WHY WE LOVE IT
- So near and yet so far. Close to Cancún, this 81-mile-long stretch of powdery white beaches on Mexico's Caribbean coast still feels enchantingly remote.
- Low-key pleasures. Yoga, walks along the beach and candlelit cabanas—the perfect stress antidotes.
- Terrific diving and snorkeling. Ogle Mexico's Great Maya Reef and dip into rare cenotes (freshwater sinkholes).
- Mayan culture, past and present. Explore a contemporary village, visit an eco-park or find love among the ruins of ancient cities like Tulum and Cobá.
- Party possibilities. You're an hour from clubbing central, Cancún, and Playa del Carmen doesn't close down after dark.
- Unique shopping. Local markets and crafts provide a break from brand-name boredom.
- A Caribbean bargain. The favorable dollar-to-peso exchange rate means luxury for way less than at many other Caribbean getaways.Abundant bed styles: everything from beachside cabanas and boutique hotels to all-exclusives and megaresorts.
WHEN TO GO
Comfortable 80-degree temperatures make the Riviera Maya coastline welcoming year-round. For shoulder-season bargains, plan a trip during the months of April or November (but keep in mind that hurricane season runs from June through November). Book well in advance if you're planning to visit the region from December to March, the high-season months. Other things to take into account: Many Mexican nationals vacation here in summer, particularly in August, and in March and April the U.S. spring-break crowd sometimes spills down to the Riviera Maya from Cancún.
WHAT TO PACK
Shorts, sarongs, cotton slacks, short-sleeve shirts, sundresses, sandals, bathing suits—think not only warm but also casual. If you're staying at an expensive boutique hotel or resort, bring along your designer versions of the above (and for him, a pair of real shoes). You can pack even lighter if you're staying at one of the clothing-optional resorts. Snorkels are sold everywhere, and you can rent diving equipment, so you don't have to bring your own gear unless you're attached to it.
A good resource for advance information is the Riviera Maya Tourism Promotion Board (firstname.lastname@example.org; rivieramaya.com). In Mexico, check with your resort or hotel's concierge. Beware the so-called "Tourist Information" booths with brochures and maps that you'll find in towns all along the coast. The people in them are trying to sell you time-shares.
GETTING MARRIED ON THE RIVIERA MAYA
Many couples choose to exchange vows on a beach on the Riviera Maya not only for the setting but also because they want to tap into the spiritual traditions of the region by having a Mayan ceremony. But civil, conventional religious and Mayan ceremonies all take some doing to arrange. For example, the requirements for a civil ceremony include the presentation, at least three working days before the wedding, of birth certificates (originals or certified copies, with Spanish translations by certified translators), valid passports and copies of medical certificates issued within 15 days. And that's just for starters.