When certain people heard I was headed to Mexico recently, their responses were a mix of “awesome” and “be careful,” along with questions like “where” and “are you sure it’s safe?” To answer them all, I replied, “yes it is awesome, yes I will be careful, the Mayan Riviera, and yes, it’s safe.”
Here’s the deal. Certain parts of Mexico can indeed be considered unsafe for casual travelers to visit. Would I go? Yes, I would. But for people looking to enjoy the sun, the sand and the spectacular beauty, relax, eat, swim, and explore, there are many parts of Mexico that are just perfect for such a vacation without any concern for safety. The Mayan Riviera on the Yucatán Peninsula is one of them.
It is also a super popular time to visit the area, given the fascination with the Maya calendar coming to a so-called end in December 2012. But as I discovered during my visit, you can relax about that too. Pending some unforeseen global catastrophe, the Maya did not predict Armageddon would occur this year, or ever. (See below) It is, however, a splendid time to visit the Yucatán, so rich in Maya history with ruins and world heritage sites, to get familiar with their fascinating culture and enjoy the stunning white sands and turquoise waters of this part of the country.
During my visit I flew into Cancún, then spent the majority of the time in Playa del Carmen, about a 40-minute drive from the airport. I visited the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá, Cobá, and Tulum, explored a private cenote (“sen-oh-tay”), enjoyed the luxurious new all-inclusive Blue Diamond resort in Riviera Maya, and took a gastronomic tour on the island of Cozumel with “Cozumel Chef” Emily, a US expat and classically French-trained chef who knows all the best off-the-beaten path authentic dining experiences on the island.
For those planning to visit, I’d recommend splitting your time between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Playa is a great town with fantastic beaches and luxurious resorts – it’s the center of everything that’s “happening.” The nightlife is lively, the restaurants are fantastic, shopping is plentiful, and it is a convenient jumping off point to explore the area.
However, Tulum captivated me. If and when I return, this is where I’ll spend my time. The turquoise waters, soft sand, and adorable boutique accommodations along the beach are prime for ultimate relaxation and peace. It’s not where you go to party – go to Cancún for that – but the serenity that envelopes your body is about as good as it gets.
- Why the Maya calendar does NOT mean the world is coming to an end in 2012
- Blue Diamond Resort, Riviera Maya
- Chichén Itzá
- Tulum: Maya Heaven
- Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Cobá
About the Author: Lindsay Taub is an award-winning journalist with over a decade of experience as a writer/editor/photographer covering travel, lifestyle, culture, arts, food, health, and all facets that make life a journey. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub58.