travelling to a beautiful far flung destination, you can’t get much more idyllic than Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the south-east Yucatan peninsula. It’s the stretch of Caribbean coastline that reaches out from just beneath the party resort of Cancun, down through Playa Del Carmen’s beach clubs to Tulum’s bohemian oasis. In between? There’s magical cenotes for swimming and snorkelling, peaceful beaches, vibey nightlife, Mayan ruins and a nature reserve where you can see crocs, dolphins, turtles and tropical birds, all in one spot.
When is the best time of year to go?
The Riviera Maya’s high season is between January to April when the weather is the most settled. It’s best for beautiful sunny days and cooler evenings, however it’s also the busiest and most expensive time to go.
From May to September you’ll experience more humidity, with hot days and brief rain showers, but it’s also a lot quieter and cheaper. I travelled in June and experienced one rainy and one cloudy day out of 10, with gorgeous sunshine the rest of the time. However, it’s worth noting that the white sandy beaches are backed-up with brown sargassum seaweed as the temperatures heat up between May and October, so bear that in mind if your seeking lots of beach days.
October is hurricane season so tends to be quietest. November and December follow hurricane season and are cooler, milder and less busy than peak season, so another good time to go.
Where are the best places to go?
Take your pick between tropical jungle, chilled-out beaches, Mayan ruins – such as the pyramid-like temple of Chichen Itza – and natural cenotes, like Grand, Dos Ojos and Ik Kil where you can swim and snorkel in naturally-occurring water caves and wells. To the north, you can tap into Cancun’s iconic night life with clubs like Señor Frog’s and Coco Bongo along the Hotel Zone strip, or indulge in some retail therapy at the malls. You can also day trip to nearby islands like Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox.
The quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos to the south of Cancun feels undiscovered and offers a quiet tranquility as well as gorgeous beaches. Halfway down the riviera, Playa del Carmen, boasts feel-good beach clubs like Lido as well as a nightlife to rival Cancun. It also offers easy access for day trips to the cenotes and Cozumel island, or a drive to Chichen Itza to the west.
To the south, Tulum’s ancient ruins above Playa Paraiso give way to a 7-mile beach road speckled with bohemian boutique hotels and relaxed ocean clubs. The general vibe is barefoot escapism, and with everything that’s been going on in the world, it makes sense that we all want to withdraw to a sanctuary that centres on healing, spirituality, nature and peacefulness. For the social-seekers, there’s a bustling community, too, which just like the ocean beyond, you can dip in and out of as you please.
For nature-lovers, the jewel in the crown of the Riviera Maya is the mesmerising Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve just beyond Tulum’s beaches to the south. It marries the crystal clear waters of the lagoon (with a natural crazy river that floats you past winding mangroves) and the salt water of the ocean. Plus it gives you a chance to spot crocodiles, turtles, dolphins, manatees and exotic birds from the safety of private or group guided boat tours. You can even snorkel with some seriously tropical-looking fish.
Where are the best places to stay?
Best for a luxurious private sanctuary: La Valise, Tulum
A night at La Valise, the 11-room boutique hotel, is about as dreamy as they come. Entering through the green oasis of palms and past the saltwater pool to reach the centre of the converted beach house feels like escaping to another world.