72 Hours in Mexico: The Riviera Maya
Friday - 2.00PM
Check in and relax at the Hotel Esencia
After a long flight, check-in to Hotel Esencia, the former holiday home of an Italian duchess. This Edenic oasis is hidden away at the point where the exotic, Mayan jungle opens up to the pristine, white sand beaches of Xpu-Ha. Enjoy a feast of flavors in one of their numerous beachfront restaurants under a traditional palapa. Then relax at the hotel’s private beach on one of the last undeveloped stretches along the Caribbean coast.
Friday - 8:00PM
Experience Playa del Carmen at night
A half hour away from the hotel is the lively young city of Playa del Carmen, tourist hotspot filled with bustling bars, restaurants, boutiques, flea markets, and nightclubs. Here you can find traditional crafts and local brands to shop. However, at this time pop in for a cool drink at a buzzing bar by the beach while nibbling on some delicious local dishes. No better way to sink into your first night along the Riviera!
Saturday - 7:00AM
Leave the hotel for the Chichen Itza Archaeological Site
An early morning tour will help you beat the heat, the crowds, and the jet lag! Getting up early will be well worth it once you see this restored ancient Mayan city (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World).
Tip: Enter through Mayaland Resort’s private access to avoid the long lines. You can use the same entrance ticket to enjoy their lunch buffet after your tour. Chow down on all the best tacos and tamalés you could hope for!
There are certified local guides who offer two and a half to three and half hour tours that will truly help you appreciate the wonder of Chichen Itza. The Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, is a marvel of ancient stone architecture and engineering, standing close to 100 feet tall on leveled terrain. The observatory, or El Caracol, shows a glimpse into one of the most developed and sophisticated studies of astronomy in the ancient world.
Walk through the colonial city of Valladolid
Less than an hour away from Chichen Itza is the peaceful, colonial city of Valladolid, a designated Pueblo Magico. Its charming Calzada de los Frailesis framed by pastel colored walls and buildings. Try Tresvanbien for some of the best empanadasand juices, and right across the street you can relax at Solentano Cafe for a mid afternoon coffee and cake break in a quiet courtyard. Visit Casa de los Venados, a private, Mexican folk art museum in a quaint, restored hacienda.
Along the street some of the famous stops by the Coqui Coqui Group: La Perfumeria, La Barberia, and Meson de Malleville, all on the way to the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Before they moved to Bora Bora, this was the home of the founders of Coqui Coqui, known for their exquisite taste and enviably elegant lifestyle.
Saturday - 8.00 PM
Dine at Hartwood in Tulum
From Hotel Esencia head to Hartwood, one of the hottest restaurants on the peninsula. It is an outdoor, cash only, off-the-electric-grid, culinary experience, and an absolute gem! Their menu changes daily, yes, daily. It is inspired by whatever they source from local farming communities or by their fresh catch which they do through sustainable fishing methods.
Hartwood matches the idyllic, bohemian atmosphere found in the rest of Tulum, which has its fair share of chic beachwear boutiques, art galleries, yoga classes, and romantic restaurants.
Tip: Gitano and Casa Banana are also getting buzz as trendy dinner experiences in Tulum.
Sunday - 9.00AM
Visit the Tulum Archaeological Site
Begin your day at the picturesque Mayan ruins of Tulum, with limestone cliffs that overlook the sparkling, tropical blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, with shades of turquoise hues as if mimicking what the ancient seaport used to trade in. It is a breath of fresh air and site of immense beauty, where the ancient built environment complements the wonder of nature.
Sunday - 12.00NN
Climb the temple at Coba
Take a drive to visit Coba. At the top of Nohuch Mul Pyramid is a remarkable, panoramic view of the Mayan jungle. Walk, rent a bicycle, or hire a chauffeured tricycle to bring you deep into the tropical forest to find the Coba ruins.
The Coqui Coqui Coba Residenciais just a few minutes away, situated on the banks of a peaceful lagoon. Its rugged design is inspired by the mirage of a forgotten civilization like the nearby ruins, as if Lara Croft retired from tomb raiding to become a luxury architect or interior designer. Find time before or after visiting the ruins to take in a Mayan inspired lunch, made from local produce, or indulge in a relaxing massage at their famous spa.
Sunday - 4:30PM
Take a dip in a Cenote
Once revered by the ancient Mayan civilization as sacred wells, these natural wonders are now a must experience attraction. Snorkel or dive into these often vividly blue natural wells or sinkholes that lead to larger underlying bodies of water scattered throughout the peninsula. The water is so clear it gives us a glimpse into the underwater world. Some are hidden in dramatic caves, others open air within the jungle, any of them the perfect way to end your Mayan getaway.
- Photography Kerry Tinga