Tag Archives: Cancun

Nassau SLS Baha Mar

Caribbean Summer Specials

 

There are rewards for those who skip the high season months of winter and travel to the Caribbean for a summer vacation. In addition to avoiding the crowds and having more beach to yourself, these Caribbean summer specials can include substantial savings on room rates and more. Here are some of the premium resorts that are offering summer specials.

Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

Sitting in the heart of Aruba’s Palm Beach, the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino delivers four-star service and ocean or garden views from private balconies. All rooms benefit from a recent upgrade that included fresh décor and luxury bedding. The hotel is home to the largest spa on the island, which is the focus of the Wellness Retreat Package. Guests booking this retreat receive accommodations in a premium ocean view room, private yoga class on the beach, and an exclusive healthy cooking class with the resort’s executive chef, and a $100 resort credit at Mandara Spa. This special package if offered through December 21, 2018. To book, visit www.arubamarriott.com and use code SPA.

Aruba Marriott

Premium rooms at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino feature Marriott’s signature Revive bedding, and deliver views of Palm Beach and the Caribbean from private balconies. Photo: Marriott

Marriott Cancun Resorts, Mexico

Sitting side by side in the center of Cancun’s famous white sand beach, these sister properties cater to all vacationers, with a range of both adult- centric and family-friendly amenities. Through the summer, both resorts are offering a special Wellness Beach Retreat package. This includes deluxe ocean view room accommodations, daily breakfast for two adults at Sedona Grill, a daily fitness class, a stress victim’s spa cure treatment and a one-day private beachfront Bali daybed rental. The package is valid for stays through September 29, 2018. To book, use promotional code ZJ1 when making online reservations at either property. Visit www.marriott.com.

Marriott Cancun Cabana

Palapa-style cabanas are one of the luxury touches guests will find at the sister properties of the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and the Marriott Cancun Resort. Photo: Marriott

SLS Baha Mar, Bahamas

SLS Baha Mar is the hottest new hotel in the Caribbean, and the first lifestyle hotel in the Bahamas. Overlooking one of the island’s finest beaches, the SLS is set within the $4.2 billon resort development of Baha Mar. Since opening in late 2017, the resort has already earned a reputation for cutting edge cuisine and nightlife. The latest additions are Fi’lia, which features Italian cuisines by Chef Michael Schwartz, and Bond, a nightlife concept offering late night sizzle with famous deejays and VIP tables. To introduce SLS to vacationers, the resort is offering savings of up to 20 percent on room reservations, plus up to $200 in food and beverage credit per stay. Rates start at $334 per night. Booking window now open. Visit www.slsbahamar.com.

SLS Baha Mar

The lobby at the SLS Baha Mar showcases the resort’s trendy and award winning décor from Avenue Interior Design. The signature Lobby Bar is a favorite gathering place at the end of the day. Photo: SLS

Allegro Cozumel, Mexico

This recently renovated all-inclusive resort is located on Cozumel’s uncrowded southeast coast, overlooking pristine coral reefs. Water sports are a central focus of resort life, with an on-site dive and snorkeling center, and five swimming pools, including a pirate themed aquatic park for children. There are daily scheduled activities for all ages, and adults can enjoy the fully equipped wellness center, which offers a wide array of massage services and treatments right on the beach. Dedicated divers can sign up for the resort’s Ultimate Dive Package, which includes daily boat diving excursions. A special summer offer lets families save up to 41 percent on all-inclusive rates, with the first child staying for free. Visit www.allegrocozumelresort.com.

Cozumel Allegro

The Allegro Cozumel resort caters to both adults and families, with features such as a dedicated water park for kids, and a separate adults-only pool for quiet relaxation. Photo: Allegro

Warwick Paradise Island, Bahamas

The four-star Warwick Paradise Island hotel is an adults only property set on the shores of Nassau Harbour. The resort features 250 rooms with waterfront and island views, a white sand harbor beach, five dining options, two bars, a fully equipped fitness centre, and daily entertainment and activities. As part of the resort’s all-inclusive offerings, guests can enjoy the Cabbage Beach Picnic, which takes guests to one of Paradise Island’s finest beaches. During the months of May, August, September and October, military members and senior travelers 65 years and older can earn 15 percent off the hotel’s lowest promotional nightly rate. All-inclusive rates start from $136 per person, per night, double occupancy in an island view bedroom. Military and senior travelers are also treated to an additional 10 percent discount on spa treatments at the resort’s onsite Amber Spa. To reserve call 1-888-645-5550 or visit warwickhotels.com/paradise-island-bahamas.

Warwick Paradise Island

The Warwick Paradise Island is Nassau’s newest adults-only all-inclusive hotel. The poolside Hog Bar derives its name from the herd of wild pigs that used to roam the island. Photo: Warwick Hotels

Allegro Playacar, Mexico

Located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, this all-inclusive resort combines a beachfront lifestyle with easy access to the cultural and cosmopolitan attractions of Playa del Carmen and its surrounding areas. Families can explore ancient Maya ruins at archeological sites such as Tulum and Coba, as well as stroll down Playa’s favorite pedestrian corridor, Quinta Avenida, which is lined with eclectic restaurants and trendsetting boutiques. Allegro’s all-inclusive program includes unlimited meals, snacks and beverages from any of the property’s three restaurants and five bars. Families, who book before August 31st, can take advantage of the resort’s special summer offer that delivers savings of up to 35 percent on bookings, plus free in-room minibar service. Visit www.allegroplayacarresort.com

Allegro Playacar Playa Del Carmen

The Allegro Playacar is a family friendly all-inclusive resort set on a prime stretch of Caribbean beach that is within walking distance of downtown Playa Del Carmen. Photo: Allegro

El Embajador, Dominican Republic

Located in the heart of historic Santo Domingo on Avenida Sarasota, the luxurious El Embajador hotel welcomes travelers, with 280 rooms offering views of the Caribbean Sea, the city of Santo Domingo or lush gardens. Guests have access to a large pool and the unique El Jardín restaurant. The hotel is an ideal starting point for exploration of the city’s museums, shops, restaurants and authentic Dominican culture. Special promotional rates provide discounts of up to 25 percent for stays of four nights or more. This offer is valid through 12/31/2018, and can be booked at www.barcelo.com/en-us/hotels/dominican-republic/santo-domingo/el-embajador-a-royal-hideaway-hotel/offers

Santo Domingo El Embajador

The El Embajador is an elegant oasis set in the heart of the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo. Guests have convenient access to the historic city center. Photo: El Embajador

Nest Tulum

Eco Boutique Hotels in Tulum

 

Spectacular beachfront settings with nary a high-rise in sight. Natural and sustainable materials that complement the landscape. Locally sourced food that is innovative and inspired by regional traditions. Sunrise yoga sessions followed by lazy afternoons in a hammock. If these sound like the ideal ingredients for a relaxing and inspiring beach vacation, then Tulum is for you, and these authentic and eco-friendly resorts are the place to stay.

Sanará Tulum

Soon after opening in 2014, this beachfront retreat became a highly favored holistic hideaway, and a magnet for yoga enthusiasts and teachers, who come to participate in Hatha and Vinyasa practices. The complex has just 19 rooms and suites, some beachside and others with jungle and garden views. Both the interior and exterior design of rooms and public areas seek to blend seamlessly into the natural surroundings of coconut and chit palms and complement the views of turquoise water. Interiors have dark woods that offer a dramatic contrast to white furnishings, walls and linens. A dream catcher hangs overhead to maximize dreamtime and trees grow through the roofs of buildings. The 10 Tamarind suites are just steps from the sea with private gardens and unobstructed water views from front decks. Some have outdoor showers and tubs set in private walled gardens. The Jungle suites are set around a Mayan-inspired rock stream garden, and some also include private pools.

Sanara Tulum Coconut Restaurant

Sanará Tulum’s Real Coconut restaurant is dedicated to the use of sustainably sourced ingredients to create mouth-watering dishes that encourage digestive wellbeing. Photo: Sanará

The heart and soul of the property is the Sanará Wellness Center, where a range of treatments is tailored to guests seeking deep relaxation, renewed energy or the resolution of any ongoing health issues. Traditional Mayan massages and healing customs are used to enhance nutrition, physical lifestyle and spiritual wellbeing. Co-owner Daniella Hunter was inspired to create The Real Coconut. This on-site dining venue focuses on plant-based foods and sustainable sourced animal proteins, and in keeping with the name, coconut is infused into many dishes. In addition to daily yoga practices, guests can enjoy beach time and water sports such as windsurfing.

Sanara Tulum Room

Simple whitewashed walls and rich wood textures create a restful atmosphere at Sanará Tulum, which focuses on dual themes of wellness and self-discovery. Photo: Sanará

Nest Tulum

The ocean takes center stage at this boutique resort, which promises natural simplicity. The beachfront setting encompasses a collection of individually styled bungalows, suites and villas. Some are set right on the shoreline, where the sounds of the sea provide the background music. More guest accommodations peak from the beachfront landscape, or are cloistered fully in greenery, with garden and jungle views. Interiors feature a minimalist design, with whitewashed walls, found objects and one-of-a-kind handmade furnishings sourced from around Mexico. Unpaved walkways wind through the landscape, and hammocks are hung throughout the property.

NEST Tulum Palapas

At Nest Tulum, the shoreline is left in its natural condition, and guests relax on white sand in the shade of simple, thatch roof palapas that allow sea breezes to circulate. Photo: Nest Tulum

Outdoors spaces are designed to evoke a sense of cozy comfort. Day beds are scattered across the sand, and tables sit in palm groves or under the shade of a thatched palapa. The setting encourages beach walks and leisurely dining, followed by naps in sun or shade. The property’s Mexican fusions restaurant serves locally sourced foods from morning till 10 p.m., and the thatched roof bar offers Mezcal infused cocktails with a taste of tropical fruits. Guests looking to expand their horizons can explore via bicycle, as the pueblo of Tulum is just six miles away on a shaded bike path. More ambitious day trips include visits to Mayan ruins, cenotes and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

NEST Tulum Day Beds

Open and shaded day beds line the beach at Nest Tulum. Guests have first choice on these amenities, but walk-on beach goers can also hire a bed for the day. Photo: Nest Tulum

Papaya Playa Project

What started as a seasonal pop-up gathering of creative individuals became a permanent fixture on Tulum’s beach in 2011. But the Papaya Playa Project isn’t just another oceanfront resort touting green credentials. Partnering with the Design Hotel group, the founders set out to establish a one-of-a-kind resort that would set the region’s standard for eco conscious design and operation. All resort structures were designed for minimal impact, which resulted in leaving some 93 percent of the original jungle landscape intact. Building materials and furnishings were locally sourced from sustainable materials, and some rooms are elevated as tree houses to leave the forest floor intact. The Project is a member of the Rain Forest Alliance, which serves to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods, and strives to preserve the natural beauty of Tulum. In July 2015 the Project launched a mission to begin zero emission and zero contamination to the community by June 2018.

Papaya  Playa Tulum

A number of buildings at the Papaya Playa Project are elevated above the ground. This not only allows cooling breezes to circulate, it preserves the natural landscape below. Photo: Papaya Playa

The Project promotes a spiritual and healthy approach to living. Guests are provided with numerous ways to relax and connect with nature and relaxation, including daily yoga, tai chi and meditation sessions. Buildings are constructed in a traditional Mayan manner to usher in sea breezes and maintain cool interiors. Local traditional materials and textiles from various regions of Mexico are incorporated in interior designs. Private porches and plunge pools are included in cabanas and casitas. The Papaya Playa Beach Club features open air dining and relaxation spaces with ocean views, and menus inspired by Mayan and traditional Mexican fare. The Club’s beachfront amphitheater is a popular gathering spot for concerts, readings and lectures.

Papaya Playa Lounge

An ocean front terrace at Papaya Playa Project showcases the resort’s approach to creating spaces that are both comfortable and in touch with the natural surroundings. Photo: Papaya Playa

Cancun Grand Residence

Grand Savings at The Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

 

Located in the heart of the Riviera Maya coast, just 10 minutes from the quiet fishing village of Puerto Morelos, the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is an all-suite beachfront retreat that delivers unrivaled services and luxurious amenities, including handmade furniture, fine linens, state of the art appliances, Jacuzzi tubs and large outdoor terraces. The Bed & Breakfast allows travelers to experience the best of the Riviera Maya with substantial savings on stays through the year.

WHAT: Bed & Breakfast Getaway special

WHERE: Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, Mexico

WHEN: Book by March 5, 2018 for stays through Jan. 31, 2019

DETAILS: Package is based on a three-night, four-day stay. Includes gourmet breakfast at onsite restaurants throughout stay, and round-trip private ground transportation to and from the Cancun International Airport. Must be booked by March 5, 2018 for stays at the resort from now through Jan. 31, 2019, based on availability, and blackout dates apply. Nightly rates start at $324 per couple.

INFO:http://grandresidencesrivieracancun.com/

Jamaica Half Moon Spa

Superior Soaks: Amazing Resort Bathtubs in Tropical Garden Settings

 

Whether it’s a cleansing dip after a day of adventures in rainforest and reef, or a relaxing immersion in preparation for a private candlelight dinner on the beach, a bathtub can become more than just a way to get clean. Here’s a sampling of amazing bathing experiences from around the world. So sink in and relax. A marble tub is the perfect place to refresh with a flower and herb scented bath after a massage at the award-winning Fern Tree Spa at Jamaica’s Half Moon resort.

BVI Snorkel

Unique Caribbean Snorkel Adventures

 

Sure, you’ve explored the shore in front of the hotel, and maybe even signed up for a boat trip to a nearby coral reef. But are you ready for a snorkeling adventure with a wow factor and maybe some bragging rights? These adventures exist in places across the Caribbean. But though they can be thrilling, they aren’t dangerous. Here are five of my favorite Caribbean snorkel adventures that go beyond the usual reef tour.

Blackbeard’s Treasure Caverns, Norman Island, BVI

Legend has it that the infamous pirate known as Blackbeard once stashed chests of gold and plunder in the sea caves of Norman Island. But even those who doubt that tale would agree that the real treasure is the chance to snorkel into this trio of semi-submerged caverns, which are cut into a cliff face just south of the popular harbor known as The Bight. It’s suitable for all ages, because there’s always a hint of sunlight in the caves, and no branching passages. I’ve brought dozens of snorkelers to this site during charter trips, and usually give them a waterproof light so they can hunt for marine live in the nooks and crannies, and admire the purple and red patterns on the rock faces inside.

BVI Snorkel

The caves at Norman Island are said to have once held treasures hidden by the pirate Blackbeard. Snorkelers can safely explore these mysterious caverns. Dale Harrison/Flickr

Bimini Road, Bahamas

Legends of the Bermuda Triangle meet tales of the lost city of Atlantis just off the shores of the tiny Bahamian island of Bimini. On the island’s western shore, a half-mile-long line of rectangular limestone blocks runs parallel to the shore. This unusual formation was first discovered by free diving legend Jacque Mayol, and in the years since, all manner of experts have speculated about the origins and purpose of the structure. Some say it’s the remains of a wall or a pier, while others have pegged it as a highway that was once part of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. I’ve explored this site on scuba dives several times, but actually enjoy it more when seen from above. When floating on the surface with mask and snorkel, you can make out the full extent of the formation in the clear waters below, and then form your own opinion on its origins.

Bimini Snorkel

A snorkeler descends in clear Bahamian water to examine the unique formation known as the Bimini Road. Some believe it to be part of the ruins of the ancient city of Atlantis. Photo: Atmoji Photography/Flickr

Great Blue Hole, Belize

The aerial view of Captain Jacque Cousteau’s Calypso floating in the center of a gigantic submerged crater in the center of a Caribbean coral reef became a world-famous image. This perfectly round geological anomaly measures more than 1,000 feet across, and plunges down to more than 400 feet. I’ve done deep dives into the Belize Blue Hole, but honestly, the most interesting sights are right at the top, where the shallow rim of the hole is ringed in growths of coral. It takes a two-hour boat ride from Belize City or one of the resorts on Ambergris Caye to get to Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole, but the reward is a chance to glide over the cliff-like edge of the hole into deep water, then spend time watching tropical fish among the corals. Keep an eye open, because there’s always a chance to catch a glimpse of large tarpon or reef sharks emerging from the shadows below.

Belize Great Blue Hole

The Belize Blue hole is a massive 400-foot-deep pit set in the center of Lighthouse Reef. The rim of the hole is covered in coral gardens that are ideal for snorkelers to explore. Photo: Kasia Kaczy?ska/Flickr

Dos Ojos Cenote, Riviera Maya

Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is riddled with cenotes, which are natural sinkholes in the limestone bedrock that fill with clear fresh water. Many of these cenotes are connected to underground rivers that form the longest underwater caves in the world. But you don’t have to be a bold explorer to enjoy these amazing places. With just a mask and snorkel, I’ve swum in dozens of these natural pools. Often, the walls overhang the water, creating a chance to swim into the twilight zone and discover marble-white stalactites hanging from the ceiling. A personal favorite is Dos Ojos Cenote, where swimmers can follow a set of guidelines through a maze of caverns that connect a pair of sunlit pools. You can explore for yourself, or hire a guide to lead the way.

Riviera Maya Cenotes

The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are filled with clear fresh water. At Dos Ojos, snorkelers can swim through overhanging ledges that lead to stalactite-decorated chambers. Photo: Guillén Pérez/Flickr

Lac Bay Mangrove, Bonaire

This snorkel adventure is more about relaxation than excitement, but that doesn’t make it any less memorable. It begins with a trip to the undeveloped east coast of Bonaire, and a stop at the Mangrove Information Center within Lac Bay National Park. Here, you’ll sign up for a guided kayak tour that leads through the twisting channels that lace the mangrove forest. Once you reach a hidden bay deep in the reserve, you’ll have a chance to get out of the boat and wade in waist deep water. There’s not much to see out in the middle of the sand bottom bay, because the real show begins when you swim closer to the tangled underwater roots of the mangroves themselves. These roots provide shelter for numerous species of small and juvenile marine life, making Lac Bay the island’s primary fish nursery. If you are lucky, you might also be treated to a swim by from one of the bay’s resident snook or tarpon.

Bonaire Snorkel

A snorkeler glides through a sand channel in the mangrove forest of Bonaire’s Lac Bay. The tangled roots of these trees create habitat for small fish and other marine life. Photo: Mangrove Information Center

St Lucia Body Holiday

Caribbean Resolutions

 

The ball has dropped; you’ve welcomed in the New Year, and probably made a few promises to yourself for the coming months. Maybe it’s to shape up, help others, or just get out and experience something new. With those resolves fresh in your mind, check out these unique Caribbean experiences that take you beyond the beach chair and provide a chance to fulfill some of those promises. Here are six ways to make those resolutions come to life.

Rebuild and Restore

Most everyone resolves to start a new diet and exercise program on January one, but most such plans soon fall apart. One of the best ways to jump start a new you is with a trip to the island of St. Lucia, and a stay at the Body Holiday Resort, which isn’t your usual Caribbean all-inclusive. The focus at this upscale beachfront retreat is health and wellness, but with plenty of play time as well. Guests have full run of an expansive spa and wellness center, with daily treatments and a variety of classes and activities included in the daily rate. Join a morning yoga session, discover qigong energy work, or learn the health benefits of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Ready for some fun? Then sign up for a scuba or sailing class, join a group bike ride, get some tennis or golf coaching or sign up for a fencing class. Meals and libations can be as healthful as you desire, but there are also plenty of guilty pleasures if you are ready to reward yourself.

Body Holiday Resort St Lucia

The Body Holiday resort is located on one of St. Lucia’s finest beaches. Guests of this all-inclusive property can participate in a wide range of sports, wellness and fitness programs. Photo: Flickr

Go Green

If you’re up for an eco-lodge adventure, but still want some creature comforts, this is the place. The Pacuare Lodge sits in a rainforest overlooking the Pacuare River, and guests arrive either by four-wheel drive vehicle or on the river as part of a multi-day rafting tour. Jungle paths lead from the central lodge to a collection of unique palm thatched villas and suites, each offering a unique personality. Some perch along the banks of the river, others rise into the treetops, or sit atop a ridgeline, providing sweeping views. Interiors combine rustic elements such as cane ceilings and rich hardwood floors with luxurious furnishings and premium beddings and linens. Pacuare’s kitchen team crafts an innovative menu from farm-to-table ingredients, and guests can take in the views while dining on an elevated terrace, or schedule a private dinner at a table on the riverbank. Guests can participate in a variety of adventures and experiences ranging from nature hikes and cultural experiences to high-energy canopy zip line tours, canyoning excursions and whitewater runs.

Costa Rica Limon Pacuare Lodge

The canopy honeymoon suite at Costa Rica’s Pacuare Lodge is reached by a private suspension bridge, and features an elevated terrace and stone swimming pool. Photo: Martin Kunz/Flickr

Help Out

Puerto Rico continues to rebound from the devastation of hurricane Maria. By the beginning of 2018, more than two-thirds of the islands hotels were once again open for business, and regular air service was restored. But at the same time, many areas of the island are still in the process of rebuilding. This creates a unique opportunity for what is being called voluntourism— combining an island vacation with some time spent helping the people of Puerto Rico rebuild their island. One property that has gotten fully behind this trend is the Serafina Beach Hotel, which is located in the heart of the vibrant Condado District, directly on stylish Ashford Avenue, and is the island’s newest lifestyle- boutique hotel. Beginning in March, guests of this upscale beachfront resort can participate in a range of rebuilding efforts, from cleaning up local parks and historic sites, to helping distribute medical and food supplies.

Serafina Hotel Lobby

The casual-chic lobby of the Serafina Beach Hotel, which will open in the spring of 2018 as the first hotel associated with the upscale Serafina Restaurant Group. Photo: Serafina Beach Hotel

Connect With Nature

If you are ready to go beyond the usual two-hour day hike and really get into some Caribbean back country, book a three-day excursion into the Central Mountain Range of the Dominican Republic. Known as the Caribbean Alps, these peaks rise to heights of almost 10,000 feet, and are a realm of cloud forests, unique rock formations, and hundreds of beautiful rivers and waterfalls. Explora Ecotours provides a three-day guided exploration of the mountains that includes the forests of the Valle Nuevo National Park, the endemic plant and animal life of the Ebano Verde Scientific Preserve, and the Aguas Blancas Waterfall, which is one of the highest in the Caribbean. For more adventure, participants can spend extra days in the town of Jarabacoa, which is the epicenter of the island’s ecotourism industry.

Dominican Republic Birding

The high altitude forests of Valle Nuevo National Park are home to hundreds of species of birds, including a number of endemic species such as this Hispaniola trogon. Photo: Mitch Walters/Flickr

Find Your Bliss

Just down the beach from the world-class resorts of Paradise Island is the Sivananda Yoga Retreat. Sitting on five acres of tropical gardens, this waterfront property is more than just another place to practice your sun salutations; it is an ashram established in 1967 by Swami Vishnudevananda that now serves as a spiritual community and study center. The ashram provides an immersion into the yogic lifestyle, with daily schedules that include meditation, yogic breathing practices, yoga postures, and learning. A core staff of residents and long term students make their home in the ashram, which also welcomes guests who come for stays of a few days or a couple of weeks. Housing options range from self pitched tents and dormitories to cabana like cabins and luxurious beachfront suites. The ashram’s kitchen serves healthful meals, which are included with accommodations. When not engaged in spiritual awakening and physical rejuvenation, guests can also find relaxation and recreation on the white sands of Paradise Beach.

Bahamas Nassau Paradise Island Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat

At the Sivananda Yoga Retreat, daily practices and meditation sessions take place on an oceanfront deck that faces the sands of Paradise Beach. Photo: Sivananda Yoga Retreat

Learn a Language

Forget apps and recordings, the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in the culture and day-to-day life of the country. That’s the idea behind immersive programs such as the Spanish language program at Meztli. Participants can spend anywhere from a week to more than a month engaged in daily sessions with native Spanish speaking instructors, and engage in a range of immersive cultural and recreational activities, all designed to make learning the language fun and natural. And best of all, Meztli is located in the heart of the trendy coastal town of Tulum, and close to the white sand beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The school is within walking distance of hostels, hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, Internet cafes, and a variety of shops. For the full 24/7 immersion experience, participants can opt for a stay with a local family, where they will enjoy home cooking and a chance to practice their new found language skills in a real world setting.

Mextil Language School Tulum

Immersive Spanish language programs at the Meztli School in Tulum include a mix of interactive classroom sessions and opportunities to interact with local people. Photo: Sherry Howell/Flickr

Tulum Cenotes

Best Day Trips from Cancun and the Riviera Maya

 

Sun and sand; palm trees and margaritas; clubbing and spa time. These are the things that lure travelers to the resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. But there’s much more to the region that is worthy of discovery, and for those who want to venture away from the beach and explore a wider swath of the Yucatan Peninsula, there are limitless opportunities to immerse oneself in the region’s deep-rooted culture and history. Moreover, this territory’s distinct beauty is so outstanding it’ll knock your socks…er flip-flops off! To get you started, here are five notable destinations that are an easy day or overnight trip away from Cancun and the resorts of the Riviera Maya

A Crossroads with Colonial Memories

Though it is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Yucatan, Mérida retains the eclectic charms of a Colonial era town. The narrow, cobblestone streets of the old town are lined with rows of multihued buildings, where horse-draw carriages share the roads with pedestrians. It is a town perfect for walking. Roadways intersect at thirteen lovely town squares, where lofty trees shade park benches, and historic monuments front Colonial cathedrals. Mérida has been named among the top places in the world to visit, and recognized as capital of culture for its lively music and cultural flamboyance.

Merida Mexico

In the center of Mérida, the Church of the Third Order is home to a massive crucifix sculpture known as Cristo de la Unidad, by contemporary Spanish artist Ramón Lapayese del Río. Photo: Juanita Rodriguez

Be sure to visit the Mercado de Lucas de Galvez, which is a lively indoor/outdoor market place that bustles with merchants, selling everything from jewelry and shoes to honey and flowers. The Plaza Mayor is a vibrant meeting place where locals linger at sidewalk cafes to enjoy traditional drinks, such as champola or sorbet. The city’s most alluring avenue, Paseo de Montejo, is closed to traffic on Sunday so residents can enjoy live music and a popular artisan market.

Bright Waters and a Colorful Past

It’s called the Lagoon of Seven Colors. This natural freshwater lake is fed by underground rivers that flow from mysterious blue holes that mingle to create a captivating palette of Caribbean blues and greens. On the lake’s western shore, the town of Bacalar is a hidden gem of thatched roof cabanas and quaint bed and breakfast-style retreats, and it is a town with an intriguing history. Linked to the sea by canal and river, it was settled by the Conquistadores in the 1500s, and became the most important trading port in the southern Yucatan.

Bacalar Mexico

The flow from hundreds of underground springs fill the waters of Lake Bacalar with clear fresh water, which is lit in many shades of blue and turquoise from sunlight reflecting from the sand. Photo: Juanita Rodriguez

Pirates came to plunder, prompting the building of Fort of San Felipe. This stone fortress still commands the waterfront. Behind the stone ramparts are well-preserved cannons, while inside is an impressive mural and plaques displaying the area’s fascinating history. Arguably the most intriguing exhibit inside the museum is a glass tomb containing the skeleton of an alleged Pirate of the Caribbean! Bacalar is a four-hour drive south from the Cancun area, but well worth the trip.

The Magic Place

It’s not just a saying. Izamal is magic. That’s according to the Government of Mexico, which has honored a small number of unique and especially picturesque towns across the country with the title of Magic Towns. What makes a town magical? According to the requirements for consideration, it must be small, scenic and with rich historical tradition. So why Izamal? Just enter the town and that question will be answered. The first thing any visitor notices is that the town is painted yellow… all the colonial buildings, the market, the huge convent, everything! The next things that stand out are the cobblestone streets and the iron lampposts that give the town a unique ambiance.

Izamal

The San Antonio de Padua Convent at Izamal was built in 1561 by Spanish conquistadors and monks, using stones from a destroyed Mayan pyramid that previously occupied the site. Photo: Juanita Rodriguez

Called the City of Hills, Izamal may be the oldest city in Yucatán, dating back to the Classic Mayan period. Today the town is alive with three cultures – the ancient Maya, the colonial, and the present day bustling town. Izamal is a monument of color, history and pride that can be felt in its streets and buildings. Art, music, and gastronomy are all around you, and there is a lively town market. Among the locations not to be missed is the Government Palace, the Maya archaeological site of Kinich Kakmo, and the Franciscan convent built over the remains of a Maya pyramid. Izamal is a 45-minute drive from Mérida and a bit less than three hours from Cancun.

A Tropical Euphoria

Before Cancun and the Riviera Maya became an international resort destination, the coastlines of the Yucatan Peninsula were home to small, sleepy fishing villages. For a taste of the bucolic seaside charms of yesteryear, head to Holbox Island. Located 40 miles to the northwest of Cancun, and accessibly only by ferry, the island’s single beachfront town is a place of sand streets, eclectic eco lodges and pristine ocean views.

Holbox Island

The thatch-roof bungalows of the Hotel Villas Delfines overlook a white sand beach on Isla Holbox. This eco-conscious property includes composting bathrooms and solar water heating. Photo: Juanita Rodriguez

The Caribbean Sea is the central attraction. The calm coastal waters are a favorite with paddle boarders, who come to explore the shoreline, or participate in SUP yoga sessions. Nature lovers head to the Yum Balam Biosphere to view flamingos, or snorkel with sea turtles and wild dolphins. From June through September, Holbox becomes the starting point for day trips to an offshore sand bank where massive yet harmless whale sharks gather to feed. Swimmers can don mask and snorkel for a life-list encounter with these gentle giants.

Heaven on the Water

You can only get there by boat. The sandbar known as El Cielo is a white sand shoal that lies about a half mile off the southwestern coast of Cozumel. A number of tour operators will provide the ride, and once there, passengers disembark to wade in the shallows, or swim in crystal clear waters. Stingrays are frequent visitors to the shoal, and the white sands are strewn with colorful starfish. It is the combination of these stellar-like creatures and the cerulean blue of the water that inspired the name El Cielo, which translated into a combination of the words “sky, heaven and paradise.”

El Cielo Snorkel

A sailing catamaran glides over the shallow sand bank known as El Cielo. This is a favorite destination for swimmers, who can wade in the shallows among tropical fish, stingrays and starfish. Photo: Juanita Rodriguez

For an added dimension, visitors can don a mask and snorkel and venture out to the edges of the bank, where colorful coral heads rise from the sand, then become a massive reef as depths increase. Two of the island’s most popular snorkeling destinations— Colombia and Palancar—are just a short boat ride away. Many tour operators combine a stop at El Cielo with a snorkeling excursion to one or both of these reefs, which are home to turtles and a wealth of colorful tropical fish.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba Riviera Maya

Mexico’s Best Cyber Monday Vacation Deals

 

Cyber Monday has become a worldwide phenomenon, and some of Mexico’s premier resorts have embraced the trend. A number of spectacular beachfront resorts are offering substantial savings for travelers who log on and book during the long weekend after Thanksgiving. Here are some of the prime deals that await.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

As the first Banyan Tree property in the Americas, Banyan Tree Mayakoba sets the benchmark for resorts in the Riviera Maya. Guests enjoy five-star service and amenities in a setting that preserves the site’s natural beauty. From the Thai-inspired therapies at the Banyan Tree Spa, to the Greg Norman signature 18-hole El Camaleón Golf Course, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba sets the standards for vacation excellence. Plan ahead and you can save up to 20 percent by booking a stay 60 days in advance. These savings are good anytime between January 29 and December 20, 2018, and also include a $30 gift certificate per person to Banyan Tree Spa. To book visit www.banyantree.com/mayakoba.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

A bedroom suite at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba opens to a private plunge pool and sun terrace, which faces one of the resort’s mangrove-lined waterways. Photo: Banyan Tree

Oasis Hotels

It’s hard to choose. Would you prefer to step right from your ocean view room onto the legendary shores of Tulum, or stay in the center of the action on the beaches of Cancun. Either way, you’ll be enjoying the premier service and lavish all-inclusive amenities of the Oasis hotel group when you book their Cyber Monday special. Sample per person rates start at $117 on bookings at Grand Oasis Tulum, $124 at Grand Oasis Palm and $127 at Grand Oasis Cancun and Grand Oasis Sens. Even the brand’s most luxurious property, The Pyramid at Grand Oasis, is on sale, with rates starting at just $160. Visit oasishotels.com for details.

Oasis Tulum Grand Oasis

The Sian Kaan Suite at the Grand Oasis Tulum delivers rewarding beach views from the bedroom or the adjacent terrace, where a private soak tub awaits. Photo: Oasis Hotels

Temptation Cancun Resort

Discover sensual minimalism at the resort known as Cancun’s favorite playground for adults. From the topless optional pool to the high-energy clubs and sensual menus, every facet of this beachfront property seeks to titillate your senses and encourage you to let go of your inhibitions and live in the moment. Start the party with a booking during the Cyber Monday sale and you can enjoy up to 54 percent off regular rates, starting at $150 per person per night, for stays of three nights or more throughout 2018. Visit www.temptation-experience.com.

Cancun Temptation Resort

A night view of the Temptation Cancun Resort, where the second- floor club sits above the Sexy Pool—so named for its topless- optional guest policy. Photo: Temptation Resort

Seadust Cancun Family Resort

From water parks to live entertainment, there’s something for all ages, day and night, at this beachfront all-inclusive. There are 11 themed restaurants to sate your inner gourmand, water sports for your active side, and calming spa treatments to promote relaxation. Book online between November 22 and 29, 2017, to receive 40 percent discounts on rooms, with seven nights earning a complimentary Cancun Queen Lagoon Cruise. The discount applies to travel throughout 2017 and 2018. Go to https://goo.gl/Sn5bnN for more details.

Seadust Cancun

Beach-view rooms at the Seadust Cancun Family Resort overlook the resort’s three-tiered infinity pool, with the Caribbean Sea just beyond. Photo: Ruben Hidalgo/Seadust Resort

Desire Riviera Maya Resort & Desire Riviera Maya Pearl Resort

If a sensual, clothing optional scene is your thing, the Desire resorts are your place. Set on the beaches of Puerto Morelos, the couples-only properties temp the senses with gourmet restaurants serving exotic cuisine and Caribbean cocktails, Bali beach beds set on soothing white sand, and nightly entertainment and performances designed to arouse the senses. Book a stay during the promotional window from November 24 to 27, 2017 and enjoy savings of up to 30 percent on stays of three nights or more, with rates starting at $160 USD per person per night. For more info go to desiresecretsale.com.

Riviera Maya Desire

In keeping with the resort’s theme, bedroom suites at the Desire Riviera Maya are designed to evoke a sense of casual yet sensual elegance. Photo: Edgardo Contreras/Desire Resort

La Colección Resorts by Fiesta Americana

With twelve premier resorts to select from, all set on some of the finest beaches in Mexico, any stay at La Coleccción is a good choice. Guests can vacation at any one of the group’s signature properties in Acapulco, Cancun, Chetumal, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta, and enjoy savings of up to 50 percent when booking during the Cyber Monday special. This special rate is available for stays between November 24, 2017 to December 28, 2018 and is also combinable with a resort credit of up to $1,000. Visit www.lacoleccionresorts.com for details.

Grand Fiesta Resorts Mexico

The Grand Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta is one of 11 properties in the Colección group that will be offering special rates during the Cyber Monday sale. Photo: Fiesta Americana

Riviera Maya Bahia Principe

Best Mexican Resorts to Celebrate El Grito

 

Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16, a day known as El Grito de la Independencia – the cry of independence. It is a time of parades, fiestas and feasts. And visitors can get in on the celebration, as a number of resorts get into the spirit of independence with special banquets, entertainment and even fireworks.

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

Independence Day celebrations center around the resort’s award- winning La Joya restaurant, where typical Mexican delicacies will be dished up at food stations throughout the restaurant, accompanied by a domestic open bar from 7 p.m. to midnight. Colorful entertainment will include mariachis and musical trios, along with the live broadcast of the “Independence Day Ceremony” directly from Mexico City.

Fiesta Americana Cancun

Mariachi music livens Independence Day festivities at the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, where the party will continue until midnight. Photo: Claudio Pellettieri/Fiesta Americana

Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta All-Inclusive & Spa

Every year this Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive resort plans elaborate Mexican celebrations, which include ballet and mariachi performances. There is a buffet with Mexican cuisine, highlighting the delicacy known as “Chiles en Nogada.” This dish is a signature element of Mexican celebrations, encompassing the authentic flavors of Mexican fare with ingredients such as poblano chilies, picadillo, walnut-based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds, which are arranged to paint out the three colors of the Mexican flag: green, white and red. During the celebration, the staff will be dressed in traditional “charro and china poblana” attire, and there will be fireworks to end the evening.

Puerto Vallarta Fiesta Americana

Chiles en Nogada as prepared by the chefs at Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta. This traditional dish is a favorite entree at Independence Day feasts. Photo: Carlos Parra/Fiesta Americana

Live Aqua Cancun

This upscale adults-only property celebrates Mexico’s independence with a grand “Chef Parade” where the resort’s culinary team presents a delectable food tasting for guests to enjoy at the pool. Staff will also be dressed in traditional costume to interact with guests as they enjoy vibrant dinners and music during the festivities.

Live Aqua Cancun

As part of the Independence Day celebrations, the beachfront pool at Live Aqua Cancun is visited by a replica of trajineras—a traditional Mexican canal boat. Photo: Diaz Ana/Live Aqua

Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun

Aside from mouthwatering Mexican gastronomy and treats at El Mexicano restaurant, Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun will host exquisite tequila tasting at the pool to educate guests on the nuances of this signature Mexican libation. Mexican independence characters like Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Ma Morelos, Josefa Ortiz and Ignacio Allende will also be present at the property to share Mexico’s journey to independence with guests. Other celebrations include a beautiful folkloric ballet performance in the main pool and a “Noche Mexicana” which will celebrate “El Grito de la Independencia.”

Fiesta Americana

Fireworks light the sky above the Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun during the annual Mexican Independence Day celebration known as El Grito de la Independencia. Photo: Fiesta Americana

Bahia Principe, Riviera Maya

In the Riviera Maya, four picture perfect properties of Bahia Principe will offer plenty of opportunities to feel the spirit of Mexican Independence Day. Grand Bahia Principe Coba and Grand Bahia Principe Tulum cater to families, while adults gravitate to the Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal and Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an. During the day, beach parties will feature traditional Mexican games, activities, contests and a Charreria show. Charreria is a Mexican take on rodeo developed after the Mexican Revolution. Guests can take in the cultural display as horses visit the beach with cowboys and cowgirls in traditional attire. At Hacienda Doña Isabel, the fun will kick up in the evening. Hotel guests will gather for a Mexican party including festive décor, mariachi performances, folk dancing and a video mapping highlights of the events that took place in 1810.

Bahia Principe

On the beach at Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, riders known as Charros exhibit their horsemanship as part of a Charreria, which is a Mexican cultural event similar to rodeo. Photo: Bahia Principe

Grand Oasis Cancun

This premier beachfront resort will observe Mexican independence with a range of events that includes a Mexican Kermesse, or block party, which will take place by the pool and garden. This will be followed by a Mexican show and an Oasis company show. At 10 p.m. guests can then head over to the official “Fiesta de la Independencia” at the Oasis Cancun Beach Club, where there will be a DJ, go-go dancers and contests. There will also be a live stream of “El Grito de Independencia” that will lead up to the grand finale fireworks display.

Grand Oasis Cancun

The Grand Oasis Cancun stages an extensive Independence Day celebration that includes a traditional block party, live performances and a live-stream broadcast. Photo: Grand Oasis

 

Cancun Coast

Cancun’s Amazing Eco Adventures

 

Cancun has long been known for beaches and a lively party scene. Now, the destination is also becoming known for unique eco adventures. Both the government and area businesses are committed to nurturing a sustainable tourism sector, by offering a variety of responsible tourism experiences that allow visitors to give back to the community and the environment while having a fantastic time on vacation. Here are five of the most popular.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Don’t let the word “shark” scare you off. The biggest fish in the sea only eats really tiny things like plankton. And when these oversized filter feeders show up in the nutrient-rich ocean waters near Cancun each summer, they provide a unique opportunity for humans to don mask and snorkel and swim alongside. The swim season lasts from mid-May to September, and several operators in Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox offer excursions.

Whale Sharks Cancun

The whale shark is the biggest fish in the sea. These heavyweights pose no threat to humans, and swimming alongside them is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Photo: Stephanie Munarriz

Underwater Art

The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art is the world’s largest underwater sculpture garden. Created by renowned artist Jason deCaires Taylor, the exhibit sits in calm, clear water near Isla Mujers, and can be visited by scuba or seen from the surface with mask and snorkel. There are currently more than 500 individual pieces in the collection, and new statues are constantly being designed and submerged every year, adding to a collection of underwater galleries of more than 500 statues.

Cancun Underwater Museum

At the Cancun Underwater Museum, the figure known as the Man on Fire now sports a coat of live fire coral. The statue sits in 25 feet of clear Caribbean water. Photo: Barcroft Media

A Visit to Xibalba

The jungles around Cancun hide hundreds of pools of sparkling fresh water, which flow up from underground rivers. The ancient Mayans considered these to be sacred portals to the underworld of Xibalba. Visitors can experience these mystical waters on the Ruta de los Cenotes, a trail featuring eight subterranean freshwater pools that connect with each other through underground streams. These natural subterranean sinkholes are ideal for diving, snorkeling and swimming.

Cenote Cancun

Tree roots reaching downward to the waters of a fresh water cenote create curtain-like patterns. These cool bodies of water are a favorite with swimmers and snorkelers. Photo: iStock

See Sea Turtles

Between May and November, hundreds of sea turtles make their way to Cancun to build nests in the soft sand and lay thousands of eggs. Most hotels participate in turtle egg preservation programs that give the species the best chance to survive and make it out to sea. Beach patrols build nest barriers to keep the eggs safe from predators, and hotels offer guests the chance to help release the baby turtles back out to sea once hatched—a memorable activity for kids and families.

Sea Turtle Cancun

A tiny sea turtle, just minutes after emerging from its egg. Release programs along Cancun beaches help return thousands of these vulnerable youngsters to the wild each year. Photo: Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau

What a Croc

The native creatures of the Cancun area are alive and well at the Crococun Zoo. Don’t let the name fool you; this place isn’t about viewing caged animals. This crocodile farm is part of a broader program that protects the conservation of local species. It’s not advised to pet the crocodiles, but guests can interact with a wide variety of native species from butterflies, to monkeys, parrots, snakes, wild cats, deer, and the Mexican hairless dog known as a Xolo.

Cancun Crocodile

Cancun’s Crococun Zoo provides a refuge for the Cocodrilo de Pantano, aka the Mexican crocodile. These reptiles can grow to nine feet long, and live for 70 years. Photo: Flickr