Cancun and the Riviera Maya

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
St. Augustine

South of the border exists a place where palm trees grow and the smell of fresh tortillas drifts through the morning air.

This place, the source of some of my favorite vacation memories, is Cancun, Mexico, and the Riviera Maya. A vacation to this part of Mexico is like the perfect little black dress; it can be simple or elegant, casual or dressed up and enjoyed any season of the year.

The island of Cancun is shaped like the number seven and connects to the mainland at both ends via bridges. The top side of the seven is populated with older, less expensive lodging while the long leg of the seven is the hotel zone, with lodging ranging in price from reasonable to luxury. The hotel zone runs along Kukulcan Boulevard, which is named for the Mayan sun god.

Isla Mujeres, located in the northwest corner of Cancun, is the ideal place to visit for a day trip. Visitors can rent mopeds or bicycles to tour the island and enjoy shopping, dining, sightseeing and, of course, more shopping. Despite its tiny size (a little over five miles long), there is a lot to discover on Isla Mujeres.

About 68 kilometers south of Cancun, in the heart of the Riviera Maya, is Playa del Carmen. This former fishing village gets my vote as the place to stay. There is a plethora of hotels, ranging from small and quaint to large and all-inclusive (guests pay one price for lodging, food and activities) All-inclusive hotels offer a variety of choices in activities and meals.

Guests can relax on the beach or poolside, participate in a variety of water sports, including scuba and water aerobics, take tennis or Spanish lessons and much more. Opportunities for shopping abound, whether in air conditioned shops or at the outdoor marketplace.

All-inclusive hotels have something for both the casual and gourmet diner. The menu offers a mix of grills and snack bars that specialize in informal buffet dining. There also are several more formal, specialty restaurants that specialize in Japanese, Brazilian and Italian cuisine. These restaurants typically require reservations and dressier attire. Playa del Carmen’s restaurants are the perfect place to enjoy a pina colada while listening to roving mariachis.
Another main attraction is the ruins.

The most accessible pre-Columbian ruins are located in the archaeological zone of Tulum, which sits on a rocky bluff overlooking clear turquoise water and crystal-white sandy beaches. Bilingual guides are available to walk and talk visitors through the ruins, but visitors also have the option of exploring on their own.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya are great getaways for singles, couples and families. So pack some sandals, a swimsuit and, of course, that little black dress, and enjoy a wonderful vacation in this beautiful island retreat.

Abou the Author

Karen Woyner is with Kocunuts Travel. Contact her at 815-483-9634 or For marketing information, visit

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