SUN-DRENCHED BEACH GETAWAYS: CancĂșn and the Riviera Maya


March 24, 2014

ATLANTA, GA (March 24, 2014) - Call it seasonal-affective-disorder or just the winter blues, but there comes a time when sunshine, a beach hammock, and a Corona is just the cold-weather cure you crave.

Sure, you could soldier on, or you could hop a flight to Cancún: gateway to the finest beaches, hotels and resorts in the Mexican Caribbean.

Here are five beach hot zones, each easily accessible from Cancún International Airport, in which to escape. Your only decision is whether to fly solo, splurge on a romantic getaway, or to take the kids and make it an unforgettable family vacation. No matter what, the only blues you’ll be feeling will be when it comes time to leave.



Cancún is one of the world’s most famous beach towns for good reason: postcard-perfect beaches, turquoise water, rockin’ nightlife and hotels for every taste and budget. Whether you use it as a base of exploration or you never get up from your beach chair, sun-drenched Cancún has mastered the beach escape.

For a relaxing vacation where you can pre-plan your cost, an all-inclusive is the way to go. No need to worry about missing out on the local flavor. With the new ‘Cancún, Dine Out’ promotion, participating all-inclusive hotels provide guests with gift cards to a tasty selection of some of Cancún’s best restaurants.

Discover Cancún’s eco-friendly Underwater Museum (MUSA), selected by Google as one of the world’s most interesting museums to visit. Featuring 500 life-size submerged sculptures made of pH neutral clay, it’s a museum specially made for divers and snorkelers.

Strap on a water-powered rocket pack to soar over Nichupte Lagoon and turn sci-fi fantasy to reality with JetPack Cancún, a futuristic adventure almost as cool as hanging with the Jetsons. 

Don’t return home empty handed. For the best of Mexican handicrafts — including incredible leather goods and silver jewelry — visit Plaza La Fiesta, 20,000 square feet of bargains near the hotel zone and convention center.


Riviera Maya

Little more than a series of sleepy beach towns just a couple of decades ago, today The Riviera Maya, a scenic stretch of Caribbean coastline south of Cancún, is one of Mexico’s top destinations for beach-chic luxury.

Don’t miss the seaside Maya ruins at Tulum overlooking a dazzling stretch of turquoise Caribbean, one of the most scenic archaeological sites in the Yucatán. Bring your swimsuit because the beach below the ruins is too good to be missed.

History buffs should head for the often overlooked Cobá ruins. A 40-minute drive inland, the 80-square-mile jungle park is home to three Maya temples, including Nohuch Mul, the Yucatán’s tallest pyramid. Stop at the Gran Cenote on the way back for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water.

To recharge, enjoy a yoga retreat or Mayan Clay treatment at Amansala Eco-Chic Resort & Spa, an elegantly simple water’s edge hotel with 24 thatched-roof cabanas. Or try the temazcal at Maya Spa Wellness Center, an unforgettable indigenous sweat lodge experience.

For the ultimate Riviera Maya escape, splurge for a stay at the Maroma Resort and Spa by Orient Express near Puerto Morelos. With a champagne-powder beach setting, hand-painted floor tiles, mahogany furnishings, and gracious Mexican hospitality, this luxurious hideaway consistently ranks among the world’s best hotels.


Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, the flagship town of the Riviera Maya, is the region’s hottest destination for shopping, golf, dining and nightlife.

For the jet set, the pedestrian Fifth Avenue is the place to see and be seen in Playa. By day it’s packed with people browsing the designer boutiques; by night roving musicians entertain diners in the many restaurants and bars.

For a simpler — and less expensive — Playa, check out the hand-blown Mexican glass factory at Vidrioso Soplado. Take home a set of turquoise rimmed margarita glasses, a cobalt blue water pitcher, or romantic hurricane lamps for a song.

Fifteen minutes south of Playa del Carmen is Xcaret, a Disney-style ecological theme park. Float down underground rivers, in caves and natural pools, relax on the beach, swim with dolphins, or wander jungle shrouded trails. At night, the Mexico Spectacular, a dazzling cultural performance, features firelight Maya sports, ceremonial dances, and Mexican music.



The island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, is famous as a scuba favorite and cruise ship destination. The largest of Mexico’s islands, Jacques Cousteau first put Cozumel on the map in 1961 after showcasing its unusual coral reefs.

While cruise ship passengers mob the streets of San Miguel, a vacation package at one of the island’s resorts, such as the reef-side Cozumel Palace, is a savvy choice for those looking for a more laid-back Cozumel experience. Take a tip from the locals and wait for evening, after the cruise ships have sailed, to head into town for an authentic Yucatán dinner or live music and dancing.

For the independent explorer, Cozumel is sprinkled with easily accessible sites for underwater exploration. Just south of San Miguel, for example, is Chankanaab Lagoon, a marine-rich inlet located within Isla Cozumel’s Reefs National Marine Park. You can also visit Faro Celerain Ecological Reserve at Punta Sur. Covering more than 2,700 acres of mangrove swamps and long, pristine beaches on the island's southern tip, the park also boasts Maya archaeological ruins, such as El Caracol, dating as far back as the seventh century.

For a unique experience, navigate Cozumel’s marine-rich underwater world James Bond style on a personal Mini Submarine adventure.


Isla Mujeres

Looking for somewhere secluded? Isla Mujeres, a tranquil wisp of an island located eight miles northeast of Cancún, is your best choice.

Whether you stay at an intimate island hotel or opt for a day trip, hop an island ferry from Cancún. Ferries run daily every 30 minutes and take about 20 minutes to cross the bay. Only five miles long and half a mile wide, a rental bike is ideal island transportation, but mopeds, golf carts and taxis are also available.

Slow is the pace for this place. Sleep in, kick back and savor the flavors of the island where fresh seafood is plentiful. Sample the pescado a la Tikin Xik a specialty recipe unique to the island. La Casa del Tikin Xik on Playa Lancheros specializes in the dish and other tasty Yucatán recipes.

Visit from May to August when the island waters play host to hundreds of migrating whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) and you could find yourself swimming with the gentle giants. Isla Mujeres is also home to the Eco Caribe sea turtle hatchery, a breeding center to hundreds of the turtles, from infants to adults, where you can learn about the habits and habitats of the many sea turtles who return each summer to lay their eggs.

Let’s admit it Richmond, Cancun and its sister sun-drenched Mexican beaches are calling your name. Get a head start to your getaway and hop on one of the Vacation Express exclusive non-stop flights leaving Richmond International Airport. Best of all, they’re a one-stop-shop… all-inclusive resort, flight and taxes in one low price. For more information, visit