Here is a Mexico you need to know: part two

By | Category: Travel destinations

You’ve probably heard of Cancun, Mexico’s number one tourism destination. But don’t miss out on a visit to the gloriously beautiful and fascinating Riviera Maya, stretching south of there along the Caribbean, says Irene Middleman Thomas

During our visit, we partook of many adventures – including snorkelling in cenotes (a fantastical, ethereal underworld experience!), ATVing in the jungle, walking through cenotes with miner’s headlamps, ziplining, rapelling into cenotes, and even travelling in an Army transport AWD vehicle into the rocky jungle paths. We visited the shady, pacific and fascinating ruins of Coba, riding bicycles from site to site, and the much smaller ruins of Muyil, with a Mayan guide trained by UNESCO and other world environmental groups, along with others in his community, to teach about the flora, fauna and heritage of the area. Afterwards, we headed to the tranquil beauty of the Sian Ka’an lagoon, a UNESCO biosphere preserve where we floated down a natural canal once used for Mayan trade and gazed at herons, cranes and other birds in the mangroves in total silence and serenity.


We opted for smaller excursions but many choose from the array of large ‘ecoadventure theme parks’ such as Xel-ha and Xcaret, where, for one price, one can partake of all the activities all day and usually have access to food and shows as well. They are pricey, but for a full day’s entertainment, it’s a good buy, especially for families.

Mark and I, not part of the teens and 20-something crowd, stayed in the Hotel Maroma, an exquisite gem with fabulous jungle gardens and splendid rooms, north of Playa del Carmen on the lovely Maroma Beach, an azure cove which also is home to the Secrets Maroma Beach, an all-inclusive. The Maroma is NOT for budget travellers, or even for middle-of-the road travellers – it pampers and then pampers more and is absolutely perfect, in this writer’s opinion (note, I’ve been to dozens of luxury resorts all over and this one reigns as divine.)



When is the last time a waiter hiked up three flights of stairs to follow you to the restaurant rooftop, where you went to enjoy the panoramic view, just to ask if you wanted bacon or sausage with your omelet? At the Hotel Maroma on the Riviera Maya, that’s the kind of service you’ll be given – and to which you will decadently get accustomed.

With just 65 rooms and suites (and over 200 employees providing unequalled service,) we had a beachfront suite which, when displayed to us, had us aahhing and wowing over and over. Who thinks of having a private gym in an adjacent room, replete with yoga mats, water bottles and towels, an elliptical machine AND ocean view? Or a private heated plunge pool on the huge side balcony – not to be confused with the front balcony? Each evening, we’d come back to find candles lit all over the parlour room, bedroom, bathroom and entranceway – and the romantic netting over the bed. Upon arrival, long-stemmed red roses were all over the creamy white coverlet and by the sides of the bed, there were hand-made Mayan slippers – a gift to each guest. From the first minute at the Maroma, I felt a bit sad, knowing that I couldn’t stay there forever.

Image©Mark Rush

It gets better – in the morning, coffee, tea or cocoa is served up silently outside the front door, at the time guests choose. After that, it’s off to the included full cooked-to-order breakfast – and do NOT miss the Egg Stuffed Chiles, one of the most scrumptious versions I’ve ever had. If you have the budget and are travelling with your special someone, consider the romantic dinner by the beach (or wine cellar if weather doesn’t permit.) We were led down a torch-lit path down the soft sand by the water’s edge, where a beautiful table for two was set up with huge conch shells holding the linens in place, fine china and crystal and a towering candle. Somehow, despite other rainy nights, this one was perfect, with a huge peach-colored full moon shining over us. We felt like newlyweds, even royal newlyweds, as the chef himself came to announce his selections for our five-course dinner and the sommelier told us about the accompanying wines. The experience was magical, unforgettable and what I say to you is it’s worth the splurge even if you CAN’T afford it.

The Maroma includes free yoga classes each morning held by a very extroverted William , which were surprisingly good, and even while struggling to hold poses, the Caribbean breeze and songbirds calling made my downdogs more tolerable.

Image©Mark Rush

After three nights in the Maroma, we moved onto Akumal, where we stayed in one of the many spacious condos for rent there. Many families choose condos for the roominess and more home-like feel. Our condo building, the Villas Akumal, was on a pretty little cove (but with a rocky beach,) which, as I said, involved a walk to the town beach. However, a friendly Swiss/Australian we met snorkelled in front of our condo and said the snorkelling was quite good – although he did not spot turtles.

Akumal Beach, Image©MarkRush

Akumal was a great respite from the solitude of the Maroma and the frenetic pace we had seen in Playa del Carmen – for us, the small international crowd on the postcard-perfect beach was just the right amount for some people watching and yet, relaxation. A delightful snorkelling spot, Yal-Kul, is close by, where, for $12US adults and $9 kids, we snorkelled in a warm, enormous lagoon filled with turquoise mostly fresh water and lined with fantastic rock formations  and endless fish of rainbow colours, along with some long, sinister barracudas (they don’t attack people!). Yal Kul has beautiful Mayan sculptures throughout its shady gardens and it is truly a ‘don’t miss’ place to spend at least a few hours.

Yal Kuk lagoon, Image©MarkRush

This is a Mexico you may not have experienced – a Mayan-tinged world where you can just laze at a resort, take in wild adventures, study archaeology and history, explore nature and wildlife, or maybe, as we did, indulge in a nice mix of everything. In the Riviera Maya, you have it all nearby. It’s a Mexico you’ll want to know, over and over.


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