Travel to Mexico’s Riviera Maya: Playa del Carmen
Miami Living takes you on a journey to “Riviera Maya’’ located in the Yucatan Peninsula – an area in southeastern Mexico that separates the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Known for its white sands, turquoise sea and blue skies, it is an area hosting several notable archaeological sites, cenotes (a natural underground pool), rich cuisine, relaxation, meditation, yoga, spas, numerous water activities and luxury stays. We start out by exploring Playa Del Carmen, then a stop to Valladolid to explore the Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá and a final stop in Tulum, a city known for its eco-chic bohemian atmosphere.
Travelling to Riviera Maya from Miami is very convenient. Fly non-stop from Miami to Cancun in less than 2 hours, rent a car and get ready for a memorable road trip. If you prefer not to drive, private car services can be easily arranged from hotels. Non-stop flights are available from American Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier and Spirit.
WHY RIVIERA MAYA?
Riviera Maya runs along the coast from Cancun to Tulum hosting numerous must-see attractions. Most notably are UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve including ancient ruins and archeological sites.
Riviera Maya is also known for its blue-green transparent beaches and underground cenotes, caves and rivers. Enjoy every type of fun activity imaginable like scuba diving, parasailing, snorkeling, zip-lining, jungle exploration, tennis, golf and much more. Wellness activities include yoga, breath and sound healing therapies as well as signature holistic and energetic treatments.
Traditional Mexican cuisine can be found virtually in all restaurants in the Riviera Maya featuring traditional ingredients which have been used for centuries, such as Mayan spinach, maize, beans, squash, a variety of chilies, freshly caught seafood, porridge, and papadzules.
Image by Nattu Adnan, Unsplash
Book your transportation to your hotel in advance by contacting your hotel. If you prefer to rent a car, there are many options available at Cancun’s airport. Having your own car will give you additional flexibility to explore the Yucatan peninsula at your own leisure. Taxis are expensive in Mexico.
Travel is allowed to Mexico, however we recommend that you check with your airline and/or obtain the latest travel COVID-19 requirements prior to purchasing your ticket.
The Mexican health department requires that you download the “Vuela Seguro” app or go online ( www.vuelaseguro.com/login) to complete the obligatory health questionnaire form. It must be completed before your departure to Mexico and you will need to present it upon arrival.
When returning to the United States, you’ll also need two things. First, complete the “Vuela Seguro” questionnaire which needs to be completed and presented at the airport when departing Mexico. In addition, COVID-19 antigen or a PCR test is needed no more than 3 days before your departure in order to enter the United States. Covid tests can be easily obtained in most hotels and in free-standing testing sites throughout Riviera Maya.
WHEN TO VISIT
As in most tropical destinations, May through September are hot and humid months, so plan your vacation from December to April in order to enjoy milder weather, less rainfall and lower chances of storms. Hurricanes are not as common in the Riviera Maya region as they are in the Caribbean islands.
The Mayans which occupied the Riviera Maya region were members of a Mesoamerican Indian people whose civilization reached its height around 300-900 AD. The Maya are noted for their advanced architecture and city planning, their mathematics, astronomy, sophisticated calendars, and their hieroglyphic writing system. Their presence can be still felt today through the food, architecture and cultural imprints.
The Mexican peso is the official currency, however dollars and credit cards are accepted with ease. Some vendors may charge an additional credit card transaction fee. It is also recommended to carry some dollars or Mexican pesos for certain activities because not all venues will accept credit cards.
There is something for everyone in Riviera Maya. Here are some of our favorites:
Swim and explore a cenote: Yucatán Peninsula is home to more than 6,000 cenotes—subterranean limestone pools full of crystal clear fresh groundwater featuring rich wildlife. Notable cenotes include: Cenote Ik Kil, Chichén Itzá, Cenote X’Canche, Valladolid, Cenote Azul located in Playa Del Carmen and Gran Cenote Tulum.
Connect with the Mayan civilization: the Mayan pyramids were used by the Mayans not only as temples and central points for religious practices, but also for human sacrifices, rituals, including important tribal announcements. Chichén Itzá, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, is a must-see. Other notable sites include Cobá and Tulum Zama ruins.
Reconnect with nature: Explore the Si’an Khan Biosphere Reserve which is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna. Kaan Luum Lagoon is a quiet getaway from crowds. Spend an early morning or afternoon in clear, shallow turquoise water and relax in one of the on-site hammocks.
Explore a city: Take a quick ferry ride and enjoy the island vibes Island and beaches of Cozumel. Akumal is known for its white sands, a coral reef and warm waters rich in marine life.
Just do nothing: Stay at one of our recommended luxury stays and enjoy what each property has to offer.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Playa del Carmen, just an hour drive from Cancun, is in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Once a fishing village known as Xaman Há, today it is a striving cosmopolitan city with beautiful beaches.
Ctra. Federal Cancún-Playa del Carmen KM 298
Solidaridad, Q. Roo, CP 77710 MX
+01 (800) 953-0204
Located in the Riviera Maya just 40 miles from Cancun and 4 miles south of the picturesque waterfront town of Playa del Carmen, Rosewood Mayakoba is a 20 acre, five-star ultra-luxury resort inspired by Mayan traditions and surrounded by a lush natural landscape. It is one of four luxury resorts nestled within the 620 acre master-planned Mayakoba community, dubbed “The Venice of Mexico” for its elaborate network of canals carved through limestone, linking its natural lagoons and mangrove forests.
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Comprised of 129 sophisticated elegant suites with private plunge pools, oversized soaking tubs, garden showers, individual docks or terraces and contemporary decor, every one of them is likely to become your dream home-away-from-home. Choose from 8 different room categories such as Lagoon suites situated on the resort’s wildlife-filled emerald lagoons, or Beachfront Studio suites located steps away from the pristine white sand beach. All suites come with bicycles to explore the resort or the Mayakoba nature trail.
One of the most notable features of a stay at Rosewood Mayakoba is the resort’s professionally trained butlers; one butler is assigned per suite and offers you extraordinary personalized service combined with an air of warm Mexican hospitality throughout your entire stay.
This award winning resort was named #1 Best Hotel in Mexico 2021 by U.S. News & World Report.
Be pampered at Sense, A Rosewood Spa, a 17,000 square foot sanctuary located on its own island. Work out at the spacious state-of-the-art fitness center, also offering group classes such as yoga, pilates and cardio combat. Bask at any of the six resort pools on property, tucked away in groves of lush jungle and each offering their own unique luxury experience, including poolside meal service. Dine at any of the resort’s 6 upscale restaurants, including 24 hour in-suite room service. Enjoy access to El Cameleón, a Greg Norman championship golf course, as well as Mayakoba’s tennis and paddle court center. Visit El Pueblito, a colorful square that resembles a Mexican village, for authentic local shopping and dining.
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FOOD & DRINK
With a total of six restaurants, the only thing missing from a stay at Rosewood Mayakoba is enough time to try them all. Casa Del Lago is the main resort eatery, serving a lavish breakfast with numerous Mexican specialties and fresh juices, turning into a casual lunch space and then a formal Italian restaurant for dinner. Punta Bonita is located at the beach club and serves lunch with an emphasis on ceviche and seafood. Agave Azul is a popular sushi and tequila bar that fuses Asian cooking techniques with Mexican traditions. La Cantina is located within the adults- only Aquiì Me Quedo beach club and serves Mexican street food favorites. For a day to night experience, Zapote offers a Yucatan-inspired menu and an impressive list of craft cocktails. Finally, La Fondita, located within El Pueblito, serves light Mexican fare such as tostadas, ceviche and mezcal.
Rosewood Mayakoba is considered to be among the top for families within the Mayakoba multi-resort grounds, known for lavishing special attention on small children and their parents. The Rosewood Mayakoba Kid’s Club offers ceramic painting classes, piñata making, cooking classes, Mayan storytelling, Mexican jewelry making, movie nights and eco-tours. Rosewood Mayakoba is considered to be a truly family-friendly resort with many amenities and themed events specifically formulated for families.
Guests are offered complimentary use of non-motorized water sports equipment such as snorkeling, paddleboards, kayaks and catamarans; scuba diving and deep sea fishing tours can be arranged as well. Eco Tours are offered every day where guests are taken around the resort by boat on the lagoon with a naturalist guide on board. Guests are encouraged to walk or bike around the lush picturesque property, including throughout the biking and nature trails in the entire Mayakoba complex. Play golf, tennis or take your shot at Mayakoba’s very own archery center. Take group classes such as yoga, pilates and TRX at the fitness center.
Palmaïa: House of AïA
Paseo Xaman - Ha Lote 1-Manzana 1, Playacar, 77710
Playa del Carmen, Mexico Phone:
+52 (55) 8526-6112
Palmaïa is an eco-conscious health and wellness retreat exquisitely designed to reconnect you with your center and ignite your soul, all while basking in a luxurious refuge. This progressive all-inclusive resort brings together a brilliant Caribbean blue beachfront setting with high-end amenities, environmentally-friendly practices and unique ritualistic services focused on wellness, healing, mindfulness and community. Prepare to be pampered, uplifted, nourished and inspired.
A 40 minute drive from Cancun, Palmaïa lies on a secluded white sand beach amongst 14 acres of mangrove forests, “cenotes” (refreshing natural sinkholes characteristic of this area of Mexico) and swaying palms. It is located on the southernmost end of Playacar, an upscale residential community within Playa del Carmen known for having one of the most beautiful beaches in the Riviera Maya. Guests at Palmaïa will feel as if they are staying at a tranquil, secluded, private beach club.
The hotel has a total of 234 spacious suites distributed amongst 4 separate 5-story buildings, each facing the beach and boasting their own infinity pool. Every room is sustainably designed and with its own private terrace, choose from beach front suites, master family suites, swim-out (pool-side) suites, ocean view suites, as well as completely vegan suites.
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Palmaïa offers a multitude of spaces to keep a guest entertained on property throughout their entire stay. Visit the Al Fresco bohemian beach bar, choose to dine in one of 5 a-la-carte restaurants, relax and heal at the Atlantis Jungle Spa, attend a complimentary mind-body-spirit class at the Rituals Deck outdoor pavilion, work your body out at the glass-walled 24 hour fitness center, and join in on the creative events held at the beachside Gypsy Tent.
FOOD & DRINK
Palmaïa is proud to feature locally sourced, plant-based cuisine as its mainstay for healthy and sustainable food options (meat, seafood and dairy options are also offered). Dine in any one of their five restaurants: Su Casa, offering seasonal dishes, vegan and vegetarian meals in a barefoot luxury-style beach ambiance; LEK, serving traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern twist; Mar de Olivo presenting traditional Mediterranean dinner dishes with a seasonal flair; Ume for sumptuous Thai cuisine; and El Caminante, an artisanal food truck offering authentic Mexican street food.
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For families, Palmaïa operates a unique children’s program run by certified Waldorf Educators who focus on the cultivation of imagination, interaction and creativity. The kid’s club is a device-free zone, encouraging children to disconnect from cyber networks and connect to themselves and the natural world. There is also a separate pool for children with slides, sprinklers and other fun water features.
The pillar of guest activity experiences at Palmaïa revolves around a unique Architects of Life program curated by an in-house shaman. This program includes more than 20 mind and body classes for groups, families and individuals. Guests are led through rituals such as cacao ceremonies, yoga, sound healing, meditation, plant ceremonies, and ancient practices that intend to inspire reflection, exploration and connection. The resort additionally has a Rituals of Sound music program that welcomes creative and experimental DJ’s and musicians to perform daily from 4 pm until midnight.