The Caribbean Coast of The Yucatán Peninsula
The Mexican state of Quintana Roo is home to ocean breezes along the beaches of Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Akumal, the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. The Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve is also located in the state, as well as the ancient Maya ruins of Tulum, Xel-Há, and Xcaret. The coastline hosts many all-inclusive resorts, destination weddings, honeymoons, golf courses, scuba and snorkel diving, Mayan ruins, and Mexican hospitality.
Cancun is the place for sandy toes and a sunkissed nose, drink margarita’s in the pool, party and even swim with whale sharks. Cancun was built on a site selected as the ideal spot for a new tourist development, resting on the northeast corner of the Mexican Caribbean. Mayan temples and ritual sites are everywhere, some smothered by lush jungle, others easily accessible. The Cancun hotel zone is home to world class all-inclusive resort hotels. The Hotel Zone is a huge venue and gets top entertainers and DJs. Don’t be surprised to see Vegas like shows spontaneously erupt while you are sipping your piña colada. Señor Frog’s is a restaurant by day and a dance club by night.
Cozumel is surrounded by a diverse ecosystem of coral reefs that is home to more than 1,000 marine species. The reefs are primarily found on underwater cliffs, there are also some in coastal lagoons and on sand bars at the north tip of the island. They are part of the much larger Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which is the second largest reef in the world. Due to the abundant marine life and coral reefs the clear and warm Caribbean water, Cozumel is considered one of the best scuba-diving destinations in the World. The marine life that inhibit the reefs include sponges, crustaceans, and several endangered marine species such as the loggerhead sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, queen triggerfish, and the endemic splendid toadfish. Tourism, diving and charter fishing comprise the majority of the island’s economy. There are more than 300 restaurants on the island and many hotels, some of which run dive operations. Other water activities include para-sailing, kitesurfing, and a tourist submarine.
Isla Mujeres is just a 15-minute ferry ride from Cancun. The vibe here is still decidedly touristy, but it manages to maintain some of its authentic flare and personality, most people come here for the atmosphere or underwater activities. The north end is home to a famous beach called Playa Norte, the Cancún Underwater Museum, created by English sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, is located off the western coast. Isla Mujeres is considered to be one of the best places in the world to catch Sailfish.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. It is located just an hour south of the Cancun airport. Playacar is a residential and tourist development just south of the main urban area. Most of the all-inclusive hotels, the aviary, and the golf course are located in this development. There are two phases – phase 1 is mostly residential with a few hotels and some stores, while phase 2 contains the largest all-inclusive resorts as well as the golf course and a significant number of residential properties. Playacar is a popular choice for those who prefer a quieter area. People like to stay here for PGA quality golf courses and the peaceful beaches.
Akumal is a small beach-front tourist resort community in Mexico, 62 mi south of Cancún. Akumal is one of the Yucatán Peninsula’s oldest resort areas. It is home to high-end all-inclusive resorts, condominiums and residential developments. It is a very common destination for English speaking tourists, making it a very convenient destination for Americans. It is located on two bays, Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay, and the site of a former coconut plantation. Akumal is famous as a destination for snorkeling, where visitors can swim with endangered green sea turtles, who visit the shallow bay to feed on sea grass.
Xcaret is a water, theme, amusement, eco-archaeological park and more, in one place. Its name means “small inlet” due to the fact that a portion of the Caribbean Sea enters the land. Enjoy underground rivers, a beach area, a lagoon, and natural pools of seawater. In different sections of the park you will see jaguars, manatees, flamingos, spider monkeys and saraguato, bats, deer, and tapirs. Do not miss the Mexican Folk Art Museum, the “Bridge to Paradise”. Mexican Cemetery, and the Hacienda Henequenera.
Tulum is a two-hour drive south of Cancun, and is a gem of the Riviera Maya. A former laid back hip beach destination, Tulum is becoming a crowded hot spot for yoga retreats, dining, boutique shopping and even nightlife. Here you can go on many adventures from day trips to the marine playground of Xel-Ha, the climbable ruins of Coba, and the Si’an Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Explore the Tulum Ruins which are the only ruins built directly adjacent to the sea. Tour one of the thousands of cenotes in the area surrounding Tulum and visit the most famous ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza, which is about three hours away.