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Mexico’s Riviera Maya makes up an idyllic strip of the Yucatan Peninsula, attracting sunseekers with 80 miles of white sand beaches and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

But this is no ordinary beach destination. The area boasts a little bit of everything you’d want in a Mexico vacation, including jungles, cenotes (limestone sinkholes), subterranean rivers, lakes, lagoons, mangroves and savannas. In essence, it’s an outdoor paradise. Remnants of Mayan civilization such as pyramids and temples abound alongside modern-day thrills such as ziplining, hiking and water sports.

Numerous towns dot the Riviera Maya, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Wondering where you should go to find your perfect paradise in Riviera Maya? Read on…

RELATED: 3 perfect days in Tulum

For everyone…

Riviera Maya has multiple personalities. It entices everybody from families with small children to couples exploring their “50 Shades of Grey” side. Its hotels are good example of its diverse offerings.

grand velas riv maya.jpgPhoto courtesy of Grand Velas Riviera Maya 

Go upscale at the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen, an uber luxe all-inclusive, all-suite, resort set on more than 200 acres of jungle, mangroves and white sand beach. Enjoy three distinct environs, including adults-only oceanfront, family-friendly ocean view and a zen-like tropical setting, complete with plunge pools. When hunger calls, check out eight restaurants, including Cocina de Autor, the first all-inclusive restaurant in the world to win the AAA Five Diamond Award. Foodies will also want to check out the resort’s weekly Pre-Hispanic Night, a Mexican dinner journey complete with an authentic musical retelling of the Mayan life story. The resort’s 90,000-square-foot spa includes authentic Mexican- and globally-inspired treatments, but is best known for its seven-step water journey, a revitalizing hydrotherapy ritual that includes color therapy, clay and ice rooms and more.

Meanwhile, the ultra-cool Kids Club and Teen Club keep young ones busy with activities like billiards, table games and video games. After dark, the fun continues with a disco and karaoke (complete with 45,000 songs in multiple languages!). 

Couples wanting a walk on the (very) wild side can bare it all at Desire Riviera Maya near Cancun and Desire Riviera Pearl in Puerto Morelos. At these couples-only properties, there are clothing-optional pools and/or beach, adult entertainment, theme nights, couples’ workshops, indoor/outdoor playrooms and more. We told you it was wild.

If you can pull yourself away from your resort, take a Yucatan cooking class, enjoy guided star gazing, kayaking and scuba diving. Explore the cenotes, a Mayan village and Virgin Lagoon, capturing it all like a pro with the artful instruction of Mario Dib and the Bushman Photography crew, who head up a local photography excursion. When you retire for the evening, let the butler know what you require. Such is the good life in Riviera Maya.

For party people…

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Where’s the party at? True, Cancun has shed a bit of its Animal House image lately, but habits are habits and so are expectations. Folks come to eat, drink and be merry. 

Re-opening in August 2017, after a multi-million-dollar renovation, the all-inclusive Temptation Cancun Resort bills itself as “the playground for grown-ups,” has all the makings of an ideal sensual solo vacation: Think DJ-hosted pool parties, topless sunbathing, live performances and theme parties. Even the restaurants are sensually designed.

That’s not to say hedonism is the only thing on the menu. Visit the ruins in Chichen Itza, take a reef and shipwreck snorkeling tour, or go parasailing. Cancun is ideal for gal or guy getaways and solo partiers, but less so for families.

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For sophisticates…

Situated right in the heart of Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is the region’s top destination for shopping, dining and nightlife. Whether you fancy the beach, sea, gastronomy or spa, you won’t be disappointed.

grand hyatt playa del carmen.jpgPhoto courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen

Playa Mamitas is one of Playa del Carmen’s most popular beaches. Take your pick of water-based activities. When you’re ready to chill out, the Cenote Spa at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen was inspired by cenotes, which are believed by the Mayans to cleanse and purify the soul. Elsewhere at the spa are hydrotherapy stations, a eucalyptus steam room, fiber optic chromotherapy showers and signature services.

Be sure to venture out a bit, too. La Quinta Avenida is the most famous street in Riviera. Every day, more than 10,000 people hit the pedestrian walkway to see and be seen. The feel is solidly cosmopolitan here, with clothing stores, boutiques, and restaurants offering different cuisines, plus art galleries, Mexican handcraft shops, bars and nightclubs. 

Just 15 minutes from Playa del Carmen, Mayakoba is an eco-friendly, luxury resort development on the shores of the Caribbean. Surrounded by lagoons, pools and sugar sand beaches, six miles of freshwater lagoons connect four luxury hotels: Fairmont Mayakoba Riviera Maya, which caters to families; the Rosewood Mayakoba and Banyan Tree Mayakoba offer luxury romance for couples; and Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya, the newest property where the hip set is treated to an edgier experience.

For adventure seekers…

Tulum is perfect for lovers of wide empty sugary beaches, yoga, gourmet food and adventure. The big draw are the oceanfront Tulum Ruins. You can swim in an underground river and have lunch on the beach. Don’t pass up the chance to zipline in the jungle, rappel, and snorkel in a cenote.

Maya_Tulum_Spa_Resort_woodandsmith.com-9.jpgPhoto courtesy of Maya Tulum Spa Resort

Small boutique hotels on the beach are enticing and eco-oriented, offering memorable views, morning yoga, massages and temazcal. Maya Tulum Resort is widely renowned as Mexico’s first destination yoga resort with the largest beachfront in Tulum. It’s home to thatched-roof villas, beach- and ocean-view cabanas, two yoga halls and daily classes. The resort also offers a seaside dining hall with a full bar, a meditation labyrinth and healing center offering a variety of spa treatments based on ancient Mayan rituals.

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Tagged: Cancun, Mexico

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