Catch some z's by the pool at the hotel or go scuba diving in a cenote? Few destinations on Earth offer such diverse options for amusement as Mexico's Riviera Maya. Next, a perfect five-day itinerary
From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Isla HolboxLeave your watch at the hotel: here, time is kept by the movement of the sun. If Cancun is your tanned brother who loves to party, Holbox is the brother who likes Bob Marley and spends his afternoons in a hammock overlooking the ocean. To get there from Cancun, you need to drive 102 miles [165 km] and then take a ferry in the village of Chiquilá. The heat is constant, so start off with a smoothie at Ángeles y Diablitos, then get around on foot, on bike or by golf cart. Head to the beach in front of the village and take a dip in the warm ocean waters. After, relax in a deck chair with a cool Victoria beer in your hand. If you're visiting the island between May and September, embark on one of the daily expeditions to go swimming with whale sharks, sea creatures that are known to grow up to 59 feet [18 m] in length.
9 a.m.: Breakfast
At the buffet inside one of the best — and newest — hotels in Cancun, the Secrets The Vine, after passing up on your third serving of breakfast, you may ask yourself: should I enjoy the excellent facilities at this all-inclusive hotel for adults only or check out the beaches nearby?
3 p.m.: Tasting session
If you choose not to leave the hotel, treat yourself to a massage at the spa, a Mediterranean-style lunch, a few hours at the pool and two margaritas. Wine tasting sessions are among the activities at Secrets The Vine, the only hotel in Cancun that specializes in wine.
7 p.m.: Peter’s
With just 10 tables, this restaurant (considered one of the best in Cancun) has international food with Mexican touches and a family atmosphere thanks to chef Peter Houben. Highlights include the freshly smoked salmon fillet and the chocolate brownie with banana, vanilla ice cream and honey with habanero pepper (the spiciest of all Mexican chili peppers).
11 p.m.: Party and circus
Though there are plenty of nightclubs there, one is an institution that shouldn't be missed: CocoBongo, where people dance to the sound of Latino classics and international pop music. The shows, which start every two minutes, represent popular videos by such artists as Michael Jackson and Queen.
9 a.m.: Isla Mujeres
It's possible to visit the island on excursion, or go to Playa Tortugas and, from there, take a ferry on your own account. One good idea is to rent a golf cart and drive to Punta Sur, the place in Mexico where, legend has it, day breaks first. Later, stop by the Mango Café to snack on a few tacos and try a Mango ’70 — a cocktail made with strawberry, mango, Don Julio 70 tequila and piquín pepper. Wrap up your visit at the beautiful and peaceful Playa Norte.
3 p.m.: The Cenote Trail
The Cenote Trail, which consists of eight natural pools (that can reach as deep as 197 feet [60 m]) and caverns filled with freshwater, starts in Puerto Morelos. At the cenote known as Kin Ha, you can jump in from a height of several feet (don't be scared by the harmless bats).
7 p.m.: Dinner
The Silversands, another hotel of the Secrets franchise, is located 22 miles [35 km] from Cancun. Of its many attractions, we chose to check out the Japanese restaurant Kimitsu. There, chef Alejandro Aron tosses shrimp into his customers' mouths and sets fire to onion volcanoes during a Teppanyaki-style dinner, a combination of spectacle and flavors.
9 a.m.: Tulum
The archaeological site of Tulum might not have the size of Chichén Itzá or Coba, but it's home to one of the best views in the Riviera. Situated 37 miles [60 km] from Playa (note: only outsiders say “del Carmen”), it's one of the most photogenic spots in the region, thanks to the fact that its largest structure, El Castillo, is perched on a cliff above the turquoise waters. After visiting the complex, follow a paved path which leads to the incredible Playa Paraíso.
You can spend the whole day enjoying the attractions at this park, located 33.5 miles [54 km] from Playa. It’s a large natural aquarium, where saltwater from the ocean mixes with the freshwater from rivers. Snorkeling gear, sunblock and a GoPro are all you need to enjoy the scenery and swim with tropical fish.
7 p.m.: Playa del CarmenWith a village atmosphere but constantly growing, Playa is a hippie-chic place. 5a Avenida (a pedestrian promenade) is bustling every night. Nearby the beach, there are options for food and good parties. You can enjoy the sunset with live music on the sand at Zenzi Beach, a bar that serves up local food.
The most famous park in the Riviera has pre-Columbian dances, archaeological zones, mariachis and other cultural activities. For nature lovers, there are aquariums, aviaries and sea turtles.
3 p.m.: Xcacel-Xcacelito
More isolated than most beaches in the region, it has a small entrance – which helps protect it from the invading multitudes – 8.7 miles from Tulum. The water there is transparent and the sand is extremely fine. Following a path through the typical flora, you’ll arrive at a cool, freshwater cenote.
5 p.m.: Dances with turtles
Akumal, 23.6 miles [38 km] from Playa, is a calm, melancholy bay filled with turquoise waters. Its main attraction is the presence of giant turtles. Rent some snorkeling gear and take a dip in the water to enjoy this experience.
Special thanks to: Secrets The Vine Cancun & Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun