Geoff Millar
Ultimate All Inclusive Travel

Mexico has 3 types of vacation destinations. Caribbean destinations, Pacific destinations, and interior destinations. We are going to discuss the first two types. The third type, while a great vacation experience, does not include all inclusive resorts. It is what I call the Mexican Colonial experience, full of history, great destinations and fantastic architecture in old colonial cities.

All inclusive destinations, in Mexico, are located in beach locations. First we are going to take a closer more in-depth look at the Caribbean side of Mexico. Next month we will take a more in-depth look at the Pacific side of Mexico.

The Caribbean coast, naturally, is located along the East coast of Mexico on what is called the Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucatan Peninsula runs for about 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to Belize and fronts the Caribbean Sea. It is primarily made up of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Cancun sits on the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya runs from the south end of Cancun to the border of Belize. Surprisingly these two areas provide two totally different vacation experiences.

Cancun, in my opinion, is more like the South Beach, Miami of Mexico. The resort area of Cancun sits on a strip of land shaped like a 7 with a beautiful beach and the Caribbean on one side and a large lagoon on the other side. It contains about 30 high-rise hotel style resorts, most of them all inclusive. Everything from one star to 5 star resorts. Cancun, while it can be a family destination is best known for its fantastic shopping and well known nightlife catering more to adults. The Cancun resort strip did not exist 40 years ago but was built specifically for tourism. At the bottom of the short side of the 7 sits the original town of Cancun and just north of town sits the newer tourist area of Playa Mujeres. This is a gated community with a number of new upscale all inclusive resorts on a beautiful beach, a golf course, and private homes. The town of Cancun also contains the port of Cancun where you can board the ferry to the small island of Isla Mujeres. Located off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a beautiful smaller island containing a number of small boutique style resorts, a few all inclusive, and beautiful private residences. The major mode of transportation on Isla Mujeres is the golf cart. The island does include a water park with snorkeling and swim with the dolphins. The major activity on Isla Mujeres is relaxation with some shopping and fine dining thrown in.

Let’s move on to the Riviera Maya area. This area is totally different than the Cancun experience. The Riviera Maya runs from Cancun south for about 175 miles to the border of Belize. The major town in the Riviera Maya is the town of Playa Del Carmen.

Playa Del Carmen is smaller and more laid back than Cancun but contains some of the great shopping and nightlife as Cancun but on a smaller scale. It is home to the famous 5th Ave. a main street in town that does not allow cars and is a mile long pedestrian walkway containing shops, restaurants, and nightlife. It is one of the best places for people watching.

The Riviera Maya is home to a large number of 1 to 5 star all inclusive resorts. Where it differs from Cancun is the resorts in this area tend to be low level resorts spread out over some acreage providing more of a true resort feel than a high-rise hotel resort feel. There is a great mix of adult only all inclusive resorts and family all inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya. The beaches in this area tend to be more swimmable than the beaches in Cancun. One of the main reasons for this is the Island of Cozumel sits just off the coast of the Riviera Maya and tends to block the large waves that frequent the Cancun area. The beaches in this area tend to vary greatly because the coast can be very rocky in certain areas. The further south in the Riviera Maya you go the better the beaches are. In the rocky areas resorts tend to build beaches on man-made lagoons cut from the rocks and fed by the ocean.

The Riviera Maya is also home to one of the top ten rated beaches in the world, Maroma Beach. This beach has consistently been rated as one of the top ten beaches of the world by Conde Nast Magazine. The Riviera Maya is one of the top areas for family vacations with resorts and attractions that appeal to all ages of the family. The terrain is mostly low lying jungle. There are also tournament level golf courses throughout the Riviera Maya but beware, if the resort does not include golf in its price, golf can be very expensive in Mexico.

Off the resorts there tends to be more off-site tours for the whole family than other areas of the Caribbean, everything from snorkeling, scuba diving, jungle tours by both horseback and ATV, cenote snorkeling and scuba diving, fishing, zip lining, you get the idea. For history buffs, this also is the home of the Mayan civilization with some of the most famous Mayan ruins in the world, Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba and a number of others. This is a must in my opinion. The history of the Mayan civilization is one of the most interesting history lessons I have had the privilege of participating in.

The final area we will look at in this article will be Cozumel. Cozumel, Mexico’s largest Caribbean Island sits just of the coast of the Riviera Maya. You can fly directly into the Cozumel airport or you can take the ferry from Playa Del Carmen, about ½ hr. ride depending on the weather. Cozumel is known for its scuba diving and snorkeling. Scuba diving and snorkeling is so good here because the reef system is an extension of the reef system in Belize. As far as scuba diving, because of the ocean current the most common type of diving in Cozumel is drift diving,

There is a downtown area close to the cruise port that has shopping, restaurants, and some nightlife. The best swimming beaches are located on the west coast of Cozumel. This is also where the majority of resorts are located. On the East side of the island the water is rougher because it faces the open sea, but it is much less populated and the scenery and beaches are beautiful. Cozumel is a major stop on the cruise circuit and can be crowded at times when multiple ships are in port at the same time. There are about 10 all inclusive resorts on the island and a golf course but, as stated, scuba diving and snorkeling are the main attractions of Cozumel. Relaxation is fast becoming a large attraction on the island.

We have taken a look at the Caribbean side of Mexico. Next time we will take a closer look at the Pacific side of Mexico. One of the best things about Mexico is that it is so large that you can have many different vacation experiences all in the same country.

I hope everyone is enjoying the articles and stay tuned for next month.